Innovative Learning Centre
Human beings are meaning-makers — adapting, changing, and building understandings through knowledge-making discourses.
The Innovative Learning Centre (ILC) brings students, educators, and community members together from across disciplines and interests to co-create learning experiences invested in this elemental and formative nature of knowledge. Thus, innovation is not characterized as a distinct quality in self, others, and situations that is rare and special but, instead, turns to innovation’s roots of innovare, to renew, for insights into its elemental and catalytic roles within teaching/learning experiences of all kinds.
Multiple opportunities to revisit understandings through varied traditions, perspectives, and methodologies are understood as key to enlarging and deepening thinking. Documenting and analyzing the lived individual/collective curricular, programmatic, contextual, and ethical consequences for students, educators, and communities, articulating the innovative significances and implications for learners and learning, forms the ongoing tasks of the ILC.
In alignment with UBC Strategic Plan (2019), Shaping UBC’s Next Century, three themes of inclusion, collaboration and innovation represent key opportunities for transformational change:
- To design and develop inclusive places-spaces for exploration, creation, and experiential innovations focusing on pedagogical excellence.
- To foster collaborative possibilities for innovative connections across practitioners and researchers.
- To further innovative scholarship, research and community engagement locally, provincially, nationally, and globally.
Innovative, Collaborative, Inclusive Programming: Okanagan School of Education (OSE), Faculty of Education, UBC
The OSE is comprised of the undergraduate, professional development, summer institute, and graduate programs of study. A shared conception forming the heart of all our programs is an educator identity characterized by the notion of a scholar-practitioner. We understand a scholar-practitioner to be a student of learning — always renewing understandings. Thus, investing in the formative nature of professional knowledge is an educator’s task throughout all phases of one’s career. Our programs of study deliberately foster many opportunities for theory/practice intersections articulating:
- Needed curricular conditions, supports, and student and educator sensibilities.
- Exemplars, making visible the entrusting of learning to educators and their students as generative springboards for others to gain access to possibilities for the particulars of their contexts.
- Shared language to articulate the learner/learning intents for all involved.
- Research and scholarly activities documenting, disseminating, and mobilizing the long-term significances.
Innovative Collaborations: The Small Secondary School Think Tank
The Small Secondary School Think Tank was created in 2013 as a result of the Rural Education Advisory expressing a need for an annual event where educators from across the province could come together in an effort to share ideas and collaborate on the unique challenges faced by small schools in British Columbia.
The Think Tank, hosted by the Okanagan School of Education, takes place in the Innovative Learning Centre (ILC) Learning Lab, located in the Engineering, Management and Education (EME 1123) Building on UBC’s Okanagan campus annually.
Each year one case study school is chosen. During the two-day think tank, educators discuss the case school and the unique challenges faced by the school community. Educators also participate in a Design Challenge. This is a process where educators creatively identify problems, and then solutions, using design thinking, a philosophy supported by the ILC.
Review the most recent case studies below.
Mount Sentinel Secondary is a Grade 7 to 12 school located in the community of South Slocan, British Columbia, on the traditional territory of the Sinixt, Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, and Syilx Peoples. With an enrolment of 280 students, the catchment area of this small school extends for 65 kilometers along Highway 6 from South Slocan, north, to the village of Slocan. Mt. Sentinel is considered the graduating school for students who may transition from one of three schools in the Slocan Valley, including Brent Kennedy Elementary, Winlaw Elementary or W.E. Graham Community School. The majority of our learners transition from elementary school in Grade 6 to start high school in Grade 7. The Grade 7 and 8 program has not historically provided a transition program between elementary and secondary schooling. Our middle year students are learning in a high school context; they follow a secondary student schedule and are fully immersed in a high school experience. No ﬂexible learning spaces or playgrounds are currently present at the school. The question and now curiosity has been raised: are Grade 7 and 8 students entering this rigorous timetable too soon?
Located on the traditional territory of the St’at’imc peoples and Lillooet Secondary School serves the communities of Zwisten, Sekw’el’was, Xaxli’p, Ts’kw’aylaxw, Tsal’ath, T’it’q’et and Lillooet.
There are 210 students between Grades 8 and 12, with 67 per cent declaring Indigenous ancestry.
