It varies how long the students have had a formal identification and it varies what type of identification, although all of them are identified as “Gifted”. During the first week of school, I began reviewing their files and updating their IEP’s, however, I struggled with this daunting task, since I barely knew the students.
In fact, most of their IEP’s looked closely to the same – the same modification (s) , the same accommodation (s), the same test results, the same strength and weaknesses. I
How could this be that they were all the same? These documents, created on templates, with drop down menus were not telling of who these children are.
How I INVOLVE them (and make the entire process a bit more authentic)
1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews.
Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections. Most of them had neither see or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accomodations, modification, strategies, methods).
2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be. Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.
During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. One student (Nicola) writes,
“Those who are deemed gifted still need support; they need to feel like they are not the only ones with this label. Remember, never judge a book by its cover. Anyone can change the world, whether they passed a test or not. Everyone is equal, and that’s what’s most important to know. Like I said, to be gifted can mean a bunch of things. What does it mean to you?
3) Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.
We do this every week with tea. We try to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How to advocate and ask for feedback.
4) Provide a organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed. Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.
5) When updating the IEP’s each term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued
This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One students said to me after reading his IEP, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.
After implementing this student centered strategy with the students in a self-contained gifted classroom, I wonder if a similar strategy would work with NON identified students. Since we know that all students work better when they have input and when they are engaged in their own learning goals, then couldn’t we implement this in a regular classroom as well? I also wonder, at what ages this would work best? Students are very self-aware at the Middle School level which certainly makes sense to have them identify their own strengths and weaknesses. How could their other teachers be involved in this process? Will they have input as they travel into other grades? I wonder.
2018 will mark my 15th ECOO “BIT” Conference. Once again, I leave feeling inspired, recharged and committed to being a strong, caring and innovative teacher. LOVE was a dominant theme – woven through the presentations and conversations. LOVE.
I had an opportunity to view the film, To the Orcas, with Love (LINK) by a local filmmaker, Natalie Lucia. In her film, Natalie emphasizes her goal – to inspire children and adults to fall in love with the world or some part of it, at least. She shares her journey (and passion) of working and living amongst the Orcas in British Colombia, Canada and how it changed her. Her motivation to inspire all people to reflect on our own role in the environment and the world, and how everything – every choice, action, relationship, discussion, and goal has connections to something else. She reminds us all that we can make a difference.
The film and resource have been made free for teachers to use in the classroom
Talking about Love…. I had a wonderful talk with a friend, Lisa Noble. I see her more often online at @nobleknits2 where she relentlessly and constantly shares – not about her own work (which is inspiring by the way) – but about the work of others. Her support, kindness, and genuine caring for others have been incredibly appreciated and needed. I have had a tough 18 months (grief, depression) and over and over Lisa has reached out to show her love and compassion. I am full of gratitude and was pleased to have had a chance to talk.
Another conversation led me to talk about Love and Kindness was with Peter Skillen @peterskillen. “Just bring Love”, he said. Admittedly, I did feel a bit of tension and stress at the conference. People feeling uncertain about their jobs, about where education is going. People expressing worry about children, students, and their future in Education. People struggling with their own mental health and stress. Optimism was not prevalent. Peter, an advocate for Child-Centered learning pedagogy noted, more than ever, we need to be kind and loving to one another – work together and care.
Now, THIS is true love. Sue @suekwiecien and Andy @AndrewKwiecien searched and found me in aimlessly walking around the conference centre – to give me huge hugs and homemade SCORPION PEPPER Hotsauce. I cherish these moments! Running into old friends (not old as in age) like @aforgrave and finding time to chat about our kids, family, and well-being was the best part of the conference. It’s family you haven’t seen in a long time.
Finally, I got to share some of my work. In Oct 2017, I finally finished my own Graduate Thesis (which took way too much time).It is humbling to present to other innovative and creative Educators. I don’t think I could have ever completed my Masters of Education without saying thank you to some of these folks – who inspired me from the beginning. Influencers such as Will Richardson (@willrich45); Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep); Ben Hazzard (@benhazzard); Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy); Dr. Alec Couros (@courosa); Dr. Camille Rutherford (@crutherford); Jenny Ashby (@jjash); Doug Peterson (@dougpete); Andy Forgrave (@aforgrave); and Dean Shareski (@shareski).
