EPIC (Explore, Play, Innovate and Create) is a full school initiative which involves the participation of all students and staff from K- 8. The play projects will engage the community in helping to run a variety of activities for 4-5 weeks in which the kids would explore, play, innovate and create. Each EPIC will run 4 to 5 weeks, one/two hour a week multiple times a year with staff and students learning through play beyond the scheduled EPICs. The play projects will include an umbrella of activities that connect students to cross-curricular and have an element of social and emotional learning as well as leadership development for students. The choices of activities will include farming, gardening, theatre/improv, art, geocaching, coding, b.Boards, 3D printing, robotics, cooking, baking, environmental education, video editing, Lego, Ultimate Frisbee, Ball Hockey, Volleyball and more.
Tell us about your team and your school community.
We are a new K-8 school that opened in August 2022 in the community of Hanwell, New Brunswick, just outside of Fredericton. We are a staff of 39 teachers and 21 support staff. Our student population for the upcoming year is 548 students and is projected to increase in the next few years as the Hanwell community continues to grow to include a First Nations community and another rural town. The new Hanwell student population will have students from a variety of diverse backgrounds, ranging from low to high socio-economic, as well as students new to Canada. Hanwell rural community is one of New Brunswick’s fastest growing communities. The Rural Community Hanwell strives to maintain an environmental feel in the community, there motto is “Inspired by Nature”. Our school is a community school, bordering the Hanwell Nature Trail with community use throughout the entire year.
Tell us about the importance of learning through play for your team and for your students.
We strongly believe that learning through play is crucial to the development of the students at Hanwell Academy. Through our unique EPIC approach our students will learn how to explore through inquiry-based activities, how to play together as a team, how to be innovative when approaching problems and how to be creative when building something. By being inclusionary and offering students a choice in finding their passions we believe that students and staff will establish a culture of active learning through play and discovery learning. Each grade level will have a developmentally appropriate design. For example, k-2 would do a minimum of an hour of Exploratory play a week – with an end goal of demonstrating something they created during the exploration time. Whereas the older grades (4-8) will learn to self-select a variety of mostly out-door play-based activities.
Tell us about your interest in joining the Canadian Playful Schools Network.
Our interest in joining CPSN was ignited by the passion to provide our students with intellectually, socially and physically active pedagogical learning experiences through play. From this experience, we hope to establish a framework (EPIC) in which we incorporate purposeful and worthwhile learning opportunities that meet the needs of our diverse learners. We hope to collaborate with other schools with the goal of discovering what they are doing to incorporate play in their pedagogy. We want to know what steps they took to move forward in leveraging learning through play and collaboration. CPSN can support us through connections with schools who have similar dynamics such as a rural school that is surrounded by nature and outdoor opportunities. It should be noted we are confronted with challenges for cost of transportation and getting guest speakers to our school so tips for those obstacles would be great.