A 2016 survey of Indigenous learners showed:
- Lack of connection to adults in school
- Lack of belonging in the school of community
- Experiencing racism
- Feelings that racism was going unaddressed by staff
- Feelings of inequity in the way the school served students
From there the school embarked on an action plan for learning to creative a culturally safe space for all learners.
Pemberton Secondary School (PSS) is located in Pemberton BC. The total population is approximately 5,000, which includes the town of Pemberton, the rural outlying areas, and Mt Currie. Pemberton is located 30 minutes north of Whistler, BC.
Pemberton Secondary School is a diverse and unique school comprised of 40 per cent Aboriginal students (non-status First Nations, Metis and Stl’atl’imx Nation – N’Quatqua, Lil’wat, Samahquam, Skatin, and Xa’xtsa7 Bands). It has an active student population, students with diverse artistic interests, a growing international program, children of long-time Pemberton residents, and students that are new to the area. Specialized programs currently offered at PSS are:
- Outdoor Education Program for Grade 10
- Ski, Snowboard & Bike Academy (SBBA) for Grades 11 and 12
- French immersion Grades 8 – 12
- Ucwalmicwts Language Program
Watch the Small School Think Tank Video
Osoyoos Secondary School is a rural high school in the South Okanagan Similkameen School District #53. The population is approximately 200 students, Grades 8 – 12. Approximately 20 per cent of the population is of Indo-Canadian ancestry and 10 per cent is of First Nations ancestory, with all of their First Nations students coming from homes that are off reserve.
Osoyoos Secondary has a very positive school culture characterized by strong relationships between teachers and parents support and has strong connections to the community. A significant number of O.S.S. graduates return to Osoyoos to live, work, raise families, and send their children to school in here.
Declining enrolment made it challenging for the school to offer a strong complement of elective courses to students. Over time, students in the Grad Programs had fewer options to choose from and thus had little ability to create a Grade 10 – 12 graduation plan that was personalized to their needs and goals. At the end of the 2014/15 school year staff agreed to enter into a process of exploration and research in order to find ways to increase choice for students.
By 2016/17, staff, parents, and students moved that Osoyoos Secondary adopt a Flexible Schedule learning model.
Desert Sands Community School (DSCS) is in its first year as a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Ashcraft, BC, a rural community in the heart of the Gold Trail School District #74.
In 2016, students and staff from Ashcroft Secondary School joined forces with those from Ashcroft Elementary School to create a new learning community for 265 students, as well as to share space with the children who attend Strong Start and Early learning programs.
Watch the Small School Think Tank Video
Eagle River Secondary’s (ERS) educational team (a full-time principal and 12 teachers) identifies as being agents of change. Over the past three years, the team has designed and developed a long-term organizational structure of curricular reinvention to address low enrolment, Cross Curricular Competencies, 21st Century learning skills, and BC’s new curriculum with topic-based inquiry options reflecting the current students’ needs. Current team members demonstrate:
1. a willingness to work towards a common goal that is beneficial for students and
2. to think ‘outside the box’ when addressing issues.
Often considered to be “movers and shakers”, ERS has attracted a high percentage of teachers who have more than eight years in the K-12 system and are looking for new opportunities to enrich their previous teaching and learning experiences. Currently, many staff members have obtained, or are in the process of obtaining, graduate certificates and degrees. Within this environment of learning professionalism and willingness to engage in new practices, the team feels the excitement of things to
come. One common professional development requirement the team has identified is the need to deeply understand inquiry-based teaching and learning. Given a choice, these dedicated individuals would choose to stay at ERS; however, given declining enrolment numbers this choice may not be possible.
School district 10 includes six schools (five neighbourhood schools and one distance learning school). They are dispersed across hundreds of km of mountains and lake. While their geography is an asset for environmental learning, there is a significant challenge for district coherence, transportation and travel.
While the district remains under funding protection, they struggle to continue to provide high quality learning while faced with ever decreasing enrollment, more and more complex class configurations and shrinking staff.
Innovative Engagement: Building Academic Retention Through K-9s (B.A.R.K.)
Run by Okanagan School of Education Professor, John-Tyler Binfet, B.A.R.K brings together university students, trained therapy dogs and handlers in an effort to reduce stress, combat homesickness, foster interpersonal connections, and promote the overall social-emotional well-being of students.
Throughout the academic year, B.A.R.K offers sessions at the Library, in the Engineering, Management and Education Building, Fipke Building and VEDA Exclusive Student Living. You can find the dates and times of their sessions on their website.