Sharing of my Session Slide (although the context and talk aren’t there so it may not make sense).
Thank you for the many hours of work you have put into this conference and for supporting educators like myself. I saw many of you helping participants, guiding them, working with technology and helping them with their sessions. I know how much work – planning, organizing and prepping that goes into the conference behind the scenes. You are incredibly inspiring and know that this work impacts so many children!
I am currently teaching the Junior Additional Qualifications Course at Brock University, as I have been for the past 6 years. While the course design is always in process – I have included opportunities for the participants to explore their own strengths, passions, and pedagogies instead of just answering post after post after post…
The interesting thing about this course is that the participants consist of both, very new teachers (usually working at the Secondary Level) and very experienced teachers, often consultants, coaches or leaders in their school. The experienced teachers are usually headed toward a formal leadership position like Vice-Principal or a “Department Head” and the new teachers are often exploring their options, potentially opening up an opportunity to teach for the Elementary Panel (moving from the secondary panel).
The best part of the course is the number (and varied types) of resources collected and shared. I try to remind the students enrolled, over and over (they probably get tired of it) to post their “forum reflections” in a blog somewhere – that their voices, experiences, and resources matter to the greater community of learners – parents, teachers, students and others in the business of education (which is pretty much the entire world).
I’m going to take the next few weeks to model the sharing and work done with these students by also posting my reflections and resources.
I’m sooooo looking forwardto the opportunity for conversations and face-to-face connections with the many friends and colleagues of whom I’ve only connected with online – OR maybe I just haven’t seen you in WAY TOO LONG. You know who you are! This will be the best part!
I am completely honoured, humbled, inspired and energize to be a featured speaker – along side such forward thinking and creative educators and leaders. Thank you so much to the CanELearn Team, Volunteers and Leaders for organizing such a fantastic event!
Remi Kalir, Assistant Professor of Information and Learning Technologies at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education
Alanna King (@bannana29), another Ontario Educator is sharing her experiences and knowledge in a session called The Frontierland of secondary school E-learning, conquering fear and fostering courage. This is a MUST attend session. Alana is not only an incredible educator, but she is funny, kind, and generous and doesn’t need to work hard to inspire those around her. It is just natural.
I will present my own story as a Maker Teacher and how I have made connections between practice and pedagogy and in particular how this has shaped a second Makerspace classroom (2017), one that is not just rich in technological resources, but also promotes social justice, global awareness and community action. I will describe and share how my team and I developed a classroom as a mix between a cafe, a living room and a Makerspace – all intentionally designed around collaborative, safe and comfortable spaces. I will explore and reflect on my own experiences as an educator and how I have used a variety of frameworks to connect teaching and learning to topics of Social Justice, Indigenous perspectives and Inquiry based-learning to the Maker or Do it Yourself (DIY) Culture as we see it today. In sharing my own journey as an innovative teacher and leader, I will discuss how adversity, pushback and isolation impacted me in the process of standing up for education system that is not only fair and equitable for all learners, but one that promotes critical thinking and constructivism – which is at the heart of a Makerspace environment.
Thursday April 6th, 1:30
I’d like to think that I am a facilitator, but TOGETHER we will all be sharing! The UN Development Global Goals provides context, in all areas of education, for teachers and students to ask questions. In this session, I will share simple strategies for anyone interested in enhancing an inquiry driven classroom, one that is student-centric and has a strong emphasis on Maker Culture, Social Justice, and Experiential Learning. I will talk about the role of self-directed learning, health and well-being, and how we can use a variety of tools, spaces, and lesson types to engage students to think deeply about the world around them.
Friday April 7th, 11:15
Can you imagine a learning space where nature, music, art, and literature are infused in the design of the STE-A-M focused classroom? A kindergarten classroom for students of all ages? A place where tea is served at the start and end of each day in beautiful porcelain cups – where there are no bells or specific transitions and subjects are infused by “Big Ideas or Themes”? A classroom that celebrates community through nutritious food prepared each day by students who gather at a cafe bar or surround a kitchen table and prompted by deep discussions of innovation and creativity?
