The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry is an alternative school here in Victoria, BC and wow is it ever different than your traditional public school! This school is all about personalized, self-regulated learning where the students have the autonomy to delve into their own interdisciplinary inquiry projects. Their inquiry projects do cover topics from the BC curriculum and also have them meeting or even exceeding BC graduation requirements.
From the moment you walk in, the structure of the school is visibly quite different than what you might expect walking into a high school. Students sit wherever suits them and you can see them either working individually or collaboratively all over the room. They have a schedule right at the front showing how their day is organized with some interesting topics.
Wondering how these areas of study are chosen, we were told about the school’s Quest Board where students will post topics of interest and other students can comment on the topics posted expressing their interest in also inquiring into that subject. Sometimes the school will be able to bring in a specialist who can work with the interested students and other times, the students will make a connection and spend some time off-site to do their learning. Who could have imagined real-world learning benefitting secondary students?
After our tour of the school, we were invited to asked questions and wander around to check out what the students were working on. They were very gracious in how they answered our questions, telling us they’re quite used to it with lots of visitors coming in to see how their system works. All of the students had nothing but good things to say about the structure of the program, especially compared to the traditional public school model. They felt more in control of their learning and enjoyed engaging with topics that are relevant to their interests to meet the requirements of the BC curriculum. Most students explained that it was hard to get used to figuring out where to start and then where to go with their inquiries, but with some practice and perseverance they are now able to thrive in an environment where they can set a pace that works for each of them.