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Derek Shrubsole: Questions drive and guide student projects

Year: 2020 — Province: British Columbia
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

École Secondaire Oak Bay Secondary School
General science, advanced science, biology, marine biology, grades 9 to 12
Victoria, British Columbia

It has been an honour to watch from the sidelines as a parent while [Mr. Shrubsole] changed the lives of my daughter and her high school peers. He changed their vision of themselves and their vision of their community.

parent and nominator

When Derek Shrubsole's son started school, the experience changed Derek's approach to teaching. More aware that he needed to make his classes accessible to the widest possible range of learners—and drawing on knowledge he gained while earning his master's in education—he began developing ways to engage students not naturally drawn to science.

Teaching approach

With a focus on project-based learning, Derek ensures each student develops a driving question—something broad, ambiguous and engaging—to shape their research. Once they have that, he helps them brainstorm guiding questions that will provide a framework for their inquiries.

STEM in the classroom

  • Maintains a website for each of his science courses: uploads class notes, labs, and review and unit materials; includes external resources for enrichment; accessible to anyone with an interest in science.
  • Gamifies learning: for example, runs Jeopardy-style quizzes to review material; creates science-themed Kahoots.
  • Guided students to create a native plant garden: students in his environment club prepared a proposal, acquired soil and seedlings, contacted a local gardener for more plants, and created a thriving garden on a former gravel patch on school grounds.
  • Posts a large world map in the classroom: students hang keychains on the locations they have visited and researched scientifically; serves as a prompt to share stories.

Outstanding achievements

  • Helped redesign Grade 9 and 10 advanced science program, was previously open only to students with top marks: new "discovery science" (DISCO) program spurs experimentation; students apply online and there are more applicants than spaces.
  • Spearheads Bowker Creek Restoration project: students work to bring salmon back to polluted creek; research history and ecology; built 3D model that was displayed at Royal British Columbia Museum; museum website hosts "playlists" of students' work.
  • Coordinates Water Is Life initiative, a student exchange with a Dutch school: students get grants to travel to each other's countries to research local ecology and biology; presented research on plastic pollution at conference in Tokyo.
  • Involved in setting up a professional learning community at his school: teachers from various departments meet over dinner to discuss research on educational issues, such as instructional strategies and learning styles, which fosters cross-curricular approaches.

Get in touch!

École Secondaire Oak Bay Secondary School
2121 Cadboro Bay Road
Victoria BC  V8R 5G4

Twitter: @djshrubsole

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