We will talk about it and find out what the research says. Why Tea? Why an indoor garden? Why a cafe bar? Why Knitting or Sewing? Why Cooking? Why Art? Why Chess or Games? Why Guitar/Piano? Why Kitchen Table? Why Livingroom? Why 3D printer? Why 1:1 Computers? Why light? Why Music? Why Blogs? Why Programming?
Maureen Wilson, from Hamilton, Ontario shares her experiences at the Women’s March of Washington
We had to be ready to change our pre-planned lesson…Students wanted to talk about what was happening in the world. The following posts describes why we altered our plan and shares the alternate lesson!
Critical literacies involve people using language to exercise power, to enhance everyday life in schools and communities, and to question practices of privilege and injustice. (Comber, 2017)
Huge events unfolded across the world over the past two weeks which prompted our teaching team to change a “pre-planned lesson” to focus on current issues of Social Activism – locally and globally. On January 20th, Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration took place. The next day, January 21st, together, over 60 countries – men, women, and children, joined in solidarity to March for human rights – “The Women’s March on Washington” was declared the largest global protest – ever. Then, on January 28th a Mosque in Quebec, Canada was brutally attacked and many innocent people were killed. January 30th – Thousands join together to show support and to honour the victims of the Mosque shooting.
It is difficult for the most well-rounded, emotionally and socially strong of people to handle the immense mix of emotions resulting from these events. Regardless of your point of view of Trump (or the platform), or if you are a woman or Muslim – we are all impacted – not just by injustice, hate and fear – but also by the joy, and relief that comes with solidarity and community actions. We are affected by the conflicting and confusing media.
Our young people are especially affected.
People in positions of respect and power have made accusations about journalists not being truthful and Journalists have made accusations of people in power not being truthful to the people. The idea of “fake news” has been spread across the inter-webs like wildfire. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are overwhelmed with political posts and emotions are high.
After watching the powerful poem by Royce Mann, we started our INQUIRY through a discussion of “Privilege and Power”.
The following lesson is an overview of how we approached these topics as an Inquiry:
We started with the “Big Idea/Inquiry Question”:
How can global events impact local/community action and local/community events impact Global action?
What is my lens when approaching these issues?
How am I privileged?
What does it mean to be “in Solidarity?”
We shared the “Culminating task” what will students do by end of lesson?:
Complete a Blog post that focuses on an idea or concept that uses the Women’s March on Washington as a prompt. Write through an optimistic lens, utilize a variety of media and provide questions for further thinking/discussion
Create a short podcast that focuses on one aspect of Social Justice and Solidarity and the impact of positive activism.
Create a video that uses a specific lens/perspective showcasing the positive aspects of humanity, people, and social activism.
We used the Curriculum Standards as a guide:
Critical Literacy: Opportunities to relate knowledge and skills in language learning to wider contexts, both across the curriculum and in the world beyond the school, motivate students to learn and to become lifelong learners. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p. 12)
Students must be able to differentiate between fact and opinion; evaluate the credibility of sources; recognize bias; be attuned to discriminatory portrayals of individuals and groups, including women and minorities; and question depictions of violence and crime. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p.13)
Reading – Point of View identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (e.g., determine whether an author’s choice of voices to include seems justified and suggest how the meaning would change if different voices were chosen) (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grade Seven, p.128)
Point of View – Demonstrate understanding that different media texts reflect different points of view
Making Inferences/ Interpreting Messages -Interpret increasingly complex or difficult media texts, using overt and implied messages as evidence for their interpretations
We made connection to UN Sustainable Development Goals:
Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
We invited community members to join our class and share their experiences:
Mary-Louise Pigott shares her experience attending the March on Washington
Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to co-create two Makerspaces (from Cafe Bar to Makerspace) within my school District – both very different and yet both fall under similar approaches and philosophies that were inspired by the town of Emilia Reggio which is “based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach
Our Makerspaces include a vast assortment of technology tools and robotics as well as hands-on building and craft material and textiles (sewing machines), arts and music , and content producing tools (camera, computers, tablets). But more important, the spaces are facilitated by trained (and interested) teachers who spend a good deal of time creating “situations” and “opportunities” to collaborate and innovate. This means, paying attention to the surrounding and how it “feels”.
