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Blog: Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Making Learning Matter

Conversation around the new curriculum will often move to a discussion on relevance for and engagement of students. The teachers we work with are looking for new and innovative ways of having students take ownership of their learning and then applying it to real world problems in real world situations. This is no small challenge and teachers around our District are doing some very creative things in their classrooms and the community. Two such projects at Rick Hansen Secondary have recently caught my eye.

The first project is happening in our Work Study program. One of the goals of this program is to give students skills that can translate into their real world of work and life. These students have faced struggles throughout their time in school, be it physical, emotional or intellectual, and the importance of sending these students out into our community with skills that will benefit themselves and others is not lost on Victoria Kooner, our teacher lead in this program. Having been recently been awarded a grant, Victoria is looking to create a vertical garden where students can be involved from planting seeds, to growing and fertilizing, and then to creating floral arrangements. The idea of a vertical garden is new to Victoria and her students, so she is soliciting the help of grade eleven Rick Hansen School of Science students. These students are working in small groups, and researching sustainable vertical gardens and designs for irrigation, soil retention and durability. The driving question for these students is “how can technology be harnessed to solve a biological problem?” The end goal is each group from will present to the Work Study class a design that fits within the grant money budget and will meet the needs of the project, and then in Dragon’s Den style, these Work Study students will select the winning design and partner with the winning group for the rest of the year in building the garden and making it a viable and sustainable venture even beyond this current school year.  And even better is the long-term vision for this vertical garden. Once the Work Study students see the success they can have with gardening, Victoria will partner with School of Business students next year to help in turning this vertical garden into a sustainable business where students can market and sell their cultivated flowers in hanging baskets and table center pieces. The students who come through the Work Study program will not only learn practical work skills, but also basic business skills. Victoria may have planted the seed, but a whole range of students from her own to the grade eleven School of Science and Business students are making this germinate and grow into something special.

The second undertaking is a project by Joanne Weatherby, a teacher in the Rick Hansen science department and new to our school this year. Joanne is passionate about student learning and engaging students in conversations where they go deeper into their school experience. She blogs and shares her own learning with fellow teachers/friends globally, and a recent post she wrote prompted her to propose a way for students to do the same. Joanne is starting a podcast called “One Word” where she will talk with a Hansen student about their experience(s) at this school. The student will start with one word that exemplifies a positive RHSS experience, and the rest of the podcast will go deeper into explaining this experience, why this experience resonates with them, and the choice behind the word.  This podcast is a wonderful way of getting students to not only talk about their learning and all that surrounds it, but also broadcasting these stories out to a wider audience. Our school-community (and beyond) can now “listen in” to the fantastic things happening at Hansen and how our kids are being transformed through their experiences here. As this project unfolds, Joanne’s goal is to put students in charge of this podcast in terms of hosting, as well as filling roles behind the scenes to push this podcast out to a wider audience.

Experiences such as these are what sustain our teachers and engage our students.

(NOTE: The first podcasts are being recorded this month to be posted and shared through our school website - - and social media platforms. Check it out if you can.)

(NOTE: When she’s not teaching or at home with her family, Joanne can be found at or @JWeatherby.)

Michael Hendricks
Vice-Principal, Rick Hansen Secondary