The Pursuit – The Culmination of a Grade 10 Experiential Year

After extensive research and collaboration, SMUS faculty designed a unique program for Grade 10 students focusing on experiential learning. Weaving hands-on and real-world opportunities into the academic program through the entire year, students explored personal interests and connected theory to practice in their classes.

Along with experiences that were directly connected to subject areas (like these fun crime-solving examples from science and math), there were many other opportunities for students to learn out of the classroom environment in a wide variety of interdisciplinary areas and expedition options.

The Pursuit

From May 30 until June 3, all Grade 10 students were off campus participating in the culminating experience for the year called “the Pursuit”. Choosing from a diversity list, students were asked to find a topic that sparked their curiosity and that they wanted to learn more deeply about.

Here are some of the highlights and reflections from these trips:

Cariboo Ranch Experience

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“Today was even better than yesterday! We went canoeing in the morning, then did a horse handling obstacle course that was really challenging for a lot of students. It was great to watch them work through it. We went for a horseback ride that was beautiful. To end the night we got to talk with the new owner of the Flying U Ranch about ranches as a business.” – mid-trip communication from Ms. Kate Carlson.

“Before this trip, I thought I wanted to become a physiotherapist later on, after high school and university, but now I think that I want to work with animals. I learned so much about animals (especially horses) and now I feel that I want to learn more and understand them better. I’ve always loved being around animals and I’m a very compassionate person, so any job that involves animals would probably be good for me. I also like to work outside, because sometimes I can’t focus on working inside in a classroom or an office. I learn much better outside of the classroom.” – Lindsay Gage, student

Coffee Roasting Expedition

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“We went to Vancouver to meet with a roasting business and for the students to take a barista course. We are back in Victoria now and have split the group into two: roasting and business. The roasting group is meeting with local roasters and is working with 100lbs of ethically sourced green beans. The business group is working on a business plan and branding for the product. The coffee will be sold at SMUS functions in the future.” – mid-trip communication from Mr. Reagan Daly.

Art History in Seattle

Art history enthusiasts spent time in Seattle and back in Victoria studying public art and attending exhibits, the Seattle Art Museum, and galleries as well as the Experience Music Project. Continuing this focus, the group of 13 enjoyed getting creative back in Victoria.

Design, Technology and Innovation

This group went to Vancouver to the Academy of Tomorrow to learn to about and apply the “design thinking” process to innovation. Students worked together in small groups as a design team. They created prototypes with their ideas and pushed their team’s concept through refinement, culminating in a team pitch presentation at the end. Also in Vancouver, these 14 students visited a top architect, as well as the Sony Animation studio. Back in Victoria, students met with Dr. Nikolai Dechev who is using 3D printers to build prosthetic hands at the University of Victoria, and connected with the medical technology company Star Fish Medical lab.

“I have been impacted by my exposure to design thinking and technology in the best of ways. I am now more motivated to innovate and create and I am inspired by individuals who can harness their imaginations and come up with their own ways to better humanity in all aspects of the triple bottom line model.” – Noah El-Hafi, student

“I chose the Design, Technology and Innovation trip to understand more about technology and design. I was surprised when we were taught about design thinking, which really impacted my learning. We learnt about various strategies for problem solving, ways to approach a problem from different angles and to be open-minded about every idea. This really give me a desire to learn more because I feel like I have the essential “tools” to face any problems.” – Duc Khuong, student

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STEM through Go Kart design and build

Before:

Originally this group was going to design and build a go cart, however that goal changed when they became motivated instead to convert a go-kart engine from gas-powered to electric. Working in the Hybrid car garage at the University of Victoria, our seven students learned from and worked alongside engineers. The engineers shared their passion for engineering, stories of their internships at Tesla and their dreams of getting jobs working for the company. Imagining, designing, fabricating and welding various aspects of the go cart, these SMUS students worked tirelessly to finish the project. They were adequately rewarded with an evening at the track to test drive the vehicle.

After:

A Service Learning Experience – Focusing on Poverty in Victoria.

Five students explored the complex issues around poverty and homelessness in Victoria. Students learned first-hand some of the struggles through conversations with and serving food to those in need at local organizations. Gaining a different perspective, they met with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and MLA Andrew Weaver. Spending the night sleeping in a cardboard box on campus allowed the students to experience what sleeping on the street may be like and helped them develop an increased sense of empathy. This is only the beginning for these students, who have become more aware and committed to being part of a community-based solution to homelessness.

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Hiking the Nootka Trail

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Students experienced an incredible part of Vancouver Island on foot. Spending two days in Nootka Sound at Critter Cove, the group learned about local businesses, the local First Nation in the area, and then spent five days hiking the Nootka Trail. Explore calls the 40 kilometre trail “spectacular with surf breaks, frequent sea otter and whale sightings, significant First Nations artifacts, and a fascinating colonial history that stretches back to Captain James Cook’s discovery of B.C.” It did not disappoint the eight students who went with outdoor guide Mr. Jamie Pope.

Some post-trip reflections:

“I’m going to miss going for a cold swim in the river and drying out by the fire.”

“I love being outdoors with my friends. I like the feeling of being able to rely only on everything in my pack.”

“I want future generations to see what it was like for the previous generations and appreciate nature.”

“Everyone back at school is so caught up their daily lives and worrying about the future that no one gets to appreciate the present. When we were on the trail I got to appreciate the present, such as my surroundings and being immersed in nature.”

 

Kayaking in the Johnstone Strait

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“On the Broughton trip we had amazing cetacean sightings while paddling: humpback whales, orcas and Dall’s porpoises all on the first day. Our First Nations experiences included visiting an abandoned village, as well as the modern community of Alert Bay (where we visited the site of St Michael’s Residential School and the U’mista Cultureal Centre).”

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Learn the Traditional Skill of Bow Making

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“The Grade 10 bowyers are all working hard and it is sometimes difficult to get them to stop for meals. Some are surprised as to how good their bows and arrows are starting to look. Some took their first shots today.” – mid-trip reflection from Mr. Bill Buckingham

Strathcona Park – Camping, Nature Photography and Painting

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Students camped in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island and, equipped with art supplies, allowed themselves to be inspired by their surroundings. Hiking each day provided new scenery and opportunities to express themselves creatively.

Film & Television School

The students attended sessions at the Pacific Design Academy where they learned about film appreciation, set lighting, directing, sound editing and green screen technology. We have some seriously passionate and excited budding directors, producers, actors and special effects people in this group!

Yoga Retreat

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This was an amazing experience for 16 students. Focusing on healthy eating, yoga, mindfulness and nature, the students were completely involved, pushing themselves to limits that surprised them. By the end of the retreat, students were successfully teaching each other mini lessons and leading yoga classes themselves.

The Discovery – A final essay

These experiences culminated in a reflective essay which gave students a chance to pull together everything they had learned throughout the year, or to focus on a particular aspect of their learning that they felt was most meaningful. What had they discovered – about themselves, about the world? We are confident these students are heading into Grade 11 with new skills and a better idea of their talents, interests and passions.

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Becky Anderson
Becky Anderson is Director of the Junior School. She has also held the position of Director of Leadership Development at SMUS.

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