RVS Learning Specialist – As educators, we continuously strive to learn and grow. We want to try the newest technologies, frequently adapt our pedagogy to keep up with the ever-changing world, and stay on top of the trends and ideas in Education. The amount of educational research available at our fingertips can be overwhelming. I find myself constantly asking, what do these practices look like in a classroom? What are the biggest successes? What do the setbacks look like? In my opinion, one of the best ways to delve into innovation in education, is by seeing it in action and talking to people who are living the practice.
As 21st Century Learning Specialists, we see organizing and participating in site visits as an important part of our role. During a site visit you get the opportunity to walk through someone else’s building, listen to their philosophies and strategies, and learn from the obstacles that they have had to overcome. These experiences have been invaluable to the growth and development of our team, and the teachers and administrators that have come along with us.
In December, we had the privilege of being invited into some unique schools in Southern Alberta. Along with our fantastic tour guide Adelee Penner from Alberta Education, and Associate Superintendent Dave Morris, our team visited Bassano School, Isabel F. Cox in Redcliff, and Crescent Heights High and Dr. Roy Wilson in Medicine Hat. Each of the schools brought new perspectives and practices that we were eager to explore.
Learning environments have always been a hot topic in education. How are schools creating spaces for students to learn, innovate, and feel welcome? I. F. Cox in Redcliff, is a K-3 school that has been intentionally designed to promote choice and creativity. While walking through their classrooms you couldn’t help but feel invited and inspired. Each space contains elements that appeal to the senses, influence play, and create a calm atmosphere. Some of the more unique additions include, essential oils specifically chosen for each class, reading nooks with pillows and small lights, and covers over the fluorescent tubes that allow the light from small lamps to contribute to the room’s ambiance. Their Learning Commons comes complete with a green screen room, science exploration station with microscopes, and a building area. My favorite features were the doors on the outer walls of the classrooms. These additions encourage the staff and students to get outside and promote learning through nature. When we talked to their principal, she shared their collaborative process and explained that one of the most important parts of the redesign was developing a shared vision.
Dr. Roy Wilson Learning Centre, is a K-9 school in Medicine Hat. This P3 building has a similar design to many of the new schools in Rocky View, and through its architecture, promotes collaboration. Walking around during class time, we saw students in common areas utilizing soft seating and standing at laptop bars working comfortably. Breakout rooms surrounded the common spaces, where groups were gathered around whiteboards and tables, tackling problems. In the “Project Commons,” robotics, shop and culinary arts exist side by side and encourage multidisciplinary exploration and projects. Many of the classrooms were built so that the walls between them could slide back. In most rooms the walls were open and the two classes were seamlessly functioning as one. We have seen this set up in other schools and were curious about the process that led them to having the walls open as the norm. The conversation around their journey was insightful. Although there were challenges, the staff worked together to find a way to take advantage of the space. Through this, the collaboration between staff and students has led to increased support for all learners and effective teaching teams.
Check back Thursday for part two of this blog, where Bassano School and Crescent Heights High will be highlighted for their work on relationship building. Thanks for reading!
Superintendent of Schools – On January 27th, I had the pleasure of being part of the kickoff for Langdon School’s Headstrong Summit. All grade 6 to 9 students and staff participated in a day long event to learn about mental health and stomp out the associated stigma. The school was able to garner phenomenal support through partners like Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Headstrong program, Alberta Health Services, Synergy, Connecteen, Stepping Stones to Mental Health, and some community groups.
I was provided the opportunity to say a few words to kick off the day. Here is the text of my message:
I am honoured to be here for a short bit this morning to help kick off your day where you are coming together as a community to talk and learn about mental health and help break the stigma related talking about mental illness.
Recently, I’ve seen a ton of commercials on TV and Twitter about the Let’s Talk series sponsored by Bell. We all need to be encouraged to talk about our mental health – kids and adults too. We need to recognize that it is okay to talk about our mental health just like we talk about our physical health. No one blinks an eye if you talk about a sprained wrist, if you need glasses or if you are seeing your doctor for a checkup but somehow for many of us it is not okay to talk about if we are struggling with depression or anxiety or seeing a counselor. We need to change that.
