Each fall, grade 7 students in the Vancouver school district ponder their options for entering secondary school. Although most students will attend their neighbourhood secondary school some students may choose to apply to one of the district's challenging alternative programs, known as "mini schools."
Mini schools were developed for students who demonstrate significantly high potential, talent and need for a challenging program in preparation for post-secondary education. Even though these programs are hosted within secondary schools they offer unique course content which emphasizes acceleration or enrichment and are distinct from other courses offered.
Parents and students who are interested in enrolling in any of the district's mini schools should read the mini school information page and attend the parent information nights for each program. Online registration will begin on November 26 - check the mini school information page for the link which will become live on that day.
We asked several grade 8 and 9 students who attend the district's mini schools to describe their experiences.
John Oliver Tech Immersion
John Oliver Tech Immersion students produced a video which refers to the popular Window 7 ads. Students share why "Digital Immersion was my choice."
Anna Wilmann and Jamie Hill, grade 8 students at the Vancouver Technical Secondary Flex Humanities program share their thoughts:
"We joined Flex Humanities because of the openness and raw creativity that was displayed by the students of the program at the Open House. It inspired us to join and see what all the fuss was about.
When Mr Martelli asked us to write this, it was very difficult to find a way to do justice to the complexities of Flex. So we decided to share our favourite things with you.
Flex is a program that teaches kids to make their voice heard and to share their opinion. We get to explore human civilization through the ages: our history, our geography, and our literature. We learn French in depth and explore diverse mediums of art. We get to investigate ideas of philosophers from the early Greeks to the modern world.
Even though we've only had the pleasure to experience this program for a few months, it feels as though our class is our family and the classroom our home."
Daisy Couture, grade 8 student at Templeton Mini School:
"When I was in grade seven I realized I wanted to go to one of the many mini schools in Vancouver. My sister had gone to Templeton Mini School and I had heard amazing things about it from her. As I looked into it I got more and more interested. I liked the idea of learning new ways of thinking, the academic challenge and going on trips with my class.
After I was accepted into the Mini School I was incredibly excited but also very nervous, I didn't know anyone; but soon my nerves were tossed aside for one of the first things we did was go to Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, you can learn just as much - if not more - in nature than in the classroom. There was also no feeling like that of bonding with my fellow classmates: together we kayaked, rock climbed, camped, and attempted to tie a knot without letting go of a rope.
The Mini School has given me so much more than even I ever thought it would: it's made me excited to learn every single day. It gives me kicks to think about the new things that I'll soon know so much about. It's been a month since Strathcona and I'm still getting a thrill whenever I walk into my class, wanting to know what I'll learn today.
Brendan Agnew, grade 9 student at Templeton Mini School
"When I was in grade seven, I knew I wasn't going to go to my local high school, Van Tech. So I dragged my parents to numerous information nights, took the test and applied to Templeton Mini, Tupper Mini and Britannia Venture.
I was asked to come for an interview by all three, which were very different from each other. Finally, just before March Break, I was accepted by all the programs I applied to. Throughout our March Break ski trip, I hummed and hawed, eventually decided there were no wrong choices and picked Templeton Mini School. My decision was based on Templeton's outdoor trips, enrichment instead of acceleration, and a well-polished, professional information night.
Now, I'm just starting my grade nine year. I've had a fun and interesting year in grade eight. I know the people in my class really well; through group bonding events like Strathcona Park Lodge. The whole Mini School (minus the grade 11s) spends five days joking, kayaking, canoeing and rock climbing.
There's nothing quite like sleeping under a tarp with your entire class to take that whole "closeness" thing to the next level. In addition to classes that involve actual thinking, there's a trip for just the grade eights to Bamfield. Bamfield offered some unique experiences for me, as well as five days without the rest of the school. Just our class. My class. Learning. Laughing. Living.
Templeton Mini is a phenomenal program, but not the only one out there. All of the programs are fantastic, and like I said earlier, you can't go wrong."