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program opens doors and minds for canadian students

2 min read | june 27, 2023

A student of Open Minds, a program that helps students expand their classroom learning.

Crayon drawings and hand-written letters are piled inside Jacqueline Harris’ Calgary, Alberta, office, serving as reminders of her work’s impact on the local community.

The missives, some decades old, were sent from participants of Open Minds®, a Chevron-sponsored program that helps students expand their classroom learning through weeklong offsite lessons.

“The stories that emerge from the program are incredible,” said Harris, who oversees our involvement in the initiative. “There are times when a student arrives on Monday morning and is hard to engage with. By the end of the week, they’re the star of the classroom. They’re showing a completely different side of themselves. They’re engaged; they’re excited about learning.”

Open Minds program thank you cards

Student drawings express appreciation for the Chevron-sponsored Open Minds program.

lighting a spark

This June, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Telus Spark, an Open Minds site based at Calgary’s Telus Spark Science Center.

It was designed to ignite a passion for learning through science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). Since its 1998 launch, Open Minds Science School has taught and inspired more than 18,500 Calgary students with the help of nearly 700 teachers.

“It gives them a safe space to test ideas and experiment without limitations,” said Harris, a Chevron social performance advisor. “If an idea fails, that’s OK.

“At Chevron, we like to think we’re good problem solvers,” she added. “We also have to think about how we can inspire the next generation of problem solvers. We believe that by giving children opportunities through STEAM and other programs, they can develop critical thinking skills.”

beyond classroom walls

Through Calgary’s Open Minds campus, students go outside of the classroom to one of 11 locations for a week of themed learning. Lessons align with the topics they’re studying at school.

“Through observation and inquiry within a new environment, they can build connections to a world beyond their classroom walls,” said Harris.

Chevron’s funding supports four sites: three in Alberta and another in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The first site created, Chevron Open Minds Zoo School, is celebrating 30 years of operations. Zoo School was the dream of a local philanthropist and employees at Calgary’s two school districts helped turn that dream into a reality.

“Since 1993, Zoo School has welcomed nearly 21,000 students into a living classroom where they’re encouraged to slow down, grow and ask questions about animals with the guidance of wildlife and conservation experts.”

jacqueline harris
social performance advisor

what’s the big idea?

Before the start of each school year, teachers from participating classrooms work with site coordinators to identify one theme they want to tackle for the week. The theme could focus on how children can make a difference in their community or how they can create solutions.

“It’s linked to what we call ‘a big idea’” Harris said. “The learning for that week is centered around exploring the topic, and students continue developing that knowledge back in their classrooms throughout the year.”

wire the neighbourhood booth
child looking at rock display
Glenbow Museum School classroom

Students at Open Minds where each week they explore a topic called “the big idea.”

topics covered

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