Structural engineer and University of Alberta Senator Cameron Franchuk speaks with Andrew School students during one of their U School visits.

Structural engineer and University of Alberta Senator Cameron Franchuk speaks with Andrew School students during one of their U School visits.

Sherwood Park, AB. — Andrew School students in grades 3-6 jumped into post-secondary learning early as they attended the U School program at the University of Alberta (UofA). On June 9, the students graduated U School through a special convocation event at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

“U School was very interesting and a lot of fun,” says Hailey Yaremie, a Grade 4 student at Andrew School. “I was nervous about going to university before but now I’m excited. My favourite part was the photography day. For the whole day, we got our own cameras, toured campus and took pictures—after lunch we edited them.”

U School is designed to give students the opportunity to interact with UofA staff, students, professors and community members while learning about a wide variety of teacher-directed topics. Students interviewed current university students for their perspectives on post-secondary education, spoke with structural engineer and UofA Senator Cameron Franchuk and participated in a variety of activities, such as printmaking, swimming, experimenting and much more.

Teachers tailor the curricular areas covered in the program, topics that’d resonate most with students, and the theme of the overall programming. “U School is amazing for rural schools,” says Bria Shulko-Zakharov, an elementary teacher at Andrew School. “It exposes students to the opportunities available after K-12 and inspires them to pursue post-secondary education. Integrating the curriculum with real-world moments makes learning exciting and engaging.”

The visits to the UofA last one week but the learning in U School doesn’t stop there. The classes receive two visits from their U School classroom facilitators throughout the year, once in September to introduce the program and once after the UofA field trips to reflect. Students journal throughout the year, before and after they visit the UofA. Facilitators also join classes at their U School convocation. Students then write thank you cards expressing gratitude to their U School mentors, volunteers and sponsors.

“The UofA students and staff go above and beyond to make the program successful for students,” says Kirsten Patmore, an elementary teacher at Andrew School. “U School makes learning interesting for children who may not enjoy school in a typical classroom setting. As a teacher, I see the experience through their eyes—they’re just so astounded. This motivates them to pursue education, even if it doesn’t end up being at the UofA. Universities, colleges and trades institutions become desirable and attainable goals.”

The organization Inquiring Minds oversees the administration of U School, in addition to several other interactive programs, including Zoo School, Edmonton Oilers ICE School and School at the Legislature. Inquiring Minds offers an innovative approach to informal learning focused on using enriching sites to welcome students into a hands-on classroom for an entire week.  Over the years, several schools in Elk Island Public Schools have taken advantage of these learner-led, inquiry-based programs.

“I felt happy and grateful that Andrew School went,” adds Yaremie. “I want to go to the UofA to become a veterinarian after I graduate.”


Elk Island Public Schools is one of Alberta’s largest school divisions, serving approximately 17,460 students in 43 schools. We are proud to be an integral part of our communities, including Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville, Strathcona and Lamont counties, and the western portion of the County of Minburn.


University of Alberta: U School
Inquiring Minds Website



For more information contact:
Laura McNabb, Director, Communication Services, EIPS 780-417-8204 cell 780-405-4902