|What are the unique, positive characteristics of our school?
Lake Cowichan School (LCS) is located on the traditional, unceded lands of the Ts’uubaa-asax people and we are grateful to work, learn, and play on this beautiful land. Cowichan Lake also known as Kaatza, meaning “The Lake” is a small community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The community of Lake Cowichan is home to the Ts’uubaa-asatx Nation (with roots to the Dididaht group of tribes).
Our school is situated in a small multi-generational lakeside community. This idyllic community is in the town of Lake Cowichan, surrounded by the beautiful heritage of the Cowichan River flowing through the center of town. We have many students that come to us from other communities that comprise the Cowichan Lake community. These communities include Youbou, Honeymoon Bay, Mesachie Lake, and Caycuse.
In a smaller school community, students have more opportunities to receive personalized attention from their teachers and other school staff. This allows more opportunities to create stronger relationships and more individualized support for academic and personal needs. We are a diverse and inclusive school with a community feel that welcomes all.
Having a small population of students in the grade 10-12 grad program, we are still able to offer a vast array of electives and academic courses. We have students graduate from Lake Cowichan School each year, prepared for further learning in Trades, Sciences, Arts, Athletics, Languages, Computer Studies, and much more.
Active involvement with the community: We are actively involved with the local community. Staff provide students with opportunities to develop civic responsibility and leadership skills, as well as create partnerships that benefit both the school and the community. Throughout the year, students engage in community partnerships with local businesses and community organizations. We work closely with our community partners to create positive relationships and a safe culture.
Supportive resources/dedicated and knowledgeable staff: Our school provides resources such as counseling services, peer tutoring, and academic support which can help students overcome challenges and achieve success. Our staff is comprised of Educators, Educational Assistants, and Support Workers who are passionate about teaching and develop strong connections to inspire students to learn and achieve their goals
Overall, a small community feel in a school can offer many benefits that can contribute to a positive and supportive learning environment for students. Local community teams support our students by coming into our school to promote literacy through reading, as well as hockey skill development and mentorship.
Community members provide students opportunities to work at local businesses, Cowichan Community Services supports students and families in the school, scholarships and grants are provided year after year from small town businesses, and small community organizations and community members readily contribute funds towards school fundraisers. As such, there is a greater sense of accountability among students, faculty, and staff. This helps to promote positive behavior, academic achievement, and a culture of respect and responsibility.
Our school is a mecca for students to dive deeper into a variety of learning in exploratory electives such as: cooking/baking, gardening, guitar, rock climbing, theatre, volleyball skill PE classes, art, pottery, woodwork, hockey, curling, skating, bowling as well as outdoor learning in the nearby trails and parks. We truly do live in paradise; surrounded by both water and wilderness. The staff at Lake Cowichan School embrace their passions which positively impact so many of our children. As learners themselves, our staff model and create inclusive learning environments that encompass the whole child. It is evident through inquiry-based learning that students are gaining a deeper understanding of the core and curricular competencies which peaks their learning interests thus creating lifelong learners.
What are the important demographics of our school and community?
Lake Cowichan School is home to approximately 375 students in grades 4-12. We have a unique school campus which will consist of 8 elementary divisions from grades 4-7 upstairs for the 2023-2024 school year. Downstairs is home to our grade 8-12 secondary students. Our school site also houses a satellite campus for students enrolled at Cowichan Valley Open Learning as well as a home to our local Strong Start program.
Students primarily arrive to school by bus, some students are dropped off by vehicle and others walk as many families live near the school area. Our population is diverse with 13% of our learners comprising a Ministry of Education designation, and 22% of our learners self-identify as Indigenous. Many of our Indigenous students are of Metis heritage.
What do we celebrate?
We celebrate student learning and embrace a culture of care. Our learners are provided with a variety of opportunities to celebrate their learning ranging from the Young Entrepreneur program, STEM challenges to the salmon enhancement program. Students also participate in the following activities and teams: track and field, cross country (events often coordinated with the Palsson K-3 Elementary School), chess club, volleyball, hockey, basketball, badminton, soccer, rugby and climbing. Lake Cowichan School students run both a leadership class as well as a SOGI tea club for students. In December, the school provides a winter luncheon which is not possible without the monetary support and volunteers from the community. The school also supports many of the local community ambassador programs such as Cowichan Lake Ambassador Program, Stream and Forest keepers, Trail Blazers and other water basin initiatives. At the end of every year, our grade 12 graduating students are celebrated for all their achievements in a school grad ceremony, district scholarship ceremony, community scholarship night, capstone projects, health fair presentations and the Indigenous grad ceremony. Each year our social justice class provides students an opportunity to engage in local projects that help support members in the community and contribute towards creating a safe and positive learning environment within the school. A project that is still very alive in our school is the yearbook. Students work diligently throughout the year capturing all the events and faces of the students in our school. We celebrate the success of the school year with the memories created for the annual yearbook. In September and June, we celebrate all Indigenous Peoples, and we participate in activities to deepen our understanding of the local and national Indigenous cultures in our country.
We have a weekly Laker Card draw on Fridays to win donuts. This has been an ongoing tradition for years. Students actively seek opportunities to demonstrate leadership, responsibility, kindness, being safe, showing pride in their school, determination, cooperation with others and overall making our school a better place to be. This positive reinforcement helps to build empathy within a community of young learners.
|What are the strengths and stretches we see in our learners?
Strengths – independent learning and self-managers of time, good self-advocacy, strong relationships with the adults in the building and strong connections to the community.