“Third Teacher”. Educators and leaders who put value on the Reggio Emilia place a high value on the aesthetic and physical environment of the school, often referring to it as the “third teacher” (Gandini, 1998, p. 177).
Is the space inviting and inclusive?
This is not to say that Makerspaces cannot be created in a multitude of ways. There are pop-up makerspaces, shared spaces, Makerspaces in classrooms, libraries, community centres, coffee shops, shared Makerspace kits (portable).. and even in households (garages, basements). But, it is important to recognize the collaborative nature of Makers and the role that SPACE, SET-UP, ORGANIZATION play.
Just starting out??
I suggest that you tap into the skills of your colleagues and staff.
DO NOT necessarily start the space by ONLY bringing in complex robotics, programming or computers.
Scaffold. Differentiate. If it is just about one thing, you will miss the opportunity to engage a variety of minds and innovators.
RE ENGAGE teachers/parents/students that may feel alienated by technology and bring them on board but tapping into their interest!
Make Connections to all types of Making – There are many similarities between some programming languages and knitting or stitching, the arts, music and of course it can ALL connect to curriculum.
Ask: Who on staff can Sew? Crochet? Knit? Cook? Change a car tire? Change a bike tube? Who has any lego and loves to build? Who can draw? Who knows programming? Who owns a robot?
Interestingly, sometimes the best Learning and Professional Development happens around Making and Doing. The environment of collaboration is natural, organic and inspires community which then alleviates the pressure. People are laughing, sharing, helping each other and “formal” leadership disappears – letting everyone feel like they have a place – an important role to play. People are bringing in different perspectives, different skill sets. Once everyone is talking, sipping on tea, helping each other ‘make’ (that relationship building stuff), then a leader/facilitator can slip in the Professional Development. Bang! As an aside, in fact, this is often how we teach curriculum to students – by getting them engaged in play, making and a collaborative task. Have question prompts and assessment questions ready to go (we just index cards and place around the room)! Bang!
Finally – is there interest in creating an atmosphere of making? Does the room/area talk about pedagogy – what is the philosophy behind it?? Can a work table be brought in? Can a community group be put together to come in on a Saturday and set it up?? Can couch or two be brought in- with coffee table? Is there small plants for growing/eating? How about a whiteboard for designing, writing? Does the environment make kids and adults WANT to be there?
Let’s say you have $1000.00 to spend for your startup. What would you buy? Survey your staff – (Teachers, Education Assistants, Consultants, Coaches) to see what would be the tools/products that would bring in the community. Is anyone interested being the ‘resident’ expert? Through a shared document (OneNote or Google Drive), ask them to add to the list or just sign up. The space doesn’t need to be about one thing or one person.
Don’t forget about the Parents and Community! You might be surprised at how many people have things laying around the house and would LOVE to donate these to a COMMUNITY SPACE. Lego, puzzles, rubic cubes, small tools,
This might be something that could be sent to staff/community. This is only a very small example (but I did say that we only had about $1000.00 to spend). There are many many products and tools that could be added and would depend on school community and staff –>
Maker Tools or Activity
Skill, knowledge building
Electric Sewing Machine
Material and supplies
Math – Applied understanding
Measurement, Geometry, Patterning, Algebra
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
Does anyone have anything to donate?
Math – Patterning, Geometry, Spacial, Ratio, Symmetry
Does anyone have anything to donate?
Great for ages 5 – 99
Coding through colour or block programming
Lots of great challenges and an amazing website to help teachers
Circuits and manipulation of wires/circuits to control a computer
Great for exploration, play and making connections to “how things work” and electricity.
$50.00 (approx) (buy at least two)
An excellent kit that teaches students to code with a purpose and how they can combine coding with presentations!
I highly suggest this fun robot. Not only do students learn how to drive and manipulate the robot but they can also use blockly programming! This is one of our favourtes and learners of ALL love the Sphero.
