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Sean Blenkinsop

SFU, Maple Ridge eye environmental school

July 9, 2009

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SFU’s Faculty of Education, the District of Maple Ridge, School District 42 and other community partners are exploring the possibility of opening a model environmental school and learning centre in the municipality as early as September 2010.

Assistant professors Sean Blenkinsop and Mark Fettes, co-directors of SFU’s Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG), approached Maple Ridge with a proposal to begin developing the school as a research project earlier this year.

The school board has already approved and is now gathering parental support for the school, which would operate for five years as a "community-based school for place-based ecological education," says Blenkinsop. After that, he says, "it would hopefully become a model for similar schools elsewhere."

With support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) under its Community-University Research Alliances program, SFU will place a full-time researcher at the school and involve several graduate students and faculty in documenting the school’s progress.

Teachers at the school will form a community of inquiry focused around children’s learning.

SSHRC has approved SFU’s letter of intent and committed $20,000 in initial funding to the project, but Blenkinsop says the final grant application will ask for $1 million over five years.

IERG has created a framework to support the teaching/learning process. A basic premise of the school is that learning in place implies learning differently. "We need to change our ideas about how children learn and how best to help them learn," says Blenkinsop.

Work at SFU on the role of imagination and cultural inclusion in learning will be used to challenge, inspire, and support teachers’ thinking and practice.

Blenkinsop believes the green school and learning centre could "establish a model of provincial and even national significance." Closer to home, he adds, "It will contribute to providing our students with a meaningful education and our parent communities with a broader range of choices."

The school district and the university hope to have a confirmed development plan prepared by fall 2009.

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Karen Rogers

I would be very interested in learning more about IERG and the project school in Maple Ridge.

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