Over the course of the past 3 months, we have enrolled families ready to make a positive change for their child's education. We've also met with many families inquiring about our school and alternative education for their child. We've received notes and message from past friends, families, and colleagues offering us support, a helping hand, and wonderfully kind words. We've networked with community members, businesses, educators, and education specialists. It has been humbling, rewarding, and motivating to have so much positive support.
Not only is it empowering to feel the support of so many people as we embark on a new career and life changing dream of our own, but it is heartwarming to have so many families who we've worked with over the years stand by us, confirming that our teaching made a difference for their child. To hear this, years later, as an educator, is honestly, so 'full of warm fuzzies', it's beyond words. We can't express enough how grateful we are to be doing what we are doing.
Well, this weekend we marked the beginning of something just as amazing. We had our first meeting as a school - as a family. All enrolled parents were invited to join us to get to know one another and start a Via Vita tradition - working together to build a school that fits.
We were beyond thrilled to see each family walk through the doors, coming together to talk, learn, share, and of course, enjoy some tasty treats! It was a wonderful experience - working together. The energy in the room was contagious - we were actually making this dream come to life, together! We discussed our thoughts on Via Vita education, growth of the school, marketing and recruitment ideas, community events and support, and details for the summer and school year.
As we approach the end of our 3rd month of enrolment, and the successful first meeting with our school families, we just want to say thank you. To everyone who has shown us support, for working with us, sharing your ideas, helping to build this new school, and truly making positive change in your community, we thank you.
Inquiry-based learning. Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?!?
We're actually NOT being sarcastic! We're serious....
It's probably the teacher in us, but seriously, we get giddy with glee when we get to discuss Inquiry-based learning (IBL). It even has it's own initials. It's THAT cool.
Seriously, it really is something to get excited about. We're going to try to convince you of it here.
Not only is it an educational model that is used in leading schools, worldwide, but it also is proving, rightfully so, to create strong, independent critical thinkers who are capable of learning and applying deep concepts, It's adaptable for varied learning styles, student-centered and focused on the process of investigating for learning. It is a refreshing and rewarding way of teaching and learning, and is a shift we hope to see more schools working toward to best suit their students' needs.
What is IBL?
IBL (Inquiry-Based Learning) is an approach to teaching and learning that brings student's questions, observations, ideas, and investigations about the world to the forefront. The teacher's role becomes a facilitator for bringing life to their student's curiosities and guiding them from wondering to actively pursuing and applying new understanding. The teacher works with the various learning styles, interests, and abilities in the class, building from students' prior knowledge, observations, and questions. Projects, themed-activities, and skills are planned based on the students interests. Learning can be hands-on, investigatory, researched, play-based, and much more. Critical questioning, higher order thinking, and a focus on the process of learning and representing information are essential. In many ways, through this approach, students gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and how to interact and work within it, also they often learn more than the expected curriculum outcomes and are better prepared for vast and ever changing future. For more information about IBL or see resources we love, see here, here, and here.
We could talk about the benefits forever. It is this reason our school teaches in this way. However, here's just a taste of why we feel you should be excited about it, too!
8 Reasons to get Excited about INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING:
1. Retention & Understanding
When the new thing we have learned stems from knowledge we already had, observations we made on our own, or questions we asked because we were truly curious, we actually want to the know the answer. It is this motivation that drives IBL and why it is so effective - it follows a natural way of learning. When our ideas have are treated with value, our confidence rises, we invest more of ourselves into the idea at hand, and we build knowledge that connects to us. We make room for it because it has meaning to us, We remember it. We use it and apply it. We appreciate the process it took to learn it. It isn't just a series of things to know for a test, it's useful in real life and serves a purpose.
2. Real Life Problem Solving
When was the last time real life handed you a sheet of division questions to solve and turn in? Or a research project on orca whales, just to practise those researching and writing skills? Hmm-mm, exactly the point. Real life isn't black and white like that, it's not as simple as complete, submit, receive results. It's filled with multi-step questions, meaningful problems, and complex situations that require background knowledge, understanding of skills and strategies, perspective and application of concepts. It's not at all like a checkmark (or an x) on a sheet of paper. IBL focuses on problem solving, and both the theoretical and real life skills needed to tackle actual problems and questions. It places importance of investigating ideas, applying concepts, and reflecting it's practicality. It creates learning that is purposeful, meaningful, and applicable to real life.
Working with others, at some point for everyone of us, has become a fact of life. We may not like it or everyone we have worked with, but where would we be if everyone did everything alone? When we learn with others, we gain from their strength. We experience other perspectives. We hear things we may never have heard, value things we may never have valued. We learn how to respect, listen, empathize, share. We observe, discover, and internalize values and traits about ourselves. We learn how to communicate, compromise, criticize, and comment. IBL inherently creates experience that teach concepts as well as these many interpersonal skills. Through the process of engaging, questioning, researching, investigating, representing, sharing, and reflecting, IBL develops opportunities to learn how to work with others, as well as building strong, independent traits in ourselves. It unlocks a power that is invaluable for each learner growing up today in a world as ever-changing as it is. Skills in collaboration are lifelong and essential.
4. Motivation to learn
Interested, Engaged, Challenged. Without interest, we are never really connected to what we are learning. And if we're not connected, we're most definitely not engaged, which means we don't really care to be challenged to think critically. If we truly want children to carry with them the skills, strategies, concepts, and knowledge about the world that they learn in school, we need to work with their unique interests, their own questions, and their already budding observations. When their own ideas are valued in this way, and used to inquire deeper, learning, both their motivation and appreciation for learning increases, without question (Ha, that's a most definite intended pun for anyone who's keeping up with this!)
