Royal Heights Elementary is a K-7 school located in North West Surrey. Although small in size (population 200) we have been fortunate to attract a highly committed teaching staff with diverse skill sets and areas of interest. Through this knowledge, along with a supportive PAC, successful grant applications and the generous support of Pacific Custom Brokers, students are provided with the resources (e.g., technology; presenters; field trips) they need to engage in the 21st Century learning.
Community connections to the school have been limited over the course of the Covid Pandemic due to strict protocols, however, we look forward to welcoming families back into the school to be part of our many social activities throughout the year. Attendance at our community events (e.g., past community dinners; assembles/performances; pumpkin carving; pancake breakfasts; performances; field trips; Spirit Days; ArtStart and evening learning events) indicates that students and their families seek to expand and deepen their connections with the school. Given the known impact of family-school connections on students’ learning outcomes, we consider community connections to be an essential element in supporting student success.
Some Royal Heights students participate in our breakfast and lunch program in order to ensure they receive healthy and nutritious meals throughout the week. We know how important food is to fuel the brain and body to work and learn. Our generous donors from Pacific Custom Brokers, provide the resources that allow us to make this program happen for students and staff volunteers their time to plan, shop, prepare and serve our students in need. This is an important support for many families in the Royal Heights community.
Our learners come from diverse cultural, social and economic backgrounds. We also know commonalties and shared experiences amongst our students serve to bridge this diversity. These commonalities include: students’ need to feel connections with others and their enjoyment of outdoor/nature-based experiences. We believe it is important to emphasis these connections and provide students with ongoing opportunities to engage in outdoor, inquiry-based forms of learning. To this end we have worked closely with our local community, researchers from SFU and UBC and the District to provide students with learning opportunities that are aligned with these goals (e.g. Walking Curriculum; First People’s in Residence; Salmon in the Classroom; School Garden; Farm to School; Plant a Seed Foundation, Project Wild, Project Wet and use of nature journals).
Students of all cultural, social, and economic backgrounds are inspired by experiential and hands-on learning opportunities, that tap into natural curiosities about the world around them. Opportunities to learn by doing, are highly valued at Royal Heights. Students’ positive feedback and active participation in collaborative, experiential and inquiry-based forms of learning serve as a guide to help us determine future directions for our school. Evidence from documents pertaining to communicating student learning (e.g., Posts on Twitter, projects shared through Office 365, survey information) and Fresh Grade posts clearly indicate that students are beginning to shift their learning from the stance of “waiting for directions” to becoming directors of their learning, thereby increasing their accountability and engagement in the learning process. This shift in students’ orientations has been demonstrated by students’ active engagement in extended learning projects and by their eagerness to attend and participate in diverse, on-going learning experiences (e.g., coding workshops; passion projects, gardening). Additionally, students self-evaluations demonstrated that they enjoy and value opportunities to share their learning and engage in on-going forms of self-assessment.
To create a social-emotional connection for children, to one another and staff. Our goal is to have students feel safe, experience belonging, and feel valued in our shared community. Fostering feelings of safety and belonging creates an environment where students are comfortable taking risks in their learning, and making mistakes. Where they can trust others and make themselves vulnerable. Once students have a foundation of safety, belonging, and connection, they can strive to become self-regulated learners.
Self-Regulated Learners are students who are able to monitor, direct, adapt and regulate their actions and emotions, to achieve learning goals. Self-Regulated Learners possess a growth mindset and are aware of their learning strengths and needs. When needed they seek support for their learning and with time, develop repertoires of general learning strategies that can be applied to diverse learning situations, and seek appropriate supports for their learning when required. Self-regulated learners have a deep interest in learning and seek learning challenges (see: Zimmerman & Schunk 2003; Perry 2006). To support students in their journey to become self-regulated learners, we are also supporting staff to guide in this process.
Teachers are developing an understanding of social-emotional learning through a trauma lens. To this end, teachers who promote self-regulated learners within their classroom first develop a safe learning environment where every child can be successful. Teachers then design complex, open-ended learning activities that are accessible for all students, and celebrate the accomplishments of each individual based on evidence of their own personal growth. Embedded within learning activities are opportunities for students to: engage in choice; monitor their progress; receive peer and teacher feedback; experience appropriate levels of challenge; share their learning with others; and develop new strategies. Our collaborative teaching team is constantly finding ways to share their learning and to learn from one another in the Royal Heights community.
Developing reading skills and strategies is our main area of focus for academic school-wide learning at present. Reading is a foundational skill that affects student success in every curriculum area, and we understand the importance of preparing our students to be able to access information independently. We believe we have to learn to read before we read to learn. Teachers participated in a day of discovering the science of reading, and the majority of staff also participated in a year long book club for Reading Shifts. This provided a foundation for ongoing learning and discussion on the topic of reading throughout the year, and teachers are applying this knowledge to their lessons. School-wide assessments in September allowed staff to identify students needing additional support from Classroom Teachers, Learner Support Teachers, and Early Literacy Teachers. Year end assessments will inform us of the progress students have made and where we need the learning to go next.
Outdoor Learning includes discovery, experimentation, learning about and connecting to the natural world. Research shows us Outdoor Learning helps students develop their abilities to reflect and learn about themselves, each other and their environment, and builds relevant and meaningful connections to the First People's Principals of Learning. The outdoor learning experience is also connected to emotion and physical movement, which promotes retention of ideas and information.
During our summer Professional Development sessions in 2022, teachers deepened their understanding of social-emotional learning and teaching through a trauma lens. Throughout the year further ProD was scheduled to examine teachers’ implementation of their plans and how plans need to be adjusted/revised. These opportunities will also serve as a platform for teachers to share practices in their classrooms that promote SEL through outdoor learning and literacy based activities.
Along with examining teachers’ implementation of SEL practices, we gathered data about students’ perceptions of their school connections and feelings of value and belonging. To this end, we will ask students to complete the SEL student survey at the beginning and end of the school year. Together, this data will provide information about links between teachers’ and students’ uptake of SEL practices. We also participated in a series of Lunch and Learns around SEL practice as a staff throughout the year. This resulted in rich discussions about purpose, intention, and creating a shared vision school-wide, in addition to sharing strategies and fostering meaningful collaboration.
Teachers within our school are continually engaging in on-going District-Based Professional Development to ensure students have access to diverse learning opportunities and the resources they need to engage successfully within them. These Pro-D experiences have allowed teachers to develop and explore their own inquiry questions about how they can promote students’ development of social emotional learning through outdoor learning and literacy activities.
Our LST team assessed the reading level of each student in September of 2022 and again in June of 2023. Results demonstrated:
Teachers continued to develop their understanding of the science of reading at all levels in the summer of 2023, in order to support students in their reading journey. We will continue to learn to read, even in the intermediate grades, rather than just reading to learn.
We frequently host Teacher Candidates and Inclusive Education Support Worker students in our school. These visitors create an opportunity for teachers and IESWs to keep abreast of current, effective teaching practices and theory. In turn, teachers and IESWs are able to give back to the research community by rooting current theory within the “language of practice”. We look forward to further expanding these connections and will continue to open our doors to provide an embedded learning experience for Teacher Candidates and IESWs working towards certificate completion.