Babine Elementary Secondary School SD#91 Nechako Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Babine Elementary Secondary School

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Deb Koehn –
Roberta Toth –
Michelle Miller

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Mathematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? We hoped that playful learning experiences, based on core competency learning and understanding would help motivate and engage our students and move them beyond an ‘indifferent attitude’ and improve mindsets, and academic achievement in literacy and numeracy.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We started our scanning process with our students, community members and caregivers, by asking them to participate in co-designing the learning experiences. We listened carefully, and whenever there was a suggestion or collaborative learning available we entered with open hearts and open minds. We modeled listening and putting words into actions. We entered into many discussions with our students, and came to common understandings about what the learning experience had been in this community, and what it could be. We committed together to change what it meant to be a learner in this building.

Focus: We wanted authentic learning experiences, based on place, and the space we occupied. We wanted our learners to feel a strong sense of belonging, as well as identity. We hoped that these would contribute to an understanding of personal strength as a learner. Focusing on core competencies would allow us to recognize each learners’ strengths, while building our learners’ trust in us. We wanted to enter into academic learning and prove to learners what they could do for themselves. We hoped learners would learn how to learn.

Hunch: Learners were only using a number of workbooks in each program – there had been no direct instruction based on assessed individual learning needs. Learners were not experiencing success and were feeling frustrated. Community members could not understand why neglect was happening to their students during this time of realizing TRC regulations. Learners could not identify their strengths, and felt their learning experience was a challenge. Elders in the community felt it was a continuing cycle of neglect.

New Professional Learning: We looked into formative assessment practices, and started focusing on ensuring learning intentions, criteria and feedback were aligned so students knew how to help themselves as learners. We focused on core competencies and celebrated each child’s strengths and gifts – moving to competency-based assessment and celebrating strengths. We joined CPSN – Canadian Playful Schools Network, attended workshops and did lots of reading about playful classrooms. We used The Playful Classroom by Drearybury and Jones to help us design ways to enter into each and every learning experience in playful, fun-filled ways that would entice our students, rather than push them away.

Taking Action: We designed fun, playful ways to introduce as many learning experiences and concepts as possible. We created students to co-design or design their own learning activities that would demonstrate learning and provide evidence of learning.
We purchased the book titles our students wanted to read, and created a borrowing library in the center of the school – the school did not have a library previously. We had community members in the school, leading the learning as frequently as possible.
We moved as much learning outside, onto our lakeshore and into the forest so that students could use the natural environment as their learning environment. We looked at our actions frequently and evaluated how it was going, through our lens, the community’s lens and the students’ lens. We asked for evaluations from all members of our learning community, so that we had constant feedback on how we were doing – not looking for praise, but looking for ways to show, with evidence, that we were trying to change the learning environment.

Checking: We did ask the questions again, and again – as a measure of whether we were making a difference. We acknowledged that the students could name two adults who cared from the very first day we started, but what changed for us was the students’ responses to what they were learning – it moved from nothing, to students asking questions, designing learning opportunities and becoming more understanding of the importance of being a learner. Our students expressed pride in their accomplishments, and could describe their learning processes with an improved understanding of why they were learning.

Reflections/Advice: Take the time to sustain the changes you want to make – learning takes time for educators, students and community. Be very clear about the processes and strategies being emphasized with students’ caregivers, and let them know – frequently – of successes and challenges. Open the doors of the classroom – take down the walls, allow for purposeless play and purposeful play. Play frequently with the learners – listen to their stories – and enter the world of make-believe alongside them. Dress up in bright colors, dye your hair purple, dance to music, and demonstrate how fun creates a learning environment. If we can’t take risks, we can’t expect students to take risks.