-Nicole McArthur, RLC Parent
Academics are rigorous, following a progressive liberal arts model. The average class size is between 10 and 15 students. There are aspects of the school that remain more traditional, such as having students sit final examinations, but even those are viewed through an experiential lens. The members of the faculty share a belief in the benefits of active learning and of spending time outdoors. And that’s a guiding principle for instruction: lessons should be active and purposeful; instruction should be hands-on and project based; classes should make the most of our setting. And they do. The campus is a learning lab, something that’s as true for biology and geography classes as it is for English.
Academic instruction is delivered in three segments: two semesters of 15 weeks and a one-month term course. In Grades 9 and 10, students participate in a full afternoon of Arts (Music or Visual Arts) weekly. Learning becomes more self-directed in Grade 11 and 12 as students develop a sense of personal interest while growing increasingly mindful of future endeavours.
Semester learning provides large spaces for students to pursue and develop their thinking and ideas. Tutorials offer consistent instruction and discussion. Elongated blocks each afternoon offer both focus and depth, allowing students to explore learning through experimentation and lived experiences, often leveraging the incredible opportunities of our physical geography and local communities.
Learning is based in discovery. It’s the difference between spotting a barred owl on a trail walk and seeing it at the zoo: the bird is impressive in both scenarios, but the experience is vastly different. We want our students to see the owl, not because we show it to them, but because they discover it for themselves. That’s metaphorically true–discovery and experience is at the heart of our academic delivery. It's also literally true–there really are trails, and students really do see owls. The experience, the learning, and the sense of discovery is never forgotten.
Unique to RLC, and developed here, the Foundation Years is a program unto itself. Learning is collaborative, creative, and project-based, making use of the outdoor spaces including the lake, campus trails, and outdoor instructional facilities. For example, Math and Science classes are often combined studies, interacting with the curriculum through large-scale projects.
We believe that learning at this age group in particular is richest when active and, as often as possible, outside. Students intentionally build their 21st Century competencies—problem solving, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, resiliency, independence—while developing the Rosseau Roots in their own distinct ways.
In Grades 9 and 10, learning is active and very often outside. The sequencing of the curriculum is laid against the opportunities that the setting of the school provides. In Grade 9, for example, the geography curriculum is built around interactions with the physical environment. Per the provincial document, students are required to determine “the significance of ‘place’ as it relates to the natural environment, the human environment, and interactions within and between them.” Students at RLC experience those interactions first hand, on a daily basis, from wetlands to built environments. Specific geographic inquiries—from an analysis of rock formations, to biological processes—take place in the environment itself.
Similarly, in Grade 10 science, students are required to build an understanding of concepts in biology, chemistry, earth and space science, and physics, and how they relate to technology, society, and the environment. At RLC, the 56-acre campus includes a range of biomes, becoming what is essentially an expansive, immersive laboratory. Within it, students do everything from identifying species of wildlife, to examining Newton’s laws of motion as demonstrated in the motion of canoes on the water.
In grades 9 and 10 there are 50 minutes of literacy and numeracy instruction daily throughout both semesters.
Post-secondary counselling begins in Grade 9 with one-on-one meetings with our guidance counsellor. At this point, the goal of academic counselling is chiefly investigative: to help students find outlets for their interests while trying new things and experiencing new areas of the curriculum. This allows them an opportunity to begin to define and refine their academic goals—finding what they gravitate toward as well as what they don’t—and to begin to build a plan toward post-secondary studies. This is a time for students to gain a better sense of who they are as learners, to identify the skills they have as well as those they wish to develop, and explore ways of deploying them in real-world settings.
In Grades 11 and 12, the academic program becomes more self-directed, with advisors and mentors nurturing students’ interests while also relating them back to the core curricular outcomes. Elongated blocks each afternoon offer time to focus, allowing students to explore their learning through experimentation and personal experience.
Academic counselling continues while becoming more intentional than in earlier years, guiding the students’ growing awareness of themselves as learners, and relating that awareness to specific post-secondary programs. The academic counsellor that they have been meeting with since Grade 9 helps them apply, and ultimately accept, their post-secondary offers. Every year, 100% of our graduates enter programs that reflect the goals and aspirations they’ve been developing over the course of years.