It’s a big world at Alcuin College

G6 in Stanley ParkOn any given school day, Alcuin College students can be found out in the community, inquiring, exploring, experiencing, discussing and reflecting.

Students are frequently off site, learning from the real world, in the real world. We collaborate with businesses and professionals who voluntarily share their knowledge and skills to educate our students in situ. This provides context and skills in ways a classroom cannot, and enriches our academic programs.

We are fortunate to have many opportunities readily at hand in the Lower Mainland for students to truly engage with their learning in a variety of environments. Teachers actively seek destinations where students can engage intellectually, emotionally and physically to further their learning in a highly personal way. Recent activities include our grade 5/6 students participating in a wilderness survival program at Stanley Park, as part of an interdisciplinary unit tying together elements of studies in literature, science, outdoor education and aboriginal culture. [pullquote]On any given school day, Alcuin College students can be found out in the community, inquiring, exploring, experiencing, discussing and reflecting.[/pullquote]Under the umbrella of Habitats, our grade 3/4 students travelled to the Wildlife Rescue Association to experience the impact that society has had upon local animal habitats, and to speak with people who are passionate about their mission. Grade 7 students visited a game development studio as part of their literature study of Heir Apparent, a science fiction/fantasy novel. Investigating deep sea environments and robotics, students from grades 3 to 11 toured Nuytco Research to hear first-hand from lead scientists who shared their excitement about their projects. In all field experiences, students are encouraged to pose questions, construct meaning and reflect, to personally synthesize their learning.

Going beyond the four walls of our school is integral to the educational program at Alcuin College. Student interest helps guide our teachers in seeking authentic learning experiences both locally and abroad. We are looking forward to our next destination!

Making it real

As we were at the point of founding a new independent school that embraces experiential learning, discussions on ‘authentic education’ abounded in our home. My daughter (then in grade 8 at a local public school) was a silent observer of these intense pedagogical deliberations, but she clearly had insightful contributions to make! Betsie articulated her thoughts to me in writing at that time and, as the school started taking shape, her comments continued to resonate in my thinking. Two years later, as Alcuin College is nearing its ultimate target enrolment, her views are more poignant than ever. While I clearly should have done so long ago, I am happy to share them with you now.

“The opinion of how a school, or even learning, can be improved has been discussed by adults for many long hours; but, instead, they ought to just ask the kids.

Robotics_082013As a student, most of my favourite subjects are when my hands and my mind can work together with different mediums or materials, and when I am in an interesting environment. Examples of these are woodshop, sewing and art. For me, it is not the product that comes from these courses, but rather the process and hard work that is involved. I suppose you could call me a kinesthetic learner. Others learn differently. They may prefer to learn by listening or writing things down. Schools that don’t have woodshop or sewing (or that lessen the time for art) are missing the point of education. Art (this also applies to other courses such as woodshop or sewing) is not only for people who want to become artists; it is also for those kids who dislike working with their hands or dread every art class. Art is not so much about how your project or painting ends up, but about your attitude towards the subject and the things that you learned in the course; whether it was through problem-solving when difficulties arise, or even how you socialised with your peers and made new friends.

I believe that we can improve many classes where we typically sit at our desks and listen and write. I would like to get out of my desk and participate in activities that would help me understand the topic and subject we are studying. For example, if a class is learning about the law and how a court of law usually works, why not act it out? Kids can do most of the research and will be having fun while learning more intensely than they would have from any textbook. Another way that some teachers of younger grades keep children interested is a change of environment. Changing the posters or artwork frequently, or adapting the class environment to suit different activities keep the students wondering what the class will look like the next day, making them more excited about going to class.

I don’t think these things are hard to achieve, so I don’t always understand why classes sometimes are so boring. Make no mistake, I love my school and my teachers, but I think learning could be even better if the schools just became more ‘real’.” Betsie49

Tony Macoun: An Apology on Global Citizenship

An Apology{{1}} [[1]]defense, explanation. [[1]] on Global Citizenship is offered in response to an article Does “Global Citizenship” really exist? by Mr John Godfrey (Head, Toronto French School), which was presented at the IB Heads World Conference in October 2011 in Singapore.

We are truly honoured to welcome one of the most significant educators of our time as a guest blogger on, Mr Tony Macoun (former board member of the International Baccalaureate (IB), President of IB North America, regional Director of the IB for Africa /Middle East).

I have been asked to share my perspectives on the interesting paper written by John Godfrey on the appropriateness of including “Global Citizenship” in our schools’ objectives.  Although I recognise that he makes many good points, I would like to hear what the classroom teachers, who have to deliver this program of “Global Citizenship”, have to say.  They work with our students on a daily basis to cultivate ideas and develop perspectives which later will give them the power to act and bring about change. Developing civics programs and creating a better understanding of political power could be part of this, but does such a program give a lasting sense of responsibility and duty to our young people to act?  [pullquote]Knowledge is one thing; the determination, will and duty to act is so much more powerful and needed![/pullquote]

We live in fascinating times in education (and in the world at large). More than ever, we are preparing young people for a fast-changing world and, of prime importance must be the training we give them in taking responsibility for the world they live in; be it local, national or international.  This means they must learn how to understand that world and its peoples and to accept responsibility through their lives for its future. We must make sure that they do a better job than their parents!

For me, the use of the word “Citizenship” gives a framework for acting responsibly. Conversely, I am unhappy with the lack of rigour that comes with the phrase “international mindedness”.   I was interested to learn that in the computer age some people are now talking about “Digital Citizenship” in order to encourage the development of responsible protocols for the digital world we live in.  In this digital world, a “citizen” must understand and accept the rights, privileges and duties inherent in being engaged in that world.

How we deliver the ‘Global Citizenship’ message is in the hands of our teachers and their daily interaction with our students.  It is their interpretation of the duties of ‘citizen’ and ‘the importance of citizenship’ which will be carried away by our students.  As a school administrator for more than 30 years, I suggest this debate be given as a challenge to our teachers and their students.  All of us engaged in the IB see our schools as vehicles for encouraging intercultural awareness and understanding and, hopefully, therefore creating a better and more peaceful world.  We encourage respect for others and collaboration, and all of this is embraced in the phrase ‘international mindedness’.  But this does not demand of our students that they act as citizens and engage them in identifying their obligations, duties and responsibilities. An active “citizen” will, and must, work towards the betterment of their community; local, national and international.

Tony Macoun

About the author

Tony’s career in the International Baccalaureate (IB) spanned no fewer than 37 years.  He served as teacher, IB coordinator, head of school, board member of IB North America (President for three years) and as Regional Director for Africa/Middle East.  In these capacities he has worked with world leaders who have done much to change the face of education around the world (such as Queen Noor of Jordan and Mr Nelson Mandela).
Tony is a humanitarian, inspirational leader and a principled educator.  When asked, he simply calls himself a ‘school master’ doing “what is best for students”.  He has been doing exactly that since 1970, and ongoingly  beyond his retirement in 2010. Born in Kenya, educated in Britain and having worked in numerous diverse locations around the world, Tony is a global citizen by his own definition.  Read Tony’s full biography here.

The Macouns with Queen Noor of Jordan and Queen Sonja of Norway

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