Archive: Apr 2017

  1. Trailblazer Thursdays at Headwaters Academy

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    Headwaters Academy’s website has had, from its inception, a main landing page with the quote “learning cannot be constrained by four walls”.  We know, from experience, that children engaging with the world beyond our school boundaries will lead to higher level learning.  This isn’t a matter of simply building an outdoor classroom or moving a class outside instead of inside.  Our program ensures that children engage with the local community, thrive in authentic problem solving environments, and ‘do’ just as often as they merely ‘learn about’.


    Thursdays at Headwaters Academy are called Trailblazer Thursdays.  Every Thursday is reserved for work that must, inherently, take place beyond the walls of our classroom.  This could include environmental investigations (preparing a base study of the ecosystems, geology, and plants of Kimbercote Farm will be one of our first projects), entrepreneurial endeavours, working with local artists and musicians, or checking out the latest technology being utilized in the Georgian Triangle (Beaver Valley’s recent installation of new snow making machines comes to mind).


    Our list of local business, farmers, individuals, and groups who want to work with our students grows, literally, by the day.  At Headwaters Academy we do not merely pay lip service to moving beyond the classroom – instead, we utilize the strengths of our community to make learning an active experience.


    See our Distinct Academic Programs page to learn about Trailblazer Thursdays and other innovative programs at Headwaters Academy.


  2. Sustainable School Finance

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    Sustainable School Finance – A Post by Principal Brown


    How money is spent in schools is an important topic.  I might be far more animated when speaking of student achievement, innovative education programs, forward thinking assessment, and student-led entrepreneurship.  However, the way a school approaches its financial stewardship is absolutely key to its sustainability.  Thus, schools and school finance are forever linked.


    Headwaters Academy will open on September 5th, 2017 as an Ontario non-profit corporation.  We spend only on items that are critical to our mission and student success.  You will not find non-instructional staff on our payroll.  All of our employees work directly with children; there are no administrators found here.


    We have sought and been blessed with significant volunteer contributions – please see our ever-growing ‘In Appreciation‘ page.  Elephant Thoughts have proven to be and remain a valuable partner to us as they share in our vision of progressive education.


    We do not have mortgage debt or any other interest bearing debt threatening us.  Our enrollment targets for Year 2, if met, will ensure that tuition levels remain stable and possibly even decline.  Our scholarships, kindly donated to the school, are for three years as we recognize that being dependent upon an annual renewal is a threat to students’ ability to remain at our school.


    In short, Headwaters Academy wants to teach, by example, that independent schooling need not be extravagant or fraught with financial risk.  We want to contribute to this community for the long haul.

  3. A School Built for Learning

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    As I (Headwaters Principal Mark Brown) prepare to leave Bermuda word is leaking out that I’m moving on to open a new school.  The question that parents and colleagues invariably ask is “what kind of school is it?”


    My first answers are always the bare bones facts.  It’s a JK – Grade 8 school with a focus on outdoor and experiential education as well as entrepreneurship.  We foster independence and innovation and our students meet or exceed the expectations of the Ontario curriculum.  We promise to go beyond the classroom every week during Trailblazer Thursdays.  It is at this point of explanation that teacher’s and parent’s eyebrows start to rise.  And it is at this point that I deliver the punch line: “Our school is inspired by how children learn best.”


    We know, as teachers, that:

    • sorting children by age makes very little sense for their learning.
    • 40 minute periods can both be too much and too little time for learning – scheduling needs to be on a human scale.
    • true learning cannot be walled within the domains of ‘math’, ‘language’, or ‘music’… nor can it be confined within four walls.
    • children need daily physical education.
    • the best learning is authentic in nature and solves real problems.
    • children are fascinated by expert community members and by ‘doing’ more so than just ‘learning about’.
    • class sizes of 20 are simply too large.
    • most of the structures in school are in place for the efficiency of the adults rather than the learning of the children.
    • that economy of scale and quality education do not belong in the same sentence.


    Please join our conversation on how children learn best and become part of our Headwaters Academy community.  Email us at or visit us on Facebook at  We’d love to hear from you.

  4. Purposeful Outdoor Education

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    Headwaters Academy is located on 110 acres of shared outdoor space with the Elephant Thoughts Experiential Education Centre, formerly known as Kimbercote Farm.  Perched on the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Georgian Bay, we have streams, ponds, forests, and fields with the Beaver River a short walk away.  We also have access to a further 200 acres, including workable farm land, for outdoor education studies and students’ innovation, entrepreneurship, and enjoyment.  We will have bee hives on site, small animals, gardens, and aquaponic systems (probably all by the end of our first year).  In other words, our promise of daily outdoor and experiential education is not one that we take lightly.


    However, I am sometimes asked whether Headwaters Academy is an outdoor education school.  The short answer is ‘yes’, but also ‘no’.


    Yes, we are an outdoor education school when you consider the promise to have our children understand the natural world surrounding them and not be one of those oft-quoted kids who can identify 200 corporate logos but not know four tree species in their backyard.  Yes, we are an outdoor school when you consider how much learning our children do outside.  Yes, we are the school where your child will receive more fresh air than 99.9% of the other schools in the country (we say 99.9% as a nod to our friends at Coast Mountain Academy who are also doing a great job of getting their students outside and in to their community)!


    But no, we are not an outdoor education school when the common perception of the term ‘outdoor education’ is applied.  Sadly, ‘outdoor education’ has become relegated to the periphery of what most people consider  a quality education.  Our collective experience of outdoor education has become one of ‘escape’ from the classroom rather than an ‘extension’ of the classroom.  In this sense we are not an outdoor education school.  We do not go outside to escape; we do not go outside for ill-structured learning because our teachers are not adapted to the concept of outdoor education.  Rather, we have purposeful reasons to be outside.  A recent Ontario Farmer article claimed that the tiles in tile drainage systems are moving closer together – we will build models and test the ‘why’ of this move while also speaking to local farmers about their experiences.  Colony Collapse Disorder threatens the local and worldwide bee populations – we need to be part of the provincial monitoring program on this issue.  The Fibonacci sequence exists on pine cones – where else in nature can we find this?  The Niagara Escarpment is a micro-climate for tender fruit production on the Niagara Penninsula – does our particular location have micro-climatic zones?  What does this mean for potential agriculture at Kimbercote Farm, the local apple industry, the burgeoning wine industry, and even the ski resorts location on the escarpment?  Can we work to innovate in these areas?


    Is Headwaters Academy an outdoor education school?  Our long answer is ‘it depends on what you are calling an outdoor school…’