Each school year begins with an ‘odyssey’ trip, a trip that takes the class of Grades 7 and 8 away from the school onto the land for about nine days in such a way that students must rely on one another. Odyssey trips allow students to physically and mentally challenge themselves in a safe way as they bond together as a community rather than remaining separate grades.
Using the momentum of the Odyssey trip, the integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum is given over two years with all students studying the same humanities and science curriculum at the same time. The work of the older students is expected to be more sophisticated and of higher quality than that of the younger students. Sequential studies such as math and French as a Second language are taken at the level appropriate to each student.
The school year is divided into sessions of five to six weeks in length. Each session has a particular focus in the areas of the humanities and science, selected to be of interest to the students while incorporating curriculum requirements. Each session builds from personal experience, to research and exploration, and then to major projects, papers and presentations. Some work is done individually; some in groups. Each session provides opportunities for reflection on the accomplishments of that session and for goal setting for the next session. What is learned in one session about oneself and one’s ability to accomplish the tasks set out, can be applied to the new session. A student has several fresh starts each year.
There is time for students to share their accomplishments with peers and others. There is also time set aside for land experiences, work experiences, community service, visiting artists, outings, etc. A snapshot of the Odyssey program can be seen in the following Grade 8 student’s video:
Junior High (A student video about a typical day)