Bean Art – Use Pulses (dried beans, chickpeas, lentils…etc.) and have students create beautiful tactile art
$100.00 (approx) for a few easels Sketch Pencils and notepads
In every city or community around the world, the cafe/coffee shop is place for gathering with friends or colleagues, catching up on daily reading, playing games, engaging in the art and music culture, knitting, writing, planning, creating, organizing, designing and learning – and of course, sharing in food/drink. Drawing from hundreds of examples of cafe community gathering hubs across our own city, Hamilton (A coffee shop for every mood) or Toronto (Top 10 Places to work or study in Toronto), or New York City (The Best Coffee Shops for getting work done), we created a classroom space with similar characteristics.
Can you imagine a learning space where nature, music, art and literature are infused in the design of the STE-A-M focused room? A space that celebrates community through nutritious food prepared each day by students who gather at a cafe bar or surround a kitchen table and prompted by deep discussions of innovation and creativity? A space for people of all ages? A place where tea is served at the start and end of each day in beautiful porcelain cups – where there are no bells or specific transitions and subjects are infused through Big Ideas or Themes?
“In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: it must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge.” (Lella Gandini,1998)
The importance of the environment lies in the belief that children can best create meaning and make sense of their world through environments which support “complex, varied, sustained, and changing relationships between people, the world of experience, ideas and the many ways of expressing ideas.” (Cadwell, 1997). “Bringing Reggio Emilia home:An innovative approach to early childhood education.”.
The constructionist teacher takes on a mediational role rather than adopting an instructional role. Teaching “at” students is replaced by assisting them to understand—and help one another to understand—problems in a hands-on way.
The HWDSB Gifted Program partnered with a team of Undergraduate Students from McMaster University in a Design Thinking Project with the goal to create a learning space inspired by both Reggio and Papert.
“Design is the action of bringing something new and desired into existence—a proactive stance that resolves or dissolves problematic situations by design. It is a compound of routine, adaptive and design expertise brought to bear on complex dynamic situations.”
—Harold Nelson, The Design Way
Thank you to Lee Wood Company, James Street North for the donation of the beautiful, custom, hand crafted bar top.
This area will provide a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, mentors and leaders to gather, talk, celebration and build innovative and creative ideas.
The “Bar” area replaces the teachers desk. There is enough seating for 15 students to surround the bar. The teacher or student can be in front or behind the bar area to facilitate discussion.
There is a large collection of plants, herbs and sprouts in the classroom. Growing plants in the classroom connects students to nature, to outdoors, to the world around them. Plants clean the air, teach students about sustainability and allow students to observe and document natural patterns.
“Parents are a vital component to the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Parents are viewed as partners, collaborators and advocates for their children. Teachers respect parents as each child’s first teacher and involve parents in every aspect of the curriculum.
Our doors are open and community (Teachers, Parents, leaders) are welcome to join us, have a tea and use our space.
Where there was once just a window sill, we added another bar top and stools. The natural light and city scape provides an amazing escape – a place to immerse into ART, listen to music, write poetry or simple sit and “people watch”.
Music is spread across the room. A piano, keyboard, computers for composing and of course guitars for “jamming”. Anyone can play or create ANYTIME.
We got rid of student desks. Natural collaboration spaces were created to emulate a living room. A safe place where family gathers. A place where people can be in a collective but be in their own zone – reading, drawing, knitting, planning, designing or wondering. There are enough PLUGS/OUTLETS for 20 computers in this area.
An area was created to “do”. Students can use the Interactive Whiteboard to showcase their designs, collaborate on ideas, or mentor one another, whether it be about Coding the Robotics, Programming Arduino sets or building in Minecraft.
There is flexible seating that can be moved or changed depending on the needs of the individual. This area is for small groups to code/program and engage in DESIGN challenges. A great spot to engage in ROBOTICS!
We hope that our experiences in this learning space can serve as examples and models to others wishing to move in this direction. We believe that students can be self-directed when provided with the right learning conditions, including an environment that is natural, organic and is designed in a way that builds relationships and community.
Reggio teachers provide children different avenues for thinking, revising, constructing, negotiating, developing and symbolically expressing their thoughts and feelings. The goal is for the adults and children to better understand one another “North American Reggio Emilia Alliance”. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
It is always an honour to present at a conference. To have such incredibly passionate and engaged educators, leaders, academics and friends dedicate time to listen and reflect on my words might be one of the most humbling experiences of a lifetime. I sincerely thank you for empowering me and reminding me of the support and kindness that exists in our field – it is that that helps me (and you) to move forward. Christ Hatfield, our closing Keynote on Thursday reminded us that innovation is not just about one single person but it is a combination of so many people’s experiences, skills and talents. That is how I feel. Please continue to connect, share and dialogue. I look forward to continuing and deepening the connection that already started!
