Learning Design Specialist – John Hattie said, “When teaching and learning are visible, there is a greater likelihood of students reaching higher levels of achievement.” The RVS Learning Design Team embraces the idea of making learning visible using a design process in which students empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and share their learning.
After hosting four successful cohorts this year (Rocky View Productions, #UXRVS, Rocky View Maker and RVS Living Local), we felt it was about time to bring the amazing work that both came out of the cohorts, and what was already happening in the division, to light!
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the Learning Design Team hosted the Living Local Gala Exhibition. As with many prototypes, we erred on the side of caution, as we were unsure what the uptake would be like for the day… and wow! Rocky View teachers and students really stepped up!
The Gala began with 23 Grade 5 students from Herons Crossing School recording RockyTalks that they each wrote, reflecting on their Changemaker experiences. Afterwards, their teachers, Kendra Jewer and Kate Pike, reflected on their own perspectives as designers of the learning opportunities they provided the students. These engaging RockyTalks were followed by a panel discussion about “The Farm”, an innovative new project we are currently developing in RVS, in which students from Grades 7 through 12 will learn and work on a farm!
While all these filmed discussions were taking place, other student projects were showcased, demonstrated, discussed, and celebrated. The evening was a flurry of excitement, as students, parents, and teachers explored incredible products of student learning. Students were able to discuss the processes of making, creating, and doing in a variety of modes. Guests were able to engage with digital resources, hands on activities, virtual reality, student demonstrations, visuals, and physical projects. The degree to which students had opportunities to make choices about their learning and voice their opinions about the direction and products of that learning were incredible. Their confidence was astounding.
We look forward to making next year’s exhibitions even bigger and better! Mark your calendars for the Winter Gala on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, and Spring Design Gala on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Keep them in mind as you have kids in your classes do great things throughout the year. We would love to help you show them off!
RVS Teacher, Prairie Waters Elementary – Part 4 of 4: The culmination of the Grade 5 Exhibition is the community and school showcase. Students have dedicated nine weeks to get to this exciting point in their inquiry. It’s an opportunity to share and celebrate their learning journey not only through Exhibition, but also their journey through the Primary Years Programme at Prairie Waters.
The showcase is a chance for students to take their knowledge and new ideas and share it with a wider audience. Rather than rely on the recall of facts, students are encouraged to engage in a conversation with guests about their issue. Being knowledgeable about their topic is important and it can be communicated in various ways. Students can share what they learned during site visits and interviews and communicate big take-aways they gained, as well as provide information they found relevant during their research.
To prepare for the Exhibition showcase, students brainstorm within their groups to determine how they can entice visitors to enter into a conversation. It could be a piece of artwork, a hands-on activity, a quote or an artifact related to their issue. Students also can speak about the action they took or plan to take. Ultimately while speaking, we hope that students encourage guests to stop and think about the issue and maybe, just maybe, they too will take action or gain a new perspective. Students also engage in conversation by preparing questions to ask their audience and communicate how their points of view have changed about the issue. Finally, students need to know their topic to answer questions from guests.
Students are free to choose the format for their showcase. However teachers do give them a few suggestions. The first is to keep their environmental impact to a minimum. Rather than giving out fliers or information sheets, students could direct their audience to a website they created. The second suggestion is to consider their audience. The community showcase visitors consist mostly of parents and community members. The school showcase invites students ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 4. Conversations students have with adults will look and sound differently than a conversation they might have with a peer.
The last week of Exhibition is a flurry of preparation, excitement, and nerves. Students continue to reflect after the showcase. They identify areas of success and growth and are given the chance to assess their skills as a learner. The entire Exhibition process is a memorable experience for everyone. Students should feel extremely proud of their accomplishments regardless of where they are in their learning journey.
If you are able to join us for the Exhibition showcase, please do. The community showcase takes place on May 3rd from 5:45pm – 7:15pm. The school showcase takes place on May 4th from 8:30am – 10:00am. If you’re unable to join us, follow us on Twitter. Our hashtag is #pwex17.
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!
