Discovery Days

Discovery Days are non-traditional, personalized learning days designed around student interests, learning needs, learning styles, and preferences. 

The Discovery Days initiative is a continuation of our strategic goals, to give students voice and choice over their learning and develop greater self-reflection for their future.

The goal of Discovery Days is to create a rich inquiry and project-based learning framework in which both teachers and students can actively experience personalized learning, as well as giving more time for student interests and goals.

Students will benefit from deeper learning opportunities as they work on a culminating Discovery Project over the duration of a semester instead of a few weeks, providing them with ample inquiry, research, and tinkering time.

Passion Projects will give students and mentors an individual problem-solving focus that is not mark oriented, but rather skills oriented. Collaboration, critical thinking, design thinking, information management, and self-management are just a few of the vital skills we know will give our students an advantage in post-secondary education as they all contribute towards developing a strong personal brand.

Discovery Days:

  • Happen every Friday (excluding long weekends)
  • Aim to utilize our greatest asset—the outdoors—and provide time for personalized clubs, whole-school activities and longer sports hours.
  • Affect the Friday schedule; however, students at RLC will enjoy a shorter academic day every day, to allow day students to return home earlier. Our boarding students will also have a greater opportunity for tutorial and evening activities.

Discovery Days are divided into three main categories: Design Time, Flex Time and Active Time.

RLC Discovery Days

Design Time
Rotating, facilitated time for subject-specific Discovery Projects: design-thinking, lab work, studio work, presentation tasks, group collaboration, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, action research plans, outdoor learning, and culminating tasks.

Flex Time
Self-directed, mentored time for Passion Projects that develop students’ own interests, hobbies, and talents.

Active Time
Dynamic time to develop outdoor leadership skills, new interests in clubs, attend Personal Brand and Indigenous workshops, play extended sports, and enjoy House activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Rosseau Lake College implementing Discovery Days?

Education is changing rapidly. This change has mainly occurred through advances in technology but also through educational research around the future learning needs of students. Stanford University has recently asked of its applicants to begin “declaring their mission, not their major”. Rosseau Lake College understands this shift towards personalization and has made student-centred learning a cornerstone of its mission.

Discovery Days are a way to increase engagement and achievement by linking longer projects to real-world experiences, driven by student questions and interests. In addition to regular academic days, Discovery Days help students develop the essential skills and critical and creative competencies necessary for success in the 21st century.

Although RLC has been focused on student-centred learning for a number of years, designing a day around the particular needs and goals of each student’s project not only enables greater opportunities for cross-curricular learning, but also fosters a whole-school approach to inquiry and collaboration. Discovery Days attract innovative teachers and provide exciting opportunities for students to create new pathways towards developing a strong Personal Brand through a culture that is rich in discovery.

What are the benefits for students?

Students develop skills around project management, information management, critical thinking, design thinking, and teamwork which provides real-world competencies for all knowledge-based subjects. By investing in a culture of student inquiry we are able to promote curiosity and life-long learning.

Discovery Days allow for further student autonomy, which fosters greater self-motivation, grit, and resilience around learning. The non-traditional learning environments (learning spaces) generate new ways of thinking and collaborating for both teachers and students. Makerspaces allow students who work with their hands to have a place to prototype and construct ideas. Collaboration spaces allow for students to brainstorm in groups and take on different roles and perspectives in problem solving teams. Quiet spaces allow students to study and research at their own pace.

Types of Student Inquiry

What does a typical Discovery Day look like for a student?

Every Friday is a diverse learning day consisting of a combination of dedicated time in various learning spaces, hands-on experiences, student-led projects, increased time for sports and clubs, and additional interactive, whole-school and outdoor learning opportunities.

Discovery Days Term Schedule

Design Time

In the morning Design Time session, students have freedom to attend the learning space that best suits the needs of their Discovery Project. Specialty spaces are booked ahead during Mentor groups and students must rotate. There is a culminating Discovery Project required for each subject the student is enrolled in. This is an opportunity to start researching their final project early, to experience the full process of taking a question into a prototyping phase and gaining valuable feedback from teachers and peers to improve a product. In these spaces, students will work with a facilitator who may not be their regular classroom teacher, where progress on their project will be tracked and encouragement and support provided. Some students may be able to create projects that are interdisciplinary in nature and that allow them to touch on the curriculum of several different classes.

Flex Time

During the Winter Term Discovery Days, Mentor Groups become known as Flex Time, where students from different grades work together in a flexible learning space with their mentor on an individual or group Passion Project. Passion Projects are not marked, but instead allow students to express themselves in non-academic ways. To ensure motivation and accountability, Mentors track their students’ progress. Final projects are displayed or presented at the end of term Discovery Fair, where Mastery Badges and Awards are given to those students who have excelled at developing their Personal Brand.

