Teacher Danielle Fisk works with a student in Brant Christian School's new band room.
The addition of two, course-specific classrooms provides further proof that neither parents nor students have to sacrifice choice to enjoy the small-town benefits of Brant Christian School.
The faith-based school recently celebrated the official opening of its new science lab and band room with Palliser Regional Schools representatives and community members in attendance.
“We are trying to educate the whole child within a very unique, country setting,” says Brant Principal Kevin Bailey as staff prepared for the big event.
The school has built a reputation for providing a quality education and offers a solid sports program. Now it’s addressed the fine arts component with not only a designated band room but a music teacher paid for by the Brant Christian School Society.
“Many of our students come from High River and Okotoks and they have access to other (school) options,” he says of Brant Christian School, which is less than a half hour from both Nanton and High River. “So one of the roadblocks for them coming out here was ‘well, what do you offer?’ For some parents to know their children are getting trained in band or drama or have a hands-on science lab is just another way to convince a parent it may be worth the travel out to attend the school.”
Small classes allow for more one-on-one instruction and students at Brant Christian School get an early introduction to the online learning and videoconferencing technology so prevalent today in post-secondary education and the workplace. There are certain subjects like fine arts where hands-on experience is invaluable, however.
The two, modular classrooms were purchased a few years ago but were basically used as storage. Bailey saw the potential, however, in using the stand-alone units to expand the school’s ability to engage its students.
The existing school building didn’t provide a specified space for the music program nor storage for instruments when not in use. There were also other physical considerations.
“If you put a band program in a classroom, you don’t want to be the teacher beside that room,” says Bailey of the distractions, no matter how melodic.
As a result, the program consisted solely of choral music for Grades 1-4. The new classroom has allowed for the addition of a band program for those in Grades 5-12 with Danielle Fisk, a former high school band instructor from B.C., providing all musical instruction.
The physical structure and Fisk’s hiring allows for more options and additional credits for high school students. He says the expanded music program will also mean greater opportunities for interaction and sharing between younger and older students and greater exposure through performances in the larger community.
The support from the school society and community as a whole is invaluable, says Bailey. That sentiment was echoed by Robert Strauss, vice-chair of the Palliser board of trustees during the ribbon cutting.
“We are so happy we could make that partnership work in so many ways and do what is best for the students who are here today,” he says. “We really believe in what you’ve got here. You have an outstanding school supported by outstanding people.”
In past years the science room saw double duty – whether that involved Bible studies, math, health or other instruction – which limited student experiences.
“It’s tough to do hands-on stuff in science when the teachers has to set things up and take things down and be ready for the next class,” says Bailey.
Over the years Brant science teacher Ken Kroeker and his wife, a university professor, collected a variety of items which could be used in lab. They remained in storage in their garage, until now.
Now instead of having to explain to students “what might happen,” Kroeker can take them to a nearby pond, have them bring back samples to the lab and then study them further under the microscope. On this particular day his class captured a number of bugs and then identified them back in the lab.
“Not only are the students getting hands-on experience, but they’re learning how to run a proper lab, do a lab report, do their research and verify their research, so their skills are carrying over to high school and even beyond,” says the principal.
Moving the science room into the new classroom also allowed for an expanded art class to be set up in that space and the drama room has been moved to the stage.