2018 Winners

of the Ken Spencer Award

Recognizing Innovation in Teaching and Learning

The EdCan Network is proud to share summaries and contact information from the seven Ken Spencer Award winners. From students managing farms and marketing organic products while re-engaging in First Nations Worldviews, to tackling bee extinction, to leveraging art as a tool for activism and for portraying scientific concepts, to thriving inclusive and equitable classrooms, this year’s diverse group of winning programs all exemplify the value of learning through trial and error.

The 2017-2018 Ken Spencer Awards showcase how teachers can provide students with the autonomy and flexibility to take their learning to the land; to use technology as a tool for equity; to explore Indigenous-centred perspectives and to blend art, science and social justice to focus on real-world problems.

The Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning was established with the generous contribution of Dr. Ken Spencer to recognize and publicize innovative work that is sustainable and has the potential of being taken up by others; to encourage a focus on transformative change in schools; and to provide profile for classroom innovation within school districts, schools, and the media.

Dr. Ken Spencer is a former Director of the Canadian Education Association (CEA) and retired CEO and co-founder of Creo Products. In 2011, he was inducted as a business laureate of the British Columbia Hall of Fame. Since 2009, he has generously donated the financial awards for the Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

Check out our award-winning programs from 2017-2018 (4.29 MB / pdf)

Learn more about the seven Ken Spencer Award winners.



Farm Roots Mini School
Students take their learning to the land

Delta School District
Delta, B.C.

Farm Roots Mini School involves local experts in education, agriculture, and sustainability working with students from grades 10-12 in a learn-by-doing program where students design, build, and manage a farm. The students are responsible for running a sustainable agriculture business, and their efforts are a vital part of their coursework. This unique mini school provides hands-on learning opportunities across core subject areas including science, social studies, and entrepreneurship.

Teachers at Farm Roots provide students with the autonomy and flexibility to get outside regularly and develop creative solutions to environmental challenges, including: climate change, the detrimental environmental impacts of irrigation, and sustainable land use. Also informing much of the students’ learning is the exploration of Indigenous-centred perspectives on the environment. As students use their hands and heads to draw practical applications from their learning, they also build relationships with their community and with local universities. These relationships expose students to a variety of post-secondary education options and career pathways that they might not be aware of otherwise.

Ken Spencer Award Kahnawake Roots for Life


Roots for Life: Reconnecting with The Land
Students ‘re-engage’ in a First Nations Worldview approach to learning

First Nations Regional Adult Education Centre
Kahnawake, Que.

The Roots for Life Program re-engages high school dropouts through a culturally reawakening experience that brings traditional Iroquois societal roles to prominence within a 21st century educational context. By engaging these students in traditional Iroquois ceremonies, gardening practices, and food production methods, they take charge of their own learning while teachers guide them through curriculum-based competencies and milestones. Under the overarching theme of food sustainability, students enthusiastically engage in Math, Science, the Kaniehke’ha language, and economics through hands-on problem-solving activities. Simultaneously, students learn to be stewards of the land through food generation and composting, while confronting serious food security challenges experienced by First Nations communities. Community mentors guide students on how to manage a community garden, raise and sell chickens for egg and food production, and tend to beehives as part of creating their own honey production startup. It’s a successful approach to supporting all four aspects of the self – the spiritual, the emotional, the physical and the mental aspects – to promote learning and well-being.


ADVANCE Innovation Skills Centre
Where ALL students can build a better world

Georges Vanier Secondary School (Toronto District School Board)
Toronto, Ont.

More than a Makerspace, the ADVANCE Innovation Skills Centre is a place where students learn to build the future. It is at once a visual art studio, a cross-curricular incubator, and a drop-in centre where teachers from across the Toronto District School Board can bring their students to collaborate on a wide variety of projects. The Centre has seen a diversity of creations: 3D printed jewelry, interactive and electronic art works, an iPad game for students with developmental disabilities, prototype space vehicles, environmentally friendly buildings, and more. The Centre uses technology as a vehicle for equity and achievement, that has been explored by a diverse group of students from Grades 3-12. Students create prototypes from concept to execution, applying global competencies to engage a world of increasing connection and automation. The Centre engages STEAM learning that is rich and authentic, building in students the resiliency and skills that they will need to survive in our global economy for the next 20 years.

