STELLARTON - Three Stellarton educators are of the opinion that it takes a village to raise (and educate) a child. That’s why they want to start a village of their own – Village Academy, to be precise.
Katie Macdonald-Baker, Lacey Morrell-Pierre and Melissa Peers spoke to the Town of Stellarton council this week to propose the idea of an alternative, private, educational facility in the town, called Village Academy.
Village Academy is an institution that can “fill a gap” that exists in the public education system, said Morrell-Pierre. She said the aim is to build stronger relationships between students and the community at large to create a healthy, sustainable community.
Macdonald-Baker said the vision of Village Academy is “to create an alternative education program and facility that nurtures the development of imagination, mindfulness, social responsibility and environmental stewardship.”
The curriculum at Village Academy would focus on four “pillars,” which include academics, wellness, the environment and citizenship. Macdonald-Baker said Village Academy would offer students individualized “paths of discovery, passions and skills, through a student-focused holistic approach to learning.”
She emphasized that Village Academy would encourage curiosity and creativity, “reconnecting to the education process.” The emphasis would be on play-based education, mindfulness practices, respect for nature and clarity of intentions, with goal-setting and independent studies.
The three representatives for Village Academy said curriculums would include activities like yoga and volunteering, integrating all aspects of a healthy life. The student body size of the proposed school would be 30, with eventual plans to expand, said Macdonald-Baker. The academy would provide education for children from the grades primary to 8, with eventual plans to develop programs for high school-aged students, as well.
Macdonald-Baker said they were looking to share or purchase land in the Valley Woods Park area, specifically near the pond, to accommodate a schoolhouse, classroom, and community garden and fire pit.
Macdonald-Baker said that she, Morrell-Pierre and Peers are exploring private and public investment options to make Village Academy a reality in Stellarton, and are reaching out to the community to see where they can find support.
Coun. Simon Lawand asked if the institution would be accredited, and Macdonald-Baker confirmed that it would be. Lawand also asked if they would consider other locations. Macdonald-Baker said they are open to other potential locations, and explained that they chose the Valley Woods area because of its central location in the town, its natural atmosphere in the park – and how both things fall in line with the citizenship and environmental values of their academy.
Mayor Danny MacGillivray said it is important that there is a need for a “holistic approach and a broader vision” for education, and that the idea that they proposed to council “is the way of the future.”
Coun. Bryan Knight also voiced his approval for the idea of a private institution, recalling that back when the local school system was amalgamated, “Stellarton lost their high school, and that’s hurting us now.”
Knight said he feels the only way to get back quality education in Stellarton is to go the way of private educational institutions, rather than depend on a public system.
Lawand told council he would do research with the committee, “to see if Stellarton can provide anything” to assist in the establishment of Village Academy. He added that he’d bring the results back to council.