Foothills School Division (FSD) is committed to high quality instruction and excellence in learning. Learner engagement, support and success are priorities for all programs offered by Foothills School Division. A variety of programs improves opportunities and learning experiences for students. Foothills School Division promotes innovative thinking and practices in support of optimizing student learning, achievement and success through regular and alternative programs. Alternative programs, as programs of choice, are established to meet the specific educational interests and/or needs of students and their parents. Program Advisory Committees consisting of students, parents, community members and teachers work with the school administration to support the program, provide input on matters related to the program, as well as, assist in the recruitment of students and promotion of the program.
As referenced from Section 19 of the Education Act, ‘Alternative Program’ means an education program that emphasizes a particular language, culture, religion or subject matter or uses a particular teaching philosophy. The uniqueness of Alternative Programs lies in the existence of the following defined set of elements:
- A defined and consistent set of unique features intended to be long-term and sustainable.
- The program usually involves the entire school or a combination of grades/classes at the school.
- A program where the educational approach influences the schooling experience of a child.
- A school culture or learning environment that reflects the uniqueness of the program.
Alternative Programs in FSD include the following:
1. French Immersion
In addition to providing students with the opportunity to achieve proficiency in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French, our French Immersion program nurtures the cultural, social, intellectual and emotional development of each learner. Following the Alberta Program of Studies, our learners become proficient in French by using it to study other school subject areas. Foothills School Division is committed to this program, offering it beginning in Kindergarten through to Grade 12 at schools in Okotoks and High River. The program is currently offered at the following schools:
- Ecole Percy Pegler School – Kindergarten to Grade 6
- Ecole Okotoks Junior High School – Grades 7 to 9
- Ecole Secondaire Foothills Composite High School/Alberta High School of Fine Arts – Grades 10 to 12
- Ecole Joe Clark School – Kindergarten to Grade 5
- Ecole Senator Riley Middle School – Grades 6 to 8
- Ecole Secondaire Highwood High School – Grades 9 to 12
For additional information about our program, please see AP 212 – Language Education and our French Immersion Program Brochure or contact our French Services Facilitator, Shelley Zorn (ph: 403-652-6544).
2. International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program
Millarville Community School has been an authorized International Baccalaureate World School offering the Primary Years Programme since April 2009. Millarville Community School offers the Primary Years Programme (PYP) to students from Kindergarten to Grade 5. In May of 2017, our school was reviewed by the IB team, who provided us with feedback on our continuing programme development. Since our last evaluation, our staff has attended a variety of professional development sessions in both Canada and the United States and put in countless hours in order to meet the rigour of working with the IB programme at the Primary Years level (Kindergarten through grade five). MCS is a K-8 school, and as such, we promote the values and mission of the PYP throughout our Upper School.
The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right. For more information about the IBO, please visit their website at https://www.ibo.org/programmes/primary-years-programme/
3. Montessori Program
Foothills School Division offers an Elementary Montessori Program for students in Grades 1 – 6 at Big Rock School in Okotoks. No prior Montessori experience by students is required to attend the program. Our teachers hold Alberta Teaching Certificates and are trained in the Montessori methodology. Montessori education balances freedom with responsibility in the classroom. It is a logical and consistent plan of education that follows the child from one developmental stage to the next. By appealing to inherent motivation, children develop through exploration and discovery with hands-on materials. The method combines more active participation by the child in their own learning, combined with high standards of academic excellence, social awareness and moral development. It also integrates a vision of humanity and its accomplishments designed to encourage children to ultimately take their place in their communities as responsible contributing adults. Our program follows the Alberta Program of Studies and integrates the Montessori Philosophy & Method of Learning including:
- Large blocks of uninterrupted learning time
- Small group lessons and independent work choices that personalize student learning
- Multi-aged students learning together
- Infusion of modern-day technology into curricular areas
Features of a Montessori Program
- Independent activity constitutes about 80 per cent of the work, and teacher-directed activity comprises the remaining 20 per cent of the work at all levels.
- There is a balance of freedom and responsibilities for students.
- A diverse set of approved Montessori learning materials, activities and experiences are used to guide discovery and foster physical, intellectual, creative and social independence.
- Subjects are taught in a cross-curricular manner.
- Classroom schedules allow for large blocks of uninterrupted time to problem solve, observe and understand interactions, make connections in knowledge and create new ideas.
- The classroom atmosphere encourages social interaction to enhance cooperative learning, peer teaching and emotional development.
- Multi-age classrooms are a hallmark of the Montessori Method.
- Student progress is assessed through anecdotal reports, portfolios and standard Montessori checklists.
History of Montessori
The Montessori Method is based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s pioneering work in education and human development. Dr. Montessori (1870-1952) was the first woman to be certified as a medical doctor in Italy and, through her work in medicine and psychiatry, she became intensely interested in education. Following a successful medical career, she returned to the University of Rome to study anthropology, education, and philosophy. Her work in education began with a group of children who were under medical care in the state school in Rome and were considered “uneducable”. Dr. Montessori took great interest in researching possibilities for their education, freely innovating to create learning avenues for them. She found her next students in the impoverished San Lorenzo slum district of Rome. Here she made many of her instructional discoveries and developed many of her methods and materials. Dr. Montessori also studied and worked with children in diverse cultures and countries around the world, further developing her methods and materials. Research and development remain a vital part of Montessori education.
For further information regarding the Montessori Program, please contact Big Rock School at 403-938-6666.
Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services