The Browndale school at Keswick
For the past 21/2 years, Douglas Galloway
has carried the overall responsibility for the school programmes in the Barrie-Newmarket
area of Browndale for children who are not able to attend community schools. Before that,
he worked as a Browndale therapeutic parenting staff for 2 years.
Our programme has been geared towards readjusting
attitudes about themselves and about school, attempting to stimulate and develop their learning skills on a level and in a setting that is comfortable for them and familiar to them. Familiar because their child care staff are with them and in the sense of
the physical surroundings that they work in, the type of furniture that we provide, the tools that they use, the type of projects that they undertake. Not only are these projects geared to the interests of the
children, many of them come out of the suggestions and ideas of the children themselves.
We try to provide our children with a comfortable relationship with one of the school staff. Most of us worked in Browndale therapeutic families before we became school staff so we have had plenty of
experience in dealing with our kids and we know what the programme as a whole can provide for them. We act as middlemen in that we help the child begin to relate the
things that happen between school and home and begin to learn how to sort out the things that happen in each place and deal with them in the proper place.
In this type of setting, children are able to look at their socializing and from the experience of being part of a community, they gain feelings of satisfaction in themselves and others, appreciation of
their own talents and desires and ability
to perform. And once they have been properly stimulated, and given the relationship
which helps develop the strength our children need to make it through a normal
school day, they are able then to move out to a community school.
Newmarket school programme, Red Wheel Farm located in Keswick, is
presently operating with a small number of children and a 2:1 ratio of children to staff. This has made it possible for a staff person to follow through with one or two children
for a whole day, a week, or a month, on one particular basic idea, helping them explore all the subjects related to it
- even to abstract ideas.
Through our arts and crafts and model building programme we have been able to help our children make use of materials and ideas that would otherwise
and.uninteresting to them. A child's model of a dinosaur can lead to discussions of evolution and time, a trip to the museum, or to the greenhouse to
see how plants change, a trip in
the woods including lunch - caveman
style - which is interesting and understandable for the child, as well as challenging.
In the past year, we have started a pre-school programme which is successfully helping detect the special
learning problems that some of our children have, as well as stimulating them and building up their confidence in themselves at a younger age. This, we hope, will
pay off for them in a shorter stay with us.
We are also building an animal care programme using farm animals which gives the children opportunities
to look at some of life's natural
cycles - an animal's life and family, birth, death, day-to-day routines, how to provide for an animal and what an animal provides for us. The children also
benefit from the day-today fun with the animals.
The Red Wheel Farm programme operates year round.
During the summer it reaches a
much larger community by providing a daily arts and crafts programme, an animal programme or - for the family living in the
city - an escape for a day to the country, or a place to stop in for a good lunch
on the way to the beach.
Our school programme in Barrie - described
more fully in Mike Owen's article which follows mine- has been very successful in its use of an elaborate workshop programme
which our children use as a tool to help them learn how to measure accurately,
to develop co-ordination and experience in working together with other children. They also learn how to
produce useful and interesting articles: stools, chests of drawers, toys
for themselves and for younger brothers and sisters.
For the past year this programme has been offered not only to the children in residential treatment but also to children from the satellite
programme who are referred to us from home or school.
Groups of teachers and people in education administration who come to visit our schools all say that they would like to have some
type of alternative along the lines
of our programme for some of the children
in their schools who need to develop a better appreciation of themselves. These teachers want the type of school system in which
each child has an equal opportunity to succeed in developing his full potential.
The Browndale school at Barri
Mike Owen is in charge of the Brown-dale school programme in Barrie. His background
includes 2Vi years experience as a Browndale therapeutic parenting staff.
The Browndale school in Barrie is located
in a big, beautiful, old house with a large garden close
to the town centre. About 30 children use the school. The majority of them are from Brown-dale therapeutic families in Barrie but some of them are
in the satellite programme and live with
their own families in Barrie or nearby towns.
The range of ages and interests is wide. The youngest child is five and the oldest 17. They attend our school because the education
is unable to meet their needs as either people or pupils. Consequently, the focus of our school is constantly on what the individual child needs to grow (in the widest sense)
rather than on
what the school needs to "provide
an education" or to run smoothly.
Many programmes suggested by the staff at school are used by the children; however, many an idea dear to an adult's
heart has been passed up in favour of something more in tune with a child's particular needs at that time.
The school needs to be flexible enough to help each child feel that he is achieving, growing,
learning. To help make this possible
the child care staff spend a great deal of time in the school and are one of the most valuable resources that the school has. A child
does not stop being a person and become a pupil when he steps through the school door. He still has the same human needs he had at home and it is very reassuring for a child to know that there is someone at school he is close to who can support and help him through the day and make it easier for him
to do things and learn things that would otherwise be difficult for him.
This flexibility must respect what is important to kids:
what the child feels is an achievement as
opposed to what an adult might think is an achievement for that child.
Visitors to the school may be somewhat
bewildered, initially, by the apparent confusion of 30 or so kids doing 30 or so different things at the same time. Downstairs in the workshop a couple of boys might be building a go-kart together, one
or two girls might be making a jewellery box
or a dresser, one of the older boys might be making a coke bottle lamp on the lathe, another boy might be making a stool out of
pine branches gathered from the local forest. These and other activities make up the 400 or so projects completed over the
past four months. Out front it's a group of kids building things they like, but behind the scenes it's people
learning how big is big, how small
is small. Learning, also, how to communicate - not just one-way communication with a teacher behind a desk, but two-way communication with many different people.
On the main floor, in the kitchen, one of the school staff will be cooking with kids popping in to help. Upstairs,
we have a room for copper enamelling, candle-making and batiking. There is also a large arts and crafts room, a library and a room where the younger kids
can play in the sandbox and in the store that
they have built.
We make use of community resources such as the local skating arena, the Barrie
film and book libraries and the YMCA where we swim every week and where the younger children take part in a learning-through-movement gym programme. We also visit
local industries and businesses and other
places of interest in the area.
These and other programmes are offered continually by the school staff, but the most important things that
happen in the school come from the kids' ideas. A good example of this was last
November's production of "You're a
Good Man, Charlie Brown". A couple of the teenage girls had seen the musical
during the summer and suggested doing the play on a small scale at school. The project snowballed until it involved the whole school. Four of the teenage girls
sang in the play and one of the staff took the part of Charlie Brown. A child care staff designed the stage and props and he and the kids built and painted it. One of the boys who is very talented
at electronics built a light control box;
another boy designed a programme and three of the boys were stagehands. Doing two productions of this play in one evening
and participating in eight weeks of rehearsals speaking volumes for the talents, interest and enthusiasm
of the kids involved.
However, this isn't really so surprising, because people are naturally interested, involved and enthusiastic. When you put a kid behind a desk and "stimulate his interest"
you communicate a negative attitude towards him and a disregard for his talents.
There are other ways to learn.