This year your kid could become an authority on whales, coral or money.
As the B.C. school curriculum shifts away from a long list of topics and facts that children must learn by rote, educators will be able to try a new education program called Learning in Depth (LiD).
Jocelyn McIntosh has been using LiD with Grade 4-5 students at Glenwood elementary for the past two school years.
“They get a topic, and they become an expert for the year,” she explained.
The learning process is like a mini PhD thesis, and their expertise makes the students believe in themselves as a student. They have an “emotional connectedness” to the material, she said. Learning becomes easier.
The psychology is similar for children and adults, said McIntosh
“Learning one thing in depth helps us feel confident,” she said. “The more you know about a topic, the more you feel confident and engaged.”
She said the LiD plan fits well into the new curriculum in B.C., which will be implemented over the next three years.
“Flexible learning is at the heart of the refined approach and it will help teachers tap into the passions and interests of individual students. Students can learn about core subjects while doing projects related to their interests, such as music, hockey, or dinosaurs,” said the Education Ministry’s press release on the new curriculum.
McIntosh has been a teacher for 10 years, and said the traditional curriculum was “a checklist of things we had to teach, but there was no depth to it.”
That criticism aside, McIntosh still covers all of the bases in the curriculum.
“We don’t just abandon everything else,” she said. “There’s still parameters, so you’re still going to get a good education.”
But she doesn’t assign a lot of homework. Her students’ homework is to research their LiD topic.
It is self-regulated learning, about their own interests, and students are supposed to enjoy it.
“You don’t want to give a worksheet about their LiD topic, because you want them to love it. It’s supposed to be fun.”
It starts with them making a movie trailer about their LiD topic on the program iMovie, and ends with their year-end presentation to the class.
They studied a wide range of topics, from money to coral.
Nola Dyck took to LiD like a fish to water.
“I loved it. I really love whales – I started learning about them when I was six,” she said.
She will tell you about rare pink dolphins and other facts. This year she will do research about whales in Mexico, where her grandparents have a property.
Olin St. Louis did a project about aircraft and airports, and talks about planes that travel 5,000 km/h. For his final report, he did a half-hour presentation with visuals.
His mother Kristal said her son worked on his LiD project with purpose.
“He was always looking at stuff, and researching stuff at home, so for him it was just something else fun that he got to do,” she said. “The work on it seemed really good.”
They also learn from each other. Ben Patterson said he enjoyed the presentation of his classmates’ projects, like Mckenzie’s work on space.
“I learned how there’s a difference between a comet and a meteor, and what the solar system is,” said Ben.
While the school system is changing, Glenwood principal Jovo Bikic said parents still expect their kids to learn the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic well, “but in a way that captures their child’s interest.”
He said the Grade 1 class has a wonder wall, where students can pose questions, then find ways to get the answers. He walked up to see what some of the questions might be, and was impressed at what six-year-olds wonder about.
“They’re asking why are a butterfly’s wings are the colour that they are,” he noted.
“These kids come into the world curious, they come into our world wanting to know things, and we’ve got to foster that as a school.”
McIntosh did a masters in Imaginative Education at Simon Fraser University, and LiD was part of the program. She will be offering a workshop on LiD during an October professional development session.
“It’s another way to teach – another tool.”