Sew creative! New classes drive record enrolment in Burnaby summer school program

When the bell rang for recess in Karine Dubois’ summer school sewing class at Sperling Elementary School earlier this week, she had to shoo her reluctant students out the door so she could fit in a bathroom break.

Teacher Karine Dubois helps out a student in her summer school sewing class at Sperling Elementary School Tuesday. - Cornelia Naylor

“I want them to go play outside, and they don’t want to go play outside,” she said with a laugh.

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It would be an enviable problem for any teacher – to have students so into learning they don’t want to leave.

With the Burnaby school district taking a new approach to its summer school offerings, it’s a predicament school officials hope more teachers find themselves in in the future.

Source: Cornelia Naylor

'It's so creative'

About 45 per cent of the district's elementary summer school courses were new this year. Most were so-called enrichment courses that centred around skills and knowledge individual teachers are passionate about – like sewing for Dubois

“It’s so creative and something that you use all the time,” she said.

The quiet joy she gets from the craft is clearly infectious.

During the regular school year, she runs a sewing club with between 25 and 35 members. She’s also integrated sewing into her French Immersion classes, teaching them to sew emoji pillows.

“You would be surprised who enjoyed that,” Dubois said. “They’re so proud of their project.”

Her summer school class, meanwhile, drew far more applications than there were spaces available.

Source: Cornelia Naylor

One of the students lucky enough to get in was Raina Rah, who got a sewing machine from her parents and had been teaching herself to sew by watching YouTube videos.

“She helps a lot,” Rah said of Dubois. “I learned how to make a shirt and pants and a lot of stuff, and I think it was a good experience.”

The school hopes to add 10 spaces in the class next year, according to Sperling principal Dave MacLean, and maybe another full class of 20 students the year after.

The success of Dubois’ sewing class was replicated across the district this summer in other new courses, like fabric arts, cooking and musical theatre.

Source: Cornelia Naylor

Record enrolment

The new approach, in which teachers are encouraged to pitch ideas for classes they'd like to teach, is in line with B.C.’s redesigned curriculum, which emphasizes personalized learning and letting kids learn by exploring their interests and passions.

“When I went to school, taking classes in the summer was typically to make up a course or get ahead to make room in your schedule,” Janice Nakatsu, the district’s summer school director. “We still have those options. The difference is now we recognize that summer school is also about enrichment, and that’s where we’re seeing the explosion in registration.”

A record 7,400 students took summer school classes in Burnaby this year – up from 6,641 last year.

To put that into perspective, the New Westminster school district has about 7,500 students – total – during the regular school year.

“People are loving the new courses,” Nakatsu said. “They’re fun, which is what kids want in the summer. Students are entertained, engaged, and learning something. It’s a win-win for both children and their parents.”

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