Charles Hays Secondary School SD#52 Prince Rupert

I. General Information

School Name: Charles Hays Secondary School

School District: SD#52 Prince Rupert

Inquiry Team Members: Anna Ashley:
Donna McNeil-Clark:
Amber Mossini:
Coretta O’Brien: coretta.o’
Raegan Sawka:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies, Other: Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? For the second year of our cohort model, our focus was relationships and connections, on multiple levels and in many directions. We continued to build connections between educational team members, with our learners, and with the land and community. We wove links between all of our curriculum through a land-based, holistic approach to learning supported by Ts’msyen knowledge holders.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: During our scanning process and review of the four key questions, it became very apparent that there was a universal need amongst our learners to feel a greater sense of belonging, safety, and stability. Many students voiced a need for adults in the building to meet them where they were at (socially, emotionally, academically, and culturally).

Focus: In designing a three-year cohort model that combined core academic curriculum, we hoped to create a supportive environment that allowed the flexibility to honour our students’ unique skills, strengths, talents, and interests. We felt this would better ensure their academic success towards graduation.

Hunch: We believed that by creating a multi-year, team-based model (two teachers, Indigenous Mentor, educational assistant providing four core academic courses per year) we would provide the ability to give each student an absolute connection to the group to help meet their needs. With the team-based approach we hoped to have the capacity, expertise, and time to identify how to support the diversity of learners in reaching their full potential.

New Professional Learning: Our learning was consistent, dynamic, and evolving throughout the year; we engaged in continuous team teaching, collaboration, and reciprocal learning. One of our key principles was to work alongside several Ts’msyen knowledge holders to provide an authentic voice for our students and ourselves. Every team member took to heart the lessons that emerged from these educational experiences. We arranged for an Elder’s apprentice to work with us for the final four weeks of the year, on continuous land-based learning out on the territory.

Our team coordinated professional development sessions for our school/district on equity, assessment, Ts’msyen drum making, as well as an author visit with Jo Chrona to support the school-wide book study on Wayi Wah. We brought presenters to the community as well as hosted sessions ourselves to share our learning.

Taking Action:

Team approach, relationship centered, rooted in culture and place: Building trust, relationships, and belonging, with a sense of trust and established relationships we could set expectations of ‘no opting out’, learning from the land, facilitating friendships between students, sense of belonging…

Creating a full-day schedule for half the school year: Flexible schedule, over longer period of time, having time to get to know students, felt better able to determine what scaffolds and supports are needed, giving learners time to build up their confidence to do curriculum well, creatively finding/making time within our teaching structures, with a cohort model could allow us to take multiple curricular strands out of one project or assignment (i.e. Raegan marked for content, Anna marked for writing/communication skills).

Universal supports, projects, portfolios to collect evidence of learning for assessment:

  • additional time
  • one-to-one support from educational assistants, learning assistance teachers and the classroom teacher
  • access to electronic devices for speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and written output (i.e. audio books, dictated assignments and transcription help)
  • graphic organizers, framed paragraphs, sentence stems, etc.
  • pairing verbal instructions with visual or written supports
  • shortened, simplified, and/or chunked assignments
  • writing templates
  • use of separate settings when needed and opportunities to display competence and learning outcomes in a variety of ways
  • flexible timelines to demonstrate skill acquisition and conceptual understanding.
  • intentionally exploring areas of student interest to enhance engagement
  • utilizing game format and cooperative social learning strategies for peer-to-peer support

Creating a culturally safe and responsive environment: Students are also provided many opportunities to explore personal and cultural identities, written and oral histories, stories and connections to land/place. Indigenous worldviews and perspectives are integral to this learning. Students access authentic resources such as books, literature, texts, and film. As often as possible we invite the community to visit our classrooms or meet with Role Models, Elders, and other knowledge keepers on the land or at their place of work.

Checking: The results exceeded our expectations in so many ways. We were overwhelmed and experienced much success. We can still see room for improvement in the ways we connect to every learner.

This list captures highlights of our evidence:

  • More confidence, out of my comfort zone
  • New friendships (cited by more than half of the responses)
  • Feeling successful/sense of achievement
  • Finding my own voice
  • Realizing passion and curiosity
  • Validation
  • A reason to come to school
  • Allowed to be me
  • Never giving up on me, even if it was difficult
  • Connecting with land, language, and culture
  • Realizing the importance of Indigenous culture, history, and perspectives
  • Drawing real connections and understanding between truth and reconciliation
  • A drive for taking meaningful action towards reconciliation and injustices
  • Sharing my learning and engaging the school-community in issues that matter to them
  • Pride in my accomplishments
  • Stewardship of the land, self, others, and environment
  • Self-advocacy and knowing my worth
  • Better at articulating my thoughts, ideas, questions
  • Finding deep meaning and higher-level connections
  • Sharing my learning with others, pursuing my own inquiry outside of school

Reflections/Advice: Secondary schools might consider planning for a multi-year cohort for grades 10, 11 and 12, where students could thrive on consistent support and relationships. We’d like to see cohorts launching each year so concurrent groups are running.

This model has created growth in our educational team. We know our learners far better than in a traditional one course, one semester setting. We learn from our team and compliment each other, however, keep in mind we opted into this model based on shared interests and philosophy. This model will not work if forced on either staff or students. Thoughtful planning, preparation, and consultation can set this cohort program up for success.