Ontario’s Education Minister learns with WRDSB students

On May 6, Southwood Secondary School (SSS) and Cedar Creek Public School students met with Ontario’s Minister of Education at rare Charitable Research Reserve who was eager to learn more about this new environmental mentorship program they were involved with.

Last year through the WRDSB Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM) Environment program, students from Southwood SS and Cedar Creek PS came together and piloted the mentorship program with a question, “How can we increase the ecological literacy of citizens?” The results were overwhelmingly positive that the successes led to the expansion of the program this year. This environmentally focused mentorship program is rooted in combining the community partnership and resources of rare, the leadership of Grade 12 students and the excitement of elementary school classes.

After Minister Liz Sandals addressed the media and guests, she participated in a group activity which involved exploring local aquatic environments and collecting samples of benthic invertebrates from the nearby swamps. It gave the Cedar Creek PS students an opportunity to show the Minister how they document, examine and look for specific species under the mentorship of the Grade 12 Southwood SS students.

This mentorship program uses a “chain of learning” philosophy, which taps into community expertise (WRDSB teachers, rare staff, university professors, community volunteers, and other professionals) to teach Grade 12 students. The Grade 12 students then teach and mentor the elementary students who, in turn, teach each other and their families, creating strong, community-based educational links and chains. While this “chain of learning” is being established, the process is also building a strong integrated “web of learning” within our school communities.

Students get to mirror real scientific research that is being done on rare properties and in essence become citizen scientists themselves. One of the program goals is to promote and enhance ecological literacy, create an appreciation of nature, explore future school or career opportunities in environment-related fields and to create a community of life-long learners. Students are encouraged to bring their families and friends back to rare to use the community trails and become part of this exciting and passionate community of learning.

A special thank you to Minister Sandals and Cambridge MPP Kathryn McGarry for joining us at rare and taking the time to learn about this unique WRDSB program and involving yourself with our students. Thank you to WRDSB Director of Education, John Bryant, Southwood SS Superintendent of Student Achievement and Well-Being, Angela Mercier, Chairperson of the Board, Kathleen Woodcock, and Trustee, Natalie Waddell for supporting the initiative.

Lastly, but certainly not least, thank you to the rare staff for allowing us and our students to take over your property for a few hours! It was a great day for learning, getting dirty and appreciating the many ecosystems around us.

 

This program wouldn't be possible without the support from the Ministry and WRDSB staff, and the rare partnership.

This program wouldn’t be possible without the support from the Ministry and WRDSB staff, and the rare partnership.

 

Trustee Waddell and Superintendent, Student Achievement & Well-Being, Angela Mercier observing the learning the students are participating in.

Trustee Waddell and Superintendent, Student Achievement & Well-Being, Angela Mercier observing the learning the students are participating in.

 

Looking through the microscope and discovering small species.

Looking through the microscope and discovering small species.

 

Minister Sandals and MPP McGarry taking a look at what students discovered!

Minister Sandals and MPP McGarry taking a look at what students discovered!