The Benefits of a Boarding School Education

Photo: Dr. Tosca Killoran. KVR trail from Summerland to Penticton

Photo: Dr. Tosca Killoran. KVR trail from Summerland to Penticton

The world is rapidly changing and schools around the globe are working to keep up with advancements in technology, pedagogies, programmes, and extracurricular opportunities for the learners in their care. To help young adults access a full repertoire of skills, attitudes, and aptitudes needed for this new paradigm many parents are choosing a private boarding school education, such as Unisus. Here, I have outlined the reasons why parents are choosing to give their children the unique experience of a boarding school and why it’s worth the financial investment.

The ‘Big Picture’

The decision to attend boarding school does not come lightly. It is an investment of time and money and is the first step in what many consider a big picture decision: by attending boarding school, the advantages that come with it will pay off in the long term. Boarding schools offer opportunities for students to embrace their learning journey a bit differently. Learners in boarding schools have access to activities, programmes and learning engagements that typical schools are unable to offer. The Unisus boarding student is one who wants to fully embrace the opportunity they’ve been afforded. These are learners who want to offer their highest level of academic contribution, and to live in a community full of other learners where learning, personal growth and exploration are top priority; where programs and activities are abundant; where making lifelong friends is the norm.

Rigorous Academic Opportunities

Private schools go beyond offering the mandatory subjects required by provincial curriculum. One of the accepted benefits of Unisus is that as a candidate school we provide exceptional and challenging educational experiences through The International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB was first established as a two-year advanced secondary school curriculum, the successful completion of which earned students the IB diploma. The curriculum requires that students complete a course of study in six core subject areas (language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts) write an essay of up to 4000 words, and sit standard, externally assessed exams.

However, the IB programme focuses on whole child learning through theory of knowledge, creativity, action, and service opportunities. This develops well-rounded graduates that have high percent rates of attending their university of choice.

Individualized Attention

In 2002, Biddle and Berliner showed that the smaller the class size the better student’s academic achievement. The smaller class sizes offered at Unisus provide:

· Individualized and Personalized learning

· Closer relationship with teachers

· Closer relationship with peers

· Higher levels of access to technology, resources, and engagements

Private schools vary greatly in size, but here at Unisus our focus is on the importance of small class sizes to individually help students achieve their learning goals.

Highly Gifted Teachers

Photo: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Hong Kong Temple

Photo: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Hong Kong Temple

Unisus carefully chose it’s teaching faculty to be in line with our vision, mission and values. Instructors are both qualified and passionate about not only their subjects, but the transdisciplinary application of their subjects. They hold advanced degrees, training, and professional development in their field. Within the tight-knit school community, students have close relationships with their teachers who commonly act as role models. Unisus teachers have taught around the world, have insights into international educational models and the cultural norms that students bring with them.

A Safe Community

The mission statement, “Unisus fosters confident, creative, and globally minded thinkers in an environment of collaboration and goodness” underpins the importance at our school for the embodiment of the IB Learner Profile. The IB Learner Profile are the attitudes and attributes that help develop the types of people we expect learners to be. As we build a strong community lower staff-to-student ratios allow for more effective negotiations for behaviour and individualized learning to help students be happy and healthy. The environment of goodness helps students create lasting connected relationships within the community, thus making the community safe.

Life-Long Learning (3Ls)

Photo: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Kalamalka Lake SUP Trip

Photo: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Kalamalka Lake SUP Trip

While academics remain the priority for Unisus, we also place a strong focus on a well-rounded education and encourage participation in lifelong learning experiences. These can be found in the workshop model we offer. Some of the workshops we will offer will be for sport, music, arts, entrepreneurship, design thinking, robotics, or various academies. This involvement in life-long learning helps ground academic content into authentic experiences and helps stimulate students in their studies.

Boarding schools such as Unisus ready students for today’s and tomorrow’s world through the building of strong community, offering opportunities to pursue passions, and by maintaining a high level of academic integrity. To learn more about our Senior School programme please visit Unisus.ca, follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Our hashtag is #UnisusEDU.

This article was originally published by our Senior School Principal, Tosca Killoran on her Medium account.

