THUNDER BAY – Last night in Thunder Bay a group of interested parents gathered at Chapters Bookstore to listen to the plans for the new Northern Lights Alternative School as they are still taking applications. There was a growing excitement in the air, as expressed by one of the parents present “I’m so glad this is happening in Thunder Bay”.
Scott Read, the teacher of the Northern Lights Alternative School, shared his vision about educating “the whole child”. He talked about providing a customized education with a focus on each child’s daily experience. Thus, rather than an outcome-based education he outlined a vision for a process-based education. He spoke about making each child feel welcome and valued and to make each lesson relevant and engaging.
“I will greet each child in the morning, welcoming each individual. Academic work will be scheduled in the first portion of the day when the children are most rested, alert and receptive to this type of learning. The curriculum will be based on the Ontario Curriculum Guidelines and Waldorf Curriculum. As the day progresses, the children will learn by doing and a significant portion of each afternoon will be spent outside,” said Scott. “This rhythm will allow the children to remain engaged throughout the day and will allow the subjects to be integrated in a theme-based approach. This approach focuses on one key theme over a 4-6 week period and weaves together art and movement with subjects, like Math, Science, and English. This makes the subject matter come to life and makes it much easier to remember. ”
To put these ideas into a tangible explanation, Scott used the example of year-end play as a culminating task to be presented to parents and other community members. The arts, reading, writing, math, science, humanities and community excursions would all be showcased in the play.
Cary Gillies, Northern Lights Education Initiative Committee Member, spoke about how the school will be place-based. To describe what this meant, she explained that the learning would be relevant to children’s lives and lived experience in the region. She said it would include local customs, languages, cultures, geography and ecology, and that parents and community members will be regularly invited into the classroom, and the children will network with many community groups. The children will spend a significant amount of time in the community and in local, wild spaces.
“This type of relevant, customized education will nurture a love of learning as each child discovers his or her unique talents and passions. Integrated, arts-infused education also supports and enhances each child’s innate creative capacities,” said Gillies. “We believe it is the combination of a passion for learning, creative problem solving and a genuine care and respect for one another which will best prepare our children for successful, happy lives.”
Gillies ended with a quote by Sir Ken Robinson, “By seeing our creative capacities for the richness that they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are, our task is to educate their whole being so they can face the future.”
At this time, the Northern Lights Alternative School will be located at 211 Clarke Street, in the Little Lions Daycare building. The tuition at this time is $750 per child, per month (10 months).
For more information please visit the website at www.northerneducation.ca or call Cary Gillies at 807-251-7280.