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  • Josée Arcand, Shayelynn Anderson, and Janine Chabot

Changemakers at DRK

Updated: May 31, 2021

We are Communauté Affinité: a group of 3 educators and 65 Grade 8 French Immersion students at École Dr Knox Middle school. We would like to share a little bit of our learning story with you and we invite you to follow along in our journey that began with observation, empathy, and wonder.

We have made some of our thinking and learning visible in this video:

When the three of us met this past summer to talk about our vision of the community of thinkers and learners we hoped to build, we had dreams of co-teaching, mixing up our students, offering choice of workshops, and deconstructing the timetable and hourly schedule. But in September, due to our current context, we found ourselves in a semester system with cohorts that couldn't mix. Co-teaching, TTOC time for collaboration and release were put on hold.

As a team, we had to rethink our vision, regroup, and create a new one. What hadn't changed was our vision for the learning environment that we wanted to create. It was important to us that we strive to create a learning environment that was personalized, meaningful, and student-driven, and so, during our first week with the students, we spent a lot of time in circle.

In the circle, our role was simply to listen to our students. They spoke about their previous experiences, their challenges and victories, the loss of community they felt when the world turned upside down last March and what they hoped for this year. We knew we were faced with some unique challenges.

A word kept popping up in our conversations: resilience. “Wow, these kids are resilient!” And so we wondered, “Where does resilience come from?” and “Where does resilience live?”

We began to wonder: What does it mean to be healthy? What do we know about mental, physical, emotional, and global health? How does exploring the nature of health inspire us to become changemakers? We decided to make our thinking visible by writing an intention letter that would be shared with our students and their families.

We knew that we needed to start this inquiry by having our students begin with themselves.

We looked at our values, beliefs, and actions, our strengths and opportunities, our learning style and preferences.

We explored what stops us from learning, how to manage stress, and the definition of mental health.

We discussed the importance of community.

Click here to see a slide deck that shows how we anchored our thinking around the OECD Principles of Learning as we branded our community.

We narrowed down our community values and decided on our guiding principles as a learning community.

We asked: Is our school healthy?


Throughout this process, our thinking and our driving question has changed to become:

How might our current realities inspire us to become changemakers?

As we have been engaged in a year-long cross-curricular inquiry exploring this question,

our students have been finding really interesting and exciting ways to become changemakers in our community.

They have been investigating some of their own questions:

  • Mia: How might we increase positive mental health and access to mental health resources at our school?

  • Sarah: How can students at Dr. Knox learn more about the world?

  • Libby: What is the current state of intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities caused by residential schools?

  • Gavin: Can kids make a difference tackling climate change?

  • Sophie: How might we address student comfort to increase concentration in class?

Please visit our website so you can learn more about our learning story and can see how these five students are becoming changemakers.

Every step of the way, we have hoped to create the conditions that foster student voice, independence, and growth so that our students can see the impact they can have in their world!

Tianna, a student in our community, says it beautifully: "I think I learned the most about privilege and how we have the opportunity to change our school and that we can actually follow through and make a change."


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