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Sean Merrett: On the trail to learning and personal growth

Year: 2020 — Province: Nova Scotia
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

St. Mary's Bay Academy
Food science, agri foods, global geography, phys. ed. leadership, sociology, grades 10 to 12
St. Bernard, Nova Scotia

His absentee rates are the lowest in the school. He has created a space and place where students want to be.


The St. Mary's Bay Academy Experiential School of Excellence began as a simple student project to build a short trail system on school grounds. Sean Merrett has led its expansion into a major learning site that now includes outdoor classrooms, a greenhouse, gardens, orchards, maple syrup production and more, to everyone's benefit.

Teaching approach

Sean challenges his students to stretch themselves, academically and personally. To help them do so, he provides a multitude of hands-on opportunities for them to explore their talents, take on leadership roles and work on teams, using a reflective practice-to-action approach.

STEM in the classroom

  • Fosters wilderness confidence: for a phys. ed. class of female-identified students with little outdoor experience, built on their existing knowledge; introduced them to GPS systems; by the end of term, students were blazing an adaptive trail, cooking on campfires and leading activities for peers. 
  • Guides students in hydroponic gardening: students design, build, plant and maintain vertical hydroponic gardens, sometimes feeding them with water from a classroom fish tank, and harvesting produce.
  • Is working with students to expand trail system, using ArcGIS software to create interactive trail maps; students create videos about flora, fauna and history along the seven-kilometre trail network; hikers will soon be able to access information via posted QR codes.
  • Uses technology to engage students with nature: students study weather patterns with portable observation stations, use GPS units to mark sensitive ecological areas, and employ portable microscopes and tablets to study tiny organisms.
  • Helps students achieve outdoor-related certifications: specialties include wildlife identification, water-quality monitoring and chainsaw training.

Outstanding achievements

  • Engages all teachers in outdoor education: co-developed and facilitates professional development, so teachers have the skills, knowledge, and comfort level to use natural settings; worked with history teacher to design a sandbox archaeological dig.
  • Is creating an advanced diploma program in silviculture and forestry management: has helped develop a five-year strategic plan to start the program; will be the first of its kind for an N.S. high school; effort has changed school's culture, with students and teachers going beyond their comfort zone.
  • Develops strategic relationships with government and community organizations to sustain his programs

Get in touch!

St. Mary's Bay Academy
4079 Highway 1
St. Bernard NS  B0W 3T0

Facebook: SMBAstingrays
Twitter: @SMBAstingrays

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