Living Local Gala: Making Learning Visible

Living Local Gala: Making Learning Visible

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!

Girls in STEAM Day

Girls in STEAM Day

Technology Learning Specialist – Rocky View Schools’ fourth Girls in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Day on March 5 was a resounding success! Over 55 girls met with 14 professionals representing many different STEAM fields – university students, aerospace engineers, chiropractors, physiotherapists, accountants, archaeologists, optometrists, a professor in GIS and Geomatics, a director of digital technologies, entrepreneurs in fashion and technology, and a pilot. What was really important during the day was the opportunity for these students to learn from women working in STEAM fields, to hear their stories about the many pathways their lives have taken and the opportunities they found. They learned that not everything takes a direct path; it often it takes time to see where life will lead. You just need the courage to take a leap!

Sarah Braul, a Beiseker student who attend the event said, “This event was created to promote females in the science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics fields. In attendance were middle and high school girls from all over Rocky View, as well as professionals in the STEAM sectors. In the morning we listened to guest speakers on topics such as technology, aerospace engineering, as well as wearable fashion and then participated in a speed dating activity. During the speed dating we were given a chance to speak one on one with professionals about their job, schooling etc. To end the day, there were STEAM-related activities,  which gave us the chance to explore the topics discussed throughout the day. My favourite part was the speed dating because we were able to ask any questions we had and get personal advice from the guests. This helped me to consider several different career options that I would be interested in within the STEAM fields.”

“As a teacher attending the event, I found it be to be very engaging and provided students with a great opportunity to connect more personally with professionals,” said Tatum Nixon from Beiseker Community School. “Students expressed that they found value in being able to ask questions within the small group speed dating. The variety of professionals in the room also piqued the interest of students towards career opportunities that they had not considered before. One example of this was combining engineering and design into what is now known worldwide as Make Fashion. Opportunities such as this are appreciated and valued by both teachers and students alike!”

Talia, an up and coming videographer in Grade 5, who also attended the previous three Girls in STEAM sessions, was our videographer for the day. Here is her video below. Thanks Talia!


Also, check out some tweets about the event:

Teaching About My Old Hometown

Teaching About My Old Hometown

Superintendent of Schools – This week I had the absolute pleasure of teaching for a bit! Okay, to be honest, it was more like I got to be a guest speaker. How did this happen?

About eight weeks ago, I walked into the Wildrose meeting room at the Education Centre where a group of teachers were working with our Learning Design team to develop rich, engaging learning opportunities for their students. As I often do, I walked around observing projects that were being collaboratively designed. I came upon a group of teachers from Elizabeth Barrett Elementary School who were building learning opportunities about Saskatoon for Grade 2 and 3 students. I casually mentioned, “Hey, I used to live in Saskatoon.” Instantly the teachers looked at me and said, “Do you want to come to our classes and share?” I said yes and suddenly I was now on their planning map under the resources list.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked with kids of all ages, but all of my formal teaching was with high school students. In planning what I’d share, I needed to remember that these were seven and eight year olds, so I attempted to include some student participation, keep things light and connect a few stories that you might not find online.

Three classes of students squeezed into a classroom and we learned about Saskatoon together. They had already learned lots about Saskatoon and we even had a handful of students who lived in Saskatoon at one time in their early lives. Plenty of other students had visited or driven through Saskatoon. Early on, I shared that I grew up in Moose Jaw and, of course, I had to ask who had seen “Mac the Moose” while visiting Moose Jaw.

Mount Blackstrap

When we were talking about the land, I shared a picture of both Cochrane and Saskatoon and asked the students to tell me which picture was which town/city. They nailed it. And when I asked how they knew, they talked about seeing the mountains in the background of Cochrane. I asked if there are mountains in Saskatchewan and most kids said, “Nooooooooo.” I clicked to my next slide and there was a picture of Mount Blackstrap just a few minutes outside Saskatoon. As you can see in this picture, “mount” is probably a significant stretch. We laughed together and I shared the story of how Mount Blackstrap was built in order to allow skiing at the 1971 Canada Winter Games.

