In most high schools students enjoy and keep busy with the extracurricular activities – soccer practice, jazz band, cross country running, the debate team, etc. – essentially filling their time outside of classes with interesting things. For many, high school is seen as having two parts: the curricular and the extracurricular. At The Element, the flexibility of the program, the guidance of faculty and the physical learning space allow students to pursue ‘extracurricular’ interests (art, music, debate, current events) as part of their academic work or as part of the flow of their day. The Element is about life, which includes academic learning but is so much more than just that.
The Urban Adventure Trip is an overnight trip that is planned and executed by the students at the beginning of the school year and takes them to a location outside of Ottawa. While also being a community building activity, the trip provides an opportunity to immerse the students in real world planning, teamwork and organizational skills. The students are given a budget and specific curriculum expectations. Each of the curriculum expectations must be met on the trip but how they are met is up to the students to determine and forms the itinerary for the trip. The students are responsible for planning all aspects of the trip including transportation, food and activities while remaining within budget. The e2 faculty accompany the students on the trip and are there to ensure the students’ safety but also create the space for the students to lead and problem solve through any challenges that arise.
Each Wednesday afternoon, students leave the school to take part in authentic activities in their community.
In grades 9 and 10, Authentic World of Learning (AWOL) placements are arranged by teachers and include activities such as community service work; visits to museums, galleries, or historic sites; taking part in Take Our Kids to Work Day; field work; or visits to post-secondary institutions. AWOL placements are related to students’ work in specific courses. They extend student learning by exposing them to real-world, complex problems and their solutions, and helping them to develop transferable skills.”
For Grade 11 students, their AWOL time is broken up into 3 sections and will provide them with the experience of planning and executing an international community service trip as well as financial literacy through fundraising and individual employment. The third component of the AWOL program will enable our students to do a placement at a local business of their choosing or a community service project that has personal meaning to them.
While AWOL in Grades 9 and 10 is done as a group, in Grade 11 our students have the opportunity to follow their individual interests for their placements.
With support from the The Element faculty, the students undertake a community service project or internship here in Ottawa, with the opportunity to pursue a project or experience that is personally meaningful and immerses them in the adult world.
The students are required to create a mandatory statement of experience at the end of the year about their AWOL experiences.