French Immersion & Project-based Learning – Together at last!

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched the first hot air balloon and were able to sustain a flight of nearly ten minutes. The petrified farm animals who were the passengers probably were’t impressed by the experience, but the brothers pushed their passion for flight to the next level. This is a project!


At the Maples Met School, we love projects! As a project-based high school, we offer learners the opportunity to pursue their passion, work with passionate adults in the field, and demonstrate their learning in authentic ways.

And now, just like the Montgolfier brothers, learners can pursue their projects in French!

Beginning this fall, the Maples Met School will be offering French Immersion at the Grade 9 level. Learners will be able to engage in high quality project work, internships in the Francophone community, and exhibitions of learning all in French.

For more information about the Maples Met school, call 204.632.6641 or visit us at

As a Big Picture Learning school, our mission is to cultivate a safe and educative environment by which learners engage in critical issues of interest to them so that they can develop the skills and knowledge essential for affecting positive change through meaningful and informed action, or praxis.



Projects! Projects! Projects!

Over the winter break, I spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and hanging out with my kids doing projects. I also spent a great deal of time speaking with people throughout the world as to what they think a project is. What is a project?

Based on this line of inquiry, I started to comb various media outlets to get a sense of what people were doing in the world in terms of projects that might inspire Maples Met School learners. There is a huge difference between a project and an activity or hobby. Projects come from a place of questioning, of curiosity, and of purpose.

While we all know that great projects begin with a powerful essential question that questions our role within the universe, here are links to potential final products, resources, platforms, and other supports for our inquiry:

Preserving the History of a City


Why is it important to preserve the history of a city? 


Create a Student-run Newspaper

Newspapers are critical to any democracy, as they hold governments to account. Why not connect with other writers, artists, and thinkers to create your own press!

Create Your own Solar Panel






Create a Bike Generator!


Images of Winnipeg


The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a photo essay of aerial views of the Winnipeg. What parts of the city are missing? Why? What would you include? How could you use GIS to create maps of areas of Winnipeg that are ignored? What are important areas for youth?


50 Book Pledge


The 50 Book Pledge is an amazing way to motivate yourself and also share your research with people throughout the world. No matter what essential question you’re attacking, this is a greta way of creating a digital library.


Radical History Poster Project


The Graphic History Collective has launched a project called the Radical History Poster Project. This is a fantastic way for learners to use their artistic talents to think historically (The Big 6!) about Canada, Treaty 1, and what it means to live in Red River.


Manitoba Robot Games 2018


Take a crack at the Manitoba Robot Games!


Northern Hydroponic Project


Can Flying Machines Help Save Lives?



Create Work Benches for your School’s Fabrication Lab


Hint: We need these at the Met for great projects!


Lego Crane (Why not?)


Create an interactive Periodic Table!



CBC Nonfiction Prize


What a perfect final product for a project! (And you could take home some loot!)


Mennonite Central Committee Hygiene Kits


Design a New Arlington Bridge

Banning Plastic Bags


There is some recent support for banning plastic bags in Winnipeg. This might be a really cool, authentic, and impactful project to investigate!


Imagine Portage & Main


What should Portage and Main look like? Design it!


Create Your Own Zine!


Go underground and create a zine that reflects your manifesto!


Make your own Wind Turbine!


Aquaponics System


Lots of essential questions and tangents with this project!

Big Bang 2017


Things got real at the Improv Everything event on Thursday at Big Bang. 

July 24th to 28th marked the second Big Picture Learning conference, Big Bang, that our school has attended. As the Maples Met School opened its doors last year and now is expanding heading into September, this second conference was a brilliant time to connect with friends throughout the BPL network, to engage in deep conversations about student-centered learning, and to begin thinking about what educative experiences we want to create and foster for the upcoming year.

Big Bang is also a time for the faculty at the Maples Met School and the Seven Oaks Met School to get to know each other better and to learn from each other. The host city, St. Louis, was an outstanding venue to connect with themes related to reconciliation (it was hard to ignore the overwhelming celebration of Manifest Destiny), to poverty, and to the arts, innovation, and urban revitalization.


The Maples Met and the Seven Oaks Met crew kidnapped Greg Young from Project Foundry and hit the streets of St. Louis!

One of the incredible highlights of the conference was the keynote discussion facilitated by BPL Co-Executive director Carlos Moreno with actor/artist/activist Wendell Pierce. Most will know Pierce from his incredibly impactful role in what might be considered the best television programme ever created, HBO’s The Wire.


Photo form Big Picture Learning featuring Carlos Moreno on the left and Wendell Pierce on the right.

Pierce spoke at great length about his experience growing up in New Orleans and how this shaped the work that he does now. His message, bathed in historical thinking (be leery of those who ignore history), emphasized a need for social entrepreneurship, collective resistance, and a need for our schools to nurture the knowledge and historical thinking required to confront the very real forces determined to maintain an inequitable control of resources and the means of production. (Pierce did claim to be a capitalist and argued that “real” capitalism would create some sort of social justice through innovation. I wish there was time to have challenged this, as capitalism at its core is about the exploitation of resources, both human and natural.)


Image created by Rachel Brian, an artist from Providence who created incredible pieces of art representing our discussions throughout the week. You can check her work out at:

What was striking about Pierce’s positioning was one particular sentence: “There are those who do not have our best interests at heart.”

