The Ken Spencer Award
Met School Program
Seven Oaks School Division, Winnipeg, MB
The Met School opened in 2009, replicating the design of the U.S.-based Big Picture Learning Program, which provides meaningful learning that is linked to student passions and interests. Class sizes are limited to 15 students with a curriculum tailored to their individual needs and interests. Students are placed in community-based internships two days a week, which contribute to their personal growth and are centered on goals that are relevant and are connected to the real world. Teachers are called ‘advisors’ and work with the same group of students from Grade 9 through graduation. This “One student at a Time” philosophy creates purposeful relationships with teachers, families, and the community where essential skills and academic challenges lead to success.
Related resource: Learning year for unique Met School (PDF)
Essex Alternative Attendance Program
Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Toronto, ON
The ESSEX Alternative Attendance Program is one of nine Alternative Attendance Programs established by the TDSB throughout the city to support 14-16-year-old students who display chronic attendance and/or social/emotional issues. These Programs provide students with the opportunity to work at their own pace, in a small setting, with increased personal teacher assistance, engage with their communities, develop interpersonal skills and gain self-confidence and self-awareness. Exam period at Essex is an exciting and productive time. Instead of writing individual exams per subject, students participate in a month-long interdisciplinary group project that culminates in an exposition. Each year, students choose a theme and a final product. As they complete each stage of the project, they also fulfill cross-curricular expectations and, ultimately, earn credits. Students in the program ‘own’ their project. It is student driven, and teacher facilitated.
Related resource: Speech from Amber Martin (Program Graduate) during the Ken Spencer Award Ceremony (PDF)
Quest Program, Oilfields High School, Black Diamond, AB
Foothills School Division
Quest is an alternative high school program targeted to meet the needs of students who have experienced limited academic success and feel disengaged from school. Quest blends classroom work and experiential learning such as field studies, class trips, and outdoor education to engage youth in multiple facets of learning. Each student has made a personal commitment to attend school regularly, and participate in all components of the program: academics, service work, adventure learning, personal and social growth learning as well as career exploration through placements and career counseling – learning that impacts their growth as a whole individual. The high degree of student success is attributed to the program model, which challenges youth to strive for excellence and build internal resiliency skills.