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Blog: Saturday, February 9th, 2019

ASIA Sumas: Shedding some Light...


This time of year we get many questions about the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts.  How do you get in?  How academic is it? What makes ASIA different, and what kinds of students thrive there?   On February 1st the Abbotsford school district opens up registration across our district and schools start to accept and process applications for students wishing to attend in the fall.  Its comes as no surprise, then, that this is when many questions are asked.

It is my privilege to answer them.  For several years now, I have had the opportunity to work at the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts which I have considered a great privilege because I am sure not every educator is afforded the opportunity to work in a school whose educational philosophy resonates so closely with their own.  If our school system were compared to ancient Greece, ASIA would be the city-state of Athens, whose legacy encouraged innovation and a devotion to education through the arts.  We are a school who strives to innovatively provide our students with artistic opportunities to not only learn, but demonstrate and showcase their learning in an experiential and meaningful way.  It is a school of passionate arts-minded students and educators collectively bringing their artistic backgrounds and experiences together in celebration.  It is an educational community that encourages expression and exploration through the arts.

But what does that look like? If you were to have walked in the door today just before lunch, it would have looked like dancers in our studio each huddled over IKEA boxes, busily putting lamps together to use as props in their all-dance Shakespeare production.   You would have scene our senior science students immersed in a drama activity and working together to use their understanding of the properties of matter to solve an interactive challenge.  You also would have seen one of the grade 6 classes using music to demonstrate their understanding of Newton’s laws of physics instead of a test.  Learning at ASIA might not look the way you might traditionally expect, but the experiential, hands-on and holistic nature of instruction on campus is a shining example of how to embrace the new BC curriculum and allow for understanding to develop in a divergent, but powerful way.

At the Abbotsford School of Integrated arts, students are provided with an education that is based on the same educational curriculum standards as any other public school, they are just permitted to explore them differently.  No matter the subject, learning at ASIA is woven through the arts-integrated model of education in an effort to make it more experiential, and therefore more personally relevant.  Drama, music, dance, digital and visual arts find their way into many of the learning and assessment aspects of the educational process.  By teaching through the arts, the instructional team at ASIA are utilizing a medium that can allow for imagination to run virtually unimpeded.  Lessons become less confined and prescribed, and are broader in their impact and ability to connect with our students.

In addition to regular academics, students are required to complete course work in the arts courses of their choosing right into their Grade 12 year. This is done to help students sharpen the arts skills required of them to explore their educations in the regular academic classroom.  It also helps the school develop an artistic community where teachers are able to passionately approach instruction, and students are able to earn for themselves an education that is personally meaningful and hopefully leaves them both empowered and inspired.

Because the staff at A.S.I.A. are specialists in various aspects of arts education, teachers collaborate with one another to ensure that both arts and academic courses intentionally overlap allowing for learning to not be stifled by subject division.  In an integrated arts school, collaboration drives decision making, curriculum planning, budget, and even plans for school growth.  Part of our team's shared teaching philosophy is that the arts and academic subject areas should be integrated as much as possible and, as arts specialists, we constantly go to one another for ideas on how to better do this in our academic classrooms.  Educational theorist Parker Palmer states that “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness.  They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves” (Palmer, 1998).  Collaboration is perhaps more important and relied upon within my school than most other schools for this reason. At our school, learning is not confined by the traditional division of subject, but requires an authentic and woven learning community to accomplish.

The Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts is a school that approaches instruction in an experiential way.  Subjects are cross curricular, creativity is encouraged, and learning happens among a community of like-minded artists. Does that sound like you or someone you know?  ASIA, Sumas Mountain Campus, is a public school currently enrolling Grades 6-12.  Feel free to complete an online application or contact us with questions of your own.


-Tyler Horner
Vice Principal, Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts, Sumas Mountain Campus