In the blink of an eye, the 40 minutes were up. I hope the kids enjoyed talking about the land, weather, population, housing, things to do, major events and listening to me try to answer their “I Wonder”-ings. I certainly did. The kids were polite, grateful, funny and inquisitive.

Thanks to the teachers for allowing me to join your learning community for a short bit. I hope to rejoin the crew in April when they hold their celebration of learning about Saskatoon.


Regular School Attendance: Building the Habit Early

Regular School Attendance: Building the Habit Early

Project Lead for the Attendance Innovation Campaign – It should not be surprising that regular school attendance is important in fostering academic success, positive relationships, and a sense of belonging. Research suggests that students who miss more than 10 percent of available instructional days – translating to just two missed days a month – are at an increased risk for a number of negative outcomes, including academic underachievement, social challenges, and school drop-out.

As parents and teachers, we all care about a student’s success in school and life; however, we sometimes do not realize how quickly school absences can add up. It is important to consider that attendance matters in all grades, including Kindergarten. In fact, studies show that up to 40 percent of students who are chronically absent in Kindergarten continue to demonstrate chronic absenteeism in Grade 6. These types of patterns can translate to difficulty reading at grade level, lower provincial tests scores, and an increased likelihood of high school drop-out.

Schools can promote the importance of regular school attendance and help build healthy attendance habits by:

  • Creating a safe and caring school environment that emphasizes positive connections between students and staff. Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they show up.
  • Discussing attendance at parent-teacher conferences.
  • Using data regularly to identify attendance patterns and ensuring early intervention for students and families who may be struggling with attendance.

Parents and families can also encourage healthy attendance habits by:

  • Avoiding extended vacations that require children to miss school. All absences add up and result in missed instructional time and lost opportunities to interact with peers and teachers.
  • Setting up regular bedtime and morning routines. Charts, checklists, or routine boards can help children keep track of routines.
  • Communicating with the school regularly about attendance and absences and tracking your child’s attendance patterns using PowerSchool.

For more information about the Attendance Innovation Campaign and to obtain access to useful educational resources, please visit the RVS website.

What Do You Make?

What Do You Make?

Learning Design Specialist – In preparation for the Learning Design Maker Cohort, we thought it would be interesting to ask teachers, “What do you make and why?” Tough question! Immediately I put on my teacher hat and thought, “Well, I make awesome lessons, labs and fun projects because… curriculum!”

And then I thought about what making really is: making is finding creative solutions to unique problems. Teachers are designers of learning; we are here to design for our students and to learn alongside them. One way teachers can create authentic experiences that are fun, engaging and real, is to come up with interesting and relevant challenges for kids to solve. In making, students rise to the challenge by creating authentic, high quality products. They will be engaged, reflective, collaborative, and feel accomplished. During the Learning Design cohort, our goal was to generate engagement by encouraging teachers to make something they were proud of.

The modern maker movement is about making high quality products for an authentic audience or consumer. Whether a person knits a blanket to give as a baby gift or bakes cookies for coworkers to enjoy, creating a high-quality product worth sharing is the essence of making. When a student produces something that they take no pride in, either because they lacked the skill to reach a level of quality they could be proud of, or the product has no consumer beyond a teacher who will grade it, the engagement can be limited. When students have an opportunity to create products that are meaningful to them, that they can be proud of, and that can be shared with an authentic audience, making becomes magical! Teachers don’t have to be experts. Being willing to pose a question and learn alongside students can be just as powerful. Providing an opportunity for students to explain, exhibit or show off to parents, industry or local government adds even more to the experience.

Making requires more than knowledge and some remembering. It often requires deeper understanding, reflection, and an application of knowledge. And isn’t that the goal of teaching – to create authentic learning experiences that drive students to be engaged learners ready for problems of the future? So what are you making?

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