Global Hub in a Natural Setting

Global Hub in a Natural Setting

By: Alanna Wellwood, Director of Learning Innovation

Article from the Fall 2021 edition of Optimum Magazine

Through the generous gifting of exceptional land and facilities by our community, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) is well-positioned to be a global hub of teaching and learning excellence in a natural setting. Our grounds, pond, woods, trails and creek are all excellent schoolmasters, helping faculty to teach Spartans about how to live on the land we inhabit and how to steward that land for future generations. Through a collaborative call to continuous improvement, STS faculty refine their place-based experiential learning programming every year. Some of our work this year was highlighted at the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN) virtual conference where Elementary School Health and Physical Education (HPE) teachers, Ms. Laura Boudens and Mrs. Michelle Bartoshyk, presented on adapting to change in outdoor program planning. As part of the same conference, Mr. Bruce Hendricks, Director of Outdoor Education, facilitated an international group of experiential educators as they explored themes and practices related to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in educational programs.

Over the past year, he has also been involved with a number of experiential and outdoor education groups including the Outdoor Council of Canada Working Group that is responsible for planning the 2022 Outdoor Summit to be held in Gatineau, Quebec.

While COVID-19 safety protocols limited travel this year, the sanctuary of our campus, as a place to live and learn on, has allowed us to preserve the heart of our Outdoor Education program. A highlight this year was the extensive use of the new on-campus learning campsites for both day use and overnight programs including the now-to-be-expected snowfall during fall backpacking programs. Hosting outdoor camps for Grades 4 to 6, ski touring for Grade 10 and cross- country ski programs for Grades 4 to 7 provided ample opportunities for students to develop skills and become familiar with equipment while being able to stay safely on campus. Additionally, the campus provided an opportunity for ecological education across all grade levels.

Preparing students for the ever-changing world we live in also means that our campus becomes a local and global hub whose offerings are enhanced through community partnerships. Despite constraints, we worked tirelessly this year to increase our community partnerships, allowing us to broaden our after-school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) offerings. We had 165 students sign up for these after-school opportunities through partnerships with Coded Minds and Fuse33. We also launched the student-led STS First Robotics team. Summer Camps, launched last summer, provided incredible learning experiences to 300 students via partnerships with Coded Minds, Fuse33, HoopStrength, Stryker Sports, Pivot Pointe Golf, Okotoks Rockies Basketball and the Calgary Polo Club. These partnerships also provided mentors for our Senior School Design, Technology, and Innovation Studies programs. Our Senior School Design and Technology students have benefited this year from the support of Platform Calgary, the University of Calgary, Dustin Couzens, founder of Modern Office, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Soft Robotics Group, and McLellan Design. 

Over the course of the year, STS faculty demonstrated their ingenuity and commitment to offering our students engaging educational programming in challenging circumstances. And even under these circumstances we have strengthened our learning trifecta where place (our unique campus), people (STS faculty) and the larger community collaborate in the support of excellence.