Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Education- Small but mighty learning November 24, 2018

The following article was originally published in The Gateway newspaper, Sicamous, BC, June 2014.  I no longer teach at ERS, but the school continues to engage in innovative programs with some of the most skilled teachers in SD 83.  When I left, half the teachers had Masters degrees and a third of them were published authors!

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SMALL BUT MIGHTY LEARNING AT ERS.

© Shawn L. Bird 2014

Eagle River Secondary (ERS) has been the educational heart of Sicamous since students began learning on the property nearly a century ago. In recent years, declining enrolment has required the school to become creative in order to offer programs that keep students in town. These successful innovations are causing a stir throughout the province.

The changes have included offering grade specific Core classes (English, Social Studies, Math, and Science) in the mornings and multigrade electives in the afternoons. The electives have embraced the teachers’ varied passions, allowing students to learn through classes in geo-caching, horticulture, international cuisine, cake decorating, hockey, outdoor education and guitar as well as more traditional classes like volleyball, biology and art. Of special note is the Social Justice class, which has students in the community helping at the thrift store and Meals on Wheels, harvesting vegetables for the food bank, gardening, and collecting for various charities.

A new focus on flexible learning by the Ministry of Education became the key to Eagle River’s innovations. The school has been given freedom to develop unconventional approaches to timetabling and course offerings. As a result of the success of these efforts, ERS has been recognized by the provincial government as a flagship school of the BC Ed Plan. Grade eight and nine students have had the opportunity to learn together in their choice of six mixed Science/ Socials classes throughout the school year; grade ten will be added in 2014-15. These courses have provided hands on, project based learning exploring local plants, controversial issues, water, astronomy, sound, electricity, revolutions, world religions, and cultural fashions among other offerings.

ERS is also very active in Career Education initiatives. Students are able to earn credits for their work experience in their jobs outside of school. There are two ERS students working in the community as Secondary School Apprentices, collecting hours with BC’s Industry Training Authority and gaining high school credit while they work as a marine mechanic or electrician. ERS works with School District 83 to provide two other students with dual credits (both college and high school) for career training as an automotive repair technician or a hair dresser. These students do a semester or year of training at another SD83 school, and will return to ERS tograduate with their friends.

Students also have the opportunity to parlay their own interests into Independent Directed Study (IDS) blocks. Students develop a set of learning goals, based on existing Ministry courses, and then leave the building to explore. Presently a pair of students is doing an IDS in fly fishing, learning about insect and fish life cycles, creating flies, fishing, and recording their findings. This is science and physical education for real life! Other students have created IDS courses in music, mountain biking, fitness, and long boarding. ERS partnered with UBC’s Okanagan campus to offer Maker Day. This was a chance to explore creative thinking and problem solving by students and community members working in small, multi-age groups to create prototypes of inventions. Maker Day is a movement dedicated to inquiry learning. Three ERS teachers are working on Masters degrees at UBCO, and the university is keen to have greater involvement with the school.

Eagle River’s innovations are making waves. Schools from all over the province are calling or coming to see what is happening within the walls. With only 150 students in grades eight to twelve, ERS may be small, but it’s mighty. Great things are happening for Sicamous’s kids, and the province is taking

You can find the original article in situ here on page 8. GatewayJun2014-SmallMightp8.

Shawn L. Bird BA, MEd.

 

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poem-memorized May 20, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:59 am
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Mrs. Filber’s daughter memorized Poe’s The Raven and recited it for her mother’s sixth grade class. Student Wanda reflected years later, “This was my first encounter with the power of poetry…How independent Mrs. Filber’s daughter was–she could conjure up this poem at any time in the future, enjoying it again and again!” (May, W. 1991. “The Arts and Curriculum as Lingering.” p. 145).

What power in memory

to pull from air,

call upon bardic traditions,

weave words around ears.

Captivate.

Infiltrate.

Enervate

with poetry.

.

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(A little poetry inspired by my grad school reading today).

 

poem-7 February 19, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:12 pm
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The ancient Greeks formalized education.

Men should seek the seven liberal arts.

They must know grammar,

rhetoric,

dialectics.

Then move on to

music

arithmetic,

geometry,

astronomy

and always consider the tenets of philosophy.

You must begin knowing how words connect,

how to persuade others,

how to think logically and analytically,

then explore

sound,

numbers,

shapes,

and stars.

 

poem-learning January 4, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:55 am
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Who has told you

that learning must be boring?

Why do you think

you cannot learn from listening to others?

When did you lose

your natural creativity and curiosity?

Where will you go

if you’re not embracing opportunities here?

What hope is there for you

if you are so jaded so young?

In this place,

we believe that skills and abilities are more important

than out of date information.

We believe learning is more meaningful when

students ask their own questions and explore their own curiosity.

We believe you have potential to discover

far beyond yourself,

but you never will, if you don’t open your eyes to the world

beyond your nose.

.

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God preserve me from kids who are ‘too cool for school’.

 

poem-stop November 25, 2015

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:48 am
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This is a stop.

But only a brief one.

Long journeys

Pre-school.

Kindergarten.

Elementary school.

Secondary school.

One bachelor’s degree.

Two bachelor’s degrees.

And finally school feels finished.

So we will celebrate as you don the cap and gown,

walk across a stage,

accept the diploma.

We’ll snap the photos and be glad

This is a stop in the educational journey

But soon it will be your own class room,

filled with your students,

and soon you’ll realize,

your education is just beginning.

P1020915

 

poem-erudition September 17, 2015

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:55 pm
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We gathered together,

grad students celebrating scholarly excellence,

and discussed philosophy, narrative,

collaboration, theory and practice.

Should such a gathering be called

an erudition of grad students?

 

quote-Ken Robinson on creative people July 15, 2015

Filed under: Quotations,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 pm
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Some of the most brilliant, creative people I know did not do well at school.  Many of them didn’t really discover what they could do–and who they really were–until they’d left school and recovered from their education.

Sir Ken Robinson in The Element

I am doing my Masters in Education at the moment.  Specifically, I’m on campus at University of British Columbia Okanagan taking two courses, each three hours a day, for three extremely intensive and exhausting weeks.  As I write, I am exactly half way through my degree.  In another week and a half I will have completed 6 of 9 courses. I am presently trying to determine what I will do for a project to reflect the research I do around my question which explores passion-based learning and teaching in a high school.

I come to this research because since I have fulfilled my passions as an author and poet, it has completely changed the way I teach.  I am happier.  I believe my students are happier because of it.  I suspect they learn better because I bring my outside passions (as a writer) into my class room.

Unlike the people Robinson knew, I did do well in school, in the classes I loved like English, History, and Choral, at least.  I didn’t do as well in math and sciences.   I knew I wanted to be a writer even back in high school.  I was in the yearbook (publishing a book each year!), newspaper (publishing a column each month!), as well as musical theatre (applause!).  Back then, all three of those were extra-curricular activities.  How great would it have been to have been earning English and art credits for all that learning?  Our kids today do.

I was so jealous of Sue Hinton who’d written The Outsiders while she was in grade eleven!  Consider: she failed English that year. What a travesty! Next year, I have 2 students who are planning to do Independent Directed Studies writing novels (or perhaps novellas) for credit.  Sue Hinton would have loved English in my school.

I may have known my passion, but I didn’t leap in and start (well, finish) writing that novel in my head until 25 years after leaving high school.  That’s a long time to have a fire smoored, awaiting the flash of flame and burning of achievement!

How about you?  What’s your passion?  Is it smoored or burning?  Did formal school help or hinder development of your passion?

 

 
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