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The Cortes Island Academy brings award-winning scientists, thought-leaders, and artists as facilitators in project-based learning where Cortes Island serves as campus and curriculum. Students earn 24 credits in Science, Art, Socials, English, Leadership, and Outdoor Education while having an unforgettable adventure both in and outside the classroom. We are now accepting applications for the 2024/2025 fall semester until April 18, 2024.

Learning Outside the Box

The Cortes Island Academy offers a 20-week (single semester) high school accredited program focused on experimental, project-based education. Cortes Island serves as both campus and curriculum.

During the 2023-2024 semester, students explored how place influences self-perception, community dynamics, and communication. Collaborating with the Hakai Institute and the Mother Tree Project, including Drs. Suzanne Simard and Briony Penn, our interdisciplinary curriculum delved into the coastal ecosystem’s ancient trees, their diverse ecosystems, and their impact on forest, soil, and climate health.

Students engage with local knowledge holders, historians, scientists, journalists, and Indigenous Peoples to gain a deeper understanding of the world.  They examine various perspectives on truth and communication while sharing their learning journey through projects and a final capstone, shared locally and nationally via community partnerships.

 

The Cortes Island Academy is thrilled to be receiving a Catapult Canada grant from the Rideau Hall Foundation. This will help us with the operations for our 2024/25 Semester. We’re excited to be joining this dynamic community of youth-serving organizations from across the country, all working to provide the best possible opportunities for young people across the country.

The Program 

The CIA is offered through School District 72. Just like a bricks-and-mortar high school, students at the CIA earn credits in Science, English, Social Studies, Outdoor/Physical Education, Leadership, and Careers. They gain 3/4 of a year worth of credits (24) in one semester. Unlike in most high schools, students learn aside local organizations, world famous scientists, Pulitzer-prize nominated journalists, local people who have known this land for generations, and Indigenous elders. Our courses are guided by local facilitators and overseen by a School District teacher. 

Instead of worksheets and tests, students participate in Hakai Institute-led citizen science initiatives, create journalistic podcasts published and distributed through Cortes Community Radio, and create documentaries featuring Cortes elders and local knowledge holders. A day may start in a classroom and end in a kayak on the ocean, or behind a microphone at the community radio station, or deep in the forest with a Mother Tree.

The CIA prioritizes admissions for SD72 high school students from the most rural and remote parts of the District. We prioritize rural and Indigenous students, especially Klahoose First Nations members, and provides a generous bursary/scholarship program to ensure access. We also accept students from across Canada and the world through our partnership with the SD72 International Program. Limited Island Homestays are available for “off-island” students. 

Parent Presentation 2023 by Cortes Island Community Foundation

The CIA prioritizes admissions for SD72 high school students from the most rural and remote parts of the District and Indigenous students especially Klahoose First Nations and provides a generous bursary/scholarship program to ensure access. We also accept students from throughout B.C. and from anywhere in Canada or the world through our partnership with the SD72 International Program. Limited Island Homestays are available.

2023/24 Slideshow!

CIA SLIDESHOW by Kai Harvey

Cortes Island Academy is a Model for Transformative Education

Education is an important determinant of health both for individuals and communities. Unfortunately, in Canada, rural students drop out of high school at almost twice the rate of their urban counterparts and consistently under-perform in all areas of achievement including reading, math, and science. These rural-urban differences persist across all the provinces, according to the Canada Council on Learning, who says that: “Canadians should be particularly concerned because, among OECD countries, Canada has the worst rural-urban gap with respect to levels of education in the workforce.”

Cortes Island and our nearby island communities live the rural education gap. With no secondary-school option at all, students had to choose between leaving their homes and cultures or dropping out of bricks-n-mortar school. In a community where families earn less than the BC average and almost ⅓ of children live in poverty, the cycles of economic and community insecurity are profound.

The problem is also an opportunity. Cortes Island, the ancestral and traditional lands of the Tla’amin, Homalco, and Klahoose First Nations, is a beautiful, wild, and natural “campus”. The island boasts an amazing community that includes the Klahoose First Nation, numerous nonprofit groups, and a disproportionate number of PhDs, naturalists, educators, ecologists, artists, writers, world-class intellectuals, and local knowledge holders. The result is a model of experiential, place-based education that is transforming what’s possible in rural and remote communities and educating the ecologically and equity-aware leaders of tomorrow. LEARN MORE

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