Our classrooms and schools are increasingly diverse and educators are often left wondering how to best accommodate individual student needs. The team at Drumheller Valley Secondary School (DVSS) saw a diverse group of students as an opportunity, and students thrived as a result.
This year, Drumheller Valley Secondary School welcomed a new group of students into their Strive program, a specialized program designed to support students with a variety of learning needs. With each new group of students, the team at DVSS aims to achieve two goals: to provide individualized programming to meet the unique needs of each student, and to simultaneously allow each student to thrive as an integral member of the school’s community. Over the span of the year, the DVSS team watched as each student engaged possibilities and embraced their own potential through deep understanding.
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
To ensure students successfully transitioned from elementary school, each team member at DVSS brought in their own expertise to brainstorm, collaborate and seek out the support of experts to optimize the Strive program.
Early in the spring, a team of administrators, teachers, and educational consultants met to discuss possibilities. They created timetables and started creating opportunities for the students to visit and to feel connected to their new environment. Administrators, teachers, educational assistants and the librarian all played a role in building the school culture. Instructional Coaches and outside experts facilitated new ideas and strategies in order to best support students. A clear key to success was daily collaboration between their educational assistants and teachers in determining next steps. In addition, they connected with parents through a daily agenda, parent teacher interviews and phone calls home. The parents were an essential part of the team.
Creating Connectedness Between All Learners
Teachers noticed that some of the students enrolled in the Strive program were not truly connected to other students in the building. The team had to devise creative and intentional strategies to engage students with their peers in meaningful ways. To do so, Strive students were integrated into classes, and linked to specific students through peer teaching.
DVSS is committed to connecting students with the community. Students have taken part in various field trips to the Tyrrell Museum and to the Fossil World Discovery Centre, where they had an opportunity to practice life skills in authentic contexts and to connect with local community members.
Authentic Tasks Lead to Student Engagement
Students were engaged in hands-on learning which helped to support their academic success and prepare them with skills they would need in their everyday lives. Instructional coach support enabled the team to effectively utilize technology to enhance these skills.
The collective efforts of the interdisciplinary team paid off. Not only did students increase their understanding of the curriculum, but they also thrived from the opportunity to connect to learning in a meaningful way.