Archive: Nov 2016

  1. Early Application Discount Ends November 30th

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    Our website is being updated today as our early application discount ends on November 30th.  This discount is a $500 tuition reduction for any student application received on or before November 30th.  Details and our admissions procedure for early applications are as follows:


    • There is no application fee.
    • Applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.  Further information may, on occasion, be requested.
    • Once a formal offer of admission is made by the Academy families have 20 business days to accept or decline the offer.  When the offer is accepted a $500 deposit is due and payable immediately.  This deposit is non-refundable except in the case where the Academy does not open in September of 2017, at which point the full amount is refunded.
    • The $500 discount will reduce a student’s full tuition by $500.  It is either applied against the one time payment or against the third payment if families are choosing the 3 payment scheme.


    Further details and application forms are available under our Admissions tab. A copy of our enrollment agreement, which is sent upon a formal offer of admission, is being uploaded as part of our update in case a family should wish to review it ahead of the offer.

  2. The Importance of Entrepreneurship in Schools

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    My first full time job as a teacher was at the Sterling Hall School of Toronto.  Sterling Hall (SHS) is a highly respected boys’ school that was, in hindsight, on the cutting edge of progressive education.  Our principal, Ian Robinson, walked in to a staff meeting and pronounced that “in the future it won’t be so much about getting a job as creating one.  We need to prepare our boys as job creators.”  This was a departure from the oft-quoted wisdom of the time which still catches most teachers’ fancy “we can’t imagine the jobs our students will have as they have not yet been invented.”
    In the years that have passed since my time at Sterling Hall Ian’s words have become progressively more true.  The evidence is everywhere.  Newspaper articles abound about university graduates working in coffee shops. (I note that there is nothing wrong with working in a coffee shop, but alas, it’s probably not what the university graduate had in mind).  Our own list of teacher applicants to Headwaters Academy is a mile long.  We received our first job applications months before our first student applications.  The most passionate of these candidates are being interviewed because they want to build the ideal school with us.  However, I am sure that some are just applying to every job ad they see as there is desperation in the Ontario (and wider Canadian) teacher job market.


    Moreover, beyond the economics of jobs there is the simple truth that social entrepreneurship makes a difference.  A quick look at our webpage will find the endorsement from Jeremy Rhodes for Headwaters Academy.  Jeremy founded Elephant Thoughts after traveling the world and seeing a lack of quality educational opportunity for students.  His work, and that of his team, now makes a difference worldwide, including work here in the Georgian Triangle and at home with our Canadian native populations.


    We take entrepreneurship seriously at Headwaters Academy.  Our students may very well choose to become excellent employees – great ideas and action are not the exclusive domain of the entrepreneur.  However, as jobs become less common our students will be prepared with the tools necessary to see their own ideas, beliefs, and passions successfully grow in to lasting change in their communities.


    Editor’s Note: The featured photo is a view from our classroom.  The other photo is from our Open House.

  3. On Backwards Learning & Pizza Dough

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    I am writing this blog post after returning from making pizza dough with fourth grade students.


    I am forever struck by the energy, brilliance, and focus that young children can put in to any activity that they find engaging.  Pizza dough is fun… pizza dough is real… and pizza dough has the promise of being yummy later.  But did I also mention:


    • That we used different flours to see the differing results?
    • And that this will promote tomorrow’s discussion of the historical farming of wheat (and the different properties (carbohydrate, protein, and oil) of these varieties and how this impacts their suitability for pizza dough?
    • That we will plant different varieties of wheat to test their agricultural value?
    • That we talked about hydrophilic versus hydrophobic substances?
    • That we talked about whole wheat flour and its properties versus regular flour? And then made a direct connection between this historical high incidences of diabetes?
    • That the children wondered how the dough got elasticity and that this yielded a discussion on the gluten protein and chemical bonding?
    • That we did the math on the cost of our ingredients and compared it to a pizza dough from the store?
    • That we were at a dairy farm on Monday and this brought about discussion of how yeast seems to be like the cultures in raw milk? (something we can discuss in our next class… not exactly the same, but I appreciate the Grade 4s observations. An investigation of the science, politics, and law surrounding raw milk also remains on our learning agenda from our trip to the dairy farm).