I encourage you to:
be that friend who will listen without judging or thinking less of the person who shares their challenges.
be the same warm, caring and non-judgmental friend as you were before your friend opens up to you.
encourage friends that are struggling with their emotions, feelings, stress, anxiety, sadness to reach out and ask for help. That help can come from any adult in your life – teacher / parent / grandparent / coach / older brother/sister. They might not have the answers but they can help find the answers.
Thanks to the school for organizing this event. Thanks to the presenters joining us today.
Lastly, Be brave! Reach out! Speak up!
Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the full day where kids had small group opportunities to hear and learn from the stories of brave presenters, who shared their knowledge and their personal stories related to addiction, grief and anger, healthy relationships, acceptance, suicide, physical harm and other challenges. The event provided information to students about where they can turn to for help and the stories provided opportunities for students to learn, grow, accept and stomp out stigma.
Vienna and Sydney, WG Murdoch School Students – How in the world will we feed 9 Billion people in the year 2050? The Airdrie / Crossfield 4H Helping Hands Club went on an eye opening field trip Saturday, Jan. 21, to Journey 2050 and we think everyone needs to hear this message!
As the population pushes up to 9 Billion by the year 2050, will it be possible to produce enough food to feed everyone? This was the key question posed to our Airdrie /Crossfield Helping Hands 4H Club members who attended the Journey 2050 Educational Session sponsored by Agrium currently set up at the Agrium Western Event Centre at the Calgary Stampede grounds.
This engaging five-hour program is being offered to school groups, 4H groups and more from all over the Calgary Region. The goal is to teach students about how important jobs and roles in agriculture will be, and what they might look like, as the world braces for the reality that we will need to produce 65% more food from the current land and water base. Is that even going to be possible? What will it require? Our 4H group was lead through a guided conversation around these concepts with the instructors who taught the day long program through games and interactive challenges.
The activities placed in front of our members helping them learn about farming and food production practices around the world today and how agriculture is going to become even more important as an industry as the population grows. It was a great chance to learn from experts, and work alongside other 4H members from all over the Calgary region.
We personally will be in our 40s in the year 2050. How will our diet compare in 2050 with what we enjoy now? Our members discussed the importance of balancing environmental, social and economic issues as the world tackles the key question of what we will all have to do to secure food production for 9 billion.
Crops will likely need to change, we will need to find ways to put lands like swamps and mountainous terrain into use for rice production and grazing animals like goats that can adapt to rocky outcrops for grazing space. We will also need to preserve the current supply of farmable land and not mow it over with urban sprawl.
Our club members left the session feeling the weight of this challenging issue. We found ourselves talking about what we can do now to 1. Reduce our personal food waste, 2. Eat and consume sustainably, 3. Monitor and reduce our personal water use, 4. And how we can reduce our environmental footprint. This is only a small number of topics and questions posed in this day-long session. Our club members are very grateful for the chance to learn more about this important environmental question – we hope everyone in the Rocky View region will attend Journey 2050 while it is in Calgary and we would encourage classrooms and 4H clubs from around Rocky View to consider checking it out!
Big thanks to our 4H friends in the Flatlands for organizing a 4H day at Journey 2050. More information is available online at Journey2050.com
Official Mascot (Re-post from Feb 2012) – When I was first approached to tell the story of how I came to be Rocky View Schools’ official mascot, I have to say that I was completely honoured and a little bit nervous. I had never written a blog before (although my paws are pretty dexterous, it’s hard to type without opposable thumbs), but I was up to the challenge! I think it’s safe to say that I’m the first Raccoon to have written a blog. Then again, as the mascot for RVS, I have probably done a few other things that Raccoons don’t usually get to do!
I got my start as a mascot thanks to Lance Rinehart, RVS’ Facilities Assistant, a very close friend of mine. Back in 2008, Lance had one of those light bulb-over-the-head kind of ideas: Rocky View Schools needed its very own division mascot. He did some research and then presented his idea to RVS’ Superintendent of Schools Greg Bass, who thought it was a great suggestion.
Shortly thereafter, Superintendent Bass presented Lance’s idea to the Board of Trustees who agreed that a mascot was just what RVS needed! Instead of the jurisdiction choosing the mascot, RVS created a contest for students to submit their best ideas. A small selection committee was struck and boy did they ever have their work cut out for them! After going through many creative entries, Rocky Raccoon was born based on a drawing submitted by a Grade 4 student named Ryan McHarg from Indus Elementary. Rocky Raccoon was officially introduced to the jurisdiction August 26, 2008 as part of RVS’ new brand.
