UBC researchers are collaborating with educators to re-imagine the future of education at Vernon Community School (VCS), an alternative school that’s reconstructing the way we think about learning.
“The work being done at Vernon Community School extends far beyond the immediacies of the classroom,” says Margaret Macintyre Latta, a UBC professor in the Faculty of Education. “It is reshaping long-term understandings of what constitutes education, curriculum and community.”
Established in 2014, VCS consists of 80 students from grades seven to eleven, associated parents, mentors, and the wider community, with researchers and teacher candidates from UBC Okanagan, and four educators from the Vernon School District.
VCS was approved by the local school board with the condition that it be housed as a program within a secondary school with declining enrollment. Located inside Vernon’s Clarence Fulton Secondary, VCS offers an alternative program and focuses on social justice, celebrating inclusion and diversity, and fostering student engagement through BC’s revised curriculum.
“Vernon Community School embraces the vision of a highly-engaged community of learners,” says Joseph Rogers, Vernon School District superintendent. “The involvement of community members and individual students has challenged ‘regular’ classrooms to re-imagine how we invite and extend learning into the community.”
UBC researchers are observing the learning environment by attending to the individualized thinking of both the student and the educators.
“As co-researchers we are inquiring with VCS educators, families, students, and mentors to document how curriculum can be co-constructed through the passions and interests of students and community,” says Leyton Schnellert, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education. “VCS has realized the potential of inquiry-based learning for empowering students to be the authors of their own identities and learning.”
Educators from VCS, and co-researchers Kim Ondrik, and Murray Sasges explain that students and educators work together continually to create a community of learning through mindful curricular enactment. The notion of community permeates the experiential whole at VCS, says Macintyre Latta.
“Learning at VCS is a process that involves the community: including teachers, students, mentors, and parents,” she adds. “Co-researchers remain committed to research the learning that is happening at VCS, embodying new ways of learning that move away from competition and control, and focus on collective growth and well-being. This research is helping to create a language to reflect the current landscape of education.”
For more information read, "The inspirited nature of mindful curricular enactment’s community (re)making," recently published in the Journal of Curriculum Studies.