On Nov. 6 in Nechako Valley Secondary’s new middle school wing

Exam gone, letter to government in

Letters to the new federal government have replaced a traditional exam on Nov. 6 to test Vanderhoof’s Gr. 8 students' learning in science.

Letters to the new federal government have replaced a traditional exam on Nov. 6 to test the knowledge of Vanderhoof’s Gr. 8 students in science.

To finish a science unit on oceans, Nechako Valley Secondary’s Gr. 8 students were each tasked with writing a personalized letter to Hunter Tootoo, the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard on Nov. 6.

It’s an opportunity for students to engage and put their work to the world, said Mia Moutray, science and humanities teacher for grades 7 and 8.

“I wanted to have a more real task, that would make them think a little bit more than just remember facts, and see how far they could take that,” Moutray said.

“For some, it’s challenging,” she added. “Instead of memorizing, you are now creating something.”

The letters are an example of the new approach to learning for grades 7 and 8 that started last year, as the two grades attend classes in NVSS’s new middle school wing.

“We’re using our democratic rights to speak out and share information that we’ve learned and it gives students real tasks instead of a test that gets forgotten afterwards,” Moutray said.

With an interactive space that provides a bridge between the elementary and secondary school environments, the new format features more hands-on learning that ties to the community.

Having learned about Canada’s political parties, 157 of the middle students had also participated in Student Vote for the federal election on Oct. 19 — NDP had narrowly defeated with two votes over the Conservatives, who in turn was just ahead of the Liberal Party by two votes as well.

For student Gabriel McLain, the issue to be expressed to the minister is overfishing.

He said that after realizing that most Pacific Bluefin Tuna caught were juveniles, he wouldn’t want to sacrifice the tuna population for his own enjoyment of the fish, he said.

McLain also prefers the letter to the traditional exam. “I have a bit more freedom,” he said. “There’s multiple answers to a question; not just one answer and a different one is wrong.”

On the other hand, student Liam McCully is more concerned with oil spills. “They damage our coastlines, oceans, and sea life,” he said, as he learned about the amount of oil that has been dumped into the ocean and their effects on wildlife — including cases such as the Gulf of Mexico.

Though first suggested as a joke in class, McCully is interested in starting a Save Our Oceans club, including trips to the coast. “To see how much junk is in our ocean and clean up some of that,” he said.

His interest in oceans comes from regular trips to Nova Scotia, where much of his family resides, McCully added. At Parrsboro, a town that lies by the ocean and fresh water, fisherman can get trout on one side and flounder on the other, he said. “But the trout don’t grow very big, because of the salinity from the ocean.”

The letters from each student will be sent to Ottawa in a giant envelope to help draw the minister’s attention, Moutray said.

“Hopefully he reads them!”