New Bedford high school to offer first-of-its-kind learning model for Nova Scotia – Halifax

A new high school opening this fall will feature a first-of-its-kind learning model for Nova Scotia, by offering students self-directed learning.

The yet-to-be-named school on Broad Street in Bedford, a suburban community in Halifax, will give students more authority over how they complete their curriculum.

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Tyler Schmeisser will be heading to Grade 10 at the new school September, and is looking forward to focusing more on math.

“If I was maybe behind on a subject and ahead on another, I could take more time on the subject I was behind in rather than having to do something I’m way ahead on,” he said.

The school’s principal, Sean MacDonald, has been researching self-directed learning for two years by visiting schools in Ontario and British Columbia.

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Sean MacDonald, the principal of the new high school on Broad Street in Bedford, has been researching self-directed learning for the past two years.

Callum Smith/Global News

He said it’s a chance to “do something different” in Nova Scotia. Students will have two-thirds of their time at school as “set class time,” while another third of their time will be open for them to “determine what they need to work on.”

“Their teachers also have flexible time, which means that their teachers are available to them if they need them,” MacDonald said.

Students will start out working with a teacher adviser, who will help them map out their day when outside the classroom.

MacDonald said the challenge will be to ensure procrastination doesn’t get in the way, which is why the role of the teacher advisor is so vital.

“They’ll follow a group of students for the three years that they’re there,” he said.

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“They’ll become the main point of contact for their students in terms of navigating what they need, maybe kind of advocating for them with teachers in terms of stuff they need. And then also the main contact between home and school.”

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MacDonald acknowledged the first couple years would not be “perfect,” but said potential success would likely play a role in determining if the model was expanded to other schools.

The two Broad Street schools came after years of planning amid exponential growth in the area. The high school, as well as a pre-primary to Grade 8 school, will open this September.

Boundary lines for the schools were finalized after a two-month long virtual town hall. Both the proposed boundaries and the final ones sparked frustration among some parents who were included and excluded.

All Grade 9 students currently attending Rocky Lake Junior High and Madeline Symonds Middle School will get to choose which high school they would like to attend for the next school year — either Broad Street School or Charles P. Allen High School.

For Tyler, the choice to go to Broad Street was obvious.

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“Right away, it caught my ear and I just thought it would be a different way to learn and it could be kind of cool to have a choice of what to do,” he said.

His father, Kyle, hopes the new school model will be a good fit.

“Hopefully (he’ll) really gain the skills that he needs to be able to have success at the next stage, whether it be a community college or university or whatever he decides,” he said.

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