April 1, 2016
Online Journal - Thinkers and Not Mere Reflectors
Lisa Clarke, Curriculum Coordinator/WCAS Principal, British Columbia Conference, Abbotsford, BC

Never have the words spoken by Ellen White been more appropriate when describing Adventist education than they are today. Across Canada, schools are looking to incorporate inquiry-based learning into their curriculum. British Columbia begins the launch of a new personalized, inquiry-based curriculum in September 2016. Saskatchewan refers to constructing understanding through inquiry in their new renewed curriculum documents. While in Manitoba, curricula are integrated to facilitate inquiry of big ideas in a flexible model of planning that provides for a variety of student-led instructional practices. Teachers in Ontario are challenged through existing curriculum and the Growing Success initiative to develop critical thinking and inquiry skills that are assessed through a variety of formative and summative assessments. Similarly, Alberta prefaces their curriculum documents with a focus on developing critical thinking and inquiry skills in each subject while enriching teaching strategies through Learn Alberta government initiatives. Part of the second pillar of change for the new Nova Scotia curriculum promotes engaging student interest through hands on learning activities that meet students’ strengths. As Seventh-day Adventist educators, we celebrate this alignment between provincial expectations and our guiding philosophy of Adventist education.
 
This new shift in education finally allows Adventist schools to return to their roots and the original purpose of Adventist education. For too long, education has been viewed by some as simply an institution for disseminating information and memorization. Ellen White, in her book Education, admonished that too much time was spent crowding the mind with knowledge that inhibited the ability to produce independent thought. Inquiry-based learning highlights the need for schools to provide opportunities for students to apply their knowledge in the community and real world, outside of the traditional classroom. In addition, new student-focused curriculum facilitates 21st century skills like communication, creative and critical thinking, and personal and social competencies. These competencies empower Adventist schools to fully support the work of the churches as training grounds where students become articulate, service oriented members of our churches.
 
It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen. Ellen White, Education, p. 17
 
Inquiry learning, that is based on hands-on practical experiential learning, provides Adventist educators a vehicle to fully integrate faith and learning. By opening the eyes of students to the marvels of God’s creation, they will be able to actively search out the original purpose for the world and the work of redemption. More importantly, the inquiry-based approach to education allows teachers to engage students through a distinctly Adventist worldview. Unlike public education, full integration of faith and learning within our schools facilitates our students’ understanding of God’s unending love for us and His perfect plan for salvation. Through examining history, socials studies, and science through this spiritual lens, students are engaged in the applying their knowledge to understanding the great controversy and how the world is fulfilling Biblical prophecy.
 
As Adventist educators reflect on the changes to our educational systems across Canada, we acknowledge that our schools do more than simply educate. We hold a wonderful opportunity to guide our students as they discover our Savior’s love for them and His plan of salvation. I am excited to watch the love of God grow as our students experience him through the curriculum.
 
True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and the whole period of existence possible to man. In the highest sense, the work of education and the work of redemption are one.
Ellen White, Education, p. 21

Provincial Resources

Alberta
Inquiry-based Learning - http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/kes/pdf/or_ws_tea_inst_02_inqbased.pdf
Math Curriculum - https://archive.education.alberta.ca/teachers/program/math/
 
British Columbia
BC Education Plan - http://www.bcedplan.ca/
 
Manitoba
Independent together: Supporting the Multilevel Learning Community - http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/docs/support/multilevel/ind_together_full.pdf
 
Nova Scotia
The 3 Rs' Renew, Refocus, Rebuild - http://www.ednet.ns.ca/files/2015/Education_Action_Plan_2015_EN.pdf
 
Ontario
Inquiry-based Learning - https://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf
Growing Success - https://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/growsuccess.pdf
 
Quebec
http://www1.mels.gouv.qc.ca/progressionPrimaire/index_en.asp
http://www1.mels.gouv.qc.ca/sections/programmeFormation/secondaire1/pdf/summaryQEPfirstcycle.pdf
 
Quebec also is allowing teachers to build content around the competencies that students will need as they continue their education and enter the workforce.
Saskatchewan
https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/curricula/English/Renewed_Curricula.pdf
 
References:
 
White, E.G. Education. http://www.whiteestate.org/books/ed/ed.asp