Education and Therapeutics Working Together
Whytecliff Centres are the only schools in the Province of BC accredited both by CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and the BC Ministry of Education.
Our approach fosters overall personal well-being, encourages inquiry-based (or discovery-based) learning using students’ natural curiosity as the driver, and also incorporates the BC Education curriculum’s intellectual, personal and social-emotional proficiencies.
Strengths-Based and Self-Paced Learning
Our Educational approach and curriculum is student-paced and based on an individualized learning plan, designed around each child’s unique potential, capabilities and interests. Each child has the time and latitude to study each subject according to their skills and abilities, with individualized support from teaching staff. As an example, some students may be “behind schedule”, and take up to a year to complete one course (if they need extra time), but then rapidly accelerate; or another child may on occasion complete two years in one. As students progress, plans are adjusted to reflect personal growth. Emphasis is on each child’s strengths (with sensitivity to their particular challenges) and increasing capacity for attentional focus, emotional balance, and self understanding.
Positive Learning and Having Fun
At Whytecliff, we encourage students to articulate their passions, while we leverage their interests to fit curriculum content. This is particularly important for students who have had negative experiences in school and are turned off traditional learning. When students’ curiosity is activated, teaching and learning flow naturally and become fun! Fun environments increase children’s permeability, opening them up to trying new things and making new connections. As educators, our role is to tap into this natural drive and help direct it towards healthy and positive paths.
Whytecliff has a relationship with (and offers programming with) Arts Umbrella, Outward Bound, Sarah McLachlan School of Music, and other organizations. Students may participate in a music program, hockey program, an array of community activities, as well as occasional overnight activities.
- Subject-streaming (tracking)
- Multi-age classrooms as standard
- Ability-grouping (in-class) as common
- Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)
- Regular guided independent study opportunities
- Differentiated instruction
A Recipe for Success
Because we believe that high school completion and good mental health are inseparable, learning and therapeutics work in harmony at Whytecliff. We’ve developed twin frameworks of ‘Agile Learning’ and ‘Generative Well-being’ which provide the structural backbone to an otherwise flexible model of engaging, enriching, and equipping kids for success. Like patient gardeners, we prepare the ground by:
– Identifying and providing the right developmental factors for youth;
– Ensuring the right conditions/resources for growth are present;
– Helping students gain the right understandings/experiences;
– Removing/reducing any obstacles or barriers to growth;
– Encouraging and reinforcing a growth mindset (attitudes/behaviour).
Our “supportive” academic culture focuses more on process than short-term outcomes: This does not mean that Whytecliff lacks standards, or has low expectations for our students’ academic performance. It simply means we prioritize instilling a love of learning and life-long curiosity.
Ready for the Future
At Whytecliff, equal attention is paid to a balance of priorities: intellectual, physical, emotional, and social. Students today are graduating into a turbulent world, where a hurricane of change, shock and disruption is now the norm. In addition to overcoming academic challenges, we also strive to help children engage and develop their strengths to lead, and really live and enjoy, a well-lived life.
Children at Whytecliff have opportunities to build their resources, develop new skills, and discover their talents. These experiences encourage self-reflective behaviour and strengthened relationships to family and the wider community. Living these principles inspires hope and leads to promising futures rich with dignity, purpose, and life & career options.
Working for children with diverse learning challenges
Whytecliff’s two sites are recognized by the BC Ministry of Education as specialized independent schools dedicated to meeting the needs of students with diverse learning needs and personal/life challenges (2 of only 15 schools in the Province of BC). Whytecliff focuses on each individual child and can adapt our approach to meet a variety of needs. This makes us especially well-suited for children with co-occurring challenges. Children at Whytecliff also develop the inner skills & resources and grow their personal confidence & competence, so they’re better positioned to deal with any other life/learning challenges as they proceed to graduation and beyond.
Whytecliff’s overall approach is designed to promote mental health, rather than treat serious mental illness. While many programs are structured around single particular challenges (e.g. addiction, anxiety, FASD, depression, ADHD), Whytecliff is organized around the specific individual children attending our programs, and addressing their behavioural, emotional, mental health, addictions, and learning challenges in an integrated way.
Laying the Welcome Mat
What we offer in terms of accommodations, modifications, and remedial/therapeutic support for children with diverse learning challenges.
Whytecliff starts from a carefully crafted physical environment, architect-designed so children feel safe, comfortable and inspired. We attract staff who love children (and also love their subject), are compassionate, approachable, and who are educated and bright, with good listening skills. A low student to educator ratio of 6:1 permits tailoring of the curriculum to each child’s learning capacity, and for teaching to accommodate diverse needs. Therapeutic support is both practical and emotional. There is also one to one teaching, or students may choose to work in pairs or in small groups. The students may focus on one course at a time or do projects that integrate several courses.
Formal adjustments may be made to the delivery of the lessons without changing the underlying content or expectations. Underlying content and expectations may be simplified for some learners or enhanced for others. Before or after class support is always available and all our approaches reflect the best learning and therapeutic science to build skills, knowledge and decrease challenges for children attending the program.
What distinguishes Whytecliff is that we see the person – their gifts, talents & strengths, and who they can become – before any list of diverse behavioral, emotional, intellectual, health, or learning challenges. For that reason, we have broad experience and expertise in creating success for a large number of children with diverse needs, such as:
– Auditory Processing Disorder
– Language Processing Disorder
– Nonverbal Learning Disorders
– Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
– High Functioning Autism
– Asperger’s Syndrome
– Intellectual Disability
– Behavioral and Emotional Challenges
– Troubled Behavior
– Clinical Depression
– Clinical Anxiety
– Suicidal Thoughts
– Drug and Alcohol Abuse
– Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Our approach with children considered to be intellectually gifted
William Butler Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This spark of curiosity is at the heart of ‘Inquiry Learning’ – an important component of the new BC curriculum and a cardinal element of Whytecliff’s student-driven approach. Studies show that children learn best when they feel personally engaged and find their work interesting and meaningful. This state of ‘optimal experience’ – or, ‘Flow’ – occurs when children’s skills/talents match the challenge at hand. We work to help each gifted child (and other diverse learners) find their own unique ‘sweet spot’, where they’re leveraging their talents & strengths and learning becomes fun. We facilitate this experience by either adjusting the challenge, or boosting the skills. We offer a number of adaptations for children considered to be intellectually gifted as well as all learners, depending on individual need; these include:
– Subject enrichment
– Curriculum compacting
– Guided independent study
– Cyber learning opportunities
– Peer coaching
– Subject acceleration
– Career exploration
– Project-based learning