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Alternative Met School expanding to Maples Collegiate in Winnipeg

After seven years of combining project-based high school education with internships at the Met School, Seven Oaks School Division has decided to open a second Met School at Maples Collegiate this September.

City’s first Met School opened at Garden City Collegiate 7 years ago

Principal Nancy Janelle says the Met School at Garden City prepares students for the real world. Seven Oaks School Division is opening another Met School at Maples Collegiate in September. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

After seven years of combining project-based high school education with internships at the Met School, Seven Oaks School Division has decided to open a second Met School at Maples Collegiate this September.

The alternative school on Jefferson Avenue offers three days of project-based class learning and two days devoted to internships each week.

"It's a great experience to get them prepared for the real world," said Nancy Janelle, principal of the Met School, which partners with nearby Garden City Collegiate, where students take phys. ed., music courses and advanced science, as well as participate in extra-curricular activities.

The idea for the alternative school came from a model in the United States, where the first Met School opened in Providence, R.I., in 1995. Met Schools use what's called "big picture learning," which allows student-driven, personalized education in the classroom and internships in the community under the guidance of mentors.

Grade 11 students at Met School learn about how cold drinks, like smoothies, affect the brain in a class project. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)
The Seven Oaks Met School works with more than 500 businesses to match students with internships in a field that interests them, said Janelle. Internship vary in length from a month to multiple years. About 101 students are enrolled in the school within a school. 

Unlike technical schools, the Met School isn't solely focused on the trades. They offer internships in the arts and sciences as well, Janelle said.

"I wanted to do something with art," said Grade 10 student Rex Gutierrez. "Last year I worked at a graphic design firm called Kick Start. I got on to working on logos."

Students interested in veterinary sciences have interned at the Winnipeg Humane Society, while others interested in film have interned at production houses, said Janelle.

"We have tons of connections," she said.

By the time students graduate from Met School, students not only have a diploma — they have a resume, too.

"They're coming out 10 steps ahead of a regular high school student," said Janelle.

Grade 12 student Carlo Capobianco said the student-centred, project-driven nature of Met School gave him the opportunity to express himself in a way he didn't feel he could in other schools. He said he felt more comfortable speaking up in class.

"I wanted a more freeing experience, and it's been amazing. It's changed my life," said Capobianco.

The Seven Oaks Met School was not only the first of its kind in Winnipeg; it was a first for Canada.

Along with the new Met School at Maples, two other Met Schools are opening in Canada this fall, Janelle said — one in Calgary and another in the Maritimes.

With files from Marcy Markusa

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