The Reggio-Inspired Classroom

by Nancy Richards, Director of Junior School

Thursday night was the Junior School Curriculum Night, an opportunity for parents to not only meet their son’s or daughter’s teachers but to learn how the Junior School educational vision is reflected in classroom programs and aligned with our plans for a new Junior School facility.

Within the framework of the BC Ministry Curriculum and learning outcomes, our vision integrates cutting-edge research on early learning and the brain, 21st Century competencies (collaboration, problem solving, creativity, digital awareness, social responsibility, sustainability and global awareness) and project-based learning, culminating in the best of an Reggio-inspired approach to teaching and learning.

In a Reggio-inspired classroom, children are viewed as having potential, curiosity and great interest in constructing their own learning pathways — the teacher is a nurturer and guide. Children are encouraged to explore their environment and express themselves through all of their “expressive, communicative, and cognitive languages”, whether they be words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play or music (to name only a few). Classrooms are organized to support a highly collaborative problem-solving approach to learning and parents are collaborative partners in their children’s learning experience. The environment is seen as the third teacher (with parent as the first teacher and educator as the second teacher) where every space informs learning and the class design encourages communication and relationships. Teachers are understood as researchers and learners as they give careful consideration and attention to the presentation of the children’s thinking.

This year, one of the highlights of the evening was the screening of our new “Joy of Learning 2” video, which beautifully demonstrates the implementation of the Junior School educational vision at the grade 4 and 5 levels through a project-based learning approach (see videos below). Another highlight was when the homeroom teachers met with parents in the classrooms and spoke about how they are applying the Junior School educational vision to their programs. Parents actually experienced the “environment as the third teacher” in the homerooms where every corner was inspiring. They heard how technology is being integrated into children’s work, how brain research is being applied, how units of study are no longer a couple of weeks in length but stretch over longer periods of time to provide greater depth and breadth of learning for students across all the subject areas.

It is indeed an exciting time to be an educator and learner at the Junior School!

Do you want to know more about the Reggio-inspired approach at the Junior School? Take a look at the Parent/Teacher/Student conferences model we use.

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Middle School Soccer: Just For the Fun of It

Fun Team

In extracurricular sports at the Middle School, all students can shine. In Grades 6 and 7, students can join and play on any team – no tryouts are necessary. The goal at the Middle School is to provide an ample amount of athletic opportunities for students over the course of the year. Our main emphasis is on participation, sportsmanship and citizenship. Our qualified coaching staff strive to provide a positive athletic experience for all students at the Middle School. Below, Sienna reports on the beginning of the season.

by Sienna, Grade 7
At SMUS we have a Grade 6/7 girls soccer team. We played our first game today. The SMUS team played against St. Patrick’s at home. It was a close game but we won by one goal, the only goal, scored by Ellie Ross on a pass from Claire Pontefract. It looks like it’s going to be a fun season.

For more pictures take a look at the SMUS photo gallery. Unsure how to download the images? Read the How to Download Images from the SMUS Photo Gallery blog post.
Pictures by Valerie Pike

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A Day Aboard CCGS Tully with Ocean Networks Canada

by Mike Jackson, Senior School Science Teacher

I was invited by Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) to participate as a visiting educator on a one day cruise aboard the CCGS Tully. The day’s mission was to retrieve and deploy several instrumentation platforms that are part of the ONC Venus network in Saanich Inlet. Saanich Inlet is of particular environmental scientific interest due to its low oxygen conditions.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Roommates

One of the greatest parts of attending boarding school is living with a roommate from another country. Each roommate pair at SMUS is specially selected based on interests, language, country of origin and temperament. In addition to those characteristics, here are seven things to remember that help make an awesome roommate.

1. Be clear from the beginning

Talk to your roommate about personal preferences. Are you an early riser? Does your roommate take a shower just before bed? Do you need it to be 40 degrees in the room all the time? Finding out how your new roomie operates will go a long way to making the first few weeks smoother.

2. Address things when they are little

So you’ve noticed that your roommate unconsciously taps their pen constantly while doing their homework. This may drive you crazy eventually, but it’s not all that serious. If you don’t think you’ll be able to live with it, talk to him or her while the problem is small. If issues are left unsaid they could grow exponentially.

3. Respect their stuff

Perhaps it doesn’t seem that important to ask your roommate if you can wear their Gap turtleneck. You know nothing will happen to it and besides, you’ll wash it or buy a new one if something does happen. What you might not know is that her Great Aunt Mabel (God rest her soul) gave it to your roommate as a parting gift and it can’t be replaced when it accidentally gets torn playing soccer. This is not a great situation and could cause a fracture in the relationship.

