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Project-focused learning creates buzz around learning at TDChristian

Written on January 28th, 2009

Approach more closely resembles ‘real life’ and ‘workplace’

Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) has introduced a unique educational approach that is not only generating excitement about learning but better prepares students for the post-school world.

With this approach, students and teachers work together as a team on real-life projects, integrating a variety of subjects and skills as they do so.

This is in contrast to the traditional educational approach that often revolves around learning abstract concepts.

The idea is that through the hands-on, project-oriented group work, students not only learn in a more integrated and holistic way but they also strengthen their skills for working together, according to William Groot, vice-principal of scheduling.

This has more relevance to how society beyond school walls operates, according to principal Ren Siebenga, and is a key reason the school introduced the model several years ago.

“The world is integrated,” Groot says. “(This approach) is more like the workplace, more like real life.”

As an example of the team approach, students and teachers — typically more than one to a block — make decisions about the direction of projects together. Teachers do not transmit information via the traditional lecture approach.

Meetings facilitate the decision-making process and help develop skills around presenting, taking minutes, and listening, among others.

Perhaps most exciting about the integrated blocks is that they have generated a “positive buzz about learning” in the school, according to Groot.

Some of the integrated blocks of learning currently offered at TDChristian include a video block, environmental block, French and history block and international co-op.

Teacher Ben Freeman explains that for the environmental block, which is a two-credit, Grade 10 course, students choose projects that fit their specific skills and interests. They are expected to complete at least five environmental projects, either individually or in groups, in addition to
several projects with the class as whole.

This year’s international co-op, a three-period block of Grade 11 and 12 students, includes a trip to another country. Students will be visiting Honduras for eight weeks.

Groot says it would be feasible for other high schools to consider the integrated learning approach. He notes that what is most needed are“passionate teachers who want to do it, a willingness to provide teachers with what they need to make it happen, students who are wiling to try something different … (and) someone to do the course planning and
paperwork.”

To learn more, contact Groot at groot(at)tdchristian.ca.