The Wheelhouse is a classroom where students are both challenged and supported in becoming life-long learners and responsible citizens. Students in this program take action in their community, develop greater self-confidence, and have a strong sense of care for their classmates and school. In The Wheelhouse, everyone is encouraged to try their best, ask questions, share experiences, take risks and learn from mistakes along the way. With teacher and mentor support, students create a learning community in which all students respect and cherish each other, and support their peers to be the best individuals they can be.
The Wheelhouse offers students in Grade 6 and 7 a learning environment that focuses on developing leadership and citizenship skills while exploring and learning in the surrounding community. Fundamental to The Wheelhouse classroom are the community ‘field study’ days where learning takes place outside the classroom.
The Wheelhouse instructional design is built around the philosophy of integrated learning – learning across curricular areas. Additionally, this is not a teacher-centered program; the teacher’s role extends far beyond teaching 'content' to students. Students learn in a number of ways, including: field research, group projects, independent activities, inquiry learning, and more. Students learn from many sources: teachers, family members, printed and digital information, and of course from each other. Students will learn through the exploration of themes, inquiry questions, problem-based learning activities, etc. Learning is often integrated across curricular areas - a study of Greece might incorporate aspects of social studies, science, language arts, health education, etc..
Do students still learn all of the regular subjects?
Yes, absolutely...but in ways that might be a little different than previous learning environments.
- Learning is often focused on big ideas. For example, when studying the affects and impact of homelessness in our community, students might engage in activities that encompass Reading, Writing, Social Studies and Math. By focusing on a big idea, sometimes the individual subject areas feel ‘blurred’ and as a result students don’t always recognize that they are learning across different curricular areas. As well, when students are fully engaged in big ideas, learning becomes quite enjoyable. When this happens, it’s surprising how often students actually forget that they are learning!
- We often explore topics and issues that we encounter via the news, or our experiences in the community, or when we are passionate about a subject. This can mean that while we still focus on learning all of the skills needed to be successful, we do sometimes bypass traditional grade-level content. For example, students might learn about refugees and immigration rather than economic trade. It all depends on the interests of the students and what is relevant in the moment. We like to follow our interests as we learn. While this always proves to be an exciting ride (we love to take learning 'detours'), this does mean we don't always have time for the standard content. [For prospective students and families - this will be discussed in more detail at the Information Session and the Interview in case you have some questions or wonderings about this.]
Tools for Learning
Learning in The Wheelhouse encompasses a great variety of resources that engage learners. Rather than being restricted to traditional learning resources (textbooks, worksheets, activity books, etc.), students access current information, use multi-media sources, and include a community of experts in their learning. For example, students might engage in online research, interview guest experts, create student surveys, consult parents as mentors, participate in field research, access digital textbooks, read online newspaper articles, play interactive games, etc. These are all examples of possible resources for learning in The Wheelhouse. Student learning is not limited to the classroom, but rather students learn from the community and world around them.
What do assignments look like?
Students in The Wheelhouse don’t “work” on assignments. They solve problems, write stories, design prototypes, test hypotheses, share strategies, connect ideas, and so on. Wheelhouse students complete learning activities that strengthen their skills, expand their thinking and challenge their understanding. It takes more time to investigate a problem and the potential strategies before deciding on the best solution than it does to read a paragraph and answer two questions. Students who feel most successful completing worksheets and assignments on a daily basis might find it harder to adapt to this style of learning.
What does group learning look like?
Students often working in project groups, on integrated areas of study that encompass learning across traditional curricular areas. Projects can be inquiry-based, challenge-based, scientific experiments, human studies, research-centered, and more. Learning is focused on building core competencies across subject areas, including: becoming effective communicators, nurturing curiousity, creativity and innovation, developing personal and social responsibility, and building critical thinking skills.
Do students have homework?
Students may have two different types of learning activities at home:
- Assignments/Tasks to Finish at Home – assignments and projects that cannot be completed during school time need to be finished at home.
- Projects - if students are engaged in a larger project, they may decide that spending some time at home will help them stay on track for completing their project on time. In addition, some students may prefer the environment of home where they can focus on an activity and not be affected by factors that may disrupt them at school.
Where do you go on Field Studies?
- In the fall term, the field days are primarily focused on the outdoor environment. Being away from the classroom for one day every week requires us to develop guidelines and expectations for different learning environments. When in unfamiliar surroundings, students need some time to adjust their learning in a non-traditional setting.
- As the students become more comfortable and successful outside the classroom, the field days will expand into our local community. We might interview local citizens, meet the Mayor, connect with business owners, or take action in the community.
- As the year progresses, and the students’ interests and passions become clear, we pursue field days beyond our local community. We might visit an animal reserve, heritage museum, broadcasting studio, or even explore Granville island!
Being Safe on Field Days
Being away from the regular school site can present additional safety concerns. We don’t always know what we will encounter. Students are always expected to follow guidelines, respect rules and boundaries, and follow directions. When we do encounter the unexpected, we take time to discuss the situation together. Students ask questions, share ideas, and develop strategies to be safe in the community.
How are family members involved and included in The Wheelhouse?
- Transportation Managers a.k.a. Volunteer Drivers - The Wheelhouse program depends on having family support for the program. One key area where support is needed is in transportation for our weekly Field Study Days. We need a solid base of available drivers to help us travel to and from each location.
- Participate in Learning Experiences – Visitors are welcome to join us anytime in the classroom or on a Field Study Day and be included in the learning experience. Parents, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles have joined us on field studies in the past. You are always invited to be part of our learning adventures.
Those who are interested in joining the Wheelhouse need to feel comfortable with our style of learning.