Vanier College Art Science


The Art in Science Project
Science pedagogy wrapped in creativity

Vanier College
Saint-Laurent, Que.

While traditional science courses rely on lectures and exercise drills to help students memorize complex facts and procedures, the Art in Science Project challenges students to creatively portray scientific concepts through their preferred choice of expression, including visual arts, music, videos, and computer simulations. They share their interests and create something personally meaningful, while developing a deeper understanding of the conceptual frameworks of physics and chemistry. This project requires students’ active engagement, imagination, trial-and-error, the ability to integrate scientific concepts into practice, and the use of higher-level cognitive domains. The approach can be adapted to all levels of instruction from K-12 to graduate studies and embodies a remarkable shift from traditional curriculum design and pedagogy.


The Pollinator Inquiry Program
Empowering students to alleviate the imminent crisis of bee extinction

Tredway Woodsworth Public School (Toronto District School Board)
Toronto, Ont.

What began as an inquiry-based project on the role of bees within our ecosystem has since catapulted this elementary school’s language and STEM programs into a 3-year, school-wide initiative that empowers students to help alleviate the imminent crisis of bee extinction. With experiential, real-world learning opportunities rooted in problem solving, Grades 2-8 students create sustainable gardens and “Bee Hotels” using wood and scrap materials on school grounds to attract bee pollinators. Their hands-on learning is articulated through websites that they design to detail the drastic effects of insecticide use on bee populations. A “Pollinator STEAM Fair” is also organized, complete with honey-tasting kiosks, factfinder scavenger hunts, and pollinator-attracting gardening activities where students build their awareness of their role as globally competent, 21st century learners who will become agents of change in tackling this growing problem.

Ken Spencer Award Bateman Art Activist Abbotsford


Robert Bateman Secondary art 
Activism Art is a vehicle that empowers students

Robert Bateman Secondary School (Abbotsford School District)
Abbotsford, B.C.

This program blends Art, English, and Social Justice curricula as students take a stand on a social issue of importance to their community – such as addressing the challenges faced by refugees from around the world as they integrate into Canadian society. In partnership with local organizations, students undertook a project where they met with and interviewed ten community members who had immigrated to Abbotsford, B.C. as refugees, and worked to represent their stories through artworks. Throughout this learning process, students organized an exhibition of 25 five-foot portraits of the volunteers, depicting their brave journeys to freedom. They received real-world experience in community volunteerism, and were able to leverage the visual impact of their artwork to raise funds for a scholarship dedicated to young people fleeing persecution. Through the sale of their artwork, they were able to raise $8,000 towards this scholarship fund. This program illustrates the broad and positive impact that the arts can have for our students, their families, and the community at large. The impact of this project on the students and the public was powerful and motivated many people to get involved.


Wexford Deaf/Hard of Hearing Co-Enrollment Program
An inclusive learning model where all learners thrive

Wexford Public School/Hearing Itinerant Department (Toronto District School Board)
Toronto, Ont.

Many children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) can experience life-altering delays in language acquisition and development, even when they have access to early identification, hearing amplification and intervention. The Wexford DHH Co-enrollment Program is a unique, inclusive approach to the education of children who are DHH and of their hearing peers in Junior and Senior Kindergarten. For children who are DHH, the Program is a pathway to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to thrive in their home school. The DHH Co-enrollment Program supports individualized student success by offering a tiered approach to education through instruction in classes of various sizes to ensure each student’s academic, social/emotional, speech, language, listening and Kindergarten curriculum needs are met. Using both an integration and reverse integration model, students from mainstream Kindergarten classes work alongside their peers, who are DHH. This provides a myriad of benefits not only for the students themselves, but also for parents and the school community at large. All children in the Co-enrollment Program, along with the teachers who work directly with this cohort, are more engaged with each other and have come to develop empathy, acceptance and understanding of one another.