Alberni District Secondary School teacher

Alberni District Secondary School teacher

ADSS students learn by doing in social justice class

Two Alberni teachers believe project-based and community learning help students learn life skills that will stick with them for years

In her classroom at Alberni District Secondary School, Anne Ostwald’s homeroom appears welcoming with colourful artwork, students’ projects and inspirational quotes decorating the walls.

“There was a lot more stuff in here earlier but we just took all the murals to the Port Authority,” Ostwald said.

Ostwald, who teaches Comparative Civilization, Social Justice, Social Studies and Art Foundations at the high school, is devoted to incorporating project-based learning in all her classes.

“All of my classes do projects, every single one of them,” she said.

Ostwald is passionate about providing her students with hands-on and community-based learning opportunities that she said usually stick with a student for years to come.

“I think that the best learning and the stuff that you remember is the stuff that’s outside school,” Ostwald said. “Every kid remembers their project because it meant something, and because they impacted the community.”

Empowering youth to make a change in their community and supporting them along the way is a sort of mantra for Ostwald,whose students have a lot of freedom to come up with projects on their own.

In the past couple of years, students from Ostwald’s classes have spearheaded such projects as the plan to plant a piano at the Harbour Quay for public use, painted campsite number signs for China Creek Marina, came up with the new sound of a didgeridoo for Port Alberni’s tsunami warning siren and have approached city council about new bylaws against smoking in vehicles, amongst many others.

Ostwald gives students an opportunity to collaborate, consult and research with one another to come up with original projects, while she provides guidance and examples of previous projects to help generate inspiration for new ideas.

“We’re still getting through the curriculum,” she said. “When you give the kids an opportunity to learn to consult, to learn to work together, to find their strengths, magic happens.”

Another project that was spawned by student’s from Ostwald’s class last semester was the food guide for Port Alberni, Foodies Paradise.

“Students learned about small business advertising, public speaking and importance of being passionate in something to make the community better,” she said.

Of course roadblocks and difficulties can occur when tackling some projects that require a lot of involvement but Ostwald said such challenges are all part of the learning curve.

“How do you overcome them without letting them depress you? There’s more real life skills in a project than there is sitting and writing notes and writing tests,” she said.

Pointing to a favourite quote hanging above her whiteboard, Ostwald reads out loud; “we have a two-fold purpose; transform one’s own life and contribute to the transformation of society through service.”

“I think that’s what we’re all doing because I’ve got to change in order to change the world. If I can be more positive it will make a transformation,” she said.

Kama Money was one of seven founding teachers in B.C who helped pilot the Social Justice 12 program in the province and now teaches the Step UP (Skills Training Employment Program) at VAST. She believes students learn much better from their experiences working in the community and through project-based learning.

Step UP is to connect students with community agencies for training, volunteering, and further education.

Money originally taught Social Justice 12 at ADSS but “passed the torch” to Ostwald when she went on maternity leave.

“I lovingly hand-picked Anne Ostwald to lead [Social Justice 12] at ADSS and came to VAST,” Money said. “This is the first year we’ve had Social Justice at VAST and it’s going great.”

Social Justice 12 is an elective course that is currently being offered in some school districts in B.C. It was approved by the Ministry of Education in August 2008.

“It allows students to get academic school credit for learning about the things that affect their own lives – poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, globalization, and human rights,” Money said.

During the first half of her class, Money said the topics of human rights are introduced to students who then, in the second half of class, will come up with their own projects and take ownership of their learning.

“My job is just being a helper,” Money said.

“With the social action projects, our goal is not for [students] to fundraise ‘x’ amount of dollars, or raise a certain amount of awareness. Our goal is that when they are confronted with social injustice in the future, they will have the tools or the know-how to address it.”

 

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni’s McGiffin brothers revive Cubs baseball at 55-plus

The boys of summer are 55-plus now, but back on the baseball field

The intersection at 10th Avenue and Dunbar Street. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Safety improvements planned for Port Alberni intersection

10th Avenue and Dunbar Street is an “intersection of concern” based on incident data

Members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations conducted two checkpoints on Monday, May 10, asking people who enter the territory to respect the sacred principles and to act accordingly while on Huu-ay-aht land. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations set up checkpoints in territory

Access restrictions come after forestry incidents

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

BCREA economists also predict home prices to increase by 14.3%

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read