Nine-year-old Luke Shimizu uses a magnifying glass to have a closer look at a leaf with education assistant Kate MacDonald at the Elizabeth Buckley School. The school is the first in Canada to adopt a curriculum focused on literacy in science

Nine-year-old Luke Shimizu uses a magnifying glass to have a closer look at a leaf with education assistant Kate MacDonald at the Elizabeth Buckley School. The school is the first in Canada to adopt a curriculum focused on literacy in science

Powering school on science and math

Victoria independent school first in Canada to adopt curriculum focused on science literacy

This past spring, students in Grades 2 and 3 at Elizabeth Buckley School in Victoria sprouted seeds as part of their study of plants.

But instead of memorizing passages from a textbook before watering their seeds, the students formed hypotheses on how the plants might develop and eliminated possibilities through class discussion along the way.

“We recognize that the kids learn very well in a hands-on kind of way,” said Roberta MacDonald, principal of Elizabeth Buckley School, an independent school that will become the first STEM school in the country this September.

STEM – for science, technology, engineering  and mathematics – schools began cropping up across the U.S. during the past two decades and operate on the idea that literacy in each of these subject areas is as important as the development of language skills.

Elizabeth Buckley will officially adopt STEM next month, but the school has long since implemented some of the teaching methods, which favour experiential learning over memorization.

“We all recognize that literacy is very important, yet there are kids who feel they’re not very good at science and math, and write that off, saying ‘I’m just not a science person,’ or ‘I’m just not a math person.’”

The phenomenon seems to be accepted, particularly with girls around the middle school years, said MacDonald, also an Elizabeth Buckley parent.

“But what if your child came to you and said: ‘I’m just not a language person,’ would we accept that?”

The school began 25 years ago for students with hearing impairment, but today it serves all students, whether they’re typical, special needs or gifted.

“It’s not necessarily that our kids are different, but we want our kids to see ‘different’ differently than when we were raised,” said Laurie Waye, Elizabeth Buckley parent and co-chair of its board of directors.

MacDonald, the former director of Science Venture, a STEM outreach program at the University of Victoria, had run science camps and wanted to find a way to meet an un-met need in science education.

Subjects aren’t taught in isolation, rather in hands-on activities that foster discussion and critical thinking, MacDonald said.

Music, physical education and math, for example, are taught through a game of clapping and moving to rhythms.

Science, art and language are covered when kids create trading cards for various animals and elements of the ecosystem.

Lessons on astronomy and First Nation heritage have been taught by local experts, partnerships the school hopes to build into the future.

MacDonald is involved in developing guidelines for digital literacy – something Waye feels went unaddressed by the public sector.

Greater Victoria Board of Education chairperson Peg Orcherton  said part of the difficulties within public education is to maintain and upgrade technology under tight budgetary restrictions.

Student achievement goals in the Greater Victoria district are built on literacy and numeracy in the early years to meet the needs of new technologies, she added.

“There are so many different pedagogies on education,” Orcherton said. “Education is constantly changing and evolving. The issue is trying to get everybody to buy into the best way to educate. It’s supposed to be equitable and accessible for all.”

Fifty per cent of the operating costs at Elizabeth Buckley are provided by the province and the other half from tuition fees; $360 per month or $3,600 per year for local students, or $7,200 per year for international students.

“We saw the (STEM) research coming out of the States, which was incredibly persuasive and we realized we actually had a really good fit for that curriculum,” Waye said.

More information can be found at ElizabethBuckleySchool.com.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

West Shore RCMP K9 Halla. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sound of RCMP dog enough to stop suspects in Oak Bay

West Shore RCMP K9 unit called in, didn’t get to chase

A patio built by The Village is shared by three eateries in Estevan. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay eateries sharing communal patio space in Estevan Village

The Village invested $25,000 in streetside patio, hopes to make it permanent

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for urban Indigenous school

Centre says independent school would be first of its kind in B.C.

Most Read