Active Time

Every Friday afternoon is called Active Time and rotates all year between outdoor experiences, whole-school house activities, student and teacher designed clubs, visiting speakers, and presentations. An extended sports period will complete each Friday, allowing coaches and teams an opportunity for proper strength-building warm-ups and time for both competitive and friendly scrimmages.

Are there any other changes to the timetable be aware of?

There are small changes to mentor and tutorial time, and the school day is actually shorter, ending at 4:00 (Friday) or 4:15 (Mon-Thu) rather than 5:00. This allows day students to return home at an earlier time and boarding students to participate in subject-specific tutoring or additional free time.

Is there still enough academic time for students to be proficient in a subject?

Yes. It must be remembered that even though the label has changed, the learning has not.

The Ontario Ministry of Education requires 110 hours of classroom instruction to reach proficiency in each subject. Due to the changing nature of education regarding technology and the push towards more individualized, adaptive ways of learning, these “instruction” hours can be and are interpreted differently by different schools.

At Rosseau Lake College, for four days a week, students participate in traditional subject classroom instruction. On Discovery Days they participate in independent or group subject facilitation.

We also have a healthy tutoring program that will benefit from the new schedule as day students can access teachers during lunch hour and boarding students have extra time before dinner as well as their regular preparatory time. Furthermore, as all of our courses can now be accessed on Google Classroom, continuous blended learning can happen when students are away with sports teams or during snow days.

As different needs in the 21st Century have presented themselves, schools must adapt to adequately prepare students for post-secondary pathways and future careers.

Traditional Schedule

83 days of academic instruction per semester @ 80min. classes = 110 classroom hours

Discovery Day Schedule

69 days of academic instruction @ 75min. classes (avg.) = 86 hours + Design Time/ Flex Time (roughly 16 hours per project) + Sign-In Tutorial (8 hours per semester) = 110 classroom hours

Do Discovery Days help prepare students for their future education and career?

Yes. In fact, Discovery Days more closely emulate post-secondary and real-world careers than regular classroom learning as longer inquiry-based projects have feedback and reflection built-in. We concentrate more on students engaging in the process of learning over a longer period rather than solely on an end product.

RLC Discovery Days Curriculum ModelRosseau Lake College feels strongly about putting students on a successful career pathway towards three key areas of a Personal Brand: Entrepreneurism, Communication & Design, and Environmentalism. Discovery Days allow students to focus on essential future skills in these perspectives which are facilitated through both academic and passion projects. We actively track student progress while students are in Design Time and Flex Time. Students actively co-create this growing reflective report and this awareness will help them become more adaptable in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.

Do we have the expertise to execute this new initiative?

We are building teams of experienced educators and young innovative graduates. Our Don program allows new teachers to experiment with current best-practice in a subject they are trained in. Our senior faculty conduct action research around key aspects of their professional improvement, sharing evidence-based data with the rest of the staff. The Discovery Days model allows all teachers to utilize their individual expertise and subject-specific knowledge in non-traditional settings. If a teacher does not have expertise (for specific parts of a project) then the facilitator helps connect students with local professionals in the area or use education software to help improve student outcomes.

Additionally, all teachers participate in professional development training around Discovery Days. The faculty at RLC have shifted from instructors to facilitators using Design Thinking methods. Our Academic Lead Team provides monitoring and support for teachers in the classroom.

Are there any other independent schools doing this?

Yes. Timetabling changes was the number one topic of interest at the recent CAIS National Conference in Montreal where independent schools across Canada took part in workshops and keynote sessions around the future of education.

Rothesay Netherwood School in New Brunswick and York School in Toronto both have developed Genius Hours, which are scheduled times for non-academic learning during the week where students engage in personal passion projects. Branksome Hall has a well-being morning every Wednesday where their girls do yoga and practice mindfulness. Holy Trinity School has developed a Flex Time schedule twice a week for its Middle School where students are able to choose between workshops to develop the essential skills and work habits they need for projects. There have been many high-level examples of innovation around timetabling and project-based learning coming from the U.S. High-Tech High is probably the most famous example as it was the case study in the book by Tony Wagner and subsequent documentary film, ‘Most Likely to Succeed’.

Rosseau Lake College has garnered interest in our Discovery Days program from at least two dozen independent schools across Canada. Our combination of outdoor and indoor student-designed activities mixed with facilitated curriculum projects has signalled a growing shift in the purpose and format of schooling. We feel confident in participating in these changes as there is an exciting and generative push in education towards skills and competencies being recognized by University and College applications.


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