Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elements of Curriculum

Elements of curriculum are more than what the BC Ministry of Education tells us they are.  This is from the ministry's website:

"The Ministry of Education sets the education standards for students in grades K to 12 through the provincial curriculum. These standards are called Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs). PLOs outline the expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade and within each subject area."

(BC Ministry of Education)

From the time I became a teacher and for much of my career this was how I saw curriculum too. It was the skills and content of the subjects I taught as outlined by the ministry.  As I grew as a teacher I began to see it as more than that. It included everything that happens in the school.  From the sports and arts activities that happen outside of school hours to the interactions in the hallway.  All these experiences are influences that shape children's view of the world and their place in it.    

This past summer I participated in a school activity that expanded my definition of curriculum further.  I have a summer job running a camp for schools from abroad.  We had a two week camp with 21 high school students from a school in Japan who were billeted with families in the community and received ESL instruction as well as sports, gardening, art and First Nations culture lessons at the school.  The school in Japan wanted interaction with Canadian students, but as it was summer vacation that was not so easy to do.  But they were paying, so I used some of that money to hire five students from my Japanese program who are going with me on a study tour of Japan next spring break. It was a good match.  The students I hired are energetic and motivated to earn money for their trip and to interact with Japanese people.

We also connected with a group in our town that is teaching sustainable gardening techniques in our community and has reached out to the school to start a garden here.  This group got a grant to hire a very capable Vancouver Island University student, Madeliene Dwyer,  who set up the garden on an unused piece of land behind our gym.  Using some of the money the Japanese school paid us, Madeliene bought top soil, seeds and a few other supplies.  Over two mornings our Japanese and Canadian students learned how to make a lasagna garden ( a layered garden) and planted it with vegetables common to Japan.  My Canadian students will maintain this garden and will make some Japanese dishes with it later in the fall.  We are documenting this with a web page on my class site that the students from Japan have access to and will show our dishes and our meal when it is made.

So my definition and understanding of curriculum has expanded.  It now includes interaction with the local community of my town and even a community far off in Japan.  Teaching and education always have been more than just what happens in the classroom.

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