A program in its second year at E.S. Laird Middle School is showing grade nine students a different way to learn. Eco 9 is a program that takes the grade nine experience a different direction for a more hands-on way of learning.
The program was thought up by E.S Laird teaching staff Erin Claxton and Shaun Donald as a way to do education differently. Coincidentally, the Lloydminster Public School Division was also looking at alternative education methods, and Eco 9 was born. Shaun Donald teaches in the program and says it’s a way of taking students out of their daily routine while ensuring they have a dynamic education.
“Instead of typically sitting in a classroom, working on a textbook, writing notes down, looking at a SmartBoard, we wanted to challenge students in a different way,” says Donald.
The program covers all the different subjects of a grade nine year and integrates them into a single class. The students receive a math class that’s separate from the program while also exploring different ways to integrate hands-on learning. Winter camping trips, canoe trips and other outdoor experiences are common ways to teach more dynamic skills. The program is also structured around student interests.
“If the students are really interested in going somewhere, we look into it or have the students look into it to see if it’s somewhere we can take the students and if it can fit into the curriculum. So we work together with the students on a lot of the programming.”
Popcorn sales help raise funds for the class’ adventures. Building snow shelters, outdoor and survival skills are some of the ways the class brings students closer to nature. It also teaches them the value of getting along by spending multiple nights together or co-operating to work on projects. Claxton says it leaves a different effect on the dynamics of the class.
“The classroom itself, we become really close as a class, because we do challenges together. So when they’re off building quinzees, they learn how to work together, and so then the dynamic in the classroom, and the way the class works together is different. They’re closer,” says Claxton.
Claxton describes the progress made by students in the class as personal growth. Teamwork, time budgeting, researching and asking questions are well-practiced skills they learn. Claxton admits that the unconventional nature of the program made for some concern around whether the students would be ready for high school, but says that she’s not too worried.
“The way we explain it is, they spent from kindergarten to grade eight learning to sit in a classroom and learn that way, and one year of not sitting in a classroom isn’t going to make it so they can’t do that anymore.”
Applications for next year’s Eco 9 class are being accepted until April 1.