Ashcroft Secondary School’s 2011-2012 Action Plan for Learning inquiry question is, “Will increased school wide multi-aged activities improve student engagement?” Their action plan was to provide an “X block” once per week to students. For years the X block structure has been used in secondary schools in a variety of ways; at Ashcroft Secondary School X block is one block per week where all students have an opportunity to engage in a learning focus of their choice. These learning opportunities are designed to be engaging, hands-on and experiential. In the second semester students were able to choose between X blocks themes of: making a difference, robotics, cosmetology, drama, cooking, outdoor education and athletic performance. These themes were selected based on student input. For the term students work with their Grade 8 to 12 peers in the selected X block. The multi-grade learning experience has been positive for all students and has allowed older students to mentor younger students. Staff at the school have noted that students are excited and deeply engaged in their learning during X block.
In a rural district we face the challenge of how to provide students with all of the core courses they need for a complete Grade 8 to 12 educational experience. At times it is difficult to balance this need with the overwhelming necessity to ensure that students have what is too often referred to as elective courses. I believe that for the majority of our students courses such as drama, cooking, athletics, shop etc. are not electives – they are essential. They are the programs and courses that get students to school each morning and keep them there throughout the day. They are the courses that allow students to explore their interests and potential passions. They are the courses that connect to everyday real life.
I am appreciative of the efforts of the staff at Ashcroft Secondary School to find a balance to this unique challenge of this rural district.