Making Connections

Making Connections

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.

Proud to be a Mustang!

Proud to be a Mustang!

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!

Reconciliation:  One Necklace at a Time

Reconciliation: One Necklace at a Time

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”.

Engaged with the Community

Engaged with the Community

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

The RJ Hawkey KINDergarten Kindness Ninjas!

The RJ Hawkey KINDergarten Kindness Ninjas!

Allie Apels and Kayla Williamson, RJ Hawkey Teachers – What are KINDergarten Kindness Ninjas? A group of spirited young learners, who have embarked on a journey to spread kindness to each other, their school, their community, and the World.

Our goal in the fall was to create a year-long project that helped our students adapt to classroom expectations and develop appropriate social and emotional skills. We found ourselves inspired by Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind. We loved the simplicity of its lyrics and it’s powerful message. It was through this song that The Kindness Project was born and thus came the Kindness Ninjas. With our red headbands and covert training, we set off on our mission to Change the World with Kindness!

Some of our activities have included: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness(RACKS), making Christmas cards for the homeless in Calgary, participating in Alia’s Rainbow Rock Project, paying it forward on #spreadthelove day, publishing “A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Kindness Ninja”, adopting a Panda through the World Wildlife Foundation, making treat bags for the puppies at the Cochrane Humane Society and handcrafting bars of soap to be delivered to a village in Nepal. Currently, we’re fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary; donate here www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/kindergarten-kindness-ninjas-mission-to-raise-mone/

We invited Kindness Experts in our community, and from around the world, to come speak or Skype with us. We were fortunate to have connected with the following: Airdrie Project Linus, Stephen’s Backpack, Soap for Hope, Lamb’s Soapworks, Airdrie Angels, Jaime Lawrence, Leon Logothetis the host of the Kindness Diaries, and Grammy and ACM award winning singer-songwriter Lori Mckenna. We’ve had many unique conversations and experiences; many we wouldn’t typically have in Kindergarten.

We’ve been documenting our journey on Twitter and, in turn, have inspired other teachers and classes to become Kindness Ninjas. Our students created 30+ Kindness Ninja Kits and have not only sent them out to our new friends within RVS, but also to Brazil, Scotland, England, Croatia, USA, Kenya, Nigeria, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, England, Hawaii, Nepal, Haiti, The Congo, and Dubai! Our Kindness Ninja Movement is making its way around the globe!

As teachers, we’ve been surprised by the profound impact this project has had on our personal and professional lives. It’s been so fulfilling and inspiring to watch our students develop a sense of belonging and a true identity as Kindness Ninjas. We’ve met so many remarkable individuals, who have amazed us with their generosity. Most of all, we have discovered that you’re never too young, or too old, to become a Kindness Ninja!

Please find us on Twitter @RJ_Kindergarten!

Allie Apels and Kayla Williamson
R.J. Hawkey School

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