Green Thumbs in the Concert Hall…
How Advanced Education partner Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board successfully engages their students with SMART Boards.
The greenhouse is a hub of activity. Conversations overlap with talk of waterfall features and the latest backyard fish pond concepts down one aisle, with a fervent discussion of plans for a mini-putt golf course around the corner. All projects are completed only after exploring just the right plants to enhance the outdoor environment.
What is surprising is that this scene is not being realized at your neighborhood garden center, but at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough. More specifically, this greenhouse is the center of the school’s Horticulture and Landscaping Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program.
The SHSM program is a Ministry of Education initiative that allows students to focus their learning on a specific economic sector while meeting the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). Making connections between what is going on in the classroom and what the student is interested in doing in the future is at the heart of this program. Co-operative education placements merge real life experiences with sector-specific curriculum. Along with learning essential skills and work habits, students are gaining practical skills.
As with all secondary school programs, the goal is for students to be ready to move successfully into their future career path, whether that be direct employment, an apprenticeship, a college or university program.
Horticulture teacher Michelle Chambers also chairs the Horticulture Ontario Secondary Teachers Association (HOSTA), and is a co-writer of the newest Ontario curriculum, Green Industries. She is enthusiastic about the Ministry of Education’s recent student success initiative.
“A Specialist High Skills Major gives students more opportunities to focus their interests and strengths into a particular economic sector where they can take sector-specific courses, and benefit from a wide range of relevant experiences. I see students making more and more connections between what they are doing in class and what they want to do in the future,” says Chambers.
Grade12 student Beige McIntosh supports this sentiment. “I didn’t really care about school in Grades 9 and 10 and just passed my courses. I always knew I had a love of plants and often helped neighbors with their gardens, but it wasn’t until I got involved in the Horticulture and Landscaping SHSM that I realized that this is what I want to do after high school. I now have a 91% average and wouldn’t miss a day. I know I can make a difference in preserving the environment,” says McIntosh.
A month ago, McIntosh was one of 10 SHSM students who traveled to Landscape Ontario’s testing facility in Milton, Ontario, where she earned two certifications in the Certified Horticulture Technician program. The extension of the classroom to the community is where students experience a slice of real life as they learn essential skills and work habits from a variety of community partners: from a local cemetery to a golf course. They also gain experience at the YWCA community vegetable garden, and through their very successful Annual Community Plant Sale in May.
Just down the hall from the greenhouse, students are exploring a very different career path: one based firmly within the arts. Within the auditorium, there is a lively discussion between a local performer and a musical theater class, in preparation for an upcoming production. Next door in a visual arts classroom, students are planning their next trip to a local college campus where they will take a course in photography, wire sculpture and mask making.
In the Arts and Culture SHSM at TASS, students can focus their creative artistic skills in three distinct areas: music, visual arts or drama.
“Students are captivated by the opportunity to participate in workshops that are delivered by well-known local artists, as well as by the many certifications they will be able to earn through the SHSM program. The enrichment is incredible,” says Micky Renders, Visual Arts teacher.
Once you hear Janelle Kelsy take command of the keyboard, there is no doubt that she is a very talented musician. She never thought music would be her future career path, however, until she was encouraged by music teacher Vince Abrahamse to conduct the school choir at the recent Remembrance Day Service. Cooperative education is one of the components of all SHSM programs, and it was through the music class placement that Kelsy has developed confidence in herself. She has eagerly taken on a leadership role in the school’s dynamic music program.
“I couldn’t believe I was actually the conductor at the Remembrance Day Service. Since earning the song-writing certificate from a local artist, I am now writing lyrics and melodies. I know the SHSM designation will give me a huge step forward on my way to becoming a music teacher,” says Kelsy.
“The greatest strength of these programs is the creativity of curriculum delivery which results in such superior opportunities for students,” says Abrahamse. Principal Annie Johnston is also a strong supporter of the provincial initiative.
“It is exciting to see students so interested and connected to these programs – they’re making a real difference in student engagement,” says Johnston.“ The SHSM program is certainly gaining momentum here as a group of teachers is already planning on submitting an application for next year in the area of Health and Wellness.”
The Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board continues to embrace the Specialist High Skills Major program, which grew from 13 programs last year to 30 programs this year – the largest number of SHSMs offered in the province.
The programs cover 10 economic sectors ranging from Hospitality and Tourism, to Manufacturing, to Business. The Board is committed to increasing student access to innovative, engaging and high quality programs that are relevant to students’ personal interests, strengths and goals beyond graduation.
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