RAIL Frequent Asked Questions

Is this different than the SKY program?

Not really. It will encompass the same philosophy and pedagogy as the SKY program for grades 11-12, however RAIL will be for students in grades 8 to 10 and it will be on both day 1s and 2s.  

Who’s it for?

People who don’t feel school quite works for them. People who see things differently. People who would like school to be more about doing projects around their own interests. People who are bored in school. People who like to build things or program computers or make art. People who find school courses don’t allow them to pursue their passions. People who are willing to challenge themselves. People who care as much about the process as they do about the final grade. People who are curious and have a sense of wonder. People who aren’t sure if college is for them. People who want to go to post-secondary. People who want to go straight into work. If you’re not sure, call us or email us and we would love to sit down to talk about it!

What grade levels do you work with?

We are starting with a grade 8-10 cohort in September. For the early years, most of the students joining will be for grade 8.

Who isn’t it for?

People who are not self-directed in their learning. People who like having teachers tell them what to do and when. People who don’t think they’d enjoy spending a lot of time making projects. People who prefer being in a large class, sitting in rows. If you’re not sure, call us or email us and we would love to sit down to talk about it!

How does enrollment work?

Anyone who’s interested can apply here. We will then invite you in for an interview to determine if you are a suitable fit for the RAIL program.

What do you mean by ‘projects’?

Basically what you mean when you say “project” in the real world. It could be a report, computer software, art, a book, a scale model, a presentation, a play, etc. A student can choose nearly any project as long as it conveys their understanding of the concepts in the Ministry of Education's proscribed learning outcomes. Most of the projects people will do at RAIL will be of their own design. Our goal is for students to design and create interdisciplinary projects that they will produce over an extended time period and our job is to help them get there.

Why 9AM–3:00PM?

Because we know that young people—especially adolescents—do not perform well when they are forced to get up early. The studies tell us that earlier school start times are unhealthy and reduce learning. They also lead to growing resentment of school and very stressful morning routines for families.

What do you mean by 'storytelling'?

Creating and communicating narratives— sometimes visually, sometimes with words, sometimes as a marketing campaign, sometimes in a speech or song.

What do you mean by 'interdisciplinary'?

Work which combines many subjects at once. e.g. Instead of 'just' doing math or 'just' doing art, you’re working on a computational art project.

Can I still go to university?

Yes! All our courses credits are the same as traditional school. Plus. we’ll work with you to make sure that you’re prepared for the school which interest you. We’re on your team, and we don’t want to just push you out into the world if you’re not stoked for the next step.

What if I don’t want to go to college?

Then we’ll work with you to make sure not only that you’re trained for a job you’re excited about, but that you find one. Through our work experience program we will try to place you in a work space that aligns with your career goals. We’re on your team, and, again, we don’t want to just push you out into the world if you’re not stoked for the next step.

What’s a typical day look like?

There will be a morning session, then lunch, and then an afternoon session. What people will do in those sessions will change from day to day and from year to year. We believe that a seventeen year old’s day should look different than an thirteen year old’s. Broadly, people will start out spending most of their time in interdisciplinary seminars we design and run. As students become more proficient, they will spend more time working on projects of their own design. Some people will eventually transition to working in internships and co-ops before graduating and moving on to college or career. Since there will be times throughout the day when students will be working independently they will be able to allocate more time to the subjects that they find most challenging.

Where will it be?

We are currently located in Palmer Secondary School, 8160 St. Alban's Road, Richmond, B.C.

What courses are offered?

Mathematics, Science, Humanities, PE, ADST, French, and a choice of Art, Band or Drama

Will you offer AP or dual credit classes?

Yes, we offer many AP courses online through Richmond Virtual School and our district offers dual credit courses with KPU.

Is this an enrichment program?

No! Not only is it a full-fledged school, we’re especially interested in working with people who are not enjoying school now. We believe a small team working with young people to develop and execute their own projects can be a great shift for people who don’t feel engaged by traditional classrooms.

Is this a remedial program?

No! Not only is it a full-fledged school, much of it has been designed to let people, who feel that school normally doesn’t offer them enough interesting work, really fly. We believe a small team working with young people to develop and execute their own projects can be a great shift for people who don’t feel challenged by traditional classrooms.

How will people be graded?

Based on the new curriculum students in grade 8-9 are graded on their competencies of the learning outcomes. At the beginning of taking on bigger projects, young people will be asked to articulate what they’re looking to get out of the project and what success looks like. Those standards will be used throughout and at the end of the project to evaluate it. Collectively, these critiques—like an architecture studio or a performance review in a job—will form a portfolio used to evaluate the student's progress.

Has anyone done this before?

Pieces of it! Project-based work has been pioneered at places like High Tech High. Self-directed learning at Thomas Haney Secondary. Inquiry learning at iHub in Coquitlam. Project based learning at the Energetic Learning Campus in Peace River. Personalized learning at Navigate NIDES in North Island. Challenge based learning in our elementary schools in Richmond. Genius Hour programs during the summer and our elementary schools. What we are doing is bringing these innovative and highly effective educational methods together into one classroom. We then match the individual student with the learning style that will bring them the greatest success.

We have been teaching senior SKY students in a blended online, project based, personalized learning model for 4 years. Our focus has been on our students’ passions and interests. We found that not only did students perform better academically but student engagement and connection with the community also increased. We are now ready to give grade 8 students the opportunity to participate in this program as well.

Are your teachers part of the union?

Yes! Just like any other school.

How big will it be?

We’re aiming to enroll about two dozen people a year for at least the next five years, meaning we'd be about 120 students at our largest.

How can I get involved?

By getting in touch! We’re always on the lookout for great partners and volunteers. In the meantime, please be sure to sign up for our mailing list and follow us on twitter and facebook.