RVS Teacher, Prince of Peace – I teach 23 wonderful Grade 1 students at Prince of Peace Lutheran School. Next door to the school is the Prince of Peace Manor, which is a senior care facility. One day, I ran into my former substitute teacher Jacqueline, who is now retired and lives in the Manor. We started to discuss how to bring my Grade 1 class (the younger generation) to visit with the residents at the Manor (the older generation). We worked out a plan with dates and times and what the two groups would be doing when they got together.
Our first meeting had our “adopted” grandparents helping the students with a primary colour booklet. About 12 seniors attended this meeting, which lasted about half an hour. The students were a bit apprehensive, but soon the two groups got introduced and started working on their booklet. They soon became fast friends. Our second meeting had about 22 seniors, that is about one senior to work with every child! They worked together on their secondary colours booklet. The seniors were very impressed with the student’s knowledge of identifying primary and secondary colours and how polite the children were to them. By the third visit, the seniors and students had developed a deep bond and were so excited to see each other again. You could see their happiness from their beaming faces and sincere greetings. Their faces just lit up! This time, the groups worked on numbers and counting. Prior to leaving, the groups were giving each other good-bye hugs and telling each other how excited they were for their next meeting!
This has turned into a weekly event. The talking and visiting is so appreciated by the seniors. Some of the “grandparents” do not get a visit from their own children or grandchildren. They are so happy for the little time they get to spend with the students. The students in turn experienced the positive interactions with a senior that may not happen in their own family. Both groups have become great friends and eagerly anticipate their next meeting.
Numeracy Specialist – I am often asked, “What is the difference between mathematics and numeracy?”
Although the difference is subtle, it is important to consider. For me, mathematics is the discrete abstract science of number, quantity and space. Numeracy, however, is something more. To be numerate means having the confidence and skill to use numbers and mathematical approaches in all aspects of life – in everyday activities at home, in our communities, in employment, as consumers, in managing our finances, as parents helping our children learn, or as patients making sense of health information. Numeracy transcends school and education as it is a way to make sense of the world around us.
So how do we as educators create numerate students?
When designing learning opportunities, it is important to keep in mind the goal is to create citizens who are numerate; therefore, the mathematics we see and do in our classrooms should be reflective of the numeracy we use in our lives. Learning experiences need to be designed so that they not only engage all learners, but the purpose of the learning is clear. We use math every day and as educators it is our job to let students experience this and make these connections for themselves. Lessons need to be designed with purpose in mind:
- Don’t just divide fractions by flipping and cross multiplying; do share out the last two pieces of cake.
- Don’t just use an abstract formula to calculate the area of a rectangle; do find out how much sod is needed for the backyard.
- Don’t just measure lines and recognize symmetry; do create symmetrical artwork or build a piece of furniture.
Students need opportunities to gain mathematical fluency, reason about mathematics and solve problems to be numerate. We have a responsibility to teach students how to efficiently use mathematical procedures, to help them become fluent with number facts and to develop strategies to solve problems. But before students ask, “Why are we learning this?” answer the question for yourself first. Does this activity develop mathematical fluency that will be used or applied? Does this task make a student reason about the math they are doing and why they are doing it? Can the student see how this problem is real or relevant to their life or circumstance?
As the Numeracy Specialist for RVS, I am fortunate to be able to work with creative, inspiring educators across the district to design engaging and purposeful learning experiences for all learners. Together through the three pillars of fluency, reasoning and problem solving, we help students become numerate and make links between the math they do in school and the world around them.
For more information about numeracy in Rocky View Schools, please visit Making Numeracy Visible or for numeracy support contact Stacy Connolly.
Students Hold Local Candidates to Task in All Candidates Forum
Amrit Rai Nannan and Anna Jensdottir, Meadowbrook School and Heloise Lorimer School Teachers – What better opportunity to get students interested in our democratic process than to let them grill local candidates? On October 11th, that’s precisely what grade six students from Heloise Lorimer and Meadowbrook Schools in Airdrie were invited to do. As teachers, we saw an incredible teaching opportunity, so we organized our very own political forum so that students would have the opportunity to interact directly with Airdrie’s political candidates and more importantly get their questions answered face to face.
We started off hoping to get one or two mayoral candidates and a few councillor candidates out. If we were lucky, the school trustees would be willing to join as well. CIVIX (a non partisan organization whose goal is to create civically engaged future voters) pitched in to provide our schools with the Student Votes Program. Scouring the internet we were able to scrape together contact information. The overwhelming response we received from the candidates was beyond what we imagined – three mayoral candidates, 13 councillor candidates and four school trustees. Excited talk about who was coming started to dominate the classroom discussion and students even started reaching out to candidates on their own. At this point we knew the students had taken ownership of their learning and we had succeeded in our goal of engaging the students in the electoral process.
