Small School Think Tank

Green, grassy field with trees

The Small Secondary School Think Tank was created in 2013 as a result of the Rural Education Advisory expressing a need for an annual event where educators from across the province could come together in an effort to share ideas and collaborate on the unique challenges faced by small schools in British Columbia.

In partnership with the Rural Education Advisory, the Okanagan School of Education hosts the annual Small Secondary School Think Tank. This two-day event is an opportunity for educators to come together to collaborate, inspire, and innovate.  Teams from small, primarily rural, secondary schools and school districts participate in an empathetic design process to support a case study school. This is a process where educators creatively identify problems, and then solutions, using design thinking, a philosophy supported by the Innovative Learning Centre.

2021 Mount Sentinel Secondary School

Visual representation Think Tank 2021

Mount Sentinel Secondary is a Grade 7 to 12 school located in the community of South Slocan, British  Columbia, on the traditional territory of the Sinixt, Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, and Syilx Peoples. With an enrolment of  280 students, the catchment area of this small school extends for 65 kilometers along Highway 6 from South  Slocan, north, to the village of Slocan. Mt. Sentinel is considered the graduating school for students who may transition from one of three schools in the Slocan Valley, including Brent Kennedy Elementary, Winlaw Elementary  or W.E. Graham Community School. The majority of our learners transition from elementary school in Grade 6 to start high school in Grade 7. The Grade 7 and 8 program has not historically provided a transition program between elementary and secondary schooling. Our middle year students are learning in a high school context;  they follow a secondary student schedule and are fully immersed in a high school experience. No flexible learning spaces or playgrounds are currently present at the school. The question and now curiosity has been raised: are  Grade 7 and 8 students entering this rigorous timetable too soon?


Case Study: Rethinking the Middle Years Experience at Mount Sentinel Secondary School

2021 Introduction Presentation

2021 Case Study Presentation

Presentation: Denise Augustine, Lead Indigenous Learner, Ministry of Education

Presentation: Brooke Haller and Imagine High

Presentation: Shelley Moore

Past case study: Arrow Lakes (SD 10) 2021 Update

Past case study: Eagle River Secondary School 2021 Update

Past case study: Desert Sands Middle School 2021 Update

Past case study: Pembleton Secondary School 2021 Update

Past case study: Osoyoos Secondary School 2021 Update

Past case study: Lillooet Secondary School 2021 Update

2019 Lillooet Secondary School

Located on the traditional territory of the St’at’imc peoples and Lillooet Secondary School serves the communities of Zwisten, Sekw’el’was, Xaxli’p, Ts’kw’aylaxw, Tsal’ath, T’it’q’et and Lillooet.

There are 210 students between Grades 8 and 12, with 67 per cent declaring Indigenous ancestry.

A 2016 survey of Indigenous learners showed:

  • Lack of connection to adults in school
  • Lack of belonging in the school of community
  • Experiencing racism
  • Feelings that racism was going unaddressed by staff
  • Feelings of inequity in the way the school served students

From there the school embarked on an action plan for learning to creative a culturally safe space for all learners.


Lillooet Think Tank Presentation

Lillooet Secondary School 2021 Update

2018 Pemberton Secondary School

Pemberton Secondary School (PSS) is located in Pemberton BC. The total population is approximately 5,000, which includes the town of Pemberton, the rural outlying areas, and Mt Currie. Pemberton is located 30 minutes north of Whistler, BC.

Pemberton Secondary School is a diverse and unique school comprised of 40 per cent Aboriginal students (non-status First Nations, Metis and Stl’atl’imx Nation – N’Quatqua, Lil’wat, Samahquam, Skatin, and Xa’xtsa7 Bands). It has an active student population, students with diverse artistic interests, a growing international program, children of long-time Pemberton residents, and students that are new to the area. Specialized programs currently offered at PSS are:

  • Outdoor Education Program for Grade 10
  • Ski, Snowboard & Bike Academy (SBBA) for Grades 11 and 12
  • French immersion Grades 8 – 12
  • Ucwalmicwts Language Program


Pemberton Secondary School Case Study

Past case study: Pembleton Secondary School 2021 Update

2017 Osoyoos Secondary School

Osoyoos Secondary School is a rural high school in the South Okanagan Similkameen School District #53. The population is approximately 200 students, Grades 8 – 12. Approximately 20 per cent of the population is of Indo-Canadian ancestry and 10 per cent is of First Nations ancestory, with all of their First Nations students coming from homes that are off reserve.

Osoyoos Secondary has a very positive school culture characterized by strong relationships between teachers and parents support and has strong connections to the community. A significant number of O.S.S. graduates return to Osoyoos to live, work, raise families, and send their children to school in here.

Declining enrolment made it challenging for the school to offer a strong complement of elective courses to students. Over time, students in the Grad Programs had fewer options to choose from and thus had little ability to create a Grade 10 – 12 graduation plan that was personalized to their needs and goals. At the end of the 2014/15 school year staff agreed to enter into a process of exploration and research in order to find ways to increase choice for students.

By 2016/17, staff, parents, and students moved that Osoyoos Secondary adopt a Flexible Schedule learning model.


News: UBC’s annual Think Tank supports a bright future for Osoyoos Secondary School

Osoyoos Secondary PowerPoint Presentation: Flexible Schedule Timetable

Osoyoos Secondary School 2021 Update

2016 Desert Sands Community School

Desert Sands Community School (DSCS) is in its first year as a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Ashcraft, BC, a rural community in the heart of the Gold Trail School District #74.

In 2016, students and staff from Ashcroft Secondary School joined forces with those from Ashcroft Elementary School to create a new learning community for 265 students, as well as to share space with the children who attend Strong Start and Early learning programs.

Watch the Small School Think Tank Video


Desert Sands Community School Case Study

News: UBC works with small schools to tackle big problems

Sequence of Activities

Growing Innovations Slideshow

2021 Case Study Update

2015 Eagle River Secondary School

Eagle River Secondary’s (ERS) educational team (a full-time principal and 12 teachers) identifies as being agents of change. Over the past three years, the team has designed and developed a long-term organizational structure of curricular reinvention to address low enrolment, Cross Curricular Competencies, 21st Century learning skills, and BC’s new curriculum with topic-based inquiry options reflecting the current students’ needs. Current team members demonstrate:

1. a willingness to work towards a common goal that is beneficial for students and
2. to think ‘outside the box’ when addressing issues.

Often considered to be “movers and shakers”, ERS has attracted a high percentage of teachers who have more than eight years in the K-12 system and are looking for new opportunities to enrich their previous teaching and learning experiences. Currently, many staff members have obtained, or are in the process of obtaining, graduate certificates and degrees. Within this environment of learning professionalism and willingness to engage in new practices, the team feels the excitement of things to come. One common professional development requirement the team has identified is the need to deeply understand inquiry-based teaching and learning. Given a choice, these dedicated individuals would choose to stay at ERS; however, given declining enrolment numbers this choice may not be possible.


Eagle River Case Study

2013 Arrow Lakes (SD 10)

School district 10 includes six schools (five neighbourhood schools and one distance learning school). They are dispersed across hundreds of km of mountains and lake. While their geography is an asset for environmental learning, there is a significant challenge for district coherence, transportation and travel.

While the district remains under funding protection, they struggle to continue to provide high quality learning while faced with ever decreasing enrollment, more and more complex class configurations and shrinking staff.


A case study for secondary revisioning in SD 10 (Arrow Lakes)

Arrow Lakes (SD 10) 2021 Update