Further Reading and Citation: Research Gate

Introducing Unisus Knowledge Hub

A Central Resource for Unisus News and Innovation in Education

We are proud to introduce the Unisus Knowledge Hub, a central resource designed to provide updates at Unisus School, news in education, and to shine a spotlight on organizations in the Okanagan. The Knowledge Hub will be frequently updated with articles and video content from our staff at Unisus and from experts in education.

Unisus Welcomes Students For New Year

This article featured in the Penticton Herald highlights the new students that our school has welcomed from all around the world. It shares the innovative methods of learning that will be integrated into our Junior and Senior Schools. Our Senior School Principal, Tosca Killoran also shares her excitement for the student’s opportunity to be active outdoors on the expansive Unisus campus in the Canadian Okanagan. Outdoor Education is among the Unisus core pillars that include Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation.

Bringing Balance back to Schools

I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work
— Frank Lloyd
Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Kalamalka Lake 1 hour 27 minutes from Unisus

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Kalamalka Lake 1 hour 27 minutes from Unisus

Strip down the pomp and ceremony of most schools and what we really want to create is happy, healthy, lifelong learners. As educators we often observe that stress levels appear to be affected by time outdoors. In fact, the science behind the stress levels in children who learn indoors is well documented. For example, In the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2017), Dettweiler and his team measured daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol in two groups of children. They were interested in the pattern of cortisol levels across a regular day. In a healthy person, cortisol levels spike significantly upon waking up in the morning, then drop until about midday and plateau through the afternoon. At about four or five p.m., cortisol levels drop again until sleep. Dettweiler’s study measured cortisol in students’ saliva three times a day. The intervention group of thirty-seven students spent one day each week learning outdoors and the rest of their time in school as usual. A control group of eleven studied indoors only. The outdoor group showed a healthy, balanced pattern in their cortisol levels, but the children who stayed indoors did not show the expected drop in cortisol in the afternoon. Dettweiler’s study suggests that students who do not go outside keep higher stress level during the whole day.

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Vanilla Pod 24 minutes away from Unisus

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Vanilla Pod 24 minutes away from Unisus

This is even more true when we are dealing with the adolescent brain. MRI studies looking at the development of teenage brains have shown that it undergoes dramatic change during this time. Teenage brains are busy in a sort-of synaptic pruning, the elimination of unwanted synapses. This pruning is dependent on the environment that the teen is in, and the synapses that are being used are strengthened, and synapses that aren’t being used in that particular environment are pruned away. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore in her 2012 TED talk explains it as just like pruning a rosebush. You prune away the weaker branches so that the remaining, important branches, can grow stronger, and this process, which effectively fine-tunes brain tissue according to the specific environment, happens during human adolescence. This is why a balanced whole-child approach is so entirely important for contemporary education.

Given these ideas of growing developing brains, and bringing balance and happiness to learners how do we ensure that we design outdoor education into the busy of day of learning?

At Unisus, we believe all learners should have the opportunity to build a connection with their environment. With technology and digital learning platforms being readily available we often focused on the tech and forget the environment as a place to explore. For many people around the world, the opportunity to learn about the outdoors is either limited based on the location of where they live, the distance away from outdoor recreation areas, or having people who can support them in their adventures. Outdoor Education at Unisus will allow for learners from around the world to experience the best that the Okanagan Valley has to offer. I am excited that our students will have the opportunity to grow as individuals, learn new skills and be able to go on adventures, all while caring for the environment.

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Hong Kong Apartment living

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Hong Kong Apartment living

Outdoor Skills

Outdoor Skills are the foundation for outdoor learning. The skills that the learners will gain in this strand will allow them to make connections to the environment. The skills will be applied while they are completing their Outdoor Experiences and Pursuits, and may also be used to complete portions of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Learners will be able to develop the following outdoor skills while at Unisus:

Archery, Outdoor Cooking, Camp Craft (setting up camp, safe camp practices), Fire Building, Orienteering, Navigation using GPS, Map and Compass, Geocaching, Wilderness Survival Skills, Knot Tying, Sailing, Rock Climbing, Kayaking/Canoeing, Safe water travel/rescues.

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. The Unisus Campus

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. The Unisus Campus

Personal Growth in the Outdoors

Independence and personal growth are important for all learners. Learners will be able to grow as individuals and share their learning experiences through on-going reflection journal.

