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 will:
- Happen every Friday (excluding long weekends), beginning in late September 2017
- 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.
Why Discovery Days?
The world is changing, and so is education.
By radically changing the learning environment (timetable) you change the way teachers think about teaching, students think about their learning and how the school can be used differently.
Teachers will adapt to become mentors, coaches and facilitators, on top of their instructor capacity.
Students use this 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.
Students use this self-directed mentored time for Passion Projects that develop their own interests, hobbies, and talents, using LIKA Skills to help define their Personal Brand.
Students use this 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 is 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 will help students develop the essential skills and critical and creative competencies necessary for success in the 21st century.
In many ways we have already been engaged in this type of student-centred learning for a number of years, with RLC’s use of the Personal Learning Profile (PLP) in catering to individual learning styles and providing greater voice-and-choice over subject assignments. Although this has already been happening in the regular classroom, designing a day around the particular needs and goals of each student’s project will not only enable greater opportunities for cross-curricular learning, but also foster a whole-school approach to inquiry and collaboration. It will be a unique program for the area and will help us differentiate what we do best as a small independent school. Discovery Days will attract innovative teachers and provide exciting opportunities for future 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 will develop skills around project management, information management, critical thinking, design thinking, and teamwork which will provide 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 will allow for further student autonomy which will foster greater self-motivation, grit, and resilience around learning. The non-traditional learning environments (learning spaces), which we have begun designing for next year, will generate new ways of thinking and collaborating for both teachers and students. Makerspaces will allow students who work with their hands to have a place to prototype and construct ideas. Collaboration spaces will allow for students to brainstorm in groups and take on different roles and perspectives in problem solving teams. Quiet spaces will allow students to study and research at their own pace.
What will a typical Discovery Day look like for a student?
Every Friday will be 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.
In the morning Design Time session, students will have freedom to attend the learning space that best suits the needs of their Discovery Projects. Specialty spaces will be booked ahead during Mentor groups and students must rotate. There will be 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.
During the Winter Term Discovery Days, Mentor Groups will 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 will not be marked, but instead will allow students to express themselves in non-academic ways. To ensure motivation and accountability, Mentors will track their student’s progress and guide them through developing Mastery of our 7 LIKA Skills (Self-Management, Teamwork, Thinking, Network & Communication, Information Management, Learning, Design & Innovation). These final projects will be displayed or presented at the end of term Discovery Fair, where Mastery Badges and Awards will be given to those students who have excelled at developing their Personal Brand.
Every Friday afternoon is called Active Time and will rotate 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 will allow day students to return home at an earlier time and boarding students to participate in subject-specific tutoring or have additional free time.
Will there still be 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 will participate in traditional subject classroom instruction. On Discovery Days they will 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.
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
Will Discovery Days help prepare students for their future education and career?
Yes. In fact, Discovery Days should more closely emulate post-secondary and real-world careers than regular classroom learning as longer inquiry-based projects will have feedback and reflection built-in. We will concentrate more on students engaging in the process of learning over a longer period rather than solely on an end product.
Rosseau 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 will allow students to focus on essential future skills in these perspectives which will be facilitated through both academic and passion projects. We will be actively tracking student progress while students are in Design Time and Flex Time. Students will 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 will conduct action research around key aspects of their professional improvement, sharing evidence-based data with the rest of the staff. The Discovery Days model will allow 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 will help connect students with local professionals in the area or utilize education software they can connect with to help improve student outcomes.
Additionally, all teachers will participate in professional development training in order to better prepare themselves to implement Discovery Days. This August, the faculty at RLC will have two full professional development days with the Future Design School (FDS) around the concept of training teachers to shift from instructors to facilitators using Design Thinking methods. With our new Academic Lead Team in their second year of operation, more monitoring and support will be able to be given 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’.
Already, 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.
Rosseau Lake College is passionate about providing the best educational experience for its students. By trialing an initiative such as Discovery Days this September 2017, we believe we are adding further value to our proposition of moving the community forward towards the future of personalized learning.
- Why A School’s Master Schedule Is A Powerful Enabler of Change: ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/10/24/why-a-schools-master-schedule-is-a-powerful-enabler-of-change/
- Scaffolding the PBL Shift: http://www.bie.org/blog/scaffolding_the_pbl_shift
- 20 Time: http://www.20time.org
- Setting Their own Goals and Schedules http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/december_2010/features/self-directed.aspx
- Personalized Learning in Action: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/02/16/personalized-learning-action/2/