Middle School Tests a Flexible Schedule to Personalize Learning

As our school strives to find ways in which we can offer greater personalized learning opportunities, we are looking at ways to get creative with timetabling and scheduling. As teachers, we want to allow students to dig deeply into areas that are of interest to them. We want to provide the opportunities for student-driven inquiry; however, the speed bump we often encounter is time. The average day for a Middle School student takes them through seven 50-minute blocks. It can be challenging to dig deeply into a topic in less than an hour.

For one day, May 10, the regular schedule was wiped clean. Students had a modified schedule for the day that allowed for longer, more personalized learning opportunities.

For example, the Grade 8s took the afternoon to head to the Greater Victoria Art Gallery. There, they witnessed two exhibitions, one of which showcased the life work of various potters who have created pieces influenced by a variety of “cultures.” In looking at the work of others, the objective was for students to develop a greater understanding of the art form that will help to inspire their own inquiry ceramics project they’re currently working on.

This flexible scheduling was trialed in the hopes that we can use this method in the years to come to provide greater opportunity for personalization. In the future, these flex days can offer students time to develop as learners, explore passion projects, take part in service opportunities, and participate in field trips and workshops that are relevant to individual inquiries.

We are committed to providing opportunities for students to develop their personal excellence. These days will allow students the time, space, resources and support to pursue their personal excellence in a way that is unique to each of them.   

Student Reflections

When we got to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, we had a day full of learning ahead of us. The purpose of the field trip was to better enhance our knowledge of different styles of artwork within clay, ceramics and First Nations paintings. What we enjoyed most was the scavenger hunt for the clay sculptures. We were given pictures of the clay sculptures and we had to identify the sculptor and the name of the piece. It was very exciting having a whole room of sculptures to look through and the thrill of finding the piece you were looking for and marking it off the list made it the highlight. We began experiencing ceramics and learning about it for ourselves ‘hands-on’ in class during our projects. After then seeing different styles and techniques of professional artists at the art gallery, it certainly broadened the way we look at clay. The experience taught our class about ceramics with a more in-depth level of thinking. Learning, observing and seeing such detail and creativity with our own eyes was definitely inspiring in a way that we could not experience in a classroom. The skills we learned during the visit really improved our own work on our clay pieces back at school. – by Kyle S. and Marina F., Grade 8

I loved Flex Day! We went to the beach at Mount Douglas, did a French scavenger hunt and learned about ocean life and rocks. The scavenger hunt was amazing and I had a lot of fun. I also really enjoyed hanging out on the beach and seeing the wildlife. Right now in science my class is learning about sedimentary rocks and we found a lot of those on the beach and learned a lot about them. I also learned some French reading and direction-taking skills. – by Grace J., Grade 7

We went to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria as part of our Flex Day. When we were there we experienced what it would be like to be an art curator collecting 12 pieces for a First Nations art gallery. We also did a scavenger hunt in Jan and Helga Grove’s clay piece exhibition; we named the pieces ourselves and tried to find information about the husband and wife duo. I most enjoyed the scavenger hunt where we named pieces before we found out the actual names because it was really cool to make our own interpretation of the art and then see if the names we wrote were close to the originals. I think that the trip ties into our current project because we got to see different techniques in clay and how we could maybe integrate one of those into our clay piece. I also think that it helped our overall knowledge of art and how galleries work. I think it will help with my project because I saw some texturing techniques that could be really interesting on the Japanese fan I’m making. I prefer being able to see professional art at a gallery rather than being in a classroom for art class because it helped us understand where a career in art could take us. – by Caoimhe M., Grade 8

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Tanya Lee
Tanya Lee teaches Humanities 6, and Communication Skills 7 and 8 at the SMUS Middle School. She is one of four SMUS teachers who dedicates a portion of their time shepherding St. Michaels University School’s plan to implement an integrated and excellent approach to personalization. The personalization team explores current best practices of personalized learning and looks at how SMUS can integrate these methodologies into our programming in a way that provides outstanding preparation for higher learning and for life.

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