ACCESS- Gr8 Program
ACCESS program helps elementary students stay engaged when entering high school
Rolling Meadows Public School in Burlington has formed a partnership with nearby M.M. Robinson High School to help students stay engaged when enrolled in secondary school through a collaborative effort called ACCESS (Advanced Credits Connecting Elementary and Secondary School). At the same time, elementary students are also earning high school credits, providing what educators hope is even more of an opportunity for students to succeed.
The ACCESS program is a unique initiative designed to give Grade 8 students access to the high school environment. Students spend part of their school day at MMR, where they participate in credit-bearing courses taught by secondary school staff (in this case Peter Van Der Meulen). Students have the opportunity to earn high school credits, develop relationships with high school staff, and become familiar with the high school environment in order to prepare them for a successful transition into Grade 9.
“The goal of this very hands-on program is to get the students re-engaged into school so they stay in high school,” said Rolling Meadows Public School teacher Michael Le Dressay.
The students who benefit most from this program, he explained, are students who would enjoy a more hands-on approach to learning, students who are struggling in the areas of numeracy or literacy, students with motivation or organization challenges, and students who have issues completing homework or attending school regularly.
“The goal of this program is to prepare students for success in Grade 9 by making the transition easier,” said Le Dressay. “We hope students become re-engaged in school, develop skills in numeracy and literacy, and increase their self-esteem as successful learners.”
The ACCESS program grew out of pilot project in 2007 in which students, identified as being at risk for a variety of reasons, worked together with their parents and a local high school, to gain a number of credits.
“By the end of the second year of the program, so many students had achieved success the decision was made to improve funding and make this a regional program so students could be invited from a broader range of feeder schools,” explained Van Der Meulen.
“We understand not all students are equally confident when they arrive at high school on their first day of Grade 9 and this opportunity could ease the transition for those who might find it more difficult.”
ACCESS has proven to be a success, said Van Der Meulen. For example, he said 95 per cent of students who completed this program in the last six years were successful in earning up to two Grade 9 credits before entering high school, where 30 credits in total are required to graduate.
Le Dressay said ACCESS students stay together for their core subjects – including English, Math, Science, History, Geography, Drama/Dance, Information Technology and Health – as a smaller class of 14. He said he marries curriculum expectations with hands-on projects. For example, in January, the class presented a multicultural fair, which combined the final unit of migration in the Grade 8 Geography curriculum, with research and IT skills, reading, writing, oral communication, and media. In April, students are participating in the I-Cubed (Investigate, Invent, Innovate) Program, which combines data management in Mathematics, with research skills, reading, writing, oral communication, IT and media.
ACCESS students are then divided into two small groups for their rotary subjects like Art, Music and Physical Education classes. They join other Grade 8 classes for these subjects, “which is a great opportunity to spend time with other peers,” Le Dressay added.
Elementary students have been exposed to many learning opportunities through the ACCESS program, opening their eyes to a number of potential career pathways, according to Van Der Meulen. They include:
Manufacturing students made brass and plastic pen sets, or aluminum and laminated plastic spinning tops with handles.
Transportation students repaired personal bicycles, made and raced CO2 cars, designed and built a distance car for the Halton Skills Competition.
Construction students designed and built boomerangs, scroll saw and bandsaw gifts and crafts, puzzles for local kindergarten classes, hydraulically controlled Robotic Arms, and inventions for their invention convention.
Communication technology students created slideshows of activities and events, display boards, and some even created a promotional video that was used by Guidance teachers as a Grade 8 promotional tool for elementary schools.
Photography students built pinhole cameras and then took photographs and developed them in the dark room.
Meanwhile, ACCESS students have the opportunity to begin earning their required 40 hours of high school volunteer hours at the beginning of Grade 8. ACCESS students run the healthy snack program during first nutrition break, as well as the milk program during second breaks. Also, this gives the students opportunities for leadership, mental math skills (like quickly making change), working on positive social interactions with peers, adults, and younger students.
“Our students have received an opportunity to approach each Pathway from high school with a greater sense of confidence, exposure to more learning opportunities that may help them find their niche in the future, and gain an early high school credit,” said Van Der Meulen. “We, as teachers, are encouraged to modify our teaching styles to further enrich the lives of the young people.”
Rolling Meadows Public School students say they have really benefitted from ACCESS, including increasing their confidence as they embark on their upcoming high school years.
Lydia, in Grade 8, said being in ACCESS has been a lot of fun.
“They teach you a lot of different things and get you ready for Grade 9,” she said, adding she has learned how to cooperate effectively with others and helped build puzzle pieces for Kindergarten students at Rolling Meadows.
The aspiring teacher said high school will present a number of career opportunities.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for kids; I really love it,” said Jacob, in Grade 8. “We’ve built all sorts of really cool stuff.” On this particular day, the class was building a robotic arm that can pick up a spring, rotate 90 degrees and drop it.
Jacob enjoys the smaller classes as he feels it allows him more one-on-one time with the teacher to assist him with difficult topics like math.
“That’s really helpful,” said the aspiring general contractor.