School within a School - The Personalized Learning Environment

In September 2016, educators in 8 schools across Thames Valley launched various iterations of the School Within A School program, depicted as SCH(school)OOL. This flexible and integrated approach consists of no discrete and separate subjects and no periods - just learning.

Today, there are over 1,800 students at 27 different schools with 113 teachers participating in SCH(school)OOL, which promotes widespread collaboration, innovation and creativity in schools. “This is a way to put ideas into action and remove some of the restrictions of traditional school,” says Rick Pardo, Learning Coordinator, Culture of Innovation.

“Students are entering a world that is more competitive, technologically advanced, and globally connected than at any other time in history,” says Pardo. “And we know as educators that our schools and the way we teach must adapt.”

SCH(school)OOL’s goal is to have impactful community-connected experiences happening all day, every day.  Students are not expected to solve a problem crafted by teachers, but encouraged to look around a community, recognize concerns, and define their own problems based on needs. Rather than providing feedback on the answers, teachers provide frameworks for students to check their own learning and gauge the quality of their work. Credit and thanks are due to the many public and private organizations for engaging with students and teachers. The STEAM Centre in St. Thomas, the Greenhouse Academy in Thorndale , and Innovation Works in London are three of the program’s most welcoming, supportive and essential community collaborators.

While encouraging risk-taking the program remains ‘inside the box’ of curriculum standards.  Teachers are combining classrooms and integrating subjects as students problem-solve their way through a series of community based challenges. Students are still required to meet or exceed Ontario curriculum standards.

According to Pardo, it is hoped that the SCH(school)OOL program expands throughout the Valley. “Our goal is that by October 2020, we will see widespread collaboration, innovation and creativity in teaching and learning practices throughout our Board and that a SCH(school)OOL experience will be available in each of our 28 high schools. “

Last summer, the program was recognized with a Pillar Community Innovation Award. The Pillar Awards celebrate how individuals, organizations and enterprises are investing in positive community impact in the categories of Innovation, Leadership, Impact, Collaboration and Community Choice.

“The School Within A School family is honoured to be a finalist for the Pillar Community Innovation Awards,” states Pardo. “We are grateful that teachers, administrators and support staff are being recognized for their dedication, commitment and perseverance. We are truly fortunate to live and work in London and surrounding communities with so many high quality, passionate and committed organizations. Projects such as School Within A School cannot thrive without the support of our senior administration. Superintendent Paul McKenzie has been the driving force, champion and inspiration for this project. Director Laura Elliott has been a tireless leader and advocate for creating the conditions for us to be creative, take risks and become a learning organization that learns as we go."



School within a School is just one initiative to transform our secondary schools. Find out more what we are doing to Rethink Secondary

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