Like most district AISI projects, Northern Gateway’s AISI work is multi-faceted with a number of strategies and programs working together to drive towards a focused goal. One component of their AISI work, focused on student engagement, is strategies to engage students and communities in a diverse district.
To learn more about Northern Gateway’s AISI work related to student engagement, visit the AISI section of their website.
The community aspect of their AISI work focused on a critical challenge:
What is the most effective way to engage our communities in education?
Traditionally, parents have been the primary stakeholder involved in discussions related to engagement. Northern Gateway wanted to move beyond this traditional model, looking at students and community members.
The approach involved:
- Student Conference – a day filled with table activities, discussion, colabrations, dramtizations, engagement, music, speakers, good food, fun, work and surprise. Feedback was put into themes and shared with Community Round tables later that week. Students were encouraged to think outside the box during this activity, considering how they could be best engaged in their learning and in their schools. One interesting thing that came from students (through skits) was the focus placed by teachers on preparing for diploma exams.
- Community Round Tables – At the start of the day, time was spent informing community members about the transformation happening in education in Alberta. With about 85 participants, including elected officials, business owners, RCMP, teachers, parents, etc. (with a letter of invite from the superintendent and invitations suggested by principals, determining members of the community that should be at the table – access a sample letter from the second annual meetings), the day focused on three questions:
- What is the role of education in a community?
- What is the role of (similar roles e.g. elected officials) in supporting education in a community? What actions would support this role?
- What action can we take to support and contribute to education in our community?
- Each community was asked to form an action plan and prepare for individual community meetings to be held in the fall and winter of 2012,
- Table groups finished the day by preparing a press release to share what they learned at the Community Engagement meeting. The press releases were read out, videotaped and posted on the NGPS website, with text versions sent out to different community newspapers.
Action plans were brought back to each individual community, with community liaisons established for each community and acting as the coordinator for subsequent engagement actions.
Projects that are now underway in Northern Gateway include such innovative ideas as a student tech group working with community seniors to explore the use of computers and new technology, a town council meeting schedules to be held in a high school, community members coming into the classroom to share books, a community market garden, job shadowing, etc.
It is exciting to understand that the community engagement efforts in Northern Gateway are still at their development stage – where communities continue to take this work in the future is bound to grow and evolve, leading to exciting ways to engagement communities in education.