The right learning environment to thrive
Finding the right environment for learning can have a great impact on student achievement even in a short amount of time.
At the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning, along with small class sizes and a flexible learning environment, our school personalises learning for children who have been identified with language-based learning differences such as dyslexia, and other difficulties that can affect learning such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
For the past seven years, BCCL has been working to provide a welcoming environment for students who learn differently to ensure that they are supported socially, emotionally and academically.
Using evidence-based teaching practices, students work at their individual skill level in small groups and move up year levels as they master skills. Providing frequent brain break periods consistently throughout the school day, helps students reset, focus, and have a higher rate of skill retention.
For Jonah MacGuinness, who is in his second year at BCCL, that has certainly been the case.
In just 18 months, the ten-year-old has gone from struggling to keep up academically and a lacking in confidence to working at grade level and blossoming both in his learning and social skills.
His parents, Neil and Arlene MacGuinness, say his transformation is “nothing short of remarkable”.
Mr MacGuinness says: “Socially and emotionally, he has grown exponentially, and he has so much more confidence in himself that what he had going into BCCL initially.”.
Jonah had speech apraxia and a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosed when he was 3. This made it difficult for him to thrive in an overly rigid approach to schooling typically found in most traditional classrooms.
“The smaller class size and tailored approach to education at BCCL has allowed Jonah to thrive in every way,” adds Mrs MacGuinness. “We are very appreciative to the team at BCCL, and we are so happy that we have found the right school for our son.”
Jonah says that he is better at school now because his teachers are “nice and kind”.
He adds: “We play games to learn, and it makes it more fun. We also have brain breaks and my favourites are playing ping-pong and working out on the stairs.”
One of his favourite parts of learning has been working on projects through the International Middle Years Curriculum, which is a project-based curriculum used at the school, as well as learning to sail at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club.
“My favourite project was making my mind map for adaptability,” he says. “Ms Nikki hung it in the window.
“I [also] like to sail at the dinghy club because we get to use the RS21 sailboats. They are big and really fast. The dinghy club is the only club that has these boats. We get to sail in the harbour and near the [Great] Sound.”
BCCL students who require speech and language therapy, or occupational therapy can have these interventions during the school day. Having therapies occur at school also allows therapists to communicate with teachers about ways they can incorporate strategies that facilitate students’ therapy goals.
The National Centre for Learning Disabilities reports that “one in five children in the US have learning and attention issues, but only a small subset receive specialised instruction or accommodations”.
To compare these statistics with Bermuda, in 2020, 8,916 students were enrolled in preschool through secondary school. If 20 per cent of that number had learning differences, there could be 1,783 children with learning and attention deficits island-wide.
“These children are as smart as their peers and can achieve at high levels, but too often are misunderstood as lazy or unintelligent. Without the right academic or emotional support, they are much more likely than their peers to repeat a grade, get suspended and drop out of school. Individuals with learning and attention issues also struggle in the workplace and have high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system. But this downward spiral can be prevented.”The State of LD: Understanding Learning and Attention Issues.
All students want to be in an environment where they feel supported, that their teachers genuinely like them and that they have the autonomy to learn in a way that meets their learning style. Jonah has made significant progress. He began his time with us as a quiet, introverted student. He has made friends; his increased self-confidence is evident. Focusing on students social and emotional needs directly correlates to their academic growth.
• Cindy Corday is a cofounder and the Head of School for Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning. Visit www.bccl.bm to learn more about BCCL’s approach and access to resources regarding language-based learning differences