Reconciliation should include a commitment to bringing in the Indigenous World Views as part of the learning process. I ask, ‘Would recognizing that we are already moving in this direction be a valuable part of the healing process for Indigenous populations?’
Many traditional methods of teaching are being challenged, and now, in Canada (and elsewhere), we have begun to adopt some of the very philosophies and principles (of course, with different names, definition and labels) that were once removed from our First Peoples when they were forced to attend Residential Schools.
Canada has made a strong commitment toward Truth and Reconciliation in respect to First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI). This is especially important in our Education Systems because these ‘Truths’ have not always been explicitly (or implicitly) taught to children and thus, the inequities perpetuated. Reconciliation, as we know, is a process of restoring relationships or by making views and beliefs compatible with one another. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report in 2015, Canada was faced with recognition of the injustices experienced by the First Nations peoples when they were forced to attend Residential Schools. This is especially important for schools and how we guide our learners today in their journey through this process.
Prior to these children attending these schools, what was education/learning like for them? Did they learn through Inquiry and discovery? Did children and adults learn through experiences? How was learning and connected to the earth around them? Did empathy play a role? What was the role of making and creating in the learning process? Was balance in life important? How did Storytelling impact learning and was it multi-generational ? What about Environmental Education? Family Connections? Community involvement and relations? Was there focus on spirituality and mindfulness?
“Traditional education allowed children to begin the process of observing from the time they are in their takinaakan and learn by participating as soon as they are able; traditional life was ruled by the principle of production from each according to his ability and distribution to each according to his need. (Red Lake, Heritage Centre, Virtual Museam)
Consider the approaches we are using in Education in the 21st Century –
*Inquiry approaches are about wondering, discovering and experiencing the world. This approach is being adapted instead of what is seen as ‘traditional’ teaching.
*Learning can happen at HOME with the family (Blended learning, online learning,Family Involvement, Travel, Discovery, Experiential)
*Education programs include explicit teaching of Environment Education and we emphasize human impact on the earth. Schools are connecting learning to outside environments through the use of natural playgrounds, green walls/roofs and gardens, celebration of the earth
*There is more emphasis on Primary Sources and Storytelling (using digital media and internet for world wide connections, learning from elders, learning from each other, accessing networks to connect to remote areas)
*Mindfulness is a practice seen as good for students mental health and overall well-being and is being adopted as part of the school program. According to Tobin Hart (2014), Long dormant in education, the natural capacity for contemplation balances and enriches the analytic. It has the potential to enhance performance, character, and depth of the student’s experience. Perhaps most important, the contemplative helps to return the transformative power of wonder, intimacy, and presence in daily learning and daily living.
*Teachers are incorporating lessons about life balance and mental health, nutrition and physical health as part of our daily curriculum which includes looking at non-traditional ways of healing and medicine. Here is one example of how we are incorporating Food and Nutrition into the classroom, not as a separate curriculum topic, but in a holistic way, as part of the learning process.
*The term “Maker” is being expanded to include approaches to learning that enhance and develop hands-on skills, inquiry and learning through play or through doing, problem solving and creating
*While the Teacher is still valued as “facilitator” we are emphasizing community and collaboration as a better way to teach and learn.
As I reflect on each of these “new” approaches in education – I am drawn to my knowledge of history and the Indigenous cultures. Are the above approaches to teaching and learning are at the core, inspired from many First Nations Cultures?
While it is true that each Aboriginal group has different ways to express its values and traditions, there are similar themes that are prevalent in each group. As noted in a recent publication from Alberta,‘ Our Words, Our Ways, 2016, these common “worldview” threads that run through many First Nations cultures are sometimes referred to as ‘foundational worldviews’.
In this report by Alberta Education (2016), there are many examples that connect these world principles in the classrooms, both with indigenous and non-indigenous students. I am not an expert in understanding these principles at a depth in which they are intended, but I can confidently explain how these connect to learning and how classrooms can use these principles (whether they know it or not) as a guiding program strategy.