5. Supports Multiple Learning Styles
Using a student-driven model such as IBL means the way in which information is discovered and represented can also work with each learning style of the students. Which, I must say as an educator, is absolutely wonderful! It allows a student to completely embrace what they are learning, in a way that connects with them and their abilities. It is hands on or note taking or acting or speaking. It can be outside or inside. It can listening, viewing, reading, or creating. It can be really anything that represents knowledge in a critical and complex way. It invites creativity, imagination, innovation, and a feeling of limitless possibilities. It allows students to go deeper in their understanding and it allows teachers to create meaningful learning experiences that are fun, engaging, supportive, and cross-curricular, bringing out interpersonal and personal skills in their students that are so rarely emphasized and difficult to teach in traditional teaching models. It truly fosters individuality, independence and a respect for learning, in all of it's shapes and forms. It creates perspective and a welcoming environment for change, diversity, and expression. Students learn to work together, among each other, and on their own, gaining from each experience and applying it to critical questions about their learning.
6. Exceeds Standard Curriculum Outcomes
Would you rather skim the surface of a topic and then move onto another, or deeply explore a topic, perhaps uncover sub topics within it and then connections to other topics that naturally lead into another topic? Which would work better for you? Which scenario builds knowledge worth getting involved in? Which seems more interesting? We believe the deeper the understanding of a topic, the more questions come about, the more critical thinking starts to form, and in consequence, the more information is explored. Often times through teaching in an IBL approach, students' curiosity sparks an investigation guided by the teacher that builds such a strong understanding and motivation to learn, that students will piece together so much more than a quick answer to their original inquiry. Students develop a deeper understanding of various topics that all relate and have a meaningful connection, which goes much further than any standard curriculum.
7. Critical & Independent Thinking
Today's world is unpredictable and changing by the minute. Preparing students to be successful in that world is daunting, to say the least. IBL offers learners one of the most invaluable skills that will undoubtedly create lifelong abilities to make smart choices, work within a diverse and ever-changing world, and make a positive impact on our future. IBL focused on critical thinking - asking deep and complex questions, sharing perspectives, challenging facts and opinions, digging deeper into understanding and truly thinking at a higher level about our world and how we live within it. It goes far and beyond worksheets and quizzes. IBL places students at the forefront. The focus is on the process of learning, the why's and how's,. It stems away from having teachers at the front of room giving answers. For in the world we live in, it's not simply the answer that matters, but why and how that answer works.
8. Never Outdates Itself
We'll leave you with this last point, if we haven't convinced you yet. As the world changes, so does what needs to be taught. But in an IBL model classroom, the information is always what students are seeking. The focus on the process of learning sets itself up to never outdate itself or go out of style. It will change, flex, adapt, and work with whatever group of students, wherever they are in the world, whatever resources are available to them, and whatever the world they live in looks like. It utilizes the world around us, whatever world that may be, both past and present, to inform us and teach us. The truth of the matter is that IBL learning replicates our most natural way of learning, so innately, it'll stick with us, no matter what weird turns we take along the way.
Please give a warm welcome to Christopher Drew, a wonderful Via Vita supporter & parent to 2 of our students, as our guest blogger this week! He shares an interesting perspective about Life Skills Education and his thoughts on going 'back to basics' . We are thrilled to have his thought-provoking words hit the blog this week. Enjoy the read!
Think about your day to day life. What skills do you need to make each day work? Now think about the skills you were formally taught. Do these two lists line up? Mine don’t. Well that’s not entirely true. My professional life, and my post-secondary education match pretty well. I took training for the line of work I am now currently in.
But what about the rest of my life? What about everything that I need to do at home to make my life work? What about the budget that I have had to learn to manage, or the food that I have had to learn to prepare, or the food labels that I have had to learn to read, or the basic repair work that my home, car, and clothing need? When did I learn those skills? The short answer is I didn’t, at least not formally.
What did I learn formally in elementary and secondary school? I learned to compare and contrast light and darkness in poems. I learned the Pythagorean theorem. I learned to label each cloud by its scientific name. Now don’t get my wrong I am not echoing the kid in the class who looks at their teacher and says ‘when am I ever going to need to know that?’ Because there are many people in the world who do many different and important things built on a foundation of learning that .
I am pro science, math and literacy. These are complex skills that take a long time to learn. At thirteen, I simply didn’t know what specialized education I would need to know later in life. I am grateful that every year teachers answer the question; ‘when am I ever going to need to know this?’ with a patient and very truthful, ‘you never know what you are going to need to know’.
However, I would say that there are a number of things that we know we need to know that so very rarely get taught. Let’s call these things basic life skills. Skills like cooking, gardening, sewing, repairing and budging. Actually let’s not call them that for the moment. Because I think that understates the important role these skills can have, not just in our lives, but throughout our entire world.
We know as a society that we face a number of daunting challenges. National obesity levels, concerns over the care of the environment, and massive crippling household debt are just to name a few. These problems seem so complex and so beyond solving. But one of the simplest and most effective ways to tackle all of these problems simultaneously is by learning to grow and prepare local food. By simply growing food in my own garden I am eating better, cooking better, getting exercise, decreasing my carbon footprint, and saving money.
Teaching basic life skills may seem like a return to something old, and in a way it is. But teaching basic life skills is, in my opinion, critical for anyone who values learning in today's fast-pace world. I don’t know if my children will go on to become authors, or scientists, or doctors, or store clerks, or call centre employees, or any of a million other possible and valuable roles we have in society. And as such I don’t know what specialized education they will one day need. But I do know they are going to need to be healthy. I do know that they are going to need to eat. I do know that they are going to need to learn how to manage money. We often talk about wanting to make sure our kids know the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic. I am glad we have started to re-think what some of those basics might actually be.
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!