    If you read the above list you can see that we hit Ontario Ministry expectations in science, language, mathematics, inquiry, social studies, law, & politics.  More work is needed, but this is how we will meet and exceed all curricular expectations.


    The best classes are backwards compared to the others.  They start with the activity and the enthusiasm of the children leads to the lessons.  At Teacher’s College we are taught the opposite approach – teach the lessons, test the knowledge, and when the children graduate they will put the lessons to use in some activity.  We can see, over and over again, the dismal success rate that approach is having with our children.


    So we are building a school that does things backwards.  We put children back in to our community.  We give them real problems and real experiences.  After all, what is knowledge if there is no opportunity to apply it?


    From Principal Mark Brown, November 16th, 2016

  4. Letter of Endorsement from Elephant Thoughts Educational Outreach Director

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    Headwaters Academy shares 110 acres of escarpment lands bounded by the Bruce Trail and overlooking Georgian Bay.  This partnership started as the philosophies of the highly respected charity Elephant Thoughts and Headwaters Academy were in alignment.  Since that initial agreement we have worked alongside Elephant Thoughts’ Director, Jeremy Rhodes.  He wrote to us recently:



    Dear Mark, Barb, Simon and the Headwaters Crew,


    I wanted to write this letter if it helps you in anyway in the start of your new school. I had mixed feelings about allowing another educational organization to run a school out of an Elephant Thoughts location.  It was a decision I did not make lightly.  We have very high standards in education and are very protective of our brand.  We need to fully believe in the quality of education being offered before we would endorse another program.  Over the course of the last few months, as I have gotten to know your team, studied your methods and curriculum, I have become more than impressed.


    What you are offering to the community is something that does not exist elsewhere.  It is very, very special.  I believe in the small school approach and love the connection to nature that your school offers.  I strongly believe in the experiential learning methodology you are using and the cross-curricular method of approaching topics.  I also whole heartedly support your assessment, tracking, and reporting techniques as far superior to any system I have seen to date.  It brings a smile to my face to think that your approach is never to leave a child behind and teach children not that they failed or don’t understand but rather they just don’t understand yet and they soon will.


    I am so impressed with everything that I see that I have decided this is where I would like my own daughter to go to school and have counselled my family members that it would be a good idea for them to consider the same with their kids.  That is a big recommendation considering I work with hundreds of schools worldwide and my profession is teaching schools how to reach a level of excellence.  So it is with considerable experience and confidence that I can say that I believe your school is already there.


    It brings a huge smile to my face to think that an ideal school is in my own backyard and that my daughter will spend days exploring nature and exploring the latest in technologies.  Each day she goes to school her curiosity and love of learning will be ignited not dampened.  What a difference this is going to make for her life.


    Thank you for the work you do. Highest regards,


    Jeremy Rhodes, Executive Director, Elephant Thoughts

  5. Headwaters Academy Launches Living Report Card

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    Headwaters Academy has launched a sample version of their living report card that the public can view online.


    Principal Mark Brown explains that though traditional report cards never excited him he has a great deal of enthusiasm for the Living Report Card: “This report, accessible by parents and students at all times and updated once a week, reflects Headwaters Academy’s belief that all students can succeed.  It also removes arbitrary barriers to excellence in an area while also allowing for a student who is having trouble mastering a particular concept.  It is not hard to imagine a student working at a Grade 7 level in, for instance, numeracy while perhaps being at a Grade 4 level in a particular area of grammar and a Grade 5 level in music.  This student might very well actually be of a Grade 3 age.  We know that students do not develop their skills based on arbitrary grade levels so we have done away with them while also showing parents, at all times, where their child is working at in terms of grade level as they work to meet or exceed all of the expectations of the Ontario curriculum”.


    The report card also aligns nicely with the recent work of Carol Dweck on the ‘value of yet’ and students’ belief that they can improve, also commonly described as a growth mindset.


    The school will also produce more traditional report cards once per term that will be included in official student records.


    The sample report card can be viewed online by clicking here.