A FLEXible Time To Grow

Rob Thomson, Head of Middle School
An excerpt from the Fall 2016 Corridors Magazine.
The Middle School has caring and creative teachers who consistently go beyond expectations to provide an environment for learning and growing. Time for clubs, co-curricular initiatives and academic support is often limited in the school day, and running these activities during lunch hour is not ideal. As an organization, we asked: Is there a better way to allow students to experience an authentic “hidden curriculum” while honouring our fantastic academic program?

The answer was FLEX (Flexible Learning EXperience), and 2015–2016 was the inaugural year. With a new Middle School timetable in hand, we found 40 minutes, three times a week, to grow outside of the classroom. Every Tuesday, with guidance from their Advisor, students chose how they would approach the upcoming three FLEX sessions. Over the course of the year they had a wide and impressive range of sessions to choose from. Here is a sample:

ENRICHMENT AND EXPLORATION:
  • Breaking the Code
  • Agents of Change (looking for ways to solve big problems)
  • Debate
  • Young Entrepreneurs
  • Tête-à-tête (conversations in French)
  • Investment Challenge
SKILLS FOR THE SENIOR SCHOOL:
  • Presentation Skills
  • Time Management
  • Note-Taking
  • Study Strategies
  • Collaboration Styles
WELLNESS AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT:
  • Mindfulness with Dr. Judy Turner
  • Digital Dos and Don’ts
  • SOS505 (service initiatives)
  • A Look at Executive Functioning and the Student Brain
  • Advisor Sessions
  • Best Foot Forward (manners and social etiquette)
At the same time, academic support was provided by subject teachers and by Ms Susan Barnes, Student Success Counsellor, in our Learning Lab.

No tests were created – no projects assigned, no homework given, no marks handed out – but students were engaged. They took ownership of their FLEX journey and were captivated by their own needs, interests and passions.

At the end of the academic year, we created Monster FLEX using the FLEX model. With some oversight and guidance from their Advisors, the students built their timetable for the week leading up to exams. If they needed more time in math, they got more math. If they needed to get the blood moving, they chose an extra physical education slot. If they needed time on their own, they chose to go to Quiet Study. They even got to choose when they would have lunch.

Feedback from the students about Monster FLEX was overwhelmingly positive. Students got what they needed, at the time and in the amount that was perfect for them.

The Middle School faculty are pleased with the successes of both FLEX and Monster FLEX, and have already come up with a myriad of ways to make it even better. FLEX is a versatile, personalized program that will help our Middle School students become confident, agile, independent and collaborative – and great people.
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