How we see Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology
Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology (VISST) is a tech-heavy high school where all teachers are PhDs and UBC professors. Learning is project-based and follows the B.C. curriculum at an accelerated rate in which both the sciences and humanities are taught at a challenging pace. Currently, the school is admitting Grade 8 and 9 students, with more grades, and computer science is taught from Grade 8. Fun is deeply woven into the programming, creating an environment where students are excited to learn. and learning new things is not the only metric for success—creating a learning environment where students are excited to learn is key. The school respects students’ capabilities and time, and it clearly communicates goals to each student and for each project. VISST has a flexible tuition model that accounts for each family’s financial situation and resources.
How Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology sees itself
"Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology (VISST) is Vancouver's first & only dedicated STEM high school, offering the full BC curriculum with accelerated/enriched STEM taught via a mix of traditional methods and project based learning. VISST isn't just for the "math whiz" type -- you will find all sorts of students at our school, united by a shared curiosity and passion for learning. We believe science and technology fundamentals are important for any path our students might take after high school."
"VISST is a reimagining of high school and differs from other schools in several ways. We ar a STEM school with enriched and accelerated STEM offerings, delivered by experts in our respective fields. VISST deeply values student buy-in and ownership. We include students in important decisions such as which teachers to hire. VISST staff are open and transparent with students, and avoid reinforcing power dynamics. Teachers and students are all just people, on a journey of self-improvement together."
"Families are drawn to VISST for different reasons: the STEM curriculum, the way students are treated and respected, the project-based learning, the like-minded peers. One of VISST's key competitive advantages is our teachers. In BC, it is not required that a teacher have a degree in a subject in order to teach it. In contrast, VISST teachers are highly trained experts who buy into VISST's philosophy and values. We give our teachers the time and resources to shine and do their life's best work."
"Some families think of VISST as a school for "math genius" types. While we do provide an excellent environment for students who excel in STEM subjects, VISST was created for a broader audience. We measure success by how much a student grows in 5 years, not by where they start or end up. All students at VISST enjoy STEM, are curious about it, and are capable of succeeding, but math doesn't have to be your strongest suit for you to attend and thrive at VISST. We also welcome "artsy" types!"
"VISST's culture is sometimes underrated. In a word, we are a STEM school -- this features in our school's name, even. But in sentence, we are a STEM school with an utterly different school culture. At VISST students are first class citizens. Students call teachers by their first names, share social spaces with teachers, interview teacher candidates during hiring, and participate in school governance. Students truly feel a part of VISST, and in doing so they build justified self-confidence."
"VISST was launched in 2022, but the idea for VISST was formed in 2013.
In VISST's first year of operation we hosted more than 20 guest speakers from scientists to physicians to a professional poker player.
VISST's student body is gender-balanced.
Although all of VISST's students are Canadian, they come from four continents and over 10 different countries.
Each semester VISST hosts an event where students (proudly!) showcase their achievements to families and community members."
How people from the school’s community see Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology
Top-down influence on the school’s direction and tone
Dr. Mike Gelbart, Co-founder and Principal
Welcome to the Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology (VISST)! Before founding VISST, I was a computer science professor at UBC where I taught over 25 courses to thousands of students. At UBC I made two key observations. One, that university students are much more comfortable with well-defined short-term tasks than with ambiguity and long-term planning; this, I concluded, is likely a product of our current high school system. And two, I observed firsthand the insatiable demand for computer science at UBC and all universities around the world, which is well beyond our capacity to provide it. This is unfortunate, I felt, because kids are more than capable of learning computer science. Combining these observations with my teaching experience, I decided to create VISST along with a fantastic team. VISST is a non-profit high school in Vancouver that aims to address the struggles I observed in university students and the lack of computer science in high schools.
Our pedagogical approach is to combine project-based learning with rigorous fundamentals. The former builds teamwork skills, long-term planning, and comfort with ambiguity. The latter is an essential component to STEM excellence. An overarching theme of our educational philosophy is to have students interface with the real world as much as possible. Whether it is publishing an article, interpreting data from the news, or partnering with a community organization during a project, real-world experiences are motivating and educational. We would consider it a failure on our part if our students are left wondering, "Why am I learning this?"
We look forward to having you explore VISST. Welcome to the VISST community.
If you’re considering a small school for your extroverted child, make sure it offers plenty of social opportunities, including the ability to seek out and interact with different peer groups. Since smaller schools have smaller and less diverse student populations than big schools, it can sometimes be more challenging for your child to find a like-minded group of friends—friends with similar interests, values, etc.
“It’s important to look at the social makeup of the school,” says Ruth Rumack of Ruth Rumack's Learning Space. "Is there enough variety that your child will have a group that they feel connected with? Because you want to have friends that are like-minded and you want to be in a social situation where you feel honoured and respected. Variety can also be found in extracurriculars, leadership programs, and sports activities, which tend to have kids with a wide range of personalities.”
Also, make sure a school’s teaching and learning approach is suitable for your social child. “For instance, a school focusing on individual learning instead of group learning may not play into your child’s strengths,” say Ann and Karen Wolff, Toronto-based education consultants at Wolff Educational Services. “You want to make sure the social, emotional, and academic realities of the classroom are a match for your child’s personality.”
Smaller schools often have small classrooms and tight-knit communities, which can make it easier for your introverted child to come out of their shell, make friends, and feel like they belong. Since they’re less socially overwhelming, your child should find it easier to navigate their social environment. And since they’re conducive to group work, small classes often have plenty of interaction, which can help your child develop critical interpersonal skills.
Of course, small schools normally have a less diverse student population than big schools, which can sometimes make it more challenging to find a group of like-minded peers—peers with similar personalities, interests, values, etc. This makes it especially important to ask a school about its extracurricular programs, which can help your introverted child establish an intimate social circle.
THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology
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