Superintendent of Schools – As the holiday season rapidly approaches I want to take a moment to share my appreciation for the fantastic people that make up Rocky View Schools. I have gained my appreciation by travelling throughout RVS and chatting informally with people, watching the countless tweets showcasing the great things going on in schools, attending community and school events, visiting schools, quiet conversations with students, observing the efforts of our staff, and living in a community within RVS.
What do I see? People who care, people who go above and beyond, people making a positive difference in our communities and with our youth. Whether it is a secretary, teacher, grounds person, education assistant, assistant principal, HR recruiter, afternoon caretaker, community volunteer coach, school tech and countless others – I see people who dedicate themselves to serve others. That is just how we roll in RVS. It is in serving others that we get our greatest rewards.
Our RVS team consistently puts others first. I see staff put students and their families ahead of themselves. I see the products of countless volunteer hours donated to make our schools an amazing place for learning, as well as a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment. I see our staff helping students contribute back to our communities and to the world. I smile with pride when I see our kids volunteering, raising funds for those less fortunate, finding their voice to identify injustice, and/or celebrating all that is right in the world. In most cases, it is with staff’s leadership, guidance, and support that the students are able to demonstrate their own leadership in our global society. Our staff models what it means to serve others.
As we reach the winter break, I want to say “thank you” to our entire RVS family. You make a difference in the lives of children, their families, your colleagues, and your communities. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for welcoming me back into the RVS family with such kindness and concern for my family. Please be safe over the holiday, take the time to recharge your own batteries and try and do something for yourself and your family over the break.
RVS Humanities 8/Reading Intervention/Drama Teacher, Chestermere Lake Middle School – Nothing brightens my day more than seeing kids learn a new skill or strategy and knowing deep in my gut that it will pay off in their lives for years to come. As a reading/writing workshop teacher in the middle school, luckily this happens regularly and my days are extremely bright!
For all of you middle school ELA teachers out there, choosing a method/strategy/program… can be extremely frustrating. The ELA Program of Studies is extremely complex, and how can we possibly teach “the good stuff” that is going to stick, when all of those outcomes are so incredibly vague?? (Pet peeve #1) I learned long ago, that implementing a reading and writing workshop in my class was the only way that I was going to move kids forward in multiple strands and enjoy the ride along the way.
I have had the pleasure of studying with Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project at Teacher’s College at Columbia University in NYC for the last two years. After teaching 23 years, I wanted MORE STRUCTURE with MORE STUDENT/TEACHER CHOICE in my reading/writing lessons and the new middle level Units of Study in Reading were exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, these reading units for grades 6-8 weren’t available to the public yet, so I decided to save my pennies and take the plunge to learn straight from the masters at TCRWP and get my hands on those units!
In my grade 8 classroom, the first month is spent developing the students’ reading lives. Many students read very little outside of school time anymore, so I need to give them mass amounts of time to explore, investigate and analyze their reading interests, skills and goals. While building this reading life, I also focus on one aspect of narrative reading that is beneficial to them in later analytic endeavors – characterization. It is difficult for kids to analyze and interpret the themes in a piece, when they are still struggling to analyze and interpret the characters and their actions. Through a series of read-alouds, minilessons, conferences and mostly INDEPENDENT SELF-SELECTED READING, I see kids slowly reaching their reading goals (which were all based on growth mindset, of course), talking about books they are reading daily.
Mentor Text for Unit 1: First, French Kiss: And Other Traumas by Adam Bagdasarian – Humorous memoirs of a boy growing up in the 80s…so many cringe-worthy, laugh out loud moments! This novel was exactly what I needed to motivate uninspired readers to want to search harder for more books that interested them.
At the end of the unit, I followed the lead of my colleagues at TCRWP and celebrated! This year, I decided to have a “Glow-In-The-Dark Reading Party” complete with toasts to their reading accomplishments (with water in champagne glasses) and gummy worms (to symbolize their status as bookworms, get it??). I don’t know about you guys, but after 25 years of teaching, I need to pat myself on the back more often for a job well done and the students need that boost as well. Candy is usually part of that celebration in my world!
As part of a balanced literacy program, I alternate a reading unit of study with a writing unit of study, so my students have now moved on to building their writing lives and figuring out what moments of their lives they want to share in their first published memoir. Now how should we celebrate? I’ll let you know when we do!
Until next time,