Watson Lake Secondary School

Watson Lake Secondary School is located in Watson Lake, Yukon. Watson Lake has a population of approximately 1,200 residents and the school has a population of approximately 85 students in grade 8 to 12. As the principal of the high school, I found that the students complained about their lack of choices for courses. Academically motived students were not able to get the classes that they might have needed for university entrance to programmes that required prerequisite subjects such as physics, psychology, chemistry, French etc. Students that were not as academically inclined felt that they were not able to take classes that interested them, but instead were forced to take whatever courses were offered simply because they needed the credits to meet the requirements to graduate. In our old model, most of these students could not take electives they were interested in because many of the electives were timetabled next to a required course that they needed to complete grad requirements. Because of our staff numbers and small population I was unable to offer required courses more than once a school year. This lack of choice in course selection and the inherent control over students’ education that it entails contributed to a lack of student engagement in school. It also contributed to low attendance rates, with some students leaving our community to attend different schools to enrich their education.

The staff members were very motivated and interested in pursuing a different educational model to try to address some of concerns arising from these issues. We started discussion around a blended model for instruction that would allow the school to offer the required courses eight times during a school year. This would allow students to pick the electives

that they were interested in and then fill in their required courses. The blended learning model that we are using involves course content and resources being delivered on the Moodle platform, with a teacher in the classroom to provide direct student support, highlight key course concepts and provide lessons open to all grade areas on important subject specific skills.

There are two types of “dens”—similar to homerooms—in our School. The Humanities den offers English 10, English 11, English 12, Social Studies 10 and Social Studies 11. The Math/Science den offers Applications Work Math 10, Applications of Work Math 11, Foundations of Math 10, Math 11, Math 12 and Science 10. Students are required to attend each class at the time specified in the timetable. Once they are in class, working through course material is self-directed, with a teacher available to help them when they need it.

The course selection and the ability to work from anywhere are fostering a shift in our school culture. With students empowered by their direct input into course programming, they have become active participants in their own educational planning and are discovering a newfound relevance in their schoolwork. This new connection between personal areas of interest and educational programming has become one of the key factors driving the cultural shift within our school. We are slowly becoming able to offer the programming choices of a large urban high school, with the small class size and personal attention available in a small rural school context.