Take a GLIMPS into a classroom that uses the following approaches to guide teaching and learning…
What do you see?
Espousing a holistic perspective and that knowledge is holistic
Cross-Curricular and integrated disciplines are more prevalent, as demonstrated by the structures of classroom schedules (less rotary, more time spent in one classroom with one teacher, combining topics into projects). Further, an inquiry approach to teaching is seen as the best way to engage students in real world issues, social justice and global issues. Most recently, classrooms are adapting “Mindful” practices and are emphasizing that when knowledge and learning is approached in a holistic way, students gain a better sense of self and a stronger self-esteem.
Recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things
There is a strong emphasis on critical literacy, inquiry and using world (local and global) issues and big ideas in the classroom. In fact, the new Ontario Social Studies/Geography and History documents emphasis a connection to real world issues which leads to studies about how land, animals and food are interconnected, the impact of global warming on our health, how oil extraction is impacting the earth, how the use of pesticides are impacting Bee populations. There is an emphasis on teaching students to relate curriculum topics and subject matter associated with History, Geography, Social Studies, Sciences and the ARTS to present day issues.
Having a strong connection to the land and community
We are inter-connected more than ever before not just due to the internet, but because collaboration and communication are seen as vital components of learning and living in the 21st Century. This allows us to communicate and share with our communities whether urban or rural. There is more emphasis on eating throughout the school day, on health, and on making different food choices. Schools are using the United Nations Goals to guide teaching and learning.
Inclusion of Environment and dynamic nature of the world in lessons and learning.
Environmental Education is now weaved through all areas of the curriculum. Some schools are participating in community gardening initiatives, community food organizations and local markets are partnering with classrooms as a way to help students to see their connection to the land.
Strength in “power with.”
As noted in the Our Words, Our Ways Document, In Aboriginal cultures, worldviews reflect “power with,” rather than “power over.” The image for this concept is a circle, and all living things are viewed as equal within the circle. “Power with” is a dialogue, where everyone stands on the ground, face to face – leadership and learning is “distributed”.
How does this look in the classroom today?
Explained in the Our words, Our ways Document (2016):
Learn from the students about how they learn best. Work in genuine collaboration with them to determine the approaches that are most effective.
Involve students when making decisions about the classroom. Provide opportunities for developing their skills so that they become effective at making real decisions about things that matter. Work toward consensus.
Invite older or stronger students to mentor younger or less able students. Find ways to reverse the process, e.g., find a skill that a younger student could mentor in an older student. • Welcome and validate parent input into decision making about their child’s education. Treat them as full partners in the collaboration that is essential for supporting their child’s learning.
While it isn’t often identified as such, it appears to be these very foundational worldviews that are influencing Education in the 21st Century, especially in how our classrooms are designed and curriculum is taught. There are many examples of classrooms and schools from across the globe transforming their spaces into environments that resemble home, enriched places for art and beauty, quiet spaces that embrace comfort and individuality, community and collaboration stations, connection to the outdoors and balance of life.
Curriculum, more and more, is being taught holistically with an integrative approach and disciplines being taught together. Inquiry, design thinking, experiential and project based are approaches that are recognized as strong methods to engage and teach students of today.
Are we recognizing that the very principles that are shaping how we are creating the 21st Century Makerspace learning environments are those same principles that have guided the indigenous peoples for centuries, the very principles and values that were taken from them when traditional school was created.
Example lesson that espouses the Indigenous Worldviews and Principals
What does a ball of yarn, a quilt, a Makespace, the Honey Bee, a podcast, Green Smoothie and a Minecraft Museum all have in common?
The following is an example Inquiry Lesson that infuses Maker Space, Collaborative tools, Inquiry and Design thinking, including Minecraft. We facilitated this lesson at the Enrichment and Innovation Centre in our Grade Six Journalism Program, for Gifted Students.
This Video is the lesson consolidation. Everything is connected. “How Wolves Change Rivers”.
We ask: Is Interconnectedness essential for our survival?
*How does the interconnectedness of anything change its course or direction in life?
*What does it mean to