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Met school advisors (left to right): Cindy Blicq, Nancy Janelle, and David Zynoberg



By Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng.

Garden City Collegiate in Seven Oaks School Division is home to Canada's first "Big Picture Learning" school. "Big Picture Learning" is an educational philosophy to which Met schools adhere, based on guiding students towards life rather than through a standardized, impersonal curriculum. This educational philosophy has transformed the academic success of hundreds of students.

Met isn't an acronym--it doesn't stand for anything. It's an innovative educational movement that began in Providence, Rhode Island in 1995 and spread to Winnipeg in the fall of 2009.

A team began looking into the Met school philosophy five years ago after hearing success stories from existing Met schools in the eastern USA. David Zynoberg, 29, a  certified teacher , Garden City Collegiate  graduate and Jewish North Ender was hired about a year ago to help develop an academic plan for the school and continue on to be an advisor.

Zynoberg and two other certified teachers  are the advisors of  the Seven Oaks Met School, and comprise its staff in addition to the principal of the school. The Met school currently has approximately 35 students in Grades 9 and 10 and will expand in September 2010 to include Grade 11.

The Met school is small enough that every student has the opportunity to build genuine relationships with their advisor and other students. All students are part of a small advisory  made up of about fifteen students and an advisor who works with the students throughout their entire high school career. The advisor’s role is to manage each student’s individual, personalized learning plan and Learning Through Interest placement. The advisor is a coach, mentor, manager, and even friend. Advisors guide students in learning how to manage their time, plan their work, find internships, and complete projects.

Advisor David Zynoberg says, "In one-on-one meetings, I help tailor students’ learning experiences to each individual student."

Zynoberg adds, “Met school is not just for one type of student. It is for any student who is highly motivated, can work independently and knows what area they would like to explore.

The most important part of “Big Picture Learning” is that students learn in the real world. The main component of every student’s education is the Learning Through Interest. In this internship, students generally work Tuesdays and Thursdays with a business, community agency, or institution, not only working, but also planning and completing a project that benefits the student and the employer.

Some of the places that students have interned at include: Ronald McDonald House, Manitoba Children’s Museum, Ecole Seven Oaks Middle School, Computer Boulevard, Darcy’s A.R.C., Red River College and West St. Paul School.

The community plays an integral role in the educational success of the student and school. By bringing students out into the community and bringing the community into the school, Met schools become community assets and positive contributors to society.

Parental engagement is essential to student success. Met schools do not only enroll students, they enroll families – and involve them in all aspects of student learning. 

“Big Picture Learning’s” guiding principle is that schools must be personalized, educating one student at a time. The Met school’s job is to know each student well and to provide the right measures of challenge and support for each student in order to promote growth. Students are given credit for learning experiences gained outside of the classroom.

Assessments include tests, quizzes, cross-curricular assignments, progress reports, weekly check-in meetings with advisors, and portfolio presentations, which are called “exhibitions”. Students graduate with the academic requirements to attend post-secondary education and also to comply with legislative requirements.

The Seven Oaks Met School focuses on “Big Picture Learning” through internships.  Met students learn through experience and projects/assignments that relate to their interests and their long-term goals and aspirations.

“Met schools provide all students with an alternate approach to education,” says Zynoberg.

*Rhonda Prepes is an engineer, educator, mother, and writer in Winnipeg.

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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