Frequently, adults and students see candidates as foreign beings that are not approachable. We wanted to break down these walls and show students that the political process is accessible and relevant to them too. We have found that students feel that their voice is not heard because it cannot be translated into a vote on election day. This leaves them feeling alienated and frequently apathetic. After being involved in this spectacular day, students have gained a new appreciation for the power of civic engagement. Our students have been out and about in the community, discussing the issues with their parents and their aspiring representatives. Not only have they actively shown their own influence in our city, but they’ve also gained experiences that will follow them as they grow into our next generation of responsible voters.
They old adage says that “it takes a village,” and for us, it was a proud moment to see the whole village show up for our students.
View the Student Votes results for Airdrie here.
Learning Design Specialist – A couple of weeks ago, the Learning Design Team and the École Edwards Administration Team visited Ted Talk guru, Gever Tulley, at Brightworks School in order to understand his philosophy and to help inspire the Maker Space Movement at Edwards.
A self-taught software engineer, Tulley created a summer program called Tinkering School in 2005. The Tinkering School’s program provides children with a week-long overnight experience at a ranch outside of San Francisco. Participants are engaged in large projects, like designing a working roller coaster, constructing a rope bridge made out of plastic bags, or furnishing a three-story tree house. In 2011, Tulley opened Brightworks School, bringing the Tinkering School approach to a formal education setting, thus allowing students to learn through hands-on inquiry, facilitated by teachers, each and every day. Tulley explained that his school can best be described as, “lifelong play based kindergarten combined with the inspiration and questioning of graduate school.”
Brightworks develops their phenomenological approach to learning through “Arcs of Learning.” Every arc is divided into three phases of study: exploration (discover and explore deeply), expression (create meaningful representations of learning) and exposition (showcase and exhibit creations to authentic audiences).
The students at Brightworks are grouped into 10 bands based on maturity level (not age), each focusing on the same thematic arcs. This year’s arcs are: coins, fabrics and cities. Classes have an interdisciplinary focus and make use of community partners, experts and field trips whenever possible. With all students exploring the same arcs, collaboration between bands and ages is natural, and students serve as inspiration to one another.
The use of phenomenological arcs is based on the neuroscientific notion that everything in the brain is connected, and that learning is ultimately about creating connections and relationships between a variety of ideas and concepts. The arcs allow teachers to first explore the topic with their band through what Tulley calls, “facipulation” (facilitated manipulation) that guides students toward understanding the outcomes that teachers identify prior to learning, as well as co-learning along with the students. After exploration, students move into expression, where they participate in workshops to identify, design, and prototype ways to express their learning. Developing empathy and social understanding is also an important part of this phase. Finally, Brightworks hosts a one-week exhibition, during which families and community members are invited to view the work completed during the arc, and where students reflect on their experiences.
One of our insights from this visit was the notion that teachers should be co-learners alongside their students. Tulley mentioned that he started Tinkering School and Brightworks because he felt that kids were being educated primarily to be consumers, and not creators or manipulators of the environments they live in. By allowing students to express their understanding in ways that are meaningful to each individual, by trying, failing, fixing, and retrying, not only do students learn and understand more deeply, they can also apply the process later in life to remain lifelong learners.
Moving forward, the École Edwards administration will be using what they gleaned from the experience to inform the development and use of their maker space and the mindset that needs to be fostered built with it. The inspiration and direction gained from Brightworks will drive their design forward, and hopefully encourage lifelong learning, collaboration, and deeper understanding in their students.
Supervisor of Jurisdictional Programs – In September, Calgary hosted the International Play Association’s tri-annual conference titled Unleashing the Power of Play. Delegates from over 50 countries came together to celebrate, advocate, educate and learn about the latest research in relation to play and child development. This event couldn’t have come at a better time. Early childhood educators within Rocky View Schools are beginning a dialogue regarding play: the role of play in early learning, the delivery of the curriculum through play, and the balance between play-based programming and school-based academic requirements.
Kindergarten teachers report that the pressure to teach academic skills earlier and earlier has been gradually gaining momentum. The popular notion that the earlier a child can read and write, the more successful they will be throughout their academic career seems well established in society. These increasing academic expectations have led some educators to up the academic rigor in the classroom, which unfortunately, often comes at the expense of opportunities for play.
While increasing academic expectations in kindergarten might appear to afford children an academic advantage, we now know that it does not. Children who have the opportunity to acquire foundational literacy, numeracy, and social skills through rich and authentic play experiences actually have the advantage. They will be better equipped to process and regulate their emotions, reason with information and solve problems; empathize and take the perspective of others. They will develop stronger communication skills, a more diverse vocabulary and will be better prepared for future formal academic instruction.
There is no question that educators ought to have high expectations for their kindergarten children. Play-based programming does not mean that children play all day without teacher support and direction or that there is an absence of goals or expectations. Programming through play is a way of engaging with the curriculum that honors children’s interests and developmental level. If we place more importance on the acquisition of academic skills at the expense of these opportunities, we are doing a disservice to our children. They will miss the opportunity to develop fundamental skills essential for their academic, social and emotional growth.