Principal, Cochrane High School – Last May, I received an email out of the blue from a community member in Cochrane inquiring if we have a 3D printer at Cochrane High School (CHS). The man informed me that he had heard of a company that provides online plans for 3D-printed prosthetic limbs and that his granddaughter was in need of a hand. I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of being involved in this project. I approached the Communications Technology teacher in my school with this idea and we began to brainstorm some ways that we could get students involved in this pursuit. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the end of the year arrived quicker than expected and we were unable to get the project done. The summer passed and in September, the teacher was approached by two Grade 11 students who were interested in printing a hand as a project. The teacher brought these students to my office and together we began to put things in place so that the idea could quickly become a reality.
After contacting the family, we were able to invite the little girl to the school for a meeting. Our students measured her hand, described the way the process would work and had her pick the colours for the prosthetic. At one point the little girl, who is an absolute gem, said to the boys, “This is a great opportunity for you guys isn’t it?” And so we began.
Last Wednesday, we had a meeting with the little girl and her grandfather during which the boys, their teacher and I presented her with her new working hand – one that was printed for her on our 3D printer and based on a design that emerged from an online community that was founded for this purpose. I cannot begin to describe the immense sense of pride that I had knowing that our students made this happen for her. It has been one of the highlights of my entire career.
At its essence, this is a story about making connections. This process really started for me two years ago when the teacher approached me about his interest in 3D printing and inquired about the possibility of our school purchasing a printer. The connection that we made that day as we discussed the possibility of incorporating this device into our school’s programs laid the groundwork for the rest of this story. The grandfather’s choice to reach out to me to inquire about this innovative possibility is another connection. And yet another one was made by the boys when they shared their interest in 3D printing a hand with their teacher, who then directed them towards me. The boys’ global connection to an online community enabled them to secure a design and this was yet another important connection that unfolded from this process. This story culminated in a little girl trying on her purple and blue 3D-printed hand and within 30 seconds, picking up a bottle of whiteboard cleaner that was sitting on a table in my office. On her face was one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. Talk about making connections!
This is how profound things happen in the world: through connections. Our focus for the last year at CHS has been quite simply that: “Making Connections”. It’s something I believe we’ve always done well at CHS, but recently, with our sights set on pursuing these powerful moments, and amplifying their presence in our school, the connections we have observed have been amazing. It is astounding what a dedicated team of hard-working people can accomplish for their students and their community when they have a goal they all believe in.
Superintendent of Schools – Noun – ad·vo·ca·cy \ ˈad-və-kə-sē \ – the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.
Let me start by saying I am not an elected official. I work for the Board of Trustees of Rocky View Schools and have an employment contract directly with them. At the same time, I have a long list of statutory requirements in the School Act that I must comply with. In my role, I work closely with our trustees to support them in their advocacy efforts. I might provide them background information, discuss strategies, share what I am hearing about the topic through my circles, draft letters, and countless other tasks.
Over this past year, I am consistently impressed by the work our trustees do to advocate for students, staff and communities. The advocacy takes all different forms – meeting with the Minister of Education; meeting with MLAs; meeting with local government officials; meeting with other trustees from around the region; working as a collective through the Alberta School Boards Association or the local zone; writing letters to the Minister on topics such as capital needs or transportation funding for French Immersion students; providing feedback on potential legislative changes; attending consultation sessions to provide input on a wide variety of topics; and meeting with parents and other stakeholders in a wide variety of settings, including school councils.
RVS’ advocacy efforts are often focused on influencing potential changes or decisions being made by government. Board of Trustees are heavily influenced by laws of the land and associated regulations. Boards do not have complete autonomy to do whatever they want to do.
Recently, I was able to spend two days as part of an RVS contingent at an Alberta Education consultation for our region. Trustees, senior staff members and parents were in the room discussing a wide variety of topics related to potential legislative changes. The sessions included group work, but also allowed individuals to provide direct comments to Alberta Education through online tools. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these topics and provide input rather than reacting to them once they are enacted. Having table discussions with people from different school divisions and from different roles helped me understand the issues from different perspectives.
While advocacy efforts take time, and may not have immediate results, I believe those efforts are worth the time and energy.
Director of Learning Supports – Have you ever read a book that cast a reflection on a part of your life? When I opened One Without the Other, I was introduced to the teaching world of Shelley Moore. It resonated. The students, conversations and meetings described in the book felt familiar. More importantly, the clarity in the work created by Shelley and her students provided a good model on which to reflect upon where we are in RVS on the journey to inclusion. (Please read the book to find out where that is!)
It’s only been about 10 years since large-scale laptop use in schools was implemented. Since that time, the proliferation of digital tools in schools has changed the educational landscape. Only a few short years ago, it was a source of frustration for families and school staff to have to search through binders of visual symbols for students who had no other means of good communication. Today, we are able to condense massive volumes, visuals and text to speech onto the tiniest portable devices. The landscape in schools has moved beyond digital device use as well. However, as dramatically as we have changed, we are stuck in many ways too.
In a way, One Without the Other describes the first competency in an inclusive education system. How do we make inclusion real and authentic for each of us? This is the nature of the work in the Learning Department. The things we are doing and the ways in which we do them is showing promising practice in Rocky View Schools. We are in the beginnings of a new iteration in curriculum design that has the potential to improve how we educate our children in inclusive settings. When I think of the intersects between the work of our design, literacy, learning and diversity specialists, I am brought to the place where the real and authentic becomes apparent once the learning is made purposeful for each of our students. When we work with synergy in our schools and with our parents, then we see inclusive learning in action.
Learning Design Specialist – This year, the Rocky View Learning Design Team is excited to offer four uniquely themed cohorts to Rocky View teachers. These Learning Design Cohorts are immersive, hands-on, professional learning journeys that bring a group of teachers together to collaboratively design equally immersive and hands-on experiences for their students. Each cohort features a community partner that provides a tangible community connection, as well as built-in scaffolding for teachers to help make student learning visible through a public exhibition.
Teachers taking part in these workshops will have an opportunity to engage with the project over three spaced-out days, each with a key outcome:
On the first day, teachers get to Do the Project, taking on the role of student and experiencing the process first hand.
On the second day, the Design Day, teachers are then able to design their own projects collaboratively with other participants.
On the third and final Champion Day, teachers are afforded a flexible release day to co-plan with facilitators or bring the student exhibition to life.
In the User Experience (UX) Cohort, students will bring their curricula to life by designing engaging user experiences. Gamification and challenge-based learning will be the areas of focus. Our community partner for this cohort is Mobile Escape.
In the RVS Productions Cohort, the goal is to research, compose, and publish high quality stories and visuals for audiences near and far. Teachers will design a learning opportunity for their students where learning is represented through the production of high quality published artifacts to share at a division-wide exhibition in December. Our community partners for this cohort are Winsport Canada and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
In RVS Living Local, we’ll be exploring, celebrating, and contributing to our communities. Teachers will design learning that will connect their curricula to their local communities, culminating in a Market Faire to celebrate and exhibit the products of their journey. Our hope is to partner with the Airdrie Farmers Market and Calgary Crossroads Market.
Registration is now open to all teachers on the RVS Professional Learning registry. A limited number of teacher spots will be available for each school, each requiring an administrator’s support. We look forward to working with you this year!
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!