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Teacher and vice-principal Keri Stanger sits in a circle outside with her kindergarten and Grade 1 students at East Kensington Elementary's EKOLogy program.
It's been just over a year since the outdoor education-focused EKOLogy program at East Kensington Elementary officially began, and already the program's popularity has doubled.
When the program started, the rural Surrey school had 25 students in total. Now, there are 55 primary students enrolled in two kindergarten/Grade 1 classes taught by Keri Stanger and Cheryl Leclerc, and one Grade 2–4 class taught by Alison Leslie.
Vice-principal and teacher Keri Stanger says the boost is largely due to word of mouth.
"It's a different way of learning and it's a community feel," she explains. "A lot of the new people came in and said they heard about the school from a parent who said their child really loved it."
Having a new wetland on site to learn from is just one unique feature of the EKOLogy (which stands for East Kensington Outdoor Learning) program. In addition to putting place-based outdoor education first, the program has a higher adult to child ratio than mainstream schools.
"We're in a time where kids don't get that personal relationship," Leclerc says. "It's so important for them to have an adult that cares about them and that they know that."
New student Grace just started at East Kensington this fall.
"My favourite things are learning about the leaves and the animals, more than everything else," she says. "I like the wetland. We do mindful moments and one day we thought of what we're thankful for and after that we got some free time."
Keaton has been at the school since the program began.
"You get to experience being more social than just technology," he says. "My favourite thing is when we can go to the park up the hill because we can exercise our bodies."
The students at East Kensington spend two hours of instructional time a day outside, in addition to lunch and recess. For them, even inclement weather is a delight and a learning opportunity, and not a reason to stay indoors.
"In my preschool on rainy days we stayed inside, but on rainy days here we get to go outside!" exclaims Grade 1 student Dalton excitedly.
The program also focuses on risky play more than mainstream schools, which is important for social development skills. Stanger says she has noticed students becoming more attuned to each other's moods and feelings since expanding the classroom to outdoors.
"They are way more respectful of people's needs, and in a way that I just don't think you have when you're in a classroom. We're out there with sticks and mud and dirt and giant logs and you're coming to agreement about how to use planks and tires to make a cool jumping off point with large loose parts, for example," Stanger explains. "Even just with our river – a bit of a puddle, and the kids decide they need to work together to make a river. And they come to that agreement themselves, with none of my input."
Such learning – with sticks and mud and dirt – aligns with the new inquiry-based B.C. curriculum and core competencies.
"Even in the science curriculum, asking questions, following up on your curiosity, observing and noticing changes, that's just built in when you're outside," says Stanger. "Phenomena like fog, you can talk about it in the classroom but when you're actually living it and breathing it, it just comes to life and it's more real."
School staff hope programs like this can be adapted to suit more schools, helping students become more environmentally conscious and stewards of the land.
"I'm really proud of the work that we're doing here because I think we're raising competent children that can go outside and play and be imaginative, and they're not obsessed with going indoors and having that screen time." says Leclerc. "I think that is what is great for parents and why they bring their kids here, because they want them to have the experiences that we had playing freely in our neighbourhoods growing up."
By networking with other educators in the Lower Mainland, Stanger hopes to get others excited about implementing outdoor learning in their own schools.
"I'd like to get teachers to see that it can work, and that it is actually way less work than you imagine. You just need the right clothing and the right mindset."
To find out more about the EKOLogy program, check out their website, Twitter, or Keri Stanger's blog.
~Story and photos by Laura Johnston
A new Continuous Learning program called Skills Exploration in Automotive has begun for 15 Surrey students, in partnership with Safe Schools, ICBC and NasKARZ.
NasKARZ (Never Again Steal KARZ (Cars)) was originally founded as a non-profit organization designed for youth on the downtown Eastside to learn about the mechanics of cars, with a goal of reducing auto theft. In Surrey, students are recommended to the program if they have shown an interest in automotive work already, or if school staff think they would benefit from the free classes.
The weekly course operates out of the Queen Elizabeth Secondary automotive shop on Tuesday nights, October through May.
The mentors of the program will include Sgt. Tim Houchen of the Vancouver Police and Kurt Penner of Jelly Bean Auto, the original founders of NasKARZ.
Sgt. Houchen was recently presented a $40,000 cheque from an ICBC community grant to support the Surrey program.
Students will learn about auto mechanics, auto body repair, welding and safety. NasKARZ also gives students a chance to work on classic cars, and soon a '65 Mustang will be brought in to work on.
For 10 years, NasKARZ has been running in partnership with Vancouver Community College. In the Surrey expansion, students will receive Skills Exploration credits toward high school graduation. Students will also be able to work toward meeting their Career Life graduation requirements.
~story by Laura Johnston
Surrey Schools community members who would like more information about how to better support students at home are urged to clear their calendars Tuesday, Oct. 16 from 6:30–8 p.m.
