In this installment of TeachOntario Talks, we are profiling and celebrating the work of Jonathan Gilchrist and his colleagues who embarked on a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) at St. Matthew Catholic Secondary School in the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. (CDSBEO)
At St. Matthew Catholic Secondary School, the TLLP project, “Board Away Boredom: Engaging students in cross-curricular learning through authentic learning tasks” supported student engagement and achievement by capitalizing on an interest in skateboarding. St. Matthew serves high school students who may feel disengaged from the traditional high school experience.
The opportunity to design and build a skateboard, while covering curriculum expectations including English, Math, Science and Phys-Ed, fostered an environment of engagement, interest and collaboration for the students and staff.
The team worked to capitalize on student interest in boarding by prioritizing the design thinking that is at the heart of skateboard design and construction.
“Every student in the school had an opportunity to design and build their own skateboard,” said Jonathan Gilchrist. The learning was experiential and offered the students opportunities to experience success by incorporating their interests into school subjects.
The success of this project was measured by how the students excelled both academically and through the development of global competencies such as problem-solving and collaboration. For many students, it was an opportunity to demonstrate skills and abilities they weren’t aware they possessed. The students developed a strong sense of identity through their involvement in the project and student leadership and mentorship flourished.
Jonathan Gilchrist describes the impact of the project on the staff: “We teach and educate in a much more collaborative manner.” Both the educators and the students were empowered by the learning that took place.
The project served to unify classes and subjects and helped build the school community. This groundbreaking project had ripples into the larger community and also connected the school to the neighbourhood. Citizens were curious about the program and the ways in which it engaged students. The sight of a gym class of teens skateboarding down the street made for great conversations between the educators and the community. St. Matthew is a changed placed because of this exciting and unique project.