Academic Innovation

The Stargazer News

From the Desk of...

After looking at educational best practices, HNMCS generated an academic schedule with different opportunities for different courses and learning styles. We varied course lengths in a model that incorporates three timetable formats. This gives students flexibility to fit their desired courses into their schedule and to take advantage of the opportunities that each format offers.

While a linear timetable is one way to offer curriculum, it is an older and somewhat limited model that curbs the flexibility as a school we're desiring for the students. While it still has some merit, it alone is not a model suitable for preparing our students for the demands of the current and future economy. It, along with other "traditional" learning models, can be a detriment to fostering the skill sets students currently need to succeed in an automated age. We're now in an entrepreneurial economy that demands far different skills that require different, more appropriate and more contemporary, models of teaching and learning. This timetable model gives us as a school the flexibility to provide more elective course options for the students. Prior to Covid, with HNMCS being a small school, course offerings were limited and the students were often told "no" when it came to taking a course in the curriculum that wasn't offered in the HNMCS timetable. Further, sometimes students were told "no" because the course they desired conflicted with another course they either desired or that was mandatory. By retaining quads (for primarily elective courses) and adding in semesters, we as a school can say "yes" to the students far more often.

In an effort to avoid returning to full quads (as many boards are already declaring - or even the new modified semester model), HNMCS developed its unique time table. The purpose is to give "length" or "more time" to core courses, such as English and Math. HNMCS has done its best to include these types of core courses in a linear or semester model so those courses aren't so "compressed" for the girls. For a course like math in particular, it means that the girls aren't going quite so long without taking a math class, as they did in the quadmester model. (i.e. a Q1 math student might not have math again for the better part of a year or more). If math is in a semester or linear model, that issue is mitigated.

For the most part, elective courses (i.e. Physical Education, Art, APS) fall into the quadmester or sometimes semester format. The advantage of quadmesters for elective courses like these that aren't quite as content dense, is that it allows the girls a solid block of time every day to examine big guiding questions in a personalized or PBL class format, for example, in a course like APS (Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology). In a course like Physical Education or Art, it allows the girls a solid block of time to develop their creativity, rehearse for a performance, or play full games that can include a skill-based portion as well as proper warm-ups and cool-downs.

The other possibility that quads offer is more place-based (i.e. field trip, out of the classroom) learning without having the girls miss other courses, such as math. For example, a student in this unique HNMCS timetable could take a linear or semester math course in the morning, then in the afternoon have a true field trip experience at the ROM for an APS cultural anthropology unit, or a trip to Fort York for a War of 1812 Unit in Gr. 12 Canadian History, or to UTM. This way the field trips are truly valuable because of the time the girls can put into them, without putting pressure on them that they're "missing math class" in the process.

In a straight linear model, it was extremely difficult to get students out of the classroom, or even run a full lab, for these authentic, place-based opportunities without them having to miss class time in other classes. It usually put pressure on the students that they were "missing math" and would have to get caught up, which would detract from their experience at the ROM or Fort York, for example. Having at least partial quads mitigates these other issues while maximizing personalized, PBL, hands-on and place-based learning opportunities.

The other benefit of HNMCS's unique timetable is that it mimics most university timetables. It is common for students at university to have 3 hours of class a week. Sometimes that's one 3 hour class (which quadmesters replicate), sometimes it's two 1 1/2 hour classes (which semesters better resemble), and sometimes it's three one hour classes (which the linear models most represents). Thus, the timetable provides experience for students in all three possibilities so that university isn't an entirely new experience for them in this regard.

We have met with the girls since the announcement and we feel that feedback and opportunities will come as we live this timetable together and are able to make it the best it can be for our girls.

Ryan Baker
Director of Academics