Seven Summits Centre for Learning
by Ida Koric
What is it?
The Seven Summits Centre for Learning provides an educational space for grade 8-12 students attending Self Design High, a B.C.-accredited school focussing on the individuality of the learner. B.C.-certified teachers (called “mentors” under SelfDesign) offer direct instruction, one-on-one help, and motivation and guidance as needed.
In addition to required core courses of the provincial curriculum, students can pursue anything from film studies, to street art, to psychology. Courses are available through on-line modules which give the students the option of following the path as it has been set. Alternatively, students can collaborate with their mentors to meet curricular outcomes in a way that best suits their needs, strengths and interests.
SelfDesign, an independent distributed learning school, receives approximatley one third the funding per student of what public schools do. SelfDesign uses this provincial funding to provide teacher-mentors, and the Seven Summits Centre for Learning charges a facilities fee to cover the costs of the building, furniture and equipment necessary for learning.
Who Runs It?
Originally inspired by the possibility of School District 20 closing or reconfiguring RSS, the Vision for Small Schools Society has been a presence in Rossland since 2001. The community saw a need to ensure viable K-12 education within Rossland and the VSS formed in the hopes of seeing this maintained in perpetuity. With the recent restructuring of RSS, the society pursued the creation of a campus which would be centred around the SelfDesign platform, but be modified to fit the preferences of the learners, their families, and the community.
The VSS now acts as a board for the SSLC, with seven volunteers who manage program and curriculum development, facility rentals, marketing, website design, admissions, pursuing charitable status and public relations. Robin Hethey, VSS member, speaks to why they have seen success thus far, “Our society is made up of dedicated volunteers – parents – who are passionate about this program and who take real interest in the educational opportunities in the community. Each volunteer works anywhere from five to thirty hours in a given week to continue to make this happen.”
Board members are currently in the process of undertaking both end-of-semester interviews with students and families registered in the program, and admission interviews with new applicants. End-of-semester interviews are intended to gain feedback from learners, about what worked and what didn’t in all aspects of the program, in order to build for the future. Admission interviews include an opportunity for interested parents to ask questions about the program, partake in a tour of the facility and discuss the learning goals of their child.
Jonny Coleshill is the humanities mentor at the Rossland campus, and works alongside two part-time science/math mentors to provide support. “Much of the learning is project-based,” Coleshill begins. “For the younger grades there is some directed instruction, but we will work within a topic and try to guide the students to find something that is of particular interest to them.”
Students also have the unique opportunity to earn school credit for achievements outside of the classroom. Those who are involved in sports, dance or martial arts, can earn PE credits for instance, while those in a local theatre company are able to earn credits toward drama. The SSCL is also committed to maximizing time outside of the classroom, with workshops and field trips led by local experts and community groups. So far this year, some of the off-campus events have included camping trips, yoga sessions, biathlon, mountain biking, and an Avalanche Safety Training course.
Part two next week.