Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Monday, June 8, 2009

Inside and out with the Pacific Coast School, Mr. Coons takes his seat and the Phase Two consultation begins, some of the items in the Monday edition of the Daily News.

PACIFIC COAST SCHOOL TEACHING MORE THAN JUST SURVIVAL-- George T. Baker gives high marks and a very friendly review to the efforts of the folks at the Pacific Coast School, outlining the scope of the program at the Second Avenue school and how the instructors are mixing the normal school curriculum with out of school pursuits to help build a team atmosphere (see story below)

The Premier is set to name a cabinet on Wednesday, and when he does the MLA for the North Coast will be ready to welcome the new cabinet with a healthy dose of oversight, NDP MLA Gary Coons prepares to take his oath of office and his seat in the Legislature after his successful election campaign of May.

The Monday edition featured a story on the next step for development at Fairview terminals. As we reported on the blog back on May 26th and again on May 31st, the phase two consultations for the Fairview Container Terminal are underway as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency begins its deliberations and examinations of the planned port expansion.

The Sports department reviewd the recent efforts of the Northwest Thunder peewee hockey squad as well as the results of the weekend rugby matches for the Prince Rupert Seamen.

Total pages in the Monday edition (12)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, June 8, 2009
Pages one and two

It wasn't that long ago the biggest· issue surrounding Pacific Coast School was its location.

The issue had Prince Rupert discussing everything from the role alternate schools play in a school district to the role zoning bylaws play in a small community. Not often discussed at the time was the students who would be educated at the new school. It certainly was first and foremost on the minds of teachers Miguel Borges and Doug Brown.

Four months later, the debate has settled. The school is open on Second Avenue with approximately 25 fu11time students learning through a technology- and community-based program.

The name Pacific Coast School may not actually be e school's name next year. The school district is looking at different naming options and will be deciding on a permanent name on June 16 at the SD 52 Town Hall meeting.

However, if there is a degree of certainty, it's with the students. The students, who talked with the Daily News Friday on a canoe/survival excursion, spoke about how the technological and outside school learning environments have applied to the way they like to learn with peed and access to information being high on the priority list.

Working with computers is more applicable to me because you can find what you are looking for and answer questions quickly without having to flip through 1000s of pages in a book," said student Rodney Bolton, 18.

Bolton said last year his math skills weren't where they could have been. To put it more bluntly, he failed. This year he said he is achieving a B average and credited Brown and Borges for their support and the program's teaching style for his improvement.

Not that the two teachers would spend a serious amount of time taking credit for Bolton's, or any of their students', success.

“For sure it's a positive atmosphere," said Brown, who is quick to credit the computer-centric atmosphere.

"There is stuff on the Internet that would take me doctorate after doctorate to understand and teach. So, it’s been a real bonus for me, too. I get to learn from the questions my students ask."

None of the staff wants PCS to be labeled as 'alternative.' To them, it's a limiting term for a school they hope does more than just support at-risk students. With university credit courses beginning in September that will be offered to students who are already achieving a high level of education, the name alternative seems to take away from those efforts.

If alternative is not the right word, successful might be, according to the students.

"It's an easy learning style. This way working at your own pace, sometimes being able to work from home. I would definitely recommend students take the courses," said 22-year-old Anastatia Robinson, who is taking two credits this spring - computer technology and English. Robinson will return in September to finish with another elective and appeared to be enjoying the survival field trip.

"Today is better than doing school work," said Robinson, as she and her two teammates put together their survival shelter in rapid succession, finishing first. "The students are somewhat close and we all know each other. Of course there some people who don't like each other, but there is more respect shown in the schools."

Staff may dislike the alternative term, but such schools have been operating in B.C. since the 1960s.

Although the programs have evolved and changed, the overall philosophy has remained to assist youth to successfully attain an education in a supportive, nurturing and non-judgmental environment.

Robinson said the student body is feeling that.

"If there wasn't respect, we'd just be fighting with the teachers all the time," said Robinson.

There hasn't been a wealth of significant studies on the subject, however one study by the McCreary Society Centre in 2008 looked at the various alternate schools in B,C., including the two operating at Charles Hays Secondary School and Kaien Island Alternative' School at Friendship House,

One finding was that youth attending alternative education programs reported high levels of school connectedness, had positive relationships with teachers and support staff, liked school considerably more, and skipped school considerably less, compared to their previous education experience.

"The more connected youth felt to their school, the more likely they were to report post-secondary educational aspirations, good health, and positive feelings about their life," the report said.

Having students work on their survival skills across the harbour, kilometres away from textbooks and lectures, doesn't seem so far fetched. Field trips are part of any educational curriculum.

Peter Loy, who has been a canoe instructor for more than 25 years, has been a supporter of the program. He led Friday's excursion to survival campground, something he has been doing , ever since PCS opened.

Loy believes that the out-of-class adventures present another opportunity for kids to learn and participate.

"I believe this presents an awesome opportunity for at-risk students. Clearly traditional classes haven't worked so we should get these students out on field trips as much as possible," said Loy.

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