Can you imagine a school where wandering outside and looking at trees is built into the day? Bethany Beaudry can.
“We’re going to go outside and we’re going to explore trees. We’re going to look at trees, we’re going to climb trees, we’re going to touch trees, we’re maybe going to sketch trees,” says Beaudry.
From there, she sees where the students take it. A student may notice an ant, which could spark a discussion about how other living creatures use trees. Suddenly, students are learn- ing that trees aren’t just fun to climb, trees are homes.
This is something she did with children in her Grade 3 public school class. Since then, she’s resigned to create a school that it based around ex- periences like this. The school is called Inspired Explorations Learning.
Another feature of the school—which will have a one-to-10, teacher-to-student ratio—is it will allow students to choose to sit out on activi- ties.
“We often think we know best for children, or more. But, they know. The thing is, we’re taking away their inner under- standing of who they are, what they enjoy, what they like,” says Beaudry. “There are a lot of kids who say, ‘I don’t see the value in basketball, I don’t want to do that.’ Yet, they’re forced to do that because they’re forced to conform,” says Beaudry.
At Inspired Explorations Learning, the teacher will have a discussion with the student about why they don’t want to participate, but they won’t be forced to.
“We’re a holistic-based school that basically allows children’s interests and pas- sions to be the core of the curriculum,” says Beaudry. The school will provide experiences for children that peak their specific interests, but that also introduce them to new things.
“My job is to look at that ex- perience and say, ‘OK, so what in the LA did we hit? What kind of outcomes are we looking at in the curriculum? What did we meet in math? What did we meet in science? And within the experience, really listening to children and what they’re say- ing about their experiences.”
This is instead of having worksheets and separating the subjects.
Parents who submit an application will go through an informal interview process to make sure that parents are on the same page as staff. Part of this is to ensure that the school is a safe space for everyone, including the GLBT* students and parents.
“For me, I’m looking for- ward to being comfortable as
a teacher to be out with my children, to my students,” says Beaudry. In the past, she’s been concerned about parents seeing photos of her with her partner and being upset.
“We’re a holistic-based school that basically allows children’s interests and passions to be the core of the curriculum.”
The students will also be allowed to be who they are. Beaudry says students’ pronouns of choice will be re- spected. “It’s about embracing all families,” says Beaudry. She plans to have discussions about pronouns and transgender peo- ple, and have gender-neutral washrooms available. “Kids are going to be honoured for who they are,” says Beaudry.
The Inspired Explorations Learning school is not yet open and a location has not been confirmed. Beaudry is looking for a central venue where 17 students between kindergar- ten and Grade 3 can kick off the
first school year in September 2016.
As a private school, tuition will be charged, but Beaudry wants the school to be open to people from all economic backgrounds, so fundraisers are being held to raise money to help support students from families who can’t afford the $6,000 fee.
More information and details about fundraising ini- tiatives are available at www.inspiredexplorationslearning.com
–Meg Crane is the online editor for Outwords and the founding editor of Cockroach.