I Can concept could spread from Comox Valley to other school districts

I Can has taken a firm hold in a number of Comox Valley schools — and it may expand to other districts next year.

GRADE 5 AND 6 École Puntledge Park students visit seniors at the Comox Valley Seniors Village as part of an I Can initiative. I Can has grown in Comox Valley schools this year with many students helping others through a wide variety of projects.

I Can has taken a firm hold in a number of Comox Valley schools — and it may expand to other districts next year.

École Puntledge Park teacher Doug David is one of the Comox Valley teachers who has been involved in the initiative since its beginning during the 2010/11 school year, and he is also one of the teachers who hopes it will grow even more than it already has.

“I’ve been talking about this with people in Port Alberni and Chemainus and Qualicum and that, and so there’s interest out there, it’s just a matter of finding a way in,” he says. “We’re trying to mindful of letting things kind of unfold with people’s curiosity…

“We want it to spread organically — grassroots.”

David and Huband Park’s vice principal Catherine Manson, who was also involved with I Can from the start, presented on the initiative to the Comox Valley Board of Education a couple of weeks ago, noting its history the possibility of its further growth.

I Can started as a cross-district partnership during the previous school year; a group of teachers wanted to see if implementing regular inquiry-based learning projects, with a cross-school celebration at the end of year, would increase student engagement and motivate students to be self-directed learners.

During collaboration, the group watched a TED talk by Kiran Bir Sethi about a movement she started with students in India called I Can — which is designed to show students they have the power to create a better world through action. When the group of Comox Valley teachers saw how in line it was with what they were trying to do, they quickly embraced it.

Started with just six or seven classes throughout the school district last year, the initiative grew this year to spread into whole school initiatives at Aspen, Queneesh, Huband and Puntledge this year.

Students completed a variety of I Can projects like taking food to the food bank, visiting seniors, organizing play events with younger children and raising money for numerous causes and charities, among other things.

David then contacted Sethi, and after e-mail conversations about what’s going on in Comox Valley schools, Sethi told him she’s interested in the Comox Valley School District becoming a global partner with her organization Design for Change, which promotes a global movement around the idea of I Can.

David notes I Can leaders in the Comox Valley are still trying to figure out what that relationship may look like, but to him, it means bringing global awareness to Comox Valley students.

“Like being able to recognize that you’re a part of something bigger than the Comox Valley, that kids on the other side of the planet are thinking the same way, and trying to wrap their heads around real world problems,” he explains.

Trustees and district staff responded warmly to the presentation, and superintendent Sherry Elwood offered support as the initiative grows.

“We went there just to share our stories and left there feeling really pumped,” recalls David.

An I Can showcase is scheduled near the end of May at Queneesh school, which is designed for students to show what projects they’ve done, meet students from other schools and see what other kids have done.

As well, David, Manson and other district representatives will attend a project-based learning conference in Napa, Calif., in June where Sethi will be a keynote speaker.

David notes the initiative seems to have made a big impact on kids regarding what they do for others and themselves.

“It started out as a social responsibility kind of thing, and then I think that’s a big anchor in all this, but it’s also about — you can’t be socially responsible without being personally responsible,” he says. “And then the other bit is the academic piece — we want the kids to feel that their lives have meaning and purpose and that part of that is looking after yourself and looking after others.”

For more information on DFC, visit www.dfcworld.com.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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