Meaford, Ontario Canada
Visit Report by Lon Woodbury - June 5, 2008
Rocklyn Academy is an all-girl emotional growth school set in a pastoral setting on the plains of Ontario Canada. It is in a very rural setting surrounded by farms as far as the eye can see. Common youth distractions usually found in metropolitan areas are far away. Without those distractions, the girls can focus on their own self growth.
The girls were busy with end of the year testing during my visit and I had a chance to visit with several of the girls who were positive about their school and their experiences there. The atmosphere was one of excitement over the end of the school year along with anxiety as to how well they would do on their tests. It was obvious that the activities were individualized with the girls doing a wide variety of tasks - some were at a table by themselves taking tests, others were finishing up art class projects, some were working with their teachers in test preparation, others were using some free time to practice their guitars while others who had finished their tests were working on posters for an upcoming annual school event. The effect was a pleasant and constructive buzz in preparation for their June 14th graduation.
The Academy opened in August 1999 with ten girls referred by Canadian consultants. Over the years there have been many students from the states, but currently all the students are from Canada, mostly from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario Provinces.
The main goal of the school is to enroll girls who are having troubles back home, and get them back on track. The school's main focus is what they call "therapeutic Milieu" through providing the girls consistency in their lives. That is the school aims at providing the girls the security of predictability so they can make the changes in thinking necessary to have successful lives. With nurturing staff, this provides a structure that helps the girls forgive themselves. Primary lessons throughout the day are holding up the values of courage, health and integrity. As they say on their web site, "We concentrate on validating high levels of sensitivity, intuition and creativity and intelligence - as gateways to help young women balance and positively ignite their special gifts to become extraordinary women…. The understanding that sensitivity, intuition, creativity and intelligence can be fundamental elements in a new appreciation of life, may come as a relief." Balance is the underlying lesson. The school teaches the girls the importance of sensitivity with boundaries; intuition with reason; creativity with compassion; and intelligence with education.
Academics are based on small classes with a combination of lectures and self-study. In the curriculum, along with standard core classes, there is an emphasis on experiential subjects like art, photography, and music. The students are graded on content and held accountable for effort. The School follows the guidelines of Ontario’s Ministry of Education and there are usually no problems transferring credit back to US schools. With an emphasis on self-study, the girls set their own academic goals with the advice and help of staff, and then are required to work until they achieve mastery of their goals. Classes start at 8:15 AM and continue to 2:00 PM. After that comes Physical Education or therapy.
Therapy tends to be self-directed with a common problem to be worked on being the labels each girl brings with them to the school. Each girl participates in therapy groups three times a week, along with individual work on the issues they have identified in themselves with staff who emphasizes nurturing the strengths and insight each girl has developed. Common issues addressed at the school are ADHD, ODD and anger management. Students with serious diagnoses such as Bipolar Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome might be considered for enrollment if those conditions are effectively controlled by appropriate medication. However, in general the school is not appropriate for girls with serious emotional problems if considered runaway risks.
The school's philosophy is that working with parents is vital to the healing of their daughters. The goal of the school in working with parents is to help the parents be ready to receive their daughter back home and support her in her new insights and self-awareness. The girls are in regular contact with their parents throughout their stay and parents are invited to visit the school frequently and share in their daughter's successes or struggles.
My impression from my brief visit was a healthy and positive environment that would do well for girls with common core issues. They are in no way designed for girls with serious clinical problems, but are doing well with girls with mild learning differences, mild depression, ADHD, ODD and OCD.