Groh Public School is one of the Waterloo Region District School Board’s newly built schools. It will open in September 2017 with plans to serve approximately 650 students. Our school will offer students a unique educational opportunity in a JK-8 school environment. Our aim is to ensure that when they leave us, students will be confident and prepared for the secondary school experience and beyond.
Groh Public School will be guided by four connected guiding principles—equity, personalization, authentic work, and collaborative design—that set aspirational goals for students and create a foundation for understanding an inquiry based approach to learning.
Teachers will work to address inequities and help students reach their full potential. Our school will be diverse and integrated, enrolling students within the designated boundaries which are identified by the WRDSB. Teachers recognize the value of having students from different backgrounds working together, and employ a variety of differentiated approaches to accommodate diverse learners. Groh Public School will have an acute focus on preparing students for secondary school in the short term, and preparing them for the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to enter any post secondary destination – i.e., college, university or work placement for all students.
Groh Public School teachers will practise a learner-centered, inclusive approach that supports and challenges each student. Students pursue their passions through an inquiry based approach to learning as well as reflecting on their own learning. Recognizing that identity development and personal growth occur in the context of community, our school will foster relationships of trust, caring, and mutual respect among students and adults through program design elements such as small classes (where possible), partnerships with parents and community, and student collaborative work.
Groh Public School will focus its curriculum through project based learning (PBL). These projects integrate hands and minds and incorporate inquiry across multiple disciplines, leading to the creation of meaningful and beautiful work. Students will engage in work that matters to them, to their teachers, and to the world outside of school. Students will connect their studies to the world through fieldwork, community service, internships, and consultation with outside experts. Our facilities will be collaborative workplaces with small-group learning and project areas, relevant technology, and common spaces where artwork, prototypes, and other artifacts of student thinking are created and displayed.
Groh Public School teachers will collaborate and plan to use the Ontario curriculum and create projects, and engage in professional development, while seeking student experience and voice in each of these areas. With students as design partners, staff will function as reflective practitioners, conducting inquiry into equitable teaching and learning, school culture, project design, and authentic assessment. Our school’s mantra will be “learning to learn”.
Groh P.S. will be a world class school with a community of autonomous learners engaged in meaningful inquiry and project based learning opportunities on a globally-oriented campus.
To create this vision, there will be a combination of three essential elements to prepare students for secondary school in advance of preparing them for the workplace:
- a freedom-based, open and inclusive learning environment
- enhanced project-based learning opportunities through inquiry
- interaction with the larger world – to collaborate with students around the world
We will prepare children to thrive in our rapidly changing world that puts a premium on a growth mindset in all areas of the curriculum. Students will develop a growth mindset – enabling students to see opportunities for improvement, take initiative and collaborate with others to turn their ideas into action.
Schools are not buildings, curriculum and machines. Schools are relationships and interactions among people. Lasting change will not occur without trusting relationships. Our new pedagogy will be students and teachers working together as learning partners merging with the digital world. Learning is the work – learning to be more effective is built in to the values and routines of the school supporting continuous improvement.
Global Competencies and Innovation
Students will develop global competencies and innovation (formally known as 21st century skills), which now better known as “deep learning”:
- Critical Thinking
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning (PBL) helps foster the 21st century habits of mind that students will need as adults. The Ontario Ministry of Education has identified PBL as a promising model for learning in their vision for the future of education. Groh Public School will embrace this model as its primary delivery of curriculum expectations. In support of 21st century learning, leading educational organizations, such as Edutopia (edutopia.org) and the Buck Institute for Education (bie.org), have focused much attention on PBL best practices at both the elementary and secondary levels.
Project-based learning empowers learners to collaborate in teams, mentored by their teachers, as they research real-world questions, pose solutions to real-world problems, and design real-world products in a rigorous way.
Depending on the instructional context, a project can be initiated by a teacher, proposed by students, or sponsored by an outside organization. A project topic is nearly always aligned with the curriculum, often interdisciplinary, and guided by a driving question – a carefully crafted, open-ended question that directly captures the focus of the project. For example, what are the factors that help a genre of music gain popularity with teenagers?
To answer their driving question, students collaborate on a project team. They co-plan their learning with the support of the teacher, research the literature, and, as appropriate, meet with adult experts, build prototypes, and conduct surveys and experiments, among other learning activities, leading to the creation of a final product that answers their driving question. The final product is presented to a public audience. The formative assessment of learning is ongoing. Students monitor and regularly report on their individual and project team’s progress, which allows teachers to track student achievement on an ongoing basis.
From a project management perspective, one of PBL’s strengths is the high degree to which key instructional design principles are enshrined in the professional development literature devoted to PBL. Foremost among these principles is the importance of ensuring that projects have sufficient subject depth to go beyond a surface-level study of a topic. Another key principle is the importance of connecting projects to the real world in order to ensure that student learning is authentic.
PBL provides teachers with the means for instilling in students a wide array of 21st century skills connected to deep and meaningful learning. By effectively employing the same techniques that professional project managers use, teachers will use the principle design concepts of PBL and help young people acquire the 21st century habits of mind that will be indispensable to them in their lives.