At St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake we are 21st century ready At St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake we do learning differently. We begin with an understanding that the 21st century will place, and already has placed, new demands on learners, teachers, and workers. The job place and job market of the 20th century will be drastically different than that of the 21st century, especially with the advent of artificial intelligence and the internet of things. With this as the starting point, we have incorporated the latest educational research into the creation of a 21st century ready educational community, where innovation and creativity are paramount.
The following are a few key aspects of our program.
Emphasis on 21st century skills
No longer should disposable knowledge be the emphasis on teaching and learning. Why have schools dedicated so much time to force students to memorize information for tests that are quickly forgotten after the exam? Why is the memorization of any peripheral subject material emphasis in so many classes? The answer to this is that this model was developed to prepare workers for routine manufacturing jobs over 100 years ago. If memorization is the key skill that we develop within students, will they fare well in competition with technology? Will the jobs of the future reward workers for memorizing small bits of abstract information? Likely not. The jobs of the future will require skills that cannot be easily replaced by technology, such as advanced communication skills, critical thinking, creative and innovative thinking, self-management (resiliency, organization, empathy) skills, information and media literacy, collaboration and interpersonal skills. So although we at St. John’s Academy deliver a rigorous academic program, emphasis will be placed on developing skills and competencies rather than simply having students memorize content for tests – we want them to be 21st century ready.
As we aim to prepare students for jobs that may not yet exist and for lifestyles that will be drastically different, we recognize the need to collapse the silos of subjects. Students should recognize that the skills they are developing in one subject will benefit them in another. More importantly, the thinking and innovation required in the 21st century will require students to use information, knowledge, and skills from multiple subjects to tackle the issues, problems, and opportunities of the 21st century. Within the Middle School program at St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake, students within every grade will undertake interdisciplinary tasks and draw upon knowledge and skills from various subjects as they complete various, authentic projects and learning tasks.
Inquiry-based teaching and learning
Curiosity is intricately linked to learning – the higher the natural curiosity of a student towards subject matter than higher the level of engagement and interest. In fact, some researchers even suggest that curiosity is a precursor to intelligence. Having a hungry mind and constantly seeking new information, knowledge, and skills will allow students to integrate well into a rapidly changing environment. Therefore, developing and fostering allowing student curiosity within the classroom is central to the St. John’s Academy learning experience. Students will be encouraged to develop their own research questions, question the material they encounter, and connect their learning to other content that interests them and independently research topics of interest to share with their peers.
Within St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake Middle School program we will offer eight subjects that will, from time to time, converge on each other through interdisciplinary learning. These classes will include:
- Design (Engineering and Technology)
- English Language and Literature or English Language Acquisition
- French Language Acquisition or English Language and Mother-Tongue Support
- Arts (Performing and Fine)
- Physical and Health Education
- Individuals and Societies
Teaching in Context
Engagement increases when students understand why they are learning certain topics, skills or content. To that end, all teachers are St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake aim to make their instruction relevant to students’ lives and is taught within the context of the real world. Students will specifically focus on global and social issues and identity formation in the connection between life and the classroom. For instance, instead of merely studying William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a play stuck in the past, students will focus on the need to make good decisions in their relationships and understand how hatred destroys communities and has resulted in inhumane acts throughout history. Learning should be relevant and it should help students to navigate the complexity of modern life.
As we result in learning in context to real-world problems, students will be invited to take action at both the local and global levels. Simply having students learn about problems in the world is not enough to deal with 21st-century issues like poverty, growing inequality, environmental degradation, and others – we must act. Throughout their experience at St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake, all students will undertake service activities that aim to better the world through direct action. These activities will be varied and many will be initiated by the students themselves as being a responsible and engaged global citizen requires initiation and action.
As the teaching and learning model is different at St. John’s Academy so is the assessment of the learning. Instead of reducing students learning in each subject to a subjective percentage, students will receive feedback on their growth as a learner through criteria-based referencing. Percentages are less important than students understanding at what level they are currently performing and developing strategies to improve – this is real, authentic learning. Moreover, students will undertake authentic assessments that have real-world applications in each of their subjects as teachers consider the importance of creating rather than merely testing. All parents will be invited to learn more information about how St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake assesses students at the beginning of each academic year.
As a capstone of the St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake Middle School program, all Grade 10 students will undertake a substantial project of their own choosing. Students will be allowed to choose anything that interests them and then they will be guided towards developing that topic into a substantial project that will be undertaken over 7 months and showcased during parent-teacher conferences in April. This project will ultimately be connected to a career or research interest of the students and will further allow students to develop project management skills and to showcase their own curiosity about a subject or issue of their choice.
Learning in and through nature
Research is quite clear on the health benefits of spending time outdoors for all humans, not just adolescents. Given the pristine environment in which St. John’s Academy resides, a key component of life at St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake will be developing important interpersonal and self-management skills and striking a balance between academic life and the fulfillment and happiness achieved through spending time outdoors in outdoor pursuits. Students will have regular opportunities to hike, kayak, sail, and golf in their spare time and they will also be taken outside of the classroom to explore subject content in their academic classes as well. For us at St. John’s Academy, nature provides an ideal classroom where students will learn not just important academic lessons, but they will discover who they are.