The Alternative Elementary Program is based on a concept of student-centered learning and this philosophy translates into all aspects of a student’s experience at school. The program provides students opportunities to meet Ministry expectations with flexibility to allow greater concentration in areas of their own interest and aptitudes.
The Alternative Philosophy
While the following characteristics are found in many of the programs at the elementary level across the District, collectively they form the foundation of the alternative education philosophy:
Download the 7 tenets Elementary Alternative Program Poster
- Cooperation and teamwork are emphasized instead of competition in all aspects of the school. The core belief is that children who are motivated from within, instead of by rewards, will become lifelong learners, eager to take on challenges. Look for: Everyone’s contribution is valued, no awards or prizes given. We run an Alternative Sports program where sportsmanship is the focus. Students strive to achieve a personal best, rather than a team score, and the role of the referee and coach are to reinforce the building of skills rather than the compliance with rules.
- A commitment to innovative approaches to teaching and learning through a shared responsibility among staff, students, and parents. Look for: Community projects, unique and creative units of study, outdoor classrooms and other non-traditional learning environments, mixed age group project-based learning. At Churchill Alternative, we begin our day with school-wide physical activity in order to build community, and to prime our students for learning. Classes take turns leading “Dancemania” or our school run. Other approaches include Genius Hour projects, mindfulness in the classroom, inquiry-based learning, Cardboard Challenge, the integration of technology, Forest School / Nearby Nature / outdoor classroom, and community partnerships to enhance student learning.
- A balance between student-directed and teacher directed learning: the teacher acts as a facilitator / mentor / guide of the child’s learning; enhances self-concept, enthusiasm for learning, and personal responsibility. Look for: Classroom arrangements that foster collaboration (groups of students working together).
- Multi-aged groupings: interaction among children of different ages and at different stages of development provides an environment wherein students learn from each other as well as from the teacher. Look for: Intentional use of mix-grade classrooms where possible, inter-class collaboration on projects, buddies, mentoring and student leadership. At Churchill Alternative, we run a regular Tree Family program. For a block of time each week, students from a mix of grades 1-6 gather in their groups to participate in activities with staff mentors around character education, literacy, and environmental issues. Classes of various grades are in each hallway to further support the mixing of grades, and cross-age connections.
- Integrated curriculum: this provides a natural progression from whole to parts and stresses the interrelation of all learning and subjects. Look for: Interconnectedness amongst subjects, taught in context.
- A family & community-centered school environment wherein parental involvement is essential for the partnership between the home and school, which in turn fosters self-respect, respect for the ideas and the opinions of others, and an appreciation for people’s differences. Look for: Collaboration with parents and community members.
- Assessment and evaluation is on-going using multiple strategies which include student self-evaluations and student led conferences. The primary focus of this process is personal growth, as well as being used as a tool for program planning and assessment, student goal setting, growth & assessment. Look for: Portfolio creation, anecdotal reports, acknowledgment of individual learning styles in reference to assessment, reduced emphasis on grades and traditional tests. At Churchill Alternative, we focus on the story of your child’s learning. Report cards do not contain letter grades so that the focus is on the process of student learning. Every year the students run Student-Led Conferences as a way to demonstrate their learning journey.