A student explores a virtual reality system at the Abbotsford Virtual School.

A student explores a virtual reality system at the Abbotsford Virtual School.

Fusion inspires students to explore new frontiers

Science, technology and independent learning thrive at Virtual School

Where will your interests and imagination take you?

The Abbotsford Virtual School – AVS – hopes they’ll lead to a world of inquiry and inspired ideas.

This fall, SD34 introduces Fusion, a new program for Grade 6 to 8 students that offers a blended learning environment combining structured classroom learning with the flexibility of online study.

Built around a STEM focus – science, technology, engineering and math – Fusion’s unique learning approach will provide students with essential tools for an ever-changing world, explains Brad Hutchinson, from SD34’s Abbotsford Virtual School.

“It’s a very viable alternative for many. We can delve more deeply into the students’ passions and allow them to explore their interests,” he says, noting the program reinforces the philosophy that learning can happen anywhere, and that not all children learn in the same way.

What does the program look like?

Students undertake the usual middle school courses – math, science, social studies, English, PE, technology and languages – online, then on Mondays and Wednesdays through the school year, they enjoy onsite instruction at the district’s Pine Street heritage building.

Guiding the 15- to 20-student class will be a team of dedicated teachers working in a technology-rich environment. Hands-on learning is at the program’s core, with project-based learning reflecting the new B.C. curriculum, Hutchinson notes.

“The small group cohort offers a technology-enriched setting with more individualized attention. Students can work at their own pace as opposed to a classroom pace, and develop a creative, innovative mindset.”

A “maker space” on-site includes 3D printer and stop-action animation tools, while a Google suite of apps for education encourages students to explore ideas and concepts, Hutchinson says. One project last year had students create scale model cars from various components, including some made on the 3D printer, while future themes include the possibilities of robotics.

Who is suited to Fusion?

Independent, academically motivated students will attend classes and fieldtrips, and have a demonstrated interest in internet technology, such as virtual reality, coding, littleBits and 3D printing. They’ll create, communicate and collaborate in a flexible, multi-grade, group learning environment, but outside class will be able to maintain an effective daily learning at home.

The nature of the program and smaller class size also gives families a close connection to teachers and projects. “Parents will have a much more intimate knowledge of what their students are doing,” Hutchinson says.

While September’s AVS Fusion class will meet Mondays and Wednesdays, if numbers warrant, additional classes can be added. Students must have their own laptop and should also actively participate in an extracurricular physical activity and an arts program. Contact Abbotsford Virtual School for more information or call 604-859-9803.