This fall, many schools are incorporating online and remote learning into their offerings, and many families are seeking to support their school-aged children in the new learning environment.

To help both navigate this new reality, SelfDesign® Learning Foundation has collaborated with Cognia, the world’s largest education improvement organization, to share our expertise in building meaningful relationships with learners online.

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SelfDesign recognizes that life can throw challenges at our learners and their families. Events and situations can each make learners feel unsafe and uncertain and can affect their ability to learn and families’ ability to support that learning.

SelfDesign Family Services provides resources and supports to help learners and families when events or situations interfere with learning. Within Family Services, members of the Contact Assistance Team – referred to as CAT – are experienced in working with learners in kindergarten to grade 12, including learners who receive Support Education services.

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As part of its commitment to furthering reconciliation and intercultural understanding and respect, SelfDesign Learning Community became a member of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack foundation’s Legacy School network in 2019, joining a community of more than 1,600 legacy schools across Canada and linking to funding, educational resources and opportunities that advance reconciliation.

The Legacy School network is a national initiative that engages, empowers and connects students and educators to further reconciliation through awareness, education, connection, and action.

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SelfDesign® is poised to grow and develop in new and interesting directions, says Amber Papou, President and CEO of SelfDesign Learning Foundation, the not-for-profit, charitable organization that operates SelfDesign Learning Community, our kindergarten to grade 12 school. “We’re moving into the next phase of growth as an organization,” she says, “We’ve looked at the areas where our strengths lie in this organization, and we’ve determined a number of opportunities that we can reach for. I see many new programs that we can offer that align with our philosophy and approach to education.”

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When the BC Ministry of Education completed its inspection of SelfDesign® Learning Community’s programs and processes last fall, our Learning Experiences Library, our in-person camps and gatherings, and how we provide learners with opportunities to design their own learning received particularly high praise.

“The provincial inspectors commended us on doing what we say we do and being what we say we are – an online learning school that provides an innovative, flexible and personalized approach to learning,” says SelfDesign Principal of Educational Programs Nikki Kenyon. “It’s really great to have these areas of our program recognized.”

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When the B.C. government suspended in-person learning in B.C. schools in mid-March to protect students and slow the spread of the COVID-19, most kindergarten to grade 12 students in the province were about to go on spring break. However, one group of SelfDesign Learning Community learners and educators was poised to spend the break together at one of the school’s sought-after in-person camps.

Since 2017, Art Intensive Camp, held in Victoria, B.C.,  has brought SelfDesign learners in grades 9–12 together from across B.C. for one week in March to connect, collaborate and share while they immerse themselves in art. To cap the week of art exploration and creation, the learners host their own reception and art show for families and the community to showcase their work.

The B.C. government’s March 2020 order cancelled Art Intensive for the first time.

So what did the Art Intensive organizing team do? They took the camp online, of course, and opened it up to all interested SelfDesign learners.

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We believe all of SelfDesign’s learners are special, but at the Virtual Commencement Ceremony held on June 13, SelfDesign recognized the Class of 2020 for an achievement unique to them.

The SelfDesign learners moving on to the next stage of their lifelong learning journeys this year with newly minted Certificates of Graduation (Dogwood Diploma), School Completion (Evergreen) Certificates, or the Adult Graduation Diplomas (Adult Dogwood) are the first learners to have gone through SelfDesign® Learning Community’s newly designed high school program from Grade 10.

“They have been key to the success of our entire grade 10–12 program from its launch in 2017,” says SelfDesign Principal of Educational Programs Nikki Kenyon. “They have helped us pilot and refine our offerings every step of the way as they learned, grew, matured, and progressed. In the process, we have learned as much from their insights about the program as they learned experiencing it – and the result is an even better program for learners following in their footsteps.”

So amid the congratulations, speeches, performances and presentations were our thanks to this group of remarkable young people.

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Patricia Collins, SelfDesign Indigenous Education Facilitator, Learning Specialist and former learning consultant, didn’t start out with any thoughts of working in education.

Years ago, when a long-time family friend ­suggested to a very young Patricia that teaching might be the path she was meant to take, Patricia scoffed: “What do you mean I was born to be a teacher? Puh-lease!”

Instead, Patricia went on to choose a career in geosciences – a field that combines ecology and geology for the purpose of determining the status of landscapes before and after reclamation, assessing the potential of an area’s geology for mineral resource extraction, and undertaking related plant and animal surveys. For five years, she worked on projects around B.C.

Then it happened.

She was working near Nimpo Lake, in the Chilcotin (Tsilhqot’in) region of north-central B.C., when she witnessed a young person from the local Carrier First Nation risk their own life to save the life of another person.

“It was an act of such bravery, such complete selflessness and courage that, right then and there, I realized I wanted to work with young people,” Patricia says.

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