RVS Student, George McDougall High School – Seven years ago, George McDougall organized their first ever Ride of the Mustang after one of our very own mustangs was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, this annual 48-hour fundraiser has raised over $765,000 for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, which has gained us popularity throughout the community and granted our school the Top Fundraising School award from Kids Helping Kids every year. There are no words to describe just how special this fundraiser is. Although it takes over the City of Airdrie every year for only 48 hours, it will continue to leave a mark on the community forever.
After my first Ride of the Mustang, I knew I wanted to be involved. I had never in my life been in a room filled with so much energy, pride, and community. Over the 48 hours, there were fun games during all hours of the night that included everyone, a school-wide head shave, and memories that will last a lifetime. (Also, I will never un-see some of my teachers on stage doing a midnight karaoke session).
Since then it had been my goal to be a part of the ride and to make it bigger and better every year. As of 2017, for my senior year, I was the Chairman of the Operations committee and because of this opportunity I have had amazing experiences that have not only impacted me, but also the community.
A few of the committee members and I were given the chance to take a tour of the Alberta Children’s Hospital in December. We were given a detailed tour to see where exactly the money we raised was being spent. It was unbelievably heart warming. Seeing the hospital first hand opened our eyes and I remember leaving that day being completely overwhelmed with a sense of pride. There is no better feeling than to physically see how much of a difference you make in someone else’s life. Although the students of George McDougall may not know who we are helping personally, we believe that there is never a reason to turn down the opportunity to help someone in need. This is our school’s way of showing that children and families are not alone in the fight and we hope to ride forward for however long it may take.
This event proves how much of a difference can be made when a group of people come together with one common goal in mind. I will forever be inspired by our bikeathon and hope that it will encourage others to work together to make a difference in whatever it is they believe in.
As time passes and classes graduate, there is not a doubt in my mind that future students will hold true to the Ride of the Mustang legacy for years to come. I am so proud to be a Mustang!
Teachers, A.E. Bowers School -This project started as a general kindness project when a grade team member mentioned Project of Heart. As a team, we loved the idea behind the Project of Heart and decided to put our own twist on it. Instead of making ceramic tiles, we would get our students to paint wooden necklace tiles that we would sell. The proceeds would be going to the Head Start Program on the Siksika First Nation.
Through this process, students learned about the different Nations in Alberta, their rich culture and history. First Nation, Métis and Inuit Learning Specialist, Chelsea Jackson, helped us connect with an Elder. Elder Randy came to our school and we explained the idea to him and asked him for suggestions on paintings. After his recommendations, using friendship and nature pictures, students in grade 4 got to work.
Mrs Bowers was our expert art teacher who guided us through the highs and lows of working with wooden tiles and paint markers. The final projects were spectacular. Some students came with me to the Airdrie Farmer’s Market on June 14 to sell the necklaces in hopes of raising funds for the Head Start program and continue the conversation and awareness on reconciliation.
It was a very successful evening and to date we will be donating over 500$ to the program.
This project along with attending the Ideas Incubator has developed into a bigger project that I will be undertaking next year entitled “Ripples of Change”.
Teacher, Ralph McCall School – When I started out the journey developing Connections as an idea in the Rocky View Schools Fellowships, the aim was always to engage students in meaningful learning experiences. Inspired by the great work already occurring in Rocky View, such as the WILD program or Building Futures for older ages, our idea was how can we engage younger students in similar ways. Working with administrators and Rocky View’s learning specialist team, we came up with with our idea for Connections.
At it’s heart, the intention of Connections is to inspire students to make social, emotional, physical and intellectual connections with their learning. At the beginning of the year we spoke about how making a connection in their brain, their memory, is a lasting thing. Positive or negative connections are lasting – therefore engaging in meaningful learning opportunities is an important way to ensure kids love coming to school everyday.
The idea itself went through growing pains, or an “identity crisis” – often described as a class that learns outside, I always felt it was and should be more than that. The students should be challenged to learn about the world in a hands-on way that utilizes experts and has a meaningful and lasting impact. From here, the path and the partnerships needed became much clearer. First, was the idea of using the community to improve engagement in the grade 4 curriculum. Then came the barriers to this and ideas to overcome them. Thus a partnership was born with Airdrie Transit, which has provided us affordable transportation to different places in Airdrie.
Suddenly opportunities to visit places opened up. Students visited the Airdrie recycling depot, Nose Creek Museum, Plainsman Arena, Airdrie Public Library, Chinook Winds Park, Nose Creek Park, the Airdrie Cenotaph, and the Airdrie Echo.
