|The Race Rocks project has occurred because of a remarkable convergence. These are the key elements that have led to it's success to date:
- in 1980 our students and teachers, after identifying the remarkable ecology that existed at a group of islands near our school, successfully lobbied our Provincial Government to establish the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.
- in 1992, in co-operation with our local museum and sponsors we did a five day television series for schools live via satellite from Race Rocks. Underwater Safari as it was called required a support crew and cast of over 30 people and well over $100,000 in donated technical support and satellite time. It was unsustainable but it proved the concept one of our biology teachers, Garry Fletcher, had developed of bringing treasured ecosystems into classrooms live utilising technology.
- in 1994 Garry had the opportunity to have a one year long, mid-career, professional development sabbatical. He focused on the potential for harnessing technology in the classroom. He discovered what was possible and it transformed the way his students have learned ever since.
- soon after this, Race Rocks itself was suddenly threatened. Technology had made it possible for the Canadian Coast Guard to completely automate many of the lightstations on our coast. The watchful eyes of the lightkeepers would no longer protect the marine life from harassment or poachers. The closure of Race Rocks lightstation presented the opportunity for us to obtain a long term, no cost, lease to utilise the facilities for research and education. This, coupled with an innovative new government policy on the creation of Marine Protected Areas, gave Race Rocks the comprehensive environmental protection it had always required. Today we operate the Race Rocks Marine Protected Area and the former light keepers, now our staff, remain on site as our eco-guardians.
Underwater Safari had sold us on the concept of equipping our students with the capability of sharing this teaching resource with other schools and we investigated the technology required to deliver programming similar to Underwater Safari over the Internet.
- at an estimated installation cost of over $350,000 and a prohibitively expensive operating cost (primarily satellite time) we realised the concept was unworkable and it was shelved. In the world of technology, just because an idea is impractical one day doesn't mean it will stay that way for long. Two years later, in 1999, we suddenly realised that technical breakthroughs in wireless technology, compression software and the availability of QuickTime had thrust the capability for racerocks.com into the hands of Garry and his students at a fraction of the original cost projections.
- big ideas made possible by brilliant technology in the hands of an innovative teacher and highly motivated students have unleashed the extraordinary educational potential of the Race Rocks ecosystem. Our students don't let technology determine their program. The see it as a tool to be worked hard and sometimes used irreverently. (yes they did discover that an AirPort had better range when hoisted up a flagpole and that is our airPort with and extended antenna that voided our Apple warranty installed in the pickle jar on the roof of the education centre!)
- our supporters now extend around the world thanks to the access racerocks.com has given them to this experience. While we are always working hard to fund new ideas that Garry and his students come up with almost daily it has been possible to support the entire project with new funds raised outside our regular operating budget.
|All school administrators must see educational opportunity when it presents itself at their desk... especially if a creative teacher and highly motivated students are behind it. You can be sure some worthwhile learning is about to happen!"
Until May 2004, the Director of Special projects,
Lester B. Pearson College
Victoria, B.C. Canada
Currently Executive Director of the New Marine Centre at Sidney.
See this file on the contributions made to the Race Rocks
Educational Program by Angus Matthews