Breslau, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
My son has found multiple and varied activities to get involved in. The opportunity to get involved is open to all and it has been a very rich experience. Everything from sports, to music and the arts, and robotics. Furthermore, he has been engaged in his learning and seems able to relate learning with his purpose in the world and to engage in critical thinking about this. I think he has most enjoyed the extra curricular activities and the fact that he could participate in a wide variety of these activities. I asked him if he found anything disappointing and he can't think of anything! I would say the only minor issue we had was the robotics team using so many varied systems for communication rather than one streamlined system, but on the other hand the Robotics program was probably one of the richest experiences of learning, fun, and exposure to new things.
So, to be fair we did not have to deal with any problems or discipline. However, we can say that the communication has generally been good. The newsletter is concise but clear and the Edsby site works well, where most issues can all be found on this one page. Special events are communicated well. What stands out most is how positive and engaged the leadership and administration is. They talk with students, with parents, they have responded when we have asked questions, and they generally seem to view the school as more than just a place of employment, but rather a place of community with the students. This is remarkable.
For this first year we had a good experience. The communication via Edsby was clear and regular. Our son seemed to be challenged. He was encouraged to do Math enrichment and his teacher seemed to understand him well. Most of the feedback was given via Edsby and we largely left that up to our son. From a parent's perspective, we appreciated that there was a good balance of providing deadlines and expectations as well as problem solving where needed. We certainly felt we could contact teachers easily if needed, but we really never had much of a need (so far!).
We appreciate that this school does not just excel in only one area, but really seems to have excellent programs in both the maths/sciences and the arts and humanities. These kids are getting a well-rounded education that will help them to fully prepare for whatever they go on to do with their lives. The extra curricular activities also provide unique opportunities. For example, with the Robotics team, the kids got to learn CAD software as well as coding. We were impressed that math enrichment was a possibility. The choir and band provided opportunities for performing throughout the community. For example, the choir spends an entire day with multiple other choirs learning new music in one day and performing it that evening - incredible!
Woodland excels in this area. Because it is a smaller school there are ample opportunities for kids where they can join even if they are not the best at that particular time. They get the opportunity to try multiple things and become better at them. The Robotics program is phenomenal as is the music program. These are only some of the activities they can do - they are so many to choose from! I do also appreciate that while they are ample opportunities, the education sticks to the core of learning. The extra curriculars augment the learning. My only area for improvement would be to work harder to get the sports and arts extra curriculars to come together so that it's not as hard for kids to have to choose either or, but engage in both. These kids are probably more well-rounded than most.
These kids are not necessarily better behaved than kids at other schools. However, what is different is that the size of the school means it's harder for them to get lost and teachers know what is going on. The feel of the students is one of community. These kids share a greater sense of purpose and clarity for what is important in life. The dynamics of teenagers here is also challenging at times and this school is not exempt from that.
Our son completed his first year. So far he seems to enjoy going to school. He mostly enjoys the extra curricular activities and the many trips and outside class learning he has done. He has enjoyed meeting new people, but so far is not doing a lot of socializing outside of school hours and activities. Part of this is that the students come from various cities and so "hanging out" is not as easy. He is also so busy with extra curricular activities that this becomes most of the hanging out.
Woodland is absolutely a community school and I definitely feel comfortable being in the school and engaging with the teachers and students. There are many events throughout the year where parents can come and either help out with extra curriculars or engage by seeing the school play, attending the concerts, going to sports events, going to Robotics events, and coming along on class trips. As our first year there I felt really welcomed and comfortable attending events, and frankly it gets pretty enjoyable at this level. My only area for growth is the involved parent network they have, which was never communicated overly clearly and still remains a bit of a mystery to me. Some of the fundraising activities could probably be a bit more community focussed in order to engage parents further. They do also hold a BBQ at the start of school for parents, teachers, and students, which is pretty cool from a community building perspective.
The school is definitely more of an island. It is located practically in the middle of a field between Kitchener and Guelph. Students have to take the bus or drive. Because the school is pulling from such a wide range of communities from close by and far away it is not a school that seems overly engaged in the local neighbourhood or community. The extra curricular events are the things that seem to get them more engaged in the communities that they are near and from the cities that students are coming from.
I would highly recommend attending one of the special days they have (like grade 8 day) or the special parents day. The school does a good job of outlining the process, what to expect, and providing lots of take home info. The application process was clear. The school also has a specific person you can contact to come and do a personal meeting. It's a comfortable school to enter. We felt really comfortable to ask questions. We had the opportunity on the parents night to attend classes with the teachers (you had to choose a couple to attend from a list) where a presentation was given and an opportunity to ask questions. This was probably the most helpful night to help us ensure this was the right fit. There was also a special meeting once school started for parents new to this school. That was also fairly helpful. I would not change anything yet, it seemed pretty organized although I'm sure they can keep refining that process.