Environmental Stewardship

In order for learners to continue appreciating the outdoor recreation opportunities available near and around the Okanagan, they must learn how to care for them. The Environmental Stewardship strand allows learners to gain an appreciation for what the environment is like around them, and how they can continue to protect and use it appropriately. This begins with Leave No Trace principles. Learners will also find ways that they can contribute to the campus by becoming stewards in our school community and in our immediate Summerland community.

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Summerland Flora

Photo Credit: Dr. Tosca Killoran. Summerland Flora

Outdoor Experiences and Pursuits

We have designed our programme to enable the demonstration of skills, goals and environmental awareness through outdoor experiences and pursuits. Outdoor Experiences are learning engagements that can be completed during a day at Unisus, while an Outdoor Pursuit would be longer and that require overnight stays. Examples of activities that the learners at Unisus would complete are rock climbing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and mountain biking. As learners go through different phases of Outdoor Education, the experiences and pursuits increase with difficulty. Early phases of this strand would be more structured opportunities, which would build to more complex adventures where they would be independent from assistance.

In this way, we have designed a programme around the Unisus pillar of Outdoor Education with the rewards of nice scenery, wildlife spotting, a bit of ‘fresh-air’. But also the rewards of seriously bettering our students mental and physical well-being, developing important skills and attitudes, boosting creativity, empowering independence, reducing stress, and improving sleep patterns.

To learn more about our Senior School programme please reach out and follow me on Twitter. The hashtag we use is #UnisusEDU.

This article was originally published by our Senior School Principal, Tosca Killoran on her Medium account.

How to Apply to Unisus School

Applying for Admission to Unisus School can be completed in simple 3 step process:


Submit Initial Application


Complete Scheduled Interview

Once your initial application is received, our admissions staff will contact you to schedule an interview and assessment.


Admission Decision

Our assessment staff will determine if there is a mutual match for your child and Unisus. Upon acceptance of admission, a $500 deposit will be required to confirm attendance for the school year. This deposit will go towards the tuition payment.

Have any questions about our admissions process? Please contact us at info@unisus.ca or complete an online enquiry and our admissions staff will provide a tailored solution for your situation.

The Best Hiking Trails in the Okanagan

Welcome to the Okanagan Valley, one of the warmest regions in Canada! Home to beautiful lakes and mountain vistas, the Okanagan Valley has some of the most incredible hiking you can find. Whether you’re looking for lush forest, canyons, steep mountains, vineyard or lake views, you will find exactly what you desire for an outdoor adventure in the Okanagan.

Top Hiking Trails in the Valley Include

Knox Mountain Park – Kelowna

Image: Adam Jones via Wikipedia

Image: Adam Jones via Wikipedia

Located a short distance from Downtown Kelowna, Knox has a wide variety of trails with varying difficulty, and distances from 1-5 kilometres. Knox offers stunning views of the Okanagan Lake from trails like Paul’s Tomb as well as the many breathtaking lookouts.

Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park (Teddy Bear Loop) – Kelowna

In this vast provincial park, there are many incredible trails of varying difficulty to hike or bike. Here you can witness the regrowth of a region devastated by the fire of 2003. Teddy Bear Loop is a moderate and steady 6.29-kilometre hike with unique scenery and lookouts with breathtaking views of Kelowna.

Angel Springs – Kelowna

Via June Springs Road, Angel Springs is a beautiful 11.6-kilometre loop through the lush forest of the canyon. Angel Springs is a fantastic trail to hike, bike or run as the dense forest provides a cooler temperature and beautiful views.

Pincushion Trail – Peachland

On this moderate to hard 1.8-kilometre hike to the top of Pincushion Mountain you will witness stunning views of the Okanagan Lake and Valley. On this trail you can enjoy the local nature and wildlife and once you reach the top of the mountain pose with the Canadian flag!

Giant’s Head – Summerland

Giant’s Head, a dormant volcano, is an easy 1.6-kilometre ascent to the top and has a wide variety of views of the lake, vineyards, and farms.Hopefully this short guide to hiking in the Valley inspires you to participate in some outdoor adventure here with us in the Okanagan!

*For more information visit http://www.okanagan.com/