With this, came opportunities to engage experts on topics related to our learning. In our sustainability project we learned how to plan for a sustainable community from the City of Airdrie. We learned about waste, learned about protecting our natural spaces with CPAWS, how to plan a garden that provides food through Green Calgary, how to improve water security with CAWST and we examined the food waste in our school. This project was later presented to City of Airdrie Environmental Committee.
Over the winter we connected with an app developer who was looking to try out using their app in schools. Part of this pilot project and study was to offer students an opportunity to dive deep into the Alberta curriculum and share it in a unique and living way. Students were proud this past week to showcase their Discovery Agent’s missions on Alberta and Airdrie history, located in Nose Creek Park, to other students and invited guests. Not only were students able to be the creators of these missions, but engaging them in the competitive aspect of the app and utilizing a natural, outdoor space provided great tools of engagement for students.
It wasn’t always easy: relying on public transit rather than chartered buses requires organizing around it’s schedule; relying on the interests of 9 and 10 year olds; and relying on the weather (as you can see, it can snow in April). Seeing students “showing off” their learning, showing an appreciation for public transit when we walked places instead of taking the bus or when the weather turned and even enjoying our community and remembering their experiences were key elements to finding success in our class.
Discovery Agents testing in April
At we reflect and begin to plan for next year, I can feel confident that students were given opportunities to develop into well rounded citizens, challenged and engaged physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally.
“[student] was eager to apply things that he had learned and even helped us to change some things we were doing in our home. He also became interested in public transit and learned about the C-Train and bus schedules while visiting [family] in Calgary.” – Parent Feedback
Superintendent of Schools – It is graduation season across RVS. An exciting time for grads and their families. I have had the honour of attending three graduation ceremonies and have shared a brief message to the grads. All the other grads have had either an Associate Superintendent or an Area Director bring greetings. I thought I’d share my message to the grads with everyone via this week’s blog posting.
Welcome distinguished guests, parents, staff, friends and grads.
Let me start with my congratulations to the class of 2017. Maybe not for you but for your parents and guardians it is probably hard to believe you started school 13 years ago. You are the last grad class where the majority of you were actually born in the last millennium. Times flies! How about a quick trip down memory lane?
In Kindergarten, you might have gotten the Dancing Dora or RoboSapien for Christmas. Just after grade 3 you wanted to go see The Dark Knight at the theatre but got stuck having to see Kung Fu Panda or WallE because The Dark Knight was too scary – clearly life was not fair! Most of you were into music by grade 7. In late June 2012, the Billboard top song was Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. Sorry to the parents in the crowd but you weren’t cool then nor now if you could sing every word while chauffeuring the kids around. When you came to high school you rolled in probably with a hand-me-down iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 or if you were lucky you had a funky coloured iPhone 5c. You were probably an early adopter of Pinterest and Twitter while all of us old timers were still using Facebook And here we are. June 2017 and you have just reached one destination and hopefully are ready to embark on another journey.
Not to down play today or your graduation but this is just the start. The next bit of your life will be focused on where do you want to go? What do you want to try and experience? Well, that is up to you now. You get to pull out your phone and enter the next destination in Google Maps.
What is important is:
Make sure your charged up and have supplies and tools onboard so you are able to take on a wide variety of challenges along your route; It is time to gain some independence but don’t worry your AMA membership (a.k.a. your family) will be there if you get stuck; Understand that it is okay for your phone to tell you it is “recalculating” when you make a quick left turn and change courses; Have the courage to close the app and use your common sense to get to a destination; And even though you entered location X as your destination; if something really interesting is seen along the way it is okay to stop and check it out.
Now don’t get freaked out if you lose connectivity or if you don’t have the whole trip mapped out. It is important to understand that there are many ways to get from A to B. Just make sure you are moving forward toward your ultimate destination. Be smart because when the app tells you to keep driving straight and you see the cliff ahead … don’t think the device is smarter than you are. Keep your hands on the wheel, don’t forget that your Civic cannot actually fly.
Aspire to be the person: who has lots of travel stamps in your passport; who helps others take on adventures; who designs the latest mapping app; who helps those who get stuck; who builds the self-driving car; or who blogs about the journeys taken.
I do want to thank and recognize all of the staff here today that helped you get to this point. Your contributions getting the class of 2017 out onto the road is much appreciated.
Lastly, it’s all about you today but I encourage you to take the time this week to thank those who helped get you to this point on your journey. Say thanks to your parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family, friends, teachers, bus drivers, secretaries and everyone who has helped along the way.
