Next fall—from Elementary Cycle Three on—Québec schools will introduce 5 to 10 hours of compulsory GOAL content. To pave the way, 28 pilot schools are now sharing strategies for integrating this content naturally into the curriculum. Teachers at Cedar Street and Mary Gardner Schools explain why they chose to be involved.
Cedar Street Elementary School in Beloeil is no stranger to the Guidance-Oriented Approach to Learning. Last June, in the article Teachers ask students: “Is war a game?” The GOAL Post reported how this school paired students with an artist and local veterans to explore how concepts of peace and war relate to their lives today. Following on that success, this year’s Cycle Three teachers, Christine Le Boeuf (grade 5), Janet Rimonti (grade 6) and Marie Labrecque (French language) see their participation in the pilot project as a way to continue GOAL-oriented projects that encourage self-discovery and better academic and career choices.
Students preparing for the transition to high school are at an impressionable age, says Christine, speaking on behalf of her colleagues. “Learning about yourself is really big in Cycle Three. Students are starting to understand what comes naturally to them and what gives them more difficulty—and that both are all right. They need to be aware of the different options and pathways in high school, because knowledge of what is out there will empower and motivate them.”
“Learning about yourself is really big in Cycle Three.”
For her part, Pascale Caouette, a grade 6 teacher at Mary Gardner School in Châteauguay, joined the pilot project because she believes that classroom learning must be tied to real life. “It took me five years to complete CEGEP because I changed my mind three times about my future career. As a teacher, I want to ‘de-dramatize’ the world of work and open my students’ eyes to the opportunities they can explore.”
Role of pilot schools
In a series of four videoconferences between now and the end of March, the pilot schools will identify and share their particular strategies for incorporating the GOAL content outlined by MELS in a way that fits naturally into the curriculum. “We already do GOAL-oriented projects in our subjects,” notes Christine. “Now we’ll be putting on paper what we do, with perhaps a little more focus on the career- and future-schooling part.”
Both the Cedar Street and Mary Gardner teachers already have several strategies in mind. For the third year running, representatives of Jeunes Entreprises du Québec recently spent a day each with Cedar Street students in grades 5 and 6, teaching them about entrepreneurship. “Because the students get to do this twice, once in each grade, you really get to see the evolution in their thinking,” says Christine.
In another project slated for the New Year, students will interview fire fighters, police, city councillors and other members of the community about their careers. “This activity can easily be incorporated into history and citizenship, and the interviews will likely be done in French as we are in a largely French-speaking community,” says Christine. She adds that kids take these inquiry-based, student-directed activities very seriously. “We see a higher involvement rate, greater effort and fewer behavioural problems,” she notes.
Many small actions
GOAL can also be introduced into the curriculum through many small actions that link learning to real life. Each year, Pascale Caouette’s students go on an overnight field trip to a winter sports camp. While there, she points out the cafeteria workers, camp monitors and other occupations required to run such a camp. “Did you notice the camp secretary is bilingual?” she will ask her students. “She has to write well in English and she has to write well in French.” School assemblies also provide an opportunity for her to draw students’ attention to the behind-the-scenes technicians who ensure things run smoothly.
Recently, two RCMP officers visited Pascale’s classes to talk to students about their work and the training they had undergone. In addition to exposing students to an interesting career, that visit led to two writing assignments grounded in real life. “They have to practise their writing anyway,” says Pascale, so she asked them to record in their journals what they had learned from the RCMP officers and to compose a thank-you letter to the staff member at the board who had coordinated the visit.
School is one stepping stone
Whether GOAL takes the form of small actions or more complex, multidisciplinary projects, the objective is the same. “It helps students understand that everything we do in school is for the end purpose of helping them discover how to make their stamp and mark on the world,” says Christine. “There is a reason for different subjects and the school process is one stepping stone towards them finding their true passion.”