It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. It’s back to school time. Revelstoke schools open this Tuesday, Sept. 8, so we touched base with a number of people across the school district to find out what was happening this year.
Here’s a quick rundown of new programs and some ongoing initiatives happening at the community’s five schools.
iPad project enters year two
A pilot program to introduce mobile technology into classrooms is entering its second year.
The iPad project was introduced by Michael Haworth, the district principal for technology, last year.
“We have a number of teaching staff in the district that are working with mobile technology,” he said. “Each of the teachers has their own mobile device that’s part of the project. As well we have a cart of 15 iPads at each elementary school.”
The iPads are pre-loaded with educational apps. They’re being used in various ways to enhance the learning experience by making classes more interactive.
“We’re using them so students can express and explain their understanding of what they’re learning,” said Haworth. “We’re using them as very creative expression tools and learning tools for our students.”
The way it works is that during a lesson, students can work either by themselves or in groups to demonstrate what they’re learning on the iPad. This can be by illustrating a math problem, translating words to French, or creating a storybook. The work can then be displayed on TV screens in each class.
“One of the things we did focus on with the 20 iPads we put into each school is looking at it from a standpoint where we want kids to work collaboratively and collectively together,” said Haworth. “It’s not necessarily a one-to-one experience with the kid and the technology. It’s a shared experience with the students in the class.”
The program launched last year and this year more teachers will be joining. Staff are still figuring best practices as the program is rolled out throughout the district’s three elementary schools. “It’s a continuing, ongoing collaborative project,” said Haworth.
Second Aboriginal education agreement in works
The school district is developing a second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement this year following the end of the five-year term of the first one.
“It’s been really successful and I hope people in the community notice there’s a higher Aboriginal profile in Revelstoke,” said Ariel McDowell, the district principal of Aboriginal education. “That’s what we’re hoping to build on — for students to continue to feel an increasing pride in their heritage, and finding out where they’re from, and increasing familiarity with language.”
The first agreement was signed in March 2010 with the goals of increasing Aboriginal students’ knowledge and pride of their heritage and language; increasing awareness of Aboriginal culture and heritage; increasing the academic success of Aboriginal students; and increasing their graduation rates.
McDowell said these goals will remain, but they are also looking at new ones to target. A committee has been meeting and soliciting feedback for the new agreement.
“We’re going through that feedback and mulling language for goals and making sure everyone’s ideas are integrated as much as possible so we have a cohesive direction for Aboriginal programming,” she said.
Rwandan musicians coming to RSS
Revelstoke Secondary School will play host to a group of Rwandan music students in conjunction with the Axis Mundi Harvest Festival later this month.
The Nyundo School Roadshow will be at the school on Friday, Sept. 18, to work with music students both during and after school, and over the weekend.
“Not only will there be some opportunities for our school time, but on the weekend there will be an incredible opportunity for this cultural education to go on,” said Greg Kenyon, the principal of RSS.
The Roadshow students come from Rwanda’s first School of Music, which opened in March 2014 with 30 students. The school was founded by musician and bandleader Jacques Murigande, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide who moved to Ottawa following that horrific event. His music fuses traditional Rwandan melodies and lyrics with reggae and blues.
Nine students from the school will be coming to play and work with Revelstoke high school students. They will also be performing at the United Church on Friday, Sept. 18, at 10 p.m., and again on Saturday, Sept. 19, at noon.
Mental health First Aid workshop coming
The school district is hosting a workshop on addressing student mental health issues this month.
“Mental health is an important aspect to everything that happens in schools,” said Greg Kenyon, the principal of RSS. “It’s something that’s becoming more and more public, and more and more discussed, and I’m really happy we’re taking the lead on this.”
The two-day course is being put on by Michele Hucul, a social worker based in Kelowna. She will be working with 24 community professionals, half of which will be school district staff.
“It’s the idea of not only how to recognize mental health issues, but how to help students with those issues,” said Kenyon.
The workshop is being organized by the district, the Revelstoke Teachers Association and a number of outside organizations.
18 international students at RSS
The international student program at Revelstoke Secondary School is ramping up again, with 18 students coming from seven different countries this year.
“This opens up doors and opportunities for our own students, not only to experience and hear what it’s like to live in Portugal or Spain or Norway, but the friendships they make last,” said Andy Pfeiffer, the vice-principal of Revelstoke Secondary School.
The school takes part in the Rocky Mountain International Student Program, which places students from around the world into B.C. schools.
Revelstoke joined the program in 2010 with less than a handful of students, and has ramped up every year since. “We slowly increased it to where we are now, which we think is a good fit,” said Pfeiffer. “Any more than 18 would be too much for our size of school.”
This year, nine students are coming from Germany, three from Mexico, two from Switzerland, one from Spain, one from Norway, and one from China. As well, the school is hosting a Rotary exchange student from Brazil.
Pfeiffer said the students bring diversity to the school, and generally fit in very well.
“Our students are described as being very friendly and that friendliness comes through,” he said. “They’re integrated in every class so everything they do in a classroom is with other students, so that’s probably the greatest asset. They don’t travel around in a pack, which some might expect.”
Ecole des Glaciers up to grade five
Revelstoke’s French school will have 41 students in three classes, stretching from kindergarten to grade five this year.
Ecole des Glaciers, which is located inside Arrow Heights Elementary, but run by the Francophone School Board of B.C., will have 13 kindergarten students this year, 14 students in a mixed grade 1/2 class, and 14 in a grade 3/4/5 class.
Chantale Desmarais, the school’s principal, said they are introducing two new programs this year. One is called Tiens-moi la main, j’embarque, which translates to Hold my hand, I’m getting on. The program is to help four-year-olds prepare to enter kindergarten the next year. The school is also launching Les racines de l’empathie (Roots of Empathy) for kindergarten students.