Evelyn Dickson Elementary SD#91 Nechako Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Evelyn Dickson Elementary

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Collin Payne: cpayne@sd91.bc.ca, Ashley Kennedy: akennedy@sd91.bc.ca, Jose Cayanan: jcayanan@sd91.bc.ca, Crystal Slatten: cslatten@sd91.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Ashley Kennedy/akennedy@sd91.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

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

Curricular Areas Addressed:

  • Applied Design, skills & Technology
  • Arts Education
  • Career Education
  • Language Arts – Literacy
  • Language Arts – Oral Language
  • Language Arts – Reading
  • Language Arts – Writing
  • Mathematics / Numeracy
  • Physical & Health Education
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Focus Addressed:

  • Community-based learning
  • Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving)
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Experiential learning
  • Flexible learning
  • Growth mindset
  • Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Land, Nature or Place-based learning
  • Self-regulation
  • Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Reigniting the spark for learning, where students take ownership of their own learning by engaging in passion projects.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Check out our Ignite Powerpoint which highlights the learning that happens with Passion Projects.

Scanning: We interviewed the students at the beginning of the Passion Projects and at the end. Once they ‘unlearned’ how to learn, their excitement and investment went up. Once they gained confidence, they were more willing to take risk and engage in their own learning. Each week the teachers stepped back from leading the students in learning and let them spread out and follow their own passions. Teachers facilitated learning by asking questions and helping students gather supplies that they needed for their projects.

Focus: We found many kids were not engaged in the learning process. Learners were presenting behaviour problems when they didn’t feel like they had a say in their learning. It seems in general there are growing social-emotional and behavioural challenges, and learners were losing their excitement about coming to school. We believe that we, as a school, were teaching top down too much.

Hunch: We had hoped that if they took ownership of their own learning, they would be excited to come to school. We anticipated that this excitement would improve school engagement across other academic areas. We also had the learners engage in reflective discussions as they got part way through their initial projects. We used the 4 Key questions monthly, as students shared their learning with each other. Many Indigenous learners are struggling to be engaged with learning and with peers. With this passion focus, we believe they will begin to spark their passion for learning.

New Professional Learning:

  • Wonder Based Teaching (one of our team members took this course last year) Home – Fairy Dust Teaching
  • Looking for other resources focused on engaging learners (Reggio Emilia style)
  • The Element by Ken Robinson
  • Think Again by Adam Grant (there is no one right way, it’s all about improving & innovation)

Taking Action: Beginning:

  • When we started, we gave the kids options/examples of projects and various ways to present their learning.
  • Once a month they were to demonstrate where they were in their learning, and we did not expect a finished project as we were focused on learning as a process (to give them a first-hand experience at life-long learning). We wanted them to take ownership of their learning by allowing them to investigate their passions and free choice in how they presented their learning thus far.
  • Each child had to observe a minimum of 2 peer presentations per Passion Projects session (weekly).

Checking: Changes:

  • We realized some kids needed more time to think of an idea. We needed to give them an outlet (games or outside activity) until they realized what they wanted.
  • We realized a diversity of students (ADHD) loved Passions as it was something they wanted to do, so they could focus easier; I think this approach benefits some students, as it did not limit their creativity.


  • Love seeing the variation of ideas (powerpoints, dioramas, different art techniques, apparel-making, mountain bike obstacle course, etc)
  • This benefitted students who think outside the box and area able to do what they enjoy; they took ownership of their learning.

Student Independent Engagement Summary:
0/11 Kindies
14/20 Intermediates
7/15 At Risk

3/11 Kindies
18/20 Intermediates
11/15 At Risk

10/11 Kindies
20/20 Intermediates
14/15 At Risk

Reflections/Advice: We have seen how student agency and ownership have allowed learners to become competent, curious, excited learners!

We have enjoyed seeing the students and my growth throughout the past academic school year. This type of learning has given students a different platform to show what they are good at, passionate about, and different ways of presenting/expressing themselves. Passion projects give the students power and ownership of their learning, and I love seeing this in our students. Individuals that have “behaviour problems” were more involved in these activities and required less teacher intervention.

Moving Forward

  • We have made a foundation on what we can improve on.
  • Doing it again I think we should provide examples/demonstrations of ideas (grab the students attention). Maybe even get some students from this year to demonstrate a presentation of their learning as a way of introducing it to students next year.

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