In partnership with Discovery Education, sessions on supporting learning at home and the use of digital resources will be held at four locations: Tamanawis, Sullivan Heights, Guildford Park and the Resource & Education Centre.
The goal is to expose community members to the different digital and online learning tools available to a 21st century classroom. Parents and students will learn how the school system is integrating digital content and other educational technologies into student activities at school and in the home.
The open houses will feature pizza, prizes, speakers and exploration stations. Participants will see the technology used firsthand and will also have an opportunity try out and explore the digital tools for themselves.
For those unable to make the event at any of the four locations, the Surrey Schools website highlights some digital resources that can be used by parents and students (with a User ID) here, and free to the general public here.
Parents, students and community members can RSVP for the Oct. 16 event HERE.
For more information, please contact district principal Antonio Vendramin at email@example.com.
L.A. Matheson Secondary's Mustang Justice club is hosting a summit Thursday, Oct. 11 in partnership with the local female empowerment organization Global Girl Power.
The theme for International Day of the Girl as decided by the UN is: With Her: A Skilled GirlForce. The UN chooses a theme annually to commit resources to and focus on for the rest of the year.
L.A. Matheson students will get the opportunity to speak with members of the school community about the topic and other intersectional gender issues at the full-day interactive event. Social Justice program founder and Aboriginal Department head, teacher Annie Ohana, says about 130 students, teachers and volunteers in various classes from Grades 8 to 12 will be taking part.
"The idea really is just to talk about the issues," says Ohana. "There will be three workshops, where we will ask questions about topics such as consent culture, body-shaming, and the UN's goals and why the day exists. Adults will lead the dialogue… and we're also going to be thinking about something I do with my social justice classes, the 'three S's': social service, social responsibility and social justice. The plan of the day is to celebrate, it's to have these deeper dialogues."
Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh will be present to begin the day, and the event will finish with a Drum Café. Speakers include local community engagement specialist and educator Rochelle Prasad, as well as other current and recently graduated students.
The Mustang Justice program recently won the inaugural $10,000 Surrey Mayor's Award for Fostering Civic Responsibility. Ohana says some of the money has gone toward this event, with added support from Global Girl Power.
"It's great because with that seed money we can do a couple more things this year that will hopefully have a larger impact. Coming up we are co-producing a film and sitting on the board of the Vancouver South Asian International Film Festival."
Ohana hopes the International Day of the Girl event will continue next year, possibly becoming something every school celebrates annually, either collaboratively or at individual schools, like Orange Shirt Day.
~ written by Laura Johnston
A former Surrey principal has been awarded a Premier's Award for Excellence in Education for valuing, inspiring and empowering students.
Angelo Morelli, who recently retired from his role as principal at Ecole K.B. Woodward Elementary, was the winner in the School and District Leadership category of the provincial awards.
Morelli was among nine winners and 27 finalists of the inaugural awards – winners who were winnowed down from 188 nominees from across the province who have gone "above and beyond to make life better for students in British Columbia."
"Angelo has always believed that every child was born good," says Trustee Laurae McNally in a video honouring Morelli. "He looked for that goodness and built their self-esteem."
Winners were given a commemorative artwork, a $3,000 personal bursary for professional learning and a $2,000 contribution to their school community for professional learning.
Award recipients were invited to a ceremony in Victoria Oct. 5, with Premier Horgan, Minister of Education Rob Fleming, and Lt. Gov. Janet Austin.
"From these exceptional education professionals, students not only receive a practical education but also learn countless other ways to be empathetic, innovative and engaged British Columbians," said Austin. "I'm very proud to congratulate all recipients of this year's Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education and I am grateful for the opportunity to thank them in person at Government House."
For more information on the Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education and to view videos of all 27 finalists, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/excellenceineducation
Grade 4 and 5 students at Cambridge Elementary are part of the Drop-Off Buddy program at the school, and help guide younger students safely from their car into the school.
For students and parents at many schools, drop-off can be a chaotic time. At Cambridge Elementary, traffic flow woes are eased by Grade 4 and 5 students stationed outside the Surrey school in hard hats and safety vests.
From 8:15-8:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, the volunteers are on duty. When a car pulls up into the drop-off zone, a drop-off buddy will help guide younger primary students safely into the school from the car.
The Drop-Off Buddy Program, explains vice-principal and teacher Lianne McBride, was started a few years ago by previous administrators. She says when she began at Cambridge two years ago, it was important to her and principal Shaun Nelson to keep the program going.
"Our reason behind it is that it's a great connection to the community, it's a really good chance for student leadership, and also for safety," McBride says. "We really want to encourage drop-off and we want to encourage families to walk, to have a greener way of getting to school – and this blends all of those things together."
McBride says that, so far, parents have found the program to be a great help, especially when parking and time are limited in the morning.
The current volunteers are from the Grade 4/5 class McBride teaches. Last year the buddies were Grade 6s, and McBride says she looks forward to seeing the program grow and continuing to help families.
