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G.W. Graham opts for in-house honours program

G.W. Graham middle-secondary school adopts a new excellence program. - Submitted
G.W. Graham middle-secondary school adopts a new excellence program.
— image credit: Submitted

The International Baccalaureate program is being phased out of G.W. Graham middle-secondary school.

Not because it’s not a great program, but because it’s not an inclusive program.

Middle years IB was only offered to students in grades 7-9, which was great when the school wasn’t a full 7-12 school. But in recent years it’s become somewhat of a division between the middle and secondary program.

“Without intending to, some teachers in the high school were left feeling excluded,” said IB coordinator Tammi Chernoff who teaches middle years math and science.

“We’re not just a middle school anymore, we’re a middle secondary school and we need to reflect that.”

However, to implement the IB secondary program would have cost thousands, an expense that would have likely been offloaded onto parents.

The school decided to go a new route.

This spring the da Vinci Program of Distinction is being phased in for the Grade 9 and 10 students, and come next September it will be offered to all students.

da Vinci is an in-house honours program, designed by GWG teachers, to give students in grades 7 to 12 an opportunity to advance their learning through personalized projects.

The program takes pieces from several other programs, including IB, but with a personalized touch that will meet the specific needs of GWG.

“A huge part for us was the six-year experience,” said P.E. teacher Jake Mouritzen. “We wanted to develop a program that started in Grade 7 and went all the way up to Grade 12 – that was huge for us.”

All students in grades 7-8 will be required to participate, completing both a science fair and humanities project. The 9-10 and 11-12 programs invite students to explore an individual project over a 10-month period. Both programs are optional, and students can opt in to do one or both at any time.

The da Vinci Program of Distinction follows the B.C. Education Ministry’s guidelines for personalized learning.

With the program, students will spend 10 months investigating and completing a project of interest. They will be mentored and guided by teachers, but predominantly the majority of the work will be done by their own initiative – through summer break and winter break, as well as the school year.

“Kids are brilliant, they will astound you every single time if you allow them to,” said Chernoff.

Even though the program doesn’t have the widely recognized “IB” affiliation attached to it, it will still be resume worthy.

“It’s definitely going to give them an edge with scholarships, bursaries and jobs,” said Chernoff. “It’s another aspect of who they are as learners.”

And, because it’s now a six-year program, teachers believe it will better unify their school.

Students can earn up to four credits for graduation.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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