4. Be careful about guests

Your friends are awesome. They play Minecraft, can list the relative attributes of 1970s Russian cinema and have impeccable hygiene. However, your roommate may not want people around all the time. Perhaps they can’t stand Andrei Tarkovsky or maybe they are sensitive to perfume. A balance of time in and out of your room with your friends will offer your roommate their own space — a very important thing.

5. Friendly, but likely not best friends

We’ve all heard the Best Man wedding speech, right? “Jimmy was the first guy I met when I moved onto campus and we’ve been inseparable since. I introduced him to his bride, will deliver his children and we’ve bought burial plots next to one another…” That may well happen with your roommate but having that expectation may put some pressure on the relationship. Give it some time. Maybe your future Best Man isn’t the guy you met a week ago.

6. Be open to new things

Have you ever tried kimchi? What about birding? Have you played field hockey? If not, give it a try! This is your opportunity to learn new things and be the person you want to be. It is a chance to mold your values and decide what is and isn’t important to you. It’s difficult to learn those things if you don’t try anything new and getting involved in the activities around campus will broaden your experience and make you more open to the cultural differences you may have with your roommate.

7. Seek advice

There are people all around you with different life experiences, values and wisdom. Talk to them. For example, your houseparents are trained to listen, ask you questions and help you find the answers to issues you face. If you’re having issues with your roommate, don’t fume about them. Ask for help with the aim to solve the problem and solidify your roommate relationship.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to relationships, especially when you’re living with someone you don’t know all that well. If you follow these tips you will likely have an easier time all around and learn to negotiate the ups and downs of life and living in boarding.

Do you agree with these tips? Do you have some “rules” to being an awesome roommate? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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Junior School Serves up BBQ Fun

On Friday, September 5th the Junior School community gathered for a Welcome Back barbeque. Over 500 people, including parents, grandparents, children and teachers gathered to celebrate the beginning of the new school year and to welcome the 61 new students and their families to the community. It was a sunny evening with time to play, visit and enjoy good food — a wonderful start to the year.

Emily in Grade 2 described it this way:

Last Friday there was a barbeque. It was lots of fun. There was lots of food and drinks. The children played together and the grown-ups chatted. There were parachutes — one space parachute and two rainbow coloured ones. It was a really great barbeque!

Grade 1 comments:

“I was playing on the playground with lots of my friends.” – Ellie

“I liked the treats!” – Finlay

“I felt good because my mom came and I liked the treats!” – William

“The playground was open!” – Georgia

“It was fun and I liked the food part. I made cookies.” – Madison

“I played tag!” – Anderson

You can see and download all the pictures from the bbq at the SMUS photo gallery. If you are new or have not used the gallery before, look at our downloading tutorial.

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New Year, New Brain Series

If you’ve never been to a Learning and the Brain lecture, well, you’re forgiven. But you should sign up right away for the September 22 session called Who’s in Charge? Supporting the Development of Your Child’s Executive Functions! Heather Clayton, our Director of Learning, guides parents through the ever-changing world of brain research with this three-part series offered free to SMUS parents and the wider community.

This year’s series will focus on Executive Functioning Skills — those necessary qualities that help us negotiate life more smoothly. With practicality as a focus, Heather aims to support the great work parents already do at home and offer the opportunity to choose some specific functions, strategies and ideas for helping students develop. She will discuss how to support skills including getting organized, staying focussed, planning ahead and learning from mistakes.

Here are some comments from parents who have attended in the past:

“I am looking forward to the next parent evening presented by Heather Clayton. I will be there—opening my brain to new information and connections. Thank you, Heather, for a delightful night out” – Dr. Lara Lauzon, parent.

“As parents, it is important to understand our children and how they learn to better guide and support them. Heather provided a lot of information that very much promotes this.” – Tracy Hagkull, parent.

“I felt that I could relate with Heather as she spoke of personal experiences and offered much food for thought. I like how she approaches her presentations and doesn’t preach to the audience. She shared information about the brain and I think each and every one of us were able to walk away with things to think about and apply to our own lives as parents.” Heather Sandquist, parent and SMUS teacher.

For more information on the Learning and the Brain Series, including videos from many of the previous lectures, go to our Brain portal.