~story and photos by Laura Johnston
Ellendale Elementary at Indigo collecting donations and talking to customers about their school. Photo courtesy of Indigo Grandview Corners.
It's that time of year again – Indigo's Adopt-a-School program is back and this year the Indigo bookstore location at Grandview Corners in South Surrey has "adopted" Ellendale Elementary.
"Most of our books are over 10 years old, and our children regularly come home with ripped and taped-together books. Recently, our school librarian -- who is available to us only twice a week -- cleaned out some of the books that were worse for wear and our shelves now seem a lot emptier," says Ellendale principal Rabinder Bains.
Ellendale has 137 students, and a budget of about $14 per child for books annually. That amounts to just one-and-a-half new books per child per year.
Every year, each Indigo, Chapters, and Coles location across Canada "adopts" a school for a three-week period. All money raised at each store is donated specifically to their school of choice. Donations for Ellendale are being collected in-store at Grandview Corners and online here through the Adopt-a-School website.
Though they haven't been adopted by a store, Surrey's Forsyth Road Elementary and Harold Bishop Elementary are participating in the program online, and donations can be made through their school websites here for Forsyth Road, and here for Harold Bishop.
"Many of the children in our school do not have books at home due to difficult family situations and we think it is important to have a variety of books for them at school. We are working to engage students in reading from a variety of sources, including fiction and non-fiction books and other media using technology," says Forsyth Road principal Jane Clowers.
For every two books donated online, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation will donate a bonus book to the school. Monetarily, this means that for every $20 donated, Indigo will donate an extra $10.
The fundraiser is active until Sunday, Oct. 7. Teachers, administrators, and librarians can inquire about and apply to the Adopt-a-School and Love of Reading grant programs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting https://www.loveofreading.org/
More than 200 people attended a recognition dinner Oct. 3 for employees who retired from the Surrey School District in the last year.
Retiring district employees were honoured at a recognition dinner Oct. 3 hosted by the Surrey Board of Education.
About 217 support staff, educators and managers retired over the past year, with many of them attending the dinner with guests, trustees and senior district staff members.
Attendees were welcomed by board chairperson Laurie Larsen and treated to entertainment by 15-year-old singer-songwriter Ashley Pater, a Fraser Heights Secondary student.
In addition to dinner and entertainment, each retiree was recognized with a personal thank you comment provided by supervisors and colleagues, as well as a restaurant gift card.
"Trustees value the years you have given in support of the children of the Surrey School District," said Larsen, "and we wish you the best in retirement."
Do you have a baby who will be two to four months of age in October? We are looking for volunteers to participate in Roots of Empathy (ROE) in Surrey Schools!
Roots of Empathy is a program for elementary school children that aims to increase empathy – the ability to understand how another person feels.
This is a social emotional learning program supported by nearly every school district in B.C. This is the 14th year ROE has been in Surrey Schools. Last year, babies were brought to 24 classrooms and our instructors worked with more than 540 students throughout the district.
Through perspective taking opportunities with a community baby and their care giver, children learn to care for and respect each other. Research shows involvement in ROE decreases bullying and aggression while encouraging more positive and prosocial behaviour in the students involved.
This year, we need babies for programs at the following elementary schools:
• Green Timbers
• Rosemary Heights
• M.J. Shannon
• Port Kells
• East Kensington
Babies must be between two and four months of age by mid-October to qualify.
What you would need to do as a Roots of Empathy family:
• Meet with the Root of Empathy facilitator to establish a schedule for the coming year (baby visits are approximately once every three weeks);
• Attend nine classroom visits lasting approximately 30-40 minutes;
• Be comfortable speaking to children about your individual experience with your baby (this is how we learn so much!);
• Fill out an online feedback form at the end of the year for program integrity.
Cindrich Elementary is now home to a new program aimed at creating better outcomes for vulnerable students who have complex developmental and behavioural conditions.
The Centre for Childhood Neurodevelopment, Education and Family Wellbeing, for Surrey children ages six to 12 and their caregivers, celebrated its grand opening Sept. 28 after launching earlier in September.
Surrey Board of Education Chairwoman Laurie Larsen spoke at the grand opening, stressing the need for programs like this for vulnerable students.
"The children that come to our district are so diverse," she said. "They are from different types of families…their families have a wide range of income, and so on. And within those different groups, there are individual students who have differing needs and learning styles…including those who have faced challenges or trauma that create barriers to success, through no fault of their own."
Eligible children are referred to the one-year program if they are attending school part-time or not at all, or if they have multiple diagnoses, trauma and attachment histories.
The program uses neuro-developmental science to guide education and is formatted to focus on social–emotional learning for the first four months of the school year and coping skills from January to April, before transitioning back to a traditional classroom from April to June.
The Centre partners with the Ministry of Child and Family Development, Fraser Health and The Children's Foundation with the shared goal of providing children a better chance of staying in school and thriving in the classroom.