Second in a series on BC's new curriculum and what it means for VSB students.
When Maggie Lancaster's kindergarten class was learning about Chinese New Year, she never thought they would build a fire breathing dragon to dance with using pom pom balls and chopsticks.
The two-week project, which included dying a white bed sheet red, sewing triangles into scales and building a head out of egg cartons and noodle bowls, reflected a group of students thinking creatively and able to solve problems collaboratively-qualities that complement the new curriculum.
Since the new curriculum was implemented provincially from kindergarten to Grade 9 in the 2016-17 school year, Lancaster noticed that adjustments to her teaching have led students to take more ownership of their learning.
""I feel like they feel more empowered. They feel like a co-learner rather than waiting for me to give them the answers,"" says Lancaster who teaches at Walter Moberly Elementary School in South Vancouver. That sense of empowerment is what Lancaster hopes will shape them into lifelong learners.
After three years of consultation with educators across the province, the core competencies, along with literacy and numeracy foundations, were identified as important skills that ""all students need to develop in order to engage in deep learning and life-long learning,"" according to the Ministry of Education. The three key areas that make up the core competencies are communication, thinking, and personal and social proficiency.
""The content is still there,"" explains Lancaster. ""The big difference is instead of being focused on content, we're now looking at using that content to really develop the skills, characteristics and dispositions kids need to be successful life-long learners.""
She points to how her students arrived at the subject of motion as an example. Although motion is part of the kindergarten curriculum, she insists it's also one her students initiated. They discussed space, from questions on why an airplane can't go into space but a rocket ship can. Through the morning 'exploration' activities where there are four to six play stations around different curriculum topics, the students are able to develop the ability to question, form a plan, test it out, and collaborate with their peers.
For Lancaster, the curriculum redesign is more about tweaking than changing what she already implements in her classroom.
""I've always really tried to be quite child-centred, and one of the things that's interesting is that this curriculum came from really experienced teachers so it's something a lot of us were already doing. We'd just be even more intentional with it.""
As a result of the new curriculum, she started recording the students' questions by jotting them down on the flip chart during the morning 'explorations'. They then debrief together so the students are able to learn from each other. In addition, Lancaster is constantly working to foster positive personal and cultural identity by tying in Indigenous ways of knowing.
Read the other stories in this series:
What does the new curriculum look like: An overview of BC's redesigned learning
New curriculum begins next year for Grade 10s, meaning new options for this year's Grade 9s in course selection
By creating podcasts with seniors, Tecumseh students learn about communication, a core competency of BC's new curriculum