Posted in Launching a School NRPS, Principal's Corner

NRPS Launch — Learners at the Centre

Just Word


Norma Rose Point School (NRPS), a new and innovative learning environment, opened September 2014 to service the students within the University of British Columbia area.  NRPS is  two schools in one — K5 and Middle (6-8) — each has its own wing anchored by the grand entrance, school office, multi-purpose room and a library (referred to as the “School Learning Commons”).  The facility also has two gymnasiums, a Tech Studio, Music Studio, Foods Studio, rooftop garden and greenhouse.

The Learning Space

The school is set up with 9 learning communities — five in K5 and four in Middle.  Each community is made up of three or four classrooms grouped together by a common area (called a “Commons”), a small group work room and a Professional Office for staff.   Although each class will have its own classroom and homeroom teacher, one of the four walls in each classroom is a glass garage door that opens up into the  Commons to provide an opportunity for teachers and students in the learning community to work together.   It begs for collaboration to occur — capitalizing on teacher strengths and offering everyone in the learning community the best each teacher has to offer!

The Focus on the Learner

When we grew up we didn’t carry computers in our pocket, we didn’t have friends all over the world a click away and knowledge was primarily shared by teachers, textbooks and encyclopedias.  Now with an influx of knowledge at our fingertips, students can access it as readily as teachers.  Sometimes students know more, sometimes teachers know.  The focus is no longer on knowledge acquisition but on being a learner.  We are all learning constantly from each other. Students, staff and parents are all learners.

What are we trying to accomplish at Norma Rose Point School?  It’s stated in our tag line — “Learners at the Centre”.  Our job as educators is to meet learner needs.  We recognize that students have diverse strengths, interests, and backgrounds. By differentiating instruction, we create a learning environment that meets the needs of all learners and challenges them to extend their knowledge and abilities.

There’s so much educational jargon being used — self-directed learning, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, game-based learning simulations, learning through play, eLearning and personalized learning.  Regardless of the jargon, our goal is to meet learner needs by focussing on Learner strengths, infusing technology in meaningful ways and collaborating with each other to be the best we can be.

Below are videos that describe what some of these approaches look like, and why they make sense for us to consider.

1. This video of PK Yonge School in Florida is by far the best video demonstrating new learning spaces and a new way of collaborating.

2.  Here’s a wonderful analogy of strengths-based learning by Professor John Abbott

3.  This series of engaging videos presents the views of Professor Stephen Heppell on the future of learning, schools and what it means to be a 21st century learner.  I’ve chosen four favourite ones — each is about 3 minutes long — although there are so many gems to choose from!

Learning Conversations (working as a team on doing it better — creating our own local recipe):

21st Century Schools  (What do we do vs what could we do? — Focus on Technology):

21st Century Learning (Opening our Minds, Hearts and Systems — Knocking down the barriers):

Schools of the Future (teachers as coaches; students and staff as learners):

Hopefully, the above videos contribute to a greater understanding on the direction we are taking at Norma Rose Point School.

Just Word

Posted in Launching a School NRPS, Principal's Corner

Launching a 21st Century School

For four years, I was a Principal within a school community that I loved.  I took a six month leave to spend time with my family and so had to leave my position at the school.  I recall commenting to the VP that I didn’t think I could get a school as exciting as the school I was leaving. Well, I definitely did!

I am now Principal of a school in the midst of being built minutes from the University of British Columbia. Norma Rose Point School will be our district’s first K-8 school, designed with 21st century learning design concepts and to Leed Gold Standard.  Most exciting is that I get to work with a staff to create a vision for this school.  Being an educational leader in this type of predicament is the experience of a lifetime.

As soon as I was posted to the school, I spent months scanning websites, reading and connecting with people that I knew would challenge my thinking.  My guiding question is how can we get from good to great?  Well, thank you to Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert — two of my mentors!  They introduced me to a book called The Nature of Learning which can be found here:

Here is the executive summary:

And this is the friendly 12 page document that I use with the staff:

We refer to the 7 Principles of Learning to guide the design of our new school’s learning environment and the 6 Building Blocks of Innovative Learning Environments (cooperative learning, inquiry based learning, formative assessment, service learning, home school partnerships and learning with technology) to challenge our growth.

In teams, the staff will devise an inquiry based on one of the six building blocks by using the Spirals of Inquiry model presented in this pdf:

If others out there have recommendations for our learning, please post!