The grade configuration allows staff and students to spend nine years learning and growing together. In this time, the sense of community and “family” is fostered like no other school in the district. We foster the growth of our students by assisting them with basic literacy and numeracy skills as well as developing resiliency and fortitude. This provides students with the ability to maintain a strong network of support and connection to the staff in the school that can exist over the years.
Stretches –socio-economic disparities, transportation challenges due to geographical hinderances, access to municipal services such as health care, mental health, and economic supports. The school has become the hub of the community and as a result often we are stretched to meet all the needs of our learners, as well as our families. This has become vividly apparent over the past three years as we are all still recovering from a world pandemic.
What evidence do we have of these strengths and stretches? Please include both map (school level) and street level (student voice) data.
We have incorporated LET (Learning Extension Time) blocks (2 days a week at 45mins) into our secondary timetable to provide students more opportunities to work collaboratively with peers, teachers and support staff. The key elements to an effective learning extension environment allow for opportunities to be social, inclusive, learner-centered and personalized. The foundation of student success lies in establishing a sense of connection, safety, and openness, enabling them to confidently seek support from the adults within the school.
Map Level Data: Elementary & Secondary Student Survey
According to the data collected from our SEL (social emotional learning) student survey, over 67% of our elementary students and 60% of our secondary students said they have a go-to person or a trusted adult that they can approach when they are struggling at school.
Elementary Student Data based on 146 students
Secondary Student Data based on 117 students
This data has shown a significant number of elementary students facing challenges in the areas of reading and writing.
We also offered secondary students various avenues to address the challenges they may encounter, both within the school and in environments affecting their work-life balance. According to the collected data, reading and writing emerged as the primary concern.
Reading and writing is an area that we need to continue to support students so that they feel successful and become more fluent readers. Through the use of PLC time, our staff were tasked with reflecting on the data that was received by students. Staff collaborated on ways to better support our learners and create goals that will be measurable and attainable at an entry point with equal access for all. By doing so, we will need to develop a strong understanding of teaching skills rather than just content in order to meet learning expectations.
Street Level Data: Informal Student Conversation with LCS Mental Health Team & Admin
Students were asked the following questions via a sampling of classrooms led through a questioning exercise, as well as individual one-on-one interviews:
What are your favourite things about school?
What aspects of school do you feel should be improved?
What can your teachers do to help you learn better?
What do you feel is the role of school in your life?
What do you believe our school goals should be for 2022-23?
Our learners have identified that they feel the primary role of school is to prepare them for their future years beyond graduation and to meet people and socialize.
The data identified students’ favourite things about our school. The items that were indicated most frequently were their time with friends and their positive relationships and learning with teachers. Students also highlighted participation in athletics, clubs, and elective courses.
Our staff identified strengths for many of our learners as:
- Arts, Athletics (Volleyball), and Academics
Data collected from students identified a desire from students to see more varied instructional delivery models and assessment practices. The ability for the school to offer more elective-type courses (Metal Shop, Outdoor Education, Robotics) and more variety in clubs that occur during the school day and after.
Our staff identified stretches for many of our learners as:
- Time management
- Ability to avoid distractions (particularly cell phone use)
- Commitment to using every opportunity for learning
- Literacy is a struggle for many
As a school community, we
- Mental Health Literacy: Recognizing and advocating for the mental health and wellness of Students, Staff & Families
- Improve Literacy: support students’ development through the knowledge and skills necessary for effective communication, critical thinking, and lifelong learning.
- Improve Numeracy: Enhance students’ knowledge of number sense and improve problem-solving and reasoning skills.
|Based on the needs in our school and the District’s Strategic FESL plan, what priorities will we focus on to enhance success for our learners?
Our priority is to improve the overall mental health of students and staff so that we can begin to impact literacy and numeracy rates across the grade levels at LCS.
How will we support the emergence, development and spread of innovative and equitable practice? What actions/strategies will we take/use to support our goals?
We have applied symmetrical modeling with our community connections to support the overall mental health of students. We also have an active mental health team that is working with staff, students, and PAC members to seek out ways to better support our entire community.
How will we know if what we are doing is making a difference? What evidence of learning will we collect to check the progress of our goals? How will we collect that evidence?
- Student Learning Survey data
- School counselling referrals
- Outside agency referrals
- Number of R/H designations
- Direct instruction/reinforcement of self-regulation strategies utilized by students
- Increased self-regulation by students within the classroom
- School Based Team referrals
- Learning Initiatives/Assessments/ Data Fall vs Spring
|Our story is beyond . . .
It was essential to include students, staff and families in the process of identifying and implementing improvements to enrich the learning experiences at LCS for all students. Student expectations need to be communicated clearly at the beginning of each year in order to support a community of trust and understanding within the school.
We know that student learning experiences thrive from personalization. We need to create more personalized learning experiences such as inquiry-based learning, and land-based learning which should be tailored to individual student needs, strengths and interests. Collaboration and communication in all learning environments should foster teamwork, and problem-solving skills. In addition, the integration of technology can support and enhance student learning to provide interactive and current resources to our students.
Staff will also need to continue to explore ways to increase student engagement through active learning strategies, project-based learning, and meaningful assessments. Relevant and real-world connections engage classroom learning and help students seek future career opportunities.
Even though we have a strong sense of school community, we recognize that we need to support students to become more empathic, resilient and resourceful human beings. With our goals in mind, we know that we need to weave inclusive strategies to promote positive, compassionate individuals who feel safe at school. When students feel safe and have a trusted adult to turn to for support, it creates an environment conducive to learning essential skills such as literacy and numeracy.
Laker Pride and Laker Honour