On September 6th, we commenced our 10th academic year at Richland Academy! When we first opened our doors in September 2002, we had 9 students. We have since grown to over 110 students, which we treat with the same care and consideration. We are proud to provide an engaging and experiential learning environment for our students, using the Reggio-inspired approach to inquiry learning. We maximize every child’s potential by offering an enriched and superior curriculum, nurturing inner virtues, fostering a sense of social responsibility, and encouraging a love for learning that transcends the boundaries of our school. We are proud of our reputation for providing an enriched curriculum and academic excellence.
We would like to recognize Richland Staff Members, Megan Cooney and Una Jevtic, who were acknowledged for their contributions to Natural Curiosity, an inquiry-based environmental and sustainability education resource for Ontario elementary school teachers.
This Summer, our staff and Faculty had the opportunity to read and reflect on Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Drawing from his own experience as a veteran classroom teacher, Ron Berger gives us a vision of educational reform that transcends standards, curriculum, and instructional strategies. He argues for a paradigm shift- a schoolwide embrace of an “ethic of excellence.”
As we move into what is being called the “creative” or “conceptual” age, success in a few narrow core subjects will no longer prepare students for this world.
To provide youth with the tools and knowledge to successfully handle future challenges and opportunities, a change in educational philosophy is necessary. Learning and thinking must be considered subjects in and of themselves if we are to adequately prepare students for their futures. Students need opportunities to work collaboratively and think critically and creatively about ideas and issues across a range of disciplines, while developing a solid academic foundation and enhancing their intelligences, including “soft skills” such as understanding, empathy, collaboration and communication skills. Schools must grant students the right to take ownership of their work and engage them in the decision-making process, so that they may build their intellectual character while exploring ideas and solutions.
In line with 21st century learning, Richland students are investigating problem-solving and exploring hands-on mathematics that can be applied to real life situations. Grade 4-6 Math and Science Teacher, Mrs. Pamenter, considers the interests of the students when organizing her math lessons because she appreciates math as “structured and spiralled.” Our Grade 4 students are using a problem-solving method, called Bansho, to define specific problems and build on the previous practices that they have learned. In this way they look at the past to help them ‘shape’ their future. Taking the student’s math objectives and making them practical, the Grade 4 and 5/6 classes are enjoying ‘Practical Application Mathematics’ in their exciting math projects, “Zoo Project: Measurement and Geometry in Action” and “Dramatic Mathematics: Bringing the Dramatic Flare to Mathematics,” respectively. In these projects, the students have to think about why they are doing what they do, making it vastly different than textbook math.
The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy that inspires students to become life-long learners. It is a movement that has made way for schools filled with questions instead of answers and learning instead of teaching; schools where children are asked what they think and where teachers plan and implement curriculum based on child-initiated activity. It acknowledges children as competent and capable learners that are full of potential and able to communicate with or without words. It is evident that this approach will continue to open doors of endless possibilities for children.
Recognizing that the journey to becoming a life-long learner begins with the awareness of, and appreciation for, curiosity, it was a clear choice for Richland Academy to adopt a Reggio-inspired approach to inquiry learning beginning three years ago. We find that this philosophy better allows us to follow the natural development of children, as well as the close partnerships they share with their parents, teachers, and the environment.
With not a hint of knowledge about the Reggio Emilia philosophy, I began my journey at Richland Academy on September 13th as the newest member of this welcoming community. From the moment I set off, I instantaneously entered a world of discovery, reflection and amazement: Children communicating with or without words, teachers supporting critical and creative thinking, parents partaking in classroom activities, and signs of nature both inside and outside the classrooms. As the days go by, I am astounded at how congruent the philosophy embraced by the school is to the Chinese Proverb displayed in each classroom: ‘Tell me, and I may forget. Show me, and I might remember. Involve me, and I will understand.’