University Highlands Elementary School
Letter from Lori Driussi, Principal
Learning in Depth at University Highlands Elementary, October, 2012
One of our school’s 3 themes is inquiry-based learning. While exploring various pedagogical paths, I came upon Learning in Depth and my curiosity was piqued. I wondered how students would feel about a randomly assigned topic as we so often hear about choice as a motivator. I wondered how they would go about pursuing it with teacher facilitation rather than teacher direction. Will they have the habits of mind to take on an independent inquiry? I wondered how teachers would manage a room with potentially 30 different topics being investigated and what role could parents play?
To satisfy my curiosity I worked with 10 students, ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 5 to try LiD for myself. We met once a week for about 6 months. The students were nominated by their classroom teachers as those who would benefit from a challenge. I know that LiD is for all learners but this was my foot in the door.
I was amazed by students’ level of engagement with their topics and the variety of ways they chose to pursue them. I learned how to be a more effective facilitator and when to step in with teacher direction. I continued to wonder how teachers might manage several different topics. I discovered that involved parents and community made all the difference in children’s learning and excitement.
The next year I invited whole classes to participate. Two primary classes participated in LiD once a week for 6 months. We still have some questions but the power of the learning and the engagement of the children compelled us to persevere. To culminate our LiD sessions, students presented their topics in an exhibition to parents, staff, students and community members. The variety of presentation types was astounding. As teachers we could not have set up such creative exhibits! Among many examples, children used dioramas to share ocean life, held comparative tastings to explore honey, created categorization games to define worms and explained the uses of NASA materials in everyday life. The success was such that this year our school will be one of many around the world where all classes participate in Learning in Depth.
We have designated Wednesday afternoons as LiD KiDs. Every child in our school will have a topic to pursue. We have planned class and whole school activities. Parent communication will be a focus. We’ve asked student teachers from SFU to help us too! We are not sure how things are going to go exactly but we are excited to begin the journey!