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King George School named Inclusive School of the Year

School has many students on individual education plans.
Students from King George School take part in Experiential Play Based Learning and Land-Based Learning opportunities. The school will receive Inclusive Saskatchewan’s Inclusive School of the Year on June 1.

PRINCE ALBERT — Representatives from King George Public School are headed to the Inclusive Saskatchewan Awards banquet on June 1 to celebrate being named the organization’s Inclusive School of the Year.  

The Inclusive Education Awards recognize those who demonstrate innovation, student-centered approaches, and dedication to the core values of inclusive education.

King George Principal Art Feher said they knew they met the criteria for the award when they entered the competition, but winning it was still unexpected.

“It was a surprise, of course, because there are so many other good schools out there, but we would have been kind of disappointed if we didn't win,” Feher said.

“It was more of a ‘I'm really happy that we got it because we deserve it.’”

An inclusive education may look different for each student and each school. King George was selected as one school that fosters a community of inclusion for all staff and students.

Feher said the school has many students on individual education plans.

"Some kids, because of different reasons, they're only here half days or they've got behavioural issues or they've got physical barriers, but we include everybody,” he explained. “We actually have a family coming with us to get the award as well on Saturday.”

The school provides a wide range of learning opportunities, including Experiential Play Based Learning, Land-Based Learning, Character Education, Inclusivity, and Cultural Teachings in the curriculum.  

He said the school, like others, has many students who have difficulty learning in the classroom but excel in other areas. Their goal is to provide those learning opportunities outside the classroom, whether that’s in the schoolyard, out at Little Red, or somewhere else.

Feher first came to King George when they were just beginning to implement play-based learning. At first, he wondered where the curriculum was, but he soon became impressed with how it helped students.

“One boy about a year ago came to me in the wintertime,” Feher remembered. “He was a grade one boy and he said, ‘Mr. Feher, can you come here? I want to show you the bear den that I made.’  

"(For) the vocabulary of a six-year-old to have the word den as opposed to house, (or) home, something they would grow up with, they've already got that vocabulary just by playing. At that point I said, ‘Those kids learn differently, being outside.’”

Feher said that he is proud of his staff and how they let the students learn by being outside.

“Some of the kids that have trouble, they find a different way to excel as opposed to being in the classroom, so that's neat to witness,” Feher said.

Feher said that older students learn through play-based learning in science and math can have math games.  

"They're still learning by experience as opposed to paper pen work. That's still happening, and then we can have different ways of setting up rooms if it's older kids or younger kids.

“I know one of the classrooms was role-playing explorers in Grade 4 Social Studies

and they're doing a role play like with that. It's just neat to do something different as opposed to being paper pen,” Feher said.

Feher also credited the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division for making it work.

“We put in a lot of work and we could not do without the help from the school division for sure,” he said. “They can allow us to experience or Pilot these programs in a way that we can show other people that this does work.

"Kids learn at different levels, some kids have a hard time reading and or math or whatever it is, but you get them out doing something else. Then they want to come to school and they want to learn and they want to do what's best and they want to succeed.”

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division saluted King George for their work that led to winning the award.

School staff said they were also proud to see the school recognized.

 “The thing I am most proud of in the work we do at King George is how we are fully inclusive, including our ability and willingness to meet the individual needs of our students, as well as our school climate where everyone feels welcome,” teacher Kyla Vandale said in a press release.

“This didn’t happen overnight. King George has been working on Experiential Play Based Learning and Land-Based Learning for 10 years,” she added.

The school started by planning two days a year with these ideas in mind and has expanded now to have once-a-week Experiential Play Based Learning opportunities daily for most students, and Forest School (their Land-Based Learning initiative).

“Students and staff members see that everyone has a purpose,” said another King George teacher, Stacey Debray. “There is a place for everyone to learn and grow…. When you look at this model, incorporating land and play-based learning is a no-brainer for inclusion and the simple joy of learning. It was relatively easy once you dip your toes in and see the transformation in the students.”  

As part of the process, the school team was interviewed by Inclusive Saskatchewan about their school for the award. Vice Principal Ryan Gareau said that when they were asked what makes them different from other schools that might have been nominated, the team immediately knew this programming was what set them apart.  

“We are engaging students in their learning and they are taking ownership of their learning because it is joyful,” Gareau said. “We have noticed an increase in attendance and a decrease in behaviours in students who would normally struggle in a traditional classroom setting.”  

The work being done at King George is an exemplar for all Saskatchewan Rivers schools implementing the SRP SD Experiential Play-Based Learning Model.  

“I really want to commend our staff for getting on board with this,” Feher said. “It's just not easy changing. It's not easy figuring out a different way of learning, but they've all been on board and you know, we can hardly wait till next year to see how much that brings to our kids.”

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