This week, we had the opportunity to visit the Pacific School for Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), which is located in downtown Victoria. PSII was founded in 2013 by Jeff Hopkins, a former Superintendent for School District no. 64 (Gulf Islands). I had listened to Jeff speak about PSII and their alternative approach to education during our Faculty orientation in September, and I was excited to check out the school and get a better understanding of what it is all about.
PSII is a highly personalized, grade 9 – 12 high school where students use inquiry-based learning and work with teachers to discover an emergent curriculum that is based on their passions, interests, and personal learning needs. The inquiry projects at PSII are organized through Trello and documented through e-portfolios (see e-portfolio platform examples here) and personal blogs. Jeff commented that they had switched over from using WordPress as their blogging platform to a new platform that was designed entirely by a student from the PSII graduating class of 2018!
Students have a variety of work spaces, and are free to move about and find the space that works best for them. There is a larger main work area in the front of the building (see photo below), along with various other work spaces, each designed to accommodate different learner needs. They also have a Sensory Room available for all students to use that was designed and set up by a PSII student last year, for which they applied for and received a specific grant. Having worked as an Education Assistant for the past 4 years, I am very familiar with Sensory Rooms, and I really like the idea of having one that is accessible to every student. I have seen the benefit of sensory rooms to act as a safe space for students to self-regulate and de-escalate, and I would be really interested in looking deeper into the benefits of a sensory room that is available for all students.
The students learn through individual work time, group sessions, one-on-one sessions, and group work time. I was really impressed with the calibre of the projects that students are taking on – there were students designing video games, curating art shows, starting businesses, rebuilding solar panels from broken pieces, and designing fashion lines. I have attached photos of the curriculum model, the competencies, the core values, and inquiry process. These posters were displayed on various walls throughout the school.
It was really interesting to learn more about PSII and inquiry-based learning, and I look forward to continuing to broaden my perspective and understanding of the various ways that learning can occur in a classroom.