Trustee Report, March 2023: 

From Michael Craig, Owen Sound trustee, representing his opinions, not official Bluewater District School Board policy:

Celebrating the great outdoors

The Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre, located west of Wiarton, is celebrating its 50th year of providing Grey-Bruce students with a marvelous taste of nature.

This 320 acre facility and its surrounding UNESCO Biosphere Reserve delivers a three-day, curriculum-driven outdoor education program for students in Grade 6, and others when the schedule permits. For many it’s their first time away from parents and family, a real growth experience.

Ecology is the cornerstone of BOEC programs. Through ‘bird brains’, bogs and fens, pop bottle rockets, geology on the rocks, insects for survival, to name a few, the kids get into what makes our natural world tick. To get the whole list of spring, fall and winter programs, including units in art and history, go here.

Canoeing, cross-county skiing, mammal tracking and Inuit games are just a few examples of the rich educational experience. Their slogan Curious, Confident, Competent, Connected could ideally apply to our whole education system.

When it all seems too much

From a happy story to a troubling one:  suicide thoughts and even actions are a disturbing reality for students, particularly in the volatile 11 to 14 age group.

Long gone are the days when we viewed childhood as stress-free and happy-go-lucky. In fact, suicide is the primary, health-related cause of death among 15- to 24-year olds – and Canada’s youth suicide rate is third-highest among developed nations.

Frightening, absolutely – but encouragingly, Bluewater DSB has programs and a strategy to head off disaster.

Seven mental-health specialists work with school staff when a child is identified as at risk of self-harm or suicide – and, frankly, this happens frequently. The team has made 55 suicide-related interventions over the past six months.

A research-based protocol for intervention and follow-up involves the student, parents, school staff and local agencies and professionals.

In addition, the Board’s mental health team works with teachers and administrators to help them understand and address all sorts of behavioural and emotional challenges that students face.

An ounce of prevention, in other words!  For more info and where to find help, check out here.

Responding to the Right to Read report

A year ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released the Right to Read report that urged, with 157 recommendations, that every child should be a fluent reader by the time they’re in Grade 8.

Reading, the report emphasized, is a human right; but, with teaching methods focused on whole language and clues from pictures, rather than phonics (sounding out words), many children were falling far behind.

Your Bluewater Board is ahead of the curve in implementing the OHRC recommendations. According to a recent presentation to the Special Education Advisory Committee, our schools are employing an evidence-based, science of reading approach, centred in phonics, to make sure that no child fails to read.

Teachers who are keen about professional development in reading methodology are supported by eight literacy coaches who work with students from kindergarten to Grade 8.

But what about the extreme cases?

For parents of children with dyslexia, autism and other challenges that impact reading, these changes are long overdue. The cost of a private, professional dyslexia diagnosis, for example, can cost $2,000 to $4,000 and private tutoring can be over $100 per hour, according to the Toronto Star.

Unfortunately, however, the Ministry of Education still lumps in dyslexia with learning disabilities, so specific, focused help and individualized resources are hard to come by. 

It’s never easy, but a parent whose child is struggling, academically or otherwise, must speak up: become the squeaky wheel until your needs are addressed.


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