Wildflower school, a popular alternative to traditional classroom structure, is about to put down roots in the Creston Valley.
The School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) board of education passed a resolution on Jan. 10 that will introduce one Wildflower class in Creston and expand the program in Nelson, where it has a lengthy waiting list of students whose parents want their children to participate.
“Creston traditionally has had few options and Wildflower adds a very big option,” trustee and board chair Mel Joy said last week. “Many of the students on the waiting list in Nelson are home-schooled, so this is an opportunity to draw more families into the public school system.”
“A rapidly growing and long standing wait list in Nelson, and increased interest throughout the district, for student programming currently offered at the Wildflower School in Nelson requires the district to consider a plan for growth and expansion of the program,” Supt. Jeff Jones told the board in a written report.
In Wildflower, students, teachers and parents work on a child-driven education plan. Classrooms are multi-age. Students attend classes four days a week and work under their parents’ direction on the fifth day.
“The Wildflower school community strives to educate the whole child — addressing social, emotional, physical and intellectual growth,” Jones said. “In this definition, the program is not different from most other programs offered throughout the district. However, this program is designed with an intentional multi-age, multi-year structure and a philosophy of ‘continued progress’ for students. Emphasis is placed on a theme-based, naturally differentiated and non-competitive learning environment focusing on critical thinking and inquiry.
“In addition, the school focuses on real-world connections and problem solving through on-going community-based initiatives. Students are grouped and attached to a teacher who will ideally work with the same group of students over a number of years.”
Newly elected Creston South Rural trustee Rebecca Huscroft said on Monday that she is pleased that the board has approved the program despite the district’s tight financial situation.
“It is exciting to finally have a program of choice in Creston,” she said. “This is really the first one out of the normal main frame of schools. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Huscroft was part of a group of parents that began to lobby for the program three years ago, she said. Now, with her own children too old to participate, she is pleased for other parents who want to provide an alternative education for their children.
“I would like to have had it when my kids were younger,” she admitted. “The program isn’t for everyone, but judging by the waiting list in Nelson it should have a strong appeal. The board and management have worked to find creative solutions to offer the program viably.”
Joy said it is yet to be determined where the Wildflower School will operate, but two possibilities are in the Creston Education Centre and Canyon-Lister Elementary School.
“That decision will be made in consultation with parents and taking in logistics like transportation,” Joy said.
She said at least 20 students would be needed to make the program economically viable.