RVS Learning Specialist – A person’s passions can come in many different shapes or sizes, flavors and themes. Some people love travel, others are foodies, while some feed their souls with art or music. One of my life’s passions involves a six foot tall, brown-eyed, well-muscled guy by the name of Tipper. I should clarify, however, Tipper is my horse! As someone who has always had a passion for horses, I know how wonderful they can be for the soul. So, when I heard that students in Rocky View were getting the opportunity to work with horses to build their confidence and self-awareness, I was very eager to find out more.
I had the privilege of seeing two of the programs that Rocky View students participated in this year: Spirit Winds Ranch, Equine Assisted Learning with Laurel Griffin and Whispering Equine, Equine Facilitated Wellness with Carrie Watson. Both left a lasting impression on me, and from the comments and reflections of the students participating, I could tell that our students were also powerfully impacted by the experiences.
At Spirit Winds Ranch, elementary students learned what it means to build trust and relationships through working with horses. Although I have had many personal experiences in this area, Laurel’s program opened my eyes to a whole new world of skill building. The session I observed was all about using common sense. While working with their “horse partners”, the students read a challenge aloud and then planned to lead their horse through obstacles in the safest, kindest way possible. The students were instructed to watch for their horse’s non-verbal cues: ear position, eyes, licking their lips, etc. I was amazed at the creative problem-solving skills that the students were applying as they worked through the obstacles. When the horses struggled to complete a task, the students used their newly acquired empathy skills to find out why. Every student experienced success, and you could see the sense of pride on their faces and accomplishment in their voices.
The essential life skills that were taught and reinforced during this exercise were invaluable. The students communicated verbally with their partners and volunteers, and non-verbally with their horses. They demonstrated resiliency through trying different strategies and then adjusting, based on their horses, to achieve success. They also collaborated effectively with their partners, volunteers, and horses. At the end of the session, students reflected on what resonated with them from the morning. Some of the words they chose were, “flexible, fun, creative, strong leadership, thinking, and dependability.” The self-awareness of these young students was impressive.
At Whispering Equine, high school students participated in an equally life-changing experience. In this session they started in a cozy classroom in the barn where Carrie led them through a discussion about types of stress and how people cope. The students identified experiences of their own that had caused them stress and reflected on how it made them feel, physically and emotionally. They would then discover that the day’s activity with the horses would be all about releasing that stress and tension, both their own and the horse’s, through acupressure.
After the students had time to groom and bond with their horses, they led them into an arena to start the exercise. The students were taught to recognize their horse’s energy fields and were instructed to watch for signs of physical release: chin quiver, sighing, yawning, licking their lips, head shaking, etc. Carrie talked about “offering intention” to the horse instead of just trying to do something to them. The relationship that the students had previously built with these horses was crucial, as this experience would make both the horse and the student vulnerable to one another. She instructed them to be mindful of their own body and eye positions, breath, and finger tension, all of which would communicate different messages to the animals. Each student started behind their horse’s ear and used the tips of their fingers to work along the Bladder Meridian – an important line of energy in acupressure that runs the length of the body. At a point of tension, the horse would blink, indicating a spot that required focus. Watching these students use their hands to connect with their animals was incredible. As the horses would release a spot of tension, the students would often do the same. Each was silent and intently focused on both their horse’s and their own physical and emotional sensations.
In talking to the students after the session, I discovered that mornings at Whispering Equine were often emotional. As the students worked through areas of their lives that cause them stress or anxiety, they dealt with difficult feelings in ways they would not ordinarily be able to. Other days were energetic and uplifting, leaving the students with a stronger sense of confidence and self-assurance. No matter the day’s emotional tone, the students felt they could safely connect and communicate with their animals without fear of judgment or critique. Their reflections and sense of growth through the program were both touching and inspiring. These students were unanimous in saying that this was an important and powerful experience for them.
My own lifetime of experiences with horses has taught me that they are incredibly perceptive creatures. They can read body language and sense emotions. Through seeing these students and their interactions with horses, I have come to see how valuable their intuition can be in helping humans reflect on and heal from their own emotional challenges. I only received a brief snapshot of the incredible programs that Laurel and Carrie put on, however, the impact of their work was evident. I am looking forward to seeing more students in Rocky View Schools supported through equine learning. Horses, with their beauty, empathy, and rich personalities, are powerful agents of student wellness. As a lifelong horse-lover, it moved me to see students reveal a deep connection to these magnificent creatures. In a word: unforgettable.