Superintendent of Schools – Welcome back for the 2017-2018 school year. I am honoured to be part of Rocky View Schools (RVS) and the team that serves the youth in our communities. I hope everyone had a great summer and enjoyed the amazing weather we had throughout the region.
Over this school year, we will remain focused on ensuring that students experience success, engagement, and support – the three pillars of our Four-Year Plan we remain committed to. We are actively working to help students develop critical literacy and numeracy skills, while building a broad skillset of important competencies that will serve them throughout their lifetime. We achieve this through providing students with rich, hands-on, real-world learning environments both in and outside the classroom, keeping the spark of curiosity and learning alive. We also continue to hold a high value on inclusion, diversity, compassion and fairness and attempt to address the unique needs of every learner through tailored supports specific to the needs of the individual child. Our students deserve no less!
At Rocky View Schools our greatest strength is our people. It is our entire dedicated team that makes a difference in the lives of our students. We are so proud of our staff and the countless things they do for our students and our school communities. A special thank you to many of our staff that worked throughout the summer to get ready for the start of the school year.
We cannot do this alone. We have great community partners and volunteers that amplify our efforts. I want to thank all of those who give their time and resources to help our students. Other critical partners are our parents. Your support and involvement ensure your children, our students, continue to receive rich learning experiences in supportive learning environments.
Together we are stronger and together we can do the very best for our students.
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!
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
Superintendent of Schools – Like many of our RVS team, I spent some time away from work last week during RVS’ spring break. After spending a few days back in Saskatchewan celebrating a family milestone, we loaded up the van and returned home. I spent the good part of the next four days in the backyard landscaping. I have no green thumb, but shoveling, pushing the wheelbarrow, and installing edging is right up my alley. The immediate feedback of moving four cubic yards of garden mix from the front driveway to various beds in the backyard works for me. Like many challenges, at the beginning I thought we’d never get that all moved. Wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full and the pile was not changing. Suddenly I noticed the pile looked a bit smaller. A few loads later, it was smaller yet. A couple of loads later we were scraping the driveway to fill the last load. Wow, mission accomplished.
The next day it was three cubic yards of wood chips. The race was on. How fast can we move those light wood chips? 40 minutes – start to finish and that project was complete. We had time to tackle other pieces of the yard. The next day included three cubic yards of rock on the driveway. So much for another 40-minute job. The weight of the rock combined with my 15-year-old being at an umpiring clinic meant we labored away for 4 hours. Nevertheless, at the end of that day, all the major landscaping groundwork was complete. Now we are ready for the fun bits of planting trees, shrubs, and flowers.
By now you must be wondering, what is Greg writing about all this for? I guess my work is normally focused on the long game: next year’s budget; long-term student achievement growth; multi-year plans; and, creating the conditions for our staff to be successful. Looking back, this project was still about creating the conditions for future plantings to grow (which is not far off from my usual job). It was nice to tackle some tasks that had a defined start and end. I knew the tasks were complete when the piles were moved. I knew I was successful when the yard looked like what we drew up on our garden plan.
Sometimes it is just nice to have a sense of accomplishment with tangible results you can see from your deck!
RVS Teacher, Prairie Waters Elementary – Part 3 of 4: As Jen Friske outlined in Part 1 out of 4 in this blogging series, What is the Exhibition, Prairie Waters students in grade 5 participate in a unique 8-9 week, in-depth collaborative inquiry into an issue or problem of their own selection.
During Exhibition, the student’s research is authentic as they take ownership for their learning from the very start. Once the whole grade 5 group decides on the central idea, each group/individual makes up their own lines of inquiry which decides what direction their research will take. From here they make up questions to investigate based on each of the eight PYP key concepts. When the students decide the path their research takes, it becomes more authentic for them and is truly something that sparks their curiosity. The central idea, lines of inquiry, and key concept questions will help the students stay focused and on-track during their investigation.
Students are required to select and utilize a variety of strategies and resources to meet the outcomes of the inquiry. Students should use a variety of secondary sources such as books, websites, magazine and newspaper articles, surveys, artifacts, science investigations, working models, field visits, studies, etc. The more sources they access the deeper their understanding will be.
A huge part of the student’s inquiry is based on primary sources. Some of the most important information is gathered from the experts who have lived and experienced the actual issues being investigated. These interviews are always rich in knowledge and provide an in-depth look into each group’s topic of study. The interviews can be conducted face-to-face, through Skype or FaceTime, over the phone or on-line. The students always get so excited when they get to interact with an expert and the information they obtain is so valuable. The students develop their own interview questions which are largely based on the lines of inquiry and key concepts. Not only do the students gain great inquiry techniques, but it also teaches them excellent communication and interview skills.
We strive for the students to engage in an in-depth, collaborative inquiry to provide them with an opportunity to explore multiple perspectives. By discovering various viewpoints, and not always ones they agree with, it allows them to see the whole picture of their issue and become even more of an expert on their topic of study. It pushes them to go beyond simple research and look at their issue from several different angles.
During Exhibition academic honesty is emphasized. The students are expected to correctly cite all the sources that they use for research. This does not only include text information, but also pictures, videos, articles, interviews, etc. It is of utmost importance that the students put all the information they access into their own words. We want the students to be able to confidently speak about their topic so it is important that they understand and make sense of the evidence they acquire.
On-site visits or field trips also give students excellent insight into their selected issues as well. By actually experiencing things first hand, it helps them develop a deeper understanding of their topics. The more opportunities and exposure the students receive, the more enriched their learning will be.
This year, our Exhibition Showcase will be held at Prairie Waters Elementary School on Wednesday, May 3 from 5:45-7:15 pm and Thursday, May 4 from 8:30-10:15 am. Everyone is more than welcome to attend and see what our students have to share. Hope to see you there!