This week in EDCI-336 we were fortunate enough to have yet another very informative guest speaker share their wisdom with us. Jeff Hopkins is the founder and principal of the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), an independent High School in Victoria BC. While I had heard of PSII and was aware it was an independent school, I knew nothing more until meeting Jeff and hearing about his educational institution. I was surprised to learn that PSII was a high school as I thought all the independent schools in the area were either K-12 or elementary/middle only. From Jeff, I learned about how the school is structured around an inquiry framework where students and teachers co-create curriculum based on curiosity and need. The school uses a Google calendar to display to students the school-based learning sessions and group activities available to them each week. Once students have determined the school-planned activities they will be attending that week, they can fill in the rest of their time working on their inquiry-related activities. I find this to be a very interesting structure for education as I was in a program in high school that worked very similarly. While attending Reynold Secondary School in Victoria bc, I was in the “Flexible Studies Program”. In my second year of the program, they decided to re-structure the program, trying out a new system where our four core (math, English, social studies, and science) subjects became linear, held in the two-afternoon blocks all year. During this time, we were given a schedule of lectures and support sessions to attend while the remainder of the time was for working on personal interest projects. While the idea behind the program was good, it was poorly supported and left many students struggling. I was a strong, self-directed learner, and so I continued to do well in my studies, unlike many of my friends and classmates. They had accepted anyone who had applied to the program that year despite many of those students being completely unsuited or unprepared for that style of learning. The time that was meant to be spent working on personal interest projects was instead more often used sneaking away to Tim Hortons or smoking in parking lots. It was amazing to hear from Jeff how this more free form-learning structure can be so successful when there is the proper support available and students are committed to supporting themselves in their learning. I hope I one day have the opportunity to visit a school like PSII and see first-hand the amazing students led learning environment Jeff has worked so hard to establish and successfully maintain.
March 1, 2021