Work is play and play is work
If you’re inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s moving TED talk on the need for an education system that nurtures creativity, you’ll feel at home here.
Pacific Spirit School’s programs are largely play-based in the early years, with increased academic emphasis in the intermediate and high school age groupings using project and inquiry-based approaches. What makes us different is our unwavering dedication to promoting the development of children as whole people, with equal importance placed on emotional, social, physical, and academic learning.
We only get one childhood, and our children spend most of theirs in school. Our promise is to make the best use of those precious hours, days and years. We want children to learn that work is play and play is work, and that school is a vibrant and welcoming place for both.
“Erin, mother of Calder (grade 5), Beckham (grade 3) and Keats (kindergarten)
If I could go back in time, this is the school I would have wanted to go to myself. My kids love it here so much, they actually wish it continued over the weekends! The teachers take the time to tell you about the cool stuff your child did that day. My older son is very sensitive and this school allows him to have his feelings and work through them in a supportive environment.
Our programs feature:
Each student gets noticed.
Our classes are capped at 20 students and each class has a minimum of one teacher and one classroom assistant or learning specialist. This high adult-to-student ratio allows educators to regularly break students into small groups appropriate to their developmental level, learning style, and/or interests, and provides each student with more time and attention.
Children construct their most important learning through play.
Our K-1 class is play-based with a mix of free play, such as inventing a new game on the playground, as well as structured play, such as building paper airplanes to learn about gravity. In the other grades, we continue to integrate play into each day, and we increase our focus on a student-centered, active learning approach grounded in questioning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. This active exploration approach covers the BC curriculum while resulting in deeper understanding, better retention of knowledge acquired, and collaborative, independent thinking and problem-solving skills so critically needed in our fast-changing world.
Develops leadership and social skills.
In our multi-age groupings of two grades in each class, children stay with the same educator for two years, enabling richer relationships and a deeper dive into educational content. Children learn from each other, and older students integrate their learning by teaching. Multi-age classrooms foster leadership skills and decrease bullying. Since the developmental stage of each child is considered as well as their age, children have more time to blossom, without performance pressure.
To watch a child engaged in the arts is to see their brain turned on.
When a child experiments in the arts, they develop motivation and confidence, and they expand their creative and dynamic ways of thinking. We are dedicated to making the arts a daily part of each child’s education. Classes are taught by talented specialists in each area and include dance, choir, visual arts and drama.
If a school can have a heartbeat, this is ours.
We integrate social and emotional learning in all our programming, from academics and arts, to gym and free play outside, because we know that these skills are major predictors of future life happiness and success. We are committed to nurturing in each child:
Self-awareness: developing a deep understanding of who they are, recognizing and naming their feelings and accurately assessing their strengths and limitations
Self-management: regulating emotions, managing stress, motivating themselves, and setting and working toward achieving goals
Social awareness: showing empathy, taking others' perspectives, and finding appropriate support when needed
Relationship skills: clear communication, accurate listening, cooperation, nonviolent and constructive conflict resolution, knowing when and how to be a good team player and a leader, and the capacity to make meaningful connections with others based in compassion and respect
Responsible decision making: making ethical choices based on consideration of feelings, goals, alternatives, outcomes and their own ideals, and planning and enacting solutions with potential obstacles anticipated
I can't do it...yet.
We encourage children to persist through challenges by teaching a “growth mindset,” which helps children see mistakes as opportunities that help them learn. We’ve been inspired by Carol Dweck’s game-changing research in this field that shows that our children’s relationship with success and failure in school at an early age – and their unwavering belief in their ability to learn – is a strong predictor of their ultimate capacity for happiness and success.
Extended periods of outside play are an important part of children's education, not a break from it.
The doors to our school open onto an expanse of rolling grass hills, ancient trees and a nature-inspired playground, and is walking distance to Jericho Beach. We take advantage of our beautiful natural environment by giving children several outdoor breaks during the day that add up to over 90 minutes, rain or shine, to digest what they’re learning, use their muscles, stretch their legs, get some fresh air and let out the “wiggles.” As countless neurological studies show, as well as the highly-documented success of Finland's frequent recess model, children need to be physically active in order to learn. Focus, self-regulation, and active, engaged brains are supported by frequent movement. Simply put, children need to be physically active in order to learn.
We work in partnership with parents.
We have been inspired and influenced by Gordon Neufeld’s work in this field. We welcome parents to participate in the classroom until the child feels ready to be on their own. As educators, we also strive to attach deeply with each child. We greet and welcome each student with warmth and a smile. Throughout the day, we find ways to let each student know we care about them. We focus on the child’s needs and personal development, not on behaviour and performance. We know how to support a child’s interests, curiosity and natural desire to learn, and do not motivate through competition or prizes. We believe in our students and we see the goodness in them.
Our school week runs from 9AM to 4PM, Monday to Thursday.
Our community loves having Fridays off and many use the extra day to bond as a family and for activities such as exploring a museum, hiking or travelling. Some working parents rotate playdates, which provides their children with rich opportunities for relationship building outside of school. Teachers and students come back at the start of the week refreshed and focused.
There is no evidence to demonstrate that homework benefits students below high school age.
Parents would rather their children spend time after school playing outside, going to soccer practice, making cookies, inventing comic book heroes, reading, decompressing, or just spending quality time with their family. For parents who are nervous that their children might be falling behind without homework, we point to the results of Finnish students – who receive no homework – and their consistent academic outscoring of even the highest-performing nations whose students complete hours of homework each night.
Leading the trend in a better way to assess learning.
Many school districts in BC have already moved away from grading and tests as part of a growing belief among educators that letter grades don’t capture the competencies and characteristics that students need to succeed in work and lead fulfilling lives. We have been leading this movement for over 20 years. With our high educator to student ratio, our educators are able to assess students one-on-one throughout the year, give ongoing feedback and adjust each child's individual program to meet their needs in terms of time, complexity or concept mastery. Our world has moved beyond simply memorizing facts and taking tests, and needs young adults who have the creative capacity, skills and tenacity to solve challenging puzzles.
We adapt our teaching to the unique learning styles of each child.
Children learn, develop, and perceive the world in different ways, and we believe they should be supported accordingly. We carefully observe and assess each child's individual interests and needs, then use this information to guide our teaching. We know that learning works best when driven by children's interests, so we adapt our teaching to the learning styles of each child.
Our classes are thriving models of teamwork.
We cultivate children’s innate drive for collaboration so they learn to compete not against each other, but against the world’s most pressing problems. In the working world today, even the most high-powered CEOs are acknowledging that their best individual efforts can’t stack up against today’s complex and interconnected challenges. They are putting aside self-interests and collaborating with rival companies. It’s called “collective impact,” and it’s a growing trend that we foster in our classrooms every day.
“Samantha, mother of Bookey (grade 2)
I think of Pacific Spirit School like a runway — the more he can get of this education, the stronger his lift-off, the greater the influence on his future. Any school can teach the provincial curriculum; what makes PSS so special is that my son is truly happy, intellectually stimulated, creatively fulfilled, emotionally supported and has a deep love of learning.