North Island Distance Education School (NIDES) will be offering two new programs that focus on fine arts, technology, engineering and robotics in September 2012. NIDES is a publiclyfunded, accredited school that offers web-based courses as well as face-to-face classes and field trips for kindergarten students all the way up to adult learners.NIDES principal Jeff Stewart said one of the programs, Fine Arts eCademy, is the first of its kind in Canada. The program is for students enrolled in kindergarten through Grade 9 and will run for three days each week during the regular school year. During those three days, students will alternate between studies in world music, performing arts, visual arts and time with distributed learning teachers to focus on math and language arts. The other two days will involve home-based learning focusing on academics.
For most of their classes, students will be grouped together by grade, but a few times a week students of all ages will come together for presentations, celebrations and collaborative projects. Fine Arts eCademy will take place at the Tsolum Campus in Courtenay and it is will accommodate up to 150 students. The idea is to combine different areas of study and put them to use in a concrete way through the study of the arts.We need to shift the learning on its head," said Stewart. "By integrating the curriculum, we can tailor the learning to each child rather than forcing them through the same model.He added that students will have the chance to explore different cultures through the arts.The second program, ENTER, will focus on new technologies, engineering and robotics, for students in Grades 6 through 8. The course, which also runs three days a week, will take place at Aspen Elementary. Stewart said that Aspen is a good fit because it currently has a shop class sitting empty.The hands-on program will give students the opportunity to explore a number of technologies, as well as self-regulated learning and academic subjects. Stewart said that the idea is to incorporate other subjects, including arts, math and science, into the
practical aspects of working with machinery and technology.Students and their parents will also be expected to pursue further learning outside the three weekly sessions.The programs are still in their infancy and funding arrangements for the additional costs associated with both courses have not been decided. The Comox Valley School District will provide much of the funding and those enrolled will have to provide the rest. Just how much that is, and whether it will be supplied through program fees, fundraising, or a combination of the two, has yet to be determined, said Stewart. Before any decisions are made, NIDES will be gathering a list of interested students and asking parents how they would like to fund the additional costs for the programs.Two information evenings for students and parents are scheduled for Monday. Jan. 16 at the NIDES Tsolum campus and Thursday, Jan. 26 at Mark R, Isfeld Secondary. Both sessions run from 6: 00 p.m. to 8: 00 p.m.