School District 72 has responded to requests from Cortes residents concerned about a lack of localized high school programming.
Community feedback pointed to the issue as a large barrier to retaining families on the island.
A pilot program is set to begin in Sept 2022, which will hopefully remedy the issue.
The Cortes Island Academy will run for five months from September to January and feature four modules that run for five weeks each, in alignment with the secondary schools’ quarter model. Students will get to experience the island and earn academic credits through experiential learning and a connection to the land.
Jeff Lontayao, the district coordinator for student options and opportunities, has been working with parents and volunteers on Cortes Island to develop this support for rural students.
The first module will be Leadership Outdoor Recreation and Local Ecology in which students will earn credits for PE and/or leadership through learning about food prep and planning, overnight hiking, camping and navigation, survival skills and edible plants, kayaking and marine navigation.
Oceans Aquaculture and Stewardship will be the second module and students will explore and learn about the marine environment towards a science credit. Students will explore and research types of fisheries and aquaculture, marine ecology and climate change, and the Indigenous cultural connection with the oceans, stewardship, and resource use.
The third module, Creative Tools for Truth Telling, will study the basics of journalism, essay writing and oral storytelling through such tools as podcasting, and students will earn credits in new media and English.
Film Making with Reel Youth will complete the modules, using film as a medium for students to tell their story and the module will end with students creating a short documentary film about an elder or local older person with knowledge and wisdom to share. Students that successfully complete this module will earn media design credits.
The intention of the pilot is to create immersive hands-on, place-based learning that embraces Indigenous learning approaches and is connected to real life applications and offers personalized education planning.
The Cortes Island Academy modules will be featured as an option in the 2022-2023 secondary school course offerings and Campbell River or international students will be able to billet with families on Cortes Island.