As a mascot, I am RVS’ unofficial Ambassador responsible for bringing passion and goodwill to the entire jurisdiction. Being larger than life, I attract all kinds of attention and apparently I have created quite the presence in the community. One of the best parts of my job is when people tell me how much they love to see me at their school or their event and how my being there makes their day just a bit brighter.
Another great thing about being a mascot is getting to meet so many wonderful people from all around the RVS community. Rocky View has so many fine young students and staff members that it makes me proud to be their mascot. Not only to do I get to meet them, but I also get to meet their families! Over the past few years, I’ve also got to meet local and provincial politicians and even the Calgary Flames Alumni Hockey Team – not too shabby for a Raccoon!
Since starting at Rocky View, I have really built up my resume. New skills include riding unicycles and scooters in parades, skating and playing hockey with students and teachers, climbing playground equipment, and participating in other sporting activities! I may not do everything as well as some of the students, but I always manage to bring smiles to the faces of everyone I see and meet. I am a pretty good dancer though and I certainly have gotten a few people up on their feet during an event or an assembly!
If you haven’t guessed yet, I love my job as official mascot. I cannot say enough good things about the students and staff at Rocky View Schools. No matter where I go, whether it’s out to the schools or into the community, there is always at least one person that I can make smile or feel special and this reminds me why I do what I do and why it’s all so worthwhile. I love being apart of Rocky View and I can’t wait to see each and every one of you soon! I have made my mark here and it’s just going to get bigger with your support!
RVS Teacher, Langdon School – Students from Langdon School recently had the opportunity to learn Japanese from a group of students in Honolulu, Hawaii. This wonderful opportunity was facilitated by Verena Roberts, a Technology Specialist with Rocky View Schools, and partner teacher Melvina Kurashige of the Mid-Pacific Institute. Interestingly, this connected learning opportunity began through our conversations on Twitter.
I had initially made some assumptions regarding this experience. I had assumed that it would be interesting and engaging for students to connect with peers from another country. I also had assumed that the work presented by students would be of a high quality, as they were presenting to a genuine audience. What actually occurred far exceeded my expectations; and that takes us back to 1998…
Before Instagram, and Twitter, and Facebook, and even MSN Messenger, there was ICQ Chat. I remember a classmate in high school telling me about this new program. He mentioned something along the lines of “yeah, this program is so cool, you can add your friends and talk to a bunch of people all at the same time”.
My initial reaction was disbelief. Was it truly possible to connect with multiple friends online at the same time? I eagerly rushed home and began using ICQ. To this day, I vividly remember the telltale “uh-oh” sound which accompanied an incoming message. At the time, I didn’t think of ICQ as a way of learning. I thought of it simply as a means of communication.
As I reflect upon this as an educator, it becomes clear that, although I was communicating with others, I also was learning about others. I would learn the score of the basketball game that night, or what one of my friends had for supper (Doreen Rowe’s Lasagna is fantastic, by the way). What fascinates me about this process as an educator, is that as technology has advanced, so has the ability to connect with others.
What if students were eager to rush to class, just as I had rushed home, to connect with and learn about others? What if students asked genuine questions to their peers in another country regarding their lives? What if these simple connections could break through barriers and help students to develop empathy for one another? What if this act of connecting could be a simple, yet effective method, as educators, to help students to genuinely understand and celebrate our differences and similarities???
…back to 2016. When my students connected recently with the Hawaiian students via a Google Hangout, many of these questions were answered. Watching students become more globally aware, while learning new content, has opened my perspective regarding connected learning. Students were learning content while also learning about one another. In this sense, they were more than just globally aware, they were entering a whole new world that involved becoming active global citizens, one step at a time.
The next step for my students in the connected learning journey involves the creation of Science games. The games will be shared with students in other countries as a genuine audience. This project has been supported by a community of practitioners through the Gamifi_ED2 project. Working with such a knowledgeable and supportive team is highly beneficial in supporting our students. I look forward to continued connected learning opportunities where students will connect with their peers internationally.