Increase Student Learning
Engagement is an essential component of student learning, along with joy and creativity. We are committed to increasing student engagement by making their learning relevant, and applicable for the world they will graduate into.
Achieving this means connecting what is taught in the classroom to real-world issues and skills, to allow students to see the value in what they are learning in math, in language arts, or in visual arts and physical education. Engaged students perform better academically, and have a greater understanding of how what they’re learning can positively shape who they are and impact the world.
Classrooms and approaches to learning will continue to be reimagined to include opportunities for inquiry-based, real-world learning that allows and affords students the opportunity to solve problems, in partnership with staff, schools and community partners. Students will take the lead, using their voices to innovate and create positive change to serve the creation of a better world.
We can already see this in action with the implementation of the Global Innovation Management Institute’s Impact Program to secondary school classrooms, in partnership with Smart Waterloo Region. Students take the lead, applying a design thinking approach to solving real-world problems in their communities. As students work through identifying the pinch point of the problem, they engage in empathy work to better understand the end users. This includes soliciting student voice as a guiding factor for their projects.
Grade 7 students at Groh Public School are also making use of design thinking in an effort to make a positive impact on the world around them. In December 2022, the students interviewed jeewan chanicka, director of education for the WRDSB, as part of the empathy stage of their design thinking project. The students eagerly peppered him with questions, hoping to learn more about how they can improve the experiences of newcomers to Canada and Waterloo Region. Students involved in the project are also bringing their experiences as newcomers to help inform their planning.
“As a newcomer, I know how it feels,” said Topkaya. “You don’t know anyone, if you don’t have family or friends here, it’s a lot of stress.”
Ethan Warren, a fifth-year student at Elmira District Secondary School (EDSS), shared about two engaging experiences that helped him to feel better prepared for his post-secondary pathway. Warren, a blind Grade 12 student, attended the Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Warren brought what he learned at Space Camp about teamwork and collaboration to his co-operative education placement at the University of Waterloo (UW) in the Computer Science Computing Facility. Together, these experiences have supported him as he looks towards the next phase of his learning journey.
“I finally feel like I’m actually ready to take that next step,” said Warren. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Nothing is more engaging than hands-on learning opportunities, like the ones made available for those who identify as women at the Build a Dream Career Discovery Expo. The event gives students, along with their parents and caregivers, the chance to connect directly with over 40 exhibitors, showcasing career opportunities and pathways ranging from the local carpenters’ union to Region of Waterloo Paramedics.
This kind of opportunity supports students in building on the learning opportunities they experience at school, as they pursue their interests and plan their post-secondary pathway.
“I took a construction technology class for Grade 11 and 12, and we actually built a life-sized frame with wiring and I got to turn a lightbulb on and charge my phone,” said Paige Wassing, a student at Eastwood Collegiate Institute. “That was pretty awesome, so that’s what intrigued me.”