Updates & Looking Ahead
Sackville Schools 2020 has been in transitional phase for the past month or so. Compared with the energy and traffic associated with the Sustainability Process, this may seem like a slow-down. However, rest assured that when it comes to moving our vision forward, things are buzzing along quite nicely!
In December, SS2020 met with the New Brunswick branch of ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency). This meeting involved a presentation of our vision to the ACOA people and a presentation from Sackville Mayor John Higham and Town staff outlining the economic and social benefits of community integrated learning. Also attending that meeting was representation from Mount Allison University, our Provincial MLA, Megan Mitton, and our Federal member of Parliament’s representative. It was a very good meeting and we have since heard that ACOA is looking at concrete ways of supporting the SS2020 vision. They are very impressed at what we have achieved as a rag-tag group of community volunteers and appear to be particularly interested in providing us solid resources that will support and sustain our ongoing work, in the first instance. This is a very exciting development and will mean that the elusive commitment of financial backing becomes a reality at last. It also signals the real support this model has from Dominic LeBlanc’s office and hence from the Federal level of government.
At the Provincial level, we are very grateful to Megan Mitton for embracing our model. We have heard that the current Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, Dominic Cardy, continues to be interested in exploring options—he plans to visit Sackville in the near future. Indeed, the EECD is currently in discussions with the Harvard “Education Re-Design” lab, a contact we established a number of years ago and which appears to be bearing fruit. We should hear more about that in a week or so as well.
SS2020 chair, Andrew Wilson, had a recent meeting with Jean-Paul Boudreau, new President of Mount Allison, and he is very supportive of the vision for education that our community has been developing (we initially introduced him to our work last summer and he wrote a strong letter of support to the DEC during the Sustainability Study). Our vision seems to connect nicely with his own interests in social innovation, community engagement and the future of the university. For one thing, Jean-Paul is interested in how community engagement and increased social connectivity might lead to the creation of a “sticky” community in Sackville (i.e., a place where people want to come and where it is possible, and viable, for them to stay). Jean-Paul has some great ideas and a lot of energy and he’s already been working very productively with the Town, the Mayor in particular. While his focus is on the university, Jean-Paul seems quite aware that a broader level of community connectedness is required for future success and to bring out the strengths and distinguishing characteristics of our town.
There are some wonderful examples of 21st century learning happening in our schools right now, certainly examples that demonstrate an eagerness to move things forward. The “Engage!” program at Marshview is continuing again this term with involvement of the entire school, plus community and university partners. This program is attracting a lot of attention further afield, but more importantly, the students at Marshview are really loving it. Salem continues to explore reconfigured learning spaces, which have made a big difference to student engagement and behavior. Some of our group are also working with Mount Allison students on experiential learning projects at Dorchester Consolidated School and Port Elgin Regional School.
R-PEACE, the Learning Lab at Mount A., is a space that was designed with guidance from contemporary pedagogical research as well as consultation with Anglophone East and the support of SteelCase and Mount Allison. Marshview Middle School held a PD day in the lab before Christmas. Since then, R-PEACE has had a number of K-12 groups interested in their space, with teachers and administrators traveling as far afield as Oromocto High School, the University of New Brunswick and the Faculty of Education at the Université de Moncton, but also including a group from Sackville’s own TRHS. Math and English classes from Marshview enjoyed trying out the R-PEACE space before the Holidays. There’s a lot going on in this lab space right now and almost all of it fits with our collective vision for learning in Sackville (check out these videos to see the space). The hope is that as its impact becomes more evident, more spaces like the R-PEACE one will be designed to meet the needs of our children, our teachers, our university and our community more generally.
We continue to move forward with a community-integrated education vision with many hopeful signs. With the Sustainability Study at its end, it seems as though other players, particularly those in government, are more comfortable coming forward to offer their support and get more visibly involved. The next few weeks should bring more details of this kind of support. Now that the Sustainability Study has finished and the DEC has done their part, our way forward has shifted more towards to the differing levels of government and institutional governance. We are therefore going to pivot from the informal “Sackville Schools 2020” group to the more official “Sackville 20/20”—a registered non-profit. Our first annual general meeting will be held in May.
A huge THANK YOU to all that have given their time and energy to making great things happen with Sackville Schools 2020 over the past 3 years. We look forward to many positive developments in the coming months with Sackville 20/20!