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SMUS Welcomes the World

Welcome to SMUS Boarding!

by Paul Leslie, Director of Admissions

Dear SMUS Team:
Congratulations to all on an excellent and well organised orientation week. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and finally meeting you all. It has all contributed to being sure we have made the right decision in choosing SMUS. We feel we have become part of a new community, coupled with the discovery of beautiful Victoria. We set off for home today with very good memories.

If positive feedback is our measuring stick, we can rest assured that this year’s New Boarder Orientation, Registration and WEB/Link Leaders programs were very successful indeed. The Admissions Office has received a number of emails and comments from parents like the one above that the welcome offered to our new families was truly above and beyond.

The campus-based activities, which started on Saturday, attempted to break up the time spent filling out forms and trying on uniforms with lunches, tours and sessions with boarding house parents designed to immerse new families in SMUS culture. Off-campus highlights included two busloads of families hitting Victoria’s major shopping destinations to buy the necessities that help turn a dorm room into a home, as well as a crowd of 205 descending on Moxie’s, Milestones and Earl’s to share a meal and get to know one another.

The welcoming and orientation continued right through to Wednesday with the work of our WEB and Link Leaders. This group of teachers and current student leaders rallied to help calm our new students’ nerves and make the SMUS community feel welcoming, inclusive and approachable.

The welcome is just the beginning and, as our new and returning students settle in over the weekend, we look forward to many firsts over the weekend: first Saturday morning brunch at Brown Hall, first House Games, first Chapel and first Community Dinner.

To see more pictures from opening week, go to the SMUS Photo Gallery. If it’s your first time, take a look at How to Download Pictures from the SMUS Photo Gallery.

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True Colours at the Middle School


Students and faculty were abuzz with opening week excitement as the Middle School opened its doors for the new year. WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) Leaders welcomed new students with ice-breakers, name games, advice and tours to help make the transition smoother. Colours Day, a long-standing Middle School tradition, kicked off with a BBQ and then students participated in sack races, three-legged races, a tug-of-war and lots of other team-building activities. Ms. Pike and several other faculty topped the day off by taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

All in all it was a great first week and the students will recover over the weekend to begin full-time classes next week.

To see more images of opening week, take a look at the SMUS Photo Gallery. If it is your first time in the gallery or you need a refresher on how to download images, go to How to Download Images from the SMUS Photo Gallery.

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New Students and Spaces at Junior School


There were lively conversations, smiles and hugs at Junior School on Wednesday as students and parents alike returned for another year, eager to meet up with old friends and make new ones. There were several new staff members to introduce, including two new teachers for Grade 5 (Ms. Kingsbury and Mr. Kiel), three new education assistants (Ms. Carlson, Ms. Milne, and Ms. Munson), as well as a new program specialist (Ms. de Hoog).

But the big attraction at Wednesday’s orientation and coffee party was the beautiful new portable unit that had been installed and made ready over the summer. The Grade 3 class enjoyed exploring their new space, which  Mr. Hawes’ designed to create distinct activity areas. The portable is large enough to accommodate the second Grade 3 class that will be added next year, completing the Junior School’s enrollment expansion.

Junior Student Reflections

“I liked learning about people, strings and PE.” – Talia

“I’m excited because there are so many new things to do.” – Arjun

“I am really excited because I am at a new school and in a new environment.” – Alyssa

“I like SMUS because all the kids have been really nice and welcoming.” – Ava

“I love SMUS because there are new friends and I love recess because I can play basketball.” – Xander

“I love the 3 recesses and going in the hedge.” – Maya

“I like that there is drama here. It’s cool.” – Vienna

“I love how there are so many sports clubs.” – Ella D.

“I really like it because there are a lot of nice people and the teachers are nice.” – Ty

“I’m really excited because I’m in a new classroom and we’re going to learn lots of new stuff.” – Daniel

“I really like the big field and playground. I like the school because it’s not too easy – it’s perfect. I’m really happy.” – Emmett

“It’s epic and amazing.” – Naechal

“They have many more activities.” – Sava

“I really like the choice of Lego and I really like my teacher.” – Axel

“I love the teachers. I love every class. I love the playground. It isn’t too big so you can find a teacher easily.” – Reede

“I like it here. It’s fun.” – Ian

“It’s good. I like the teachers and I like all the subjects.” – Avery

To see more images of opening week, take a look at the SMUS Photo Gallery. If it is your first time in the gallery or you need a refresher on how to download images, go to How to Download Images from the SMUS Photo Gallery.

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SMUS in the News: Peter Alec Caleb

Times Colonist
August 13, 2014

Peter Alec Caleb, former Headmaster
Peter Alec CALEB (1933 – 2014)

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