Educating Students, Together with Our Partners
The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is not alone in the work of educating and supporting the students we serve in reaching their fullest potential. We do this work together with our partners: parents, caregivers, families, community members, local organizations and businesses.
The unique opportunities available as a result of these productive relationships mean that WRDSB students have chances to gain skills and knowledge that may not otherwise be available to them. Here are just a few of the opportunities our partnerships created in 2022:
Maple Syrup at the Sugarbush with the White Owl Native Ancestry Association (WONAA)
As temperatures began to thaw in early 2022, WRDSB Outdoor and Environmental Education specialists worked in partnership with members of the White Owl Native Ancestry Association (WONAA) to provide Grade 3 students with an extraordinary experiential learning opportunity.
When the sap started to run from the maple trees, students began to venture out to the WONAA sugar bush. They learned all about maple sugaring, from the original techniques to modern production methods. This offered connections to a variety of subject areas, including:
“It was great having the Grade 3s, just to be able to share the forest and the experience of making maple syrup here,” said Dave Skene, Director of WONAA. “It was a good season, both with the kids and with making maple syrup.”
Overall, it was a sweet spring of producing maple syrup, and outdoor learning for WRDSB students in partnership with WONAA.
Career Expo with Build a Dream
Students, parents and caregivers packed the Bingemans Conference Centre in November 2022 for the first in-person Build a Dream Career Discovery Expo in Waterloo Region since before the pandemic.
Nour Hachem-Fawaz is the president and founder of Build a Dream, which aims to promote the variety of career opportunities for women and those who identify as women.
“It’s really exciting” to be back in-person, explained Hachem-Fawaz. Attendees had the chance to meet with over 40 exhibitors, showcasing career opportunities and pathways ranging from the local carpenters’ union to Region of Waterloo Paramedics.
She credits the joint partnership between the WRDSB, Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB), Upper-Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) for making the career expo possible. It provides students in these boards with the unique opportunity to connect directly with professionals and employers while learning more about the pathways available to them.
“It takes school board partnerships to make these events happen,” said Hachem-Fawaz. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to tap into the young minds and have parents at the table as they make these really important life decisions.”
Electric Vehicle Challenge with the University of Waterloo
The sounds of cheering nearly drowned out the low purr of electric motors during the Waterloo High School Electric Vehicle (EV) Challenge at the University of Waterloo in May of 2022. The endurance racing event invited secondary students from the WRDSB and across Ontario to compete in electric vehicles of their own design and construction. This included students from Bluevale Collegiate Institute (BCI), Eastwood Collegiate Institute (ECI), Laurel Heights Secondary School (LHSS) and Preston High School (PHS).
This extraordinary opportunity allows students to put the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom into action as they innovate solutions to complex problems, and prepare for their post-secondary pathways in a world where the green technologies industry is ever-growing.
The EV Challenge is just one of many unique opportunities that exist for WRDSB students, thanks in large part to the close partnerships that exist between the WRDSB and the post-secondary educational institutions in Waterloo Region.
GIMI Impact Program with Smart Waterloo Region
Students at five secondary schools in the WRDSB are becoming better prepared for the world that they will graduate into thanks to a design thinking approach by their educators. The approach recognizes that when current students enter the working world, they will be facing problems we don’t yet know, and doing jobs that have yet to be created.
With this challenge in mind, and recognizing the Waterloo Region’s reputation as a hub of innovation in Ontario and Canada, the WRDSB partnered with Smart Waterloo Region (SWR). Together, we are supporting a ground-up approach for WRDSB educators in learning how to use the Global Innovation Management Institute’s (GIMI) Impact Program in their classrooms to inspire students to take a design thinking approach to solving real-world problems in their communities.
Grayson Bass is the manager of the Smart Waterloo Region Innovation Lab, and shared some insight on what the partnership means for all in our community.
“Both the WRDSB and the Region of Waterloo have united with a goal of making Waterloo Region the best community for children and youth. Our partnership with the WRDSB allows us to connect with and support educators, students, and communities, as we help them implement the GIMI Impact Program in their classrooms. I could not be happier with the results and how we have been able to partner with WRDSB,” said Bass. “The results are inspiring.”
Microforests with Sustainable Waterloo Region and the Grand River Conservation Authority
The Microforest Planting Project, led by Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR), is a unique partnership that includes the WRDSB, Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), and local businesses whose employees volunteer to help plant the microforests. Together, these organizations are creating new resources for students and communities, while working to fight climate change.
Microforests, with trees and shrubs planted together in close proximity, are more effective than having the same number of trees planted across a larger area. This innovative approach is particularly beneficial in urban environments as it provides enhanced ecological, climate, and human benefits.
Beyond the environmental benefits, microforests offer numerous advantages for the students who attend the schools where they are planted. They offer additional shade in the schoolyard, and perhaps even more importantly, additional outdoor educational opportunities as they feature a variety of fauna and flora to study.
Learning outdoors through observation, exploration and play - opportunities for which are available in a microforest - supports student well-being. Benefits go beyond wellness alone, with a direct connection between academic achievement and student well-being.