St. Stephen’s School allows students to explore optional “passions”

A St. Stephen teacher says a new self-interested learning program is improving student engagement.

The program allows students at St. Stephen’s Secondary School to use two, four or six elective courses to study a subject of their choice, said Scott Legge, who is also a technology teacher.

The student decides what outcome he is looking for and he, as a teacher, finds out from companies and post-secondary institutions what might help them in this direction, but the students “develop their own course”. As with other elective courses, this course is credited.

Several students have done weightlifting and physical training, one student got his pilot’s license last year, one works at a quilting company, another is in fashion design, and someone does photography.

A few students are studying computer coding and are already in a college-level curriculum, Legge said.

St. Stephen teacher Scott Legge’s passion is music. He traveled around the region to attend festivals and music events to provide students at his rural school with the opportunity to learn from professional artists, as well as practice their video production skills. (Scott Legge/Facebook)

Two students are working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on coding programs, “on tracking oil spills and things like that.” Another organizes and works on video footage of summer research expeditions.

Grade 12 student Emmett Leeson is studying 3D printing. He said it made school much more interesting for him than it was before.

“Apart from the math, there were really no problems to solve,” Leeson said. “It was a lot of teachers saying things, and then you were writing them down.”

“Whereas, 3D printing, we have people from the community coming to us saying, ‘Hey, I need something like this built. “”

Leeson designs it, prints it and makes the necessary adjustments.

A way to engage students

“I’m much more excited for school,” he said. “There’s a good hour where I know I can work on what I love.”

The program is “groundbreaking,” Legge said, and a way to combat student disengagement, which has become more common during the pandemic.

“When you have something that you enjoy, things become a lot easier,” he said.

Legge’s passion is music and he has traveled the region to attend music festivals and events to provide students at his rural school with the opportunity to learn from professional artists, as well as to showcase practice their video production skills.

Self-interest video production grade 11 students Evan McBride, holding a microphone, and Devon Strong, operating a camera on a tripod, along with Ben Ford, a fourth-year journalism student from St. Thomas University , covering Newfoundland Music Celebration Week a couple weeks ago. (Scott Legge/Facebook)

They film and cover events for a student newscast.

“It’s about providing opportunities,” he said.

“After school, it’s not so easy to pursue passions. Life has a way of starting earlier than expected.”

Leeson said he was able to develop skills that few kids his age had, which made him stand out from the crowd.

He recently visited the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design where he was recruited and pre-accepted. This gave him even more motivation to continue his studies, he said.

started small

Legge said he doesn’t know of any other school in the province doing exactly this, but the program is modeled after a similar program known as Idea Center.

It allows students to use electives to run a business.

He didn’t think there would be many students in his small town interested in running businesses, so he expanded the concept so they could pursue other passions as well.

It started slowly with a few kids doing robotics, and now it has 20 self-interest students over two periods.

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