Flex sessions at St. Pat’s will give youth chance to study their passions

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St. Patrick High School is experimenting with a new learning opportunity for students this fall.

Gr. 2 student Lennox Semmler presents a 3-D printed pyramid he made in the Maker Space classroom at Weledeh on Monday.
Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

Administration is implementing flex sessions for students – a 45-minute period during the day where students can study “passion” subjects not offered as part of the regular curriculum.

“These are all student-chosen,” said Simone Gessler, assistant superintendent of learning with Yellowknife Catholic Schools, of the six-week sessions. “Some of the courses are credit-based, but not all.”

The first set of flex sessions runs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from Sept. 5 to Oct. 16.

During that time, students can learn about everything from photography to welding, outdoor survival, yoga, and more.

There will also be opportunities to participate in coding, a Harry Potter session focused around literature, and Makerspace activities, according to Alicia Larade, the school’s vice-principal.

“With high school, everything is so conscripted in terms of what you have to take to graduate,” she said. “Students don’t often have that opportunity to fit in what they’re interested in taking outside your math, your science, those kinds of things.”

Larade has been involved in implementing the program from the ground up, making sure teachers know what they’ll be teaching and getting things organized.

Credit-recovery options will be offered for students who took a course at the school but weren’t able to complete it. If they finish that course during the flex sessions, Gessler said, the student can then receive the credit for it.

In the initial planning stages for the program the school surveyed students on whether they would be interested in taking courses around their passions and what those sessions would be.

“We also sent a similar survey to the teachers, asking them what they’d be interested in instructing and teaching the students based on their passion areas,” said Larade.

The flex sessions are part of a shift towards what the school district calls 21st century learning. Gessler described it as more innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that will prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Larade said students will be assigned to a teacher who mentors them through the flex sessions, as well as tutorials in every academic department so students can get extra help if they need it.

The students will meet with that mentor every Friday in small groups of approximately 14 students, so teachers can spend one-on-one time with each individual.

“That person will help kind of guide their choices through the flex program throughout the year, just kind of help them get through their academics,” said Larade.

Although students are required to participate in the flex time, Gessler said it will not take away from their credit accumulation towards graduation. Students are often busy with after-school jobs, sports or family obligations and can’t always make time for after-school academic help, she explained, while other students need extra help with English-as-a-second-language-skills.

“We’re able now with this flex time to offer those academic supports,” Larade said. “It’s really a way to support all of our diverse needs within our school and we can do it within our day.”