This sentence, which he used with intention throughout his conversation with Carlos, was perpetually scaffolded by linking cause and consequence of historical events and forces. (A brilliant example of the use of the Historical Thinking Skills.) The past 500 years of European oppression, imperialism, and genocide has created deep trauma and deep chasms in how we treat each other on this continent.

Pierce created a clear line of historical reasoning as he linked recent events in Ferguson and the ubiquitous murders at the hands of police in the United States to centuries of oppression. (Let’s not pretend that this profound marginalization has not and does not happen north of the 49th parallel. Canada just might be better at covering such marginalization up.)

From government, government agencies, corporate interests, and a constant desire to maintain the status quo, Pierce succinctly articulated the dark clouds which prevent many within our society from achieving self-actualization. (And I am absolutely checking my white, male, European privilege and understanding that I might be a cog in this oppression.)

If we bring things back to the local, what are the examples in Winnipeg and Manitoba where people most certainly do not have the interests of our learners at heart? Might it be with city zoning failures, the failed attempts to inquire into missing and murdered indigenous women, the elimination of funding to women’s shelters, the lack of desire to service railways to the north but to support further beautification of urban parks, or the elimination of lactation consultants and other essential health services?

These are attacks on our community’s best interest and the antidote is where Big Picture schools, or Met schools, are well positioned. With our focus on relationships, relevance, and rigour, our mission is to fundamentally expose our learners to how their lives have been interwoven in a complex trajectory and to question their purpose on this planet and this universe. That’s why we leave to learn, that’s why we connect them with powerful mentors in the community, and that’s why we base everything we do on critical ways of thinking and deconstructing powerful existential problems and questions.

As a faculty at the Maples Met School, many of our discussions leaving the conference in various airport lounges were based on empowering our learners — empowering them, as Pierce suggested, “to exercise their right to self-determination.” The challenge, as it always is, is to know as the adult when to shut up, step out of the way, and let the learner drive her inquiry and purpose.

This is the magic of BPL and student-centered learning — placing the interests and passions of the learner before anything else.



Ken Robinson: A Demonstration of Ecological Literacy


Four of the five educators of the Maples Met School at Big Bang 2016 in Orlando. (Will, Michelle, Sara, & Matt. Sopear was holding down the fort in Winnipeg.)

In recent months, I have been tasked, along with four highly skilled educators, to open a second Big Picture Learning school within the Seven Oaks School Division. The Maples Met School housed within Maples Collegiate and has been heavily supported by colleagues at both Maples Collegiate and the original 7Oaks Met School.

Given the newness of our school, we were invited to travel to Orlando and participate in the annual Big Picture Learning conference commonly referred to as Big Bang. The conference offers critical sessions on the components which make Big Picture schools unique, namely sessions related to exhibitions, advisories, internships and the education of one student at a time. All these sessions occur within the foundation of the Big Picture: Relationships, relevance, and rigour.

Not only did Big Bang afford us with outstanding opportunities to make sense of our roles within the life of a student, but it also allowed our small staff to bond and connect with itself. Similarly, we were also able to make powerful connections with the other Met School just down the street. We had tremendous discussions in between sessions, at meals, and in long layovers at dreary airports about experience design, assessment, and how to ensure that our learning environment was both rigorous and vigorous. many of us are also heavily invested in sustainability and ecological literacy, and began discussing how our school might champion these notions.

As part of Big Bang 2016, we were also treated to a talk from Sir Ken Robinson. As most educators are aware, Robinson is famous for a couple of brilliant TED talks and equally compelling books related to learning, schools, and creativity. His most recent book might be one on all of our reading lists. I had seen Robinson a few years ago in Winnipeg and so I was really excited to hear what he had to say.

Robinson was clearly a fan of of Big Picture Learning schools as they focus on the passion of the learner and allow time and space for learners to take control of their own learning. Robinson received the annual Disruptor award from the founders of Big Picture, Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, with grace and humour.

What was most interesting regarding Sir Ken’s remarks was his focus on the state of the planet and how high the stakes are for our learners. He spoke of the carrying capacity of Earth, how critical soil is in agriculture and how we have essentially destroyed much of it, and he paid special attention to the fact that we need to properly equip young people for the current and impending ecological crisis. Robinson spoke in systems and clearly understood how nature sustains all life on Earth.

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Ken Robinson’s aims for education.

I had never heard Ken Robinson speak this way. Granted, he was his usually charming and hilarious self, but there was a more serious and forceful tone to his message. In most contexts, the audience can be turned off by those who speak truth to power when it comes to our role in the destruction of our planet, but while Robinson didn’t seem to care, he also was sensitive enough to not alienate those who might be annoyed of offended by the truth.

Matt Henderson

This is my criteria of experience for an ecological literacy. It might help us create learning experiences which lead to sustainable communities.

For me, Ken Robinson spoke to our role as educators in terms of equipping our learners with the knowledge and learning experiences that will help them to gain an ecological literacy. It is incumbent on us to help them understand the world around them, to think in systems, to anticipate the consequences of human activity, and to take meaningful action in order to create sustainable communities. I believe this is our role as individual educators, and also as schools.

As we creep towards the beginning of a new academic year, how might we cultivate this ecological literacy within our learners? How can we design learning experiences which help give our learners a fighting chance?