With education week in BC having recently concluded, School District 47 board of education chairperson Dale Lawson outlined some of the great activities occurring in local schools.
In a letter to parents and guardians, Lawson stated she would like to take an opportunity during education week to honour and acknowledge the tremendous efforts of students, teachers, administrators and support staff who have been able to keep the focus on student learning and well-being during this unprecedented time.
“In the midst of a pandemic, we have been able to find innovative practices, unique learning experiences and new modalities for communication,” stated Lawson. “Our students, staff, families and community have worked together diligently and compassionately to ensure our schools are healthy, safe, and rich in educational experiences. From outdoor classrooms to modifying district-wide experiences and mental health supports, we have adjusted to the many challenges and created inspiring and engaging opportunities for all of our learners.”
Lawson outlined how Henderson Elementary School students and staff learned how important kindness and giving is for their school community and beyond. She stated that they adapted their efforts this year to continue to coordinate and support Powell River’s Kindness Project, Everyone Deserves a Smile (EDAS). The goal was to create 200 bags to share with others in the community and bring a smile to the faces of those in need.
“Working with other organizations and EDAS supporters in the community, Henderson students and staff decorated and filled EDAS bags with items such as scarves, toques and cookies,” stated Lawson. “Bags were delivered with the help of the Powell River fire department. Thanks also goes out to other community organizations who were able to pick up their bags. It was a community effort. Henderson Elementary truly is a little school with a big heart.”
Lawson stated that with recommendations to get outside, outdoor and natural learning spaces even more are being embraced even more.
“With the recent stretch of sunshine, outdoor classrooms have sprung up all over the district,” stated Lawson. “Our landed learning program, too, has been busy with indoor and outdoor activities as weather permits. Landed learning provides garden-based learning and food preparation activities to elementary school students.
“Students all across our district have been keen to learn about seeds, plan for growing different crops, and get out into school gardens to plant veggies like peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes. Students are off to a great start to the growing season. Thanks to all our student gardeners, staff and community volunteers and partners who make this happen at each school.”
Zoom plays role
Over spring break, to accommodate ongoing challenges for families associated with the pandemic, district staff offered students multiple free sessions throughout the two weeks both at home via Zoom videoconferencing and outside, according to Lawson. Students had the opportunity to sign up for activities such as mountain biking, movement and mindfulness, and place-based learning where students could head outside, get their heart rate up and discover the amazing local surroundings on their doorstep, stated Lawson.
Similar to place-based education activities throughout the school year, spring break participants learned to take care of the world by understanding where they live and how to take action in their own backyards and communities.
A cohort of students in the graduation program from Brooks Secondary School, Ahms Tah Ow and the community are involved in a unique program being offered in partnership with Tla’amin Nation, Vancouver Island University and School District 47 for traditional skill building. Students have opportunities to get credit for courses while participating in cultural activities and events and learning about indigenous knowledge, including paddle carving, plants and medicines, food preservation and the indigenous day of celebration and giving. All events are supported by School District 47 staff and knowledgeable Tla’amin community experts and elders, according to Lawson.
Mental health a priority
Mental health and well-being for students, families and staff has been a top priority this year and additional measures have been taken throughout the district to protect not only physical health, but also social and emotional well-being.
“Support for integrating social emotional learning and implementing trauma-informed practices into learning environments has been provided to ensure educators and staff feel prepared to use a whole-child approach and have support for themselves,” stated Lawson. “School District 47 was also asked by the BC Ministry of Education to participate in a mental health focus group with nine other innovative districts to explore unique ways districts are considering the well-being of both students and adults in the school system.”
Support staff have also been busy keeping our schools clean, healthy, and safe, stated Lawson.
“They have been doing additional cleaning in all of our buildings and even had the electrostatic sprayer over spring break to disinfect schools,” she added. “An electrostatic sprayer adds a negative molecule charge to disinfectant as it is sprayed. This slows down the evaporation time and cleans surfaces in a more thorough way.
“These are just a few of the examples of our students, families, teachers, administrators and support staff working together to keep everyone healthy and safe and to continue to provide engaging and meaningful learning experiences and environments to support our students’ learning and growth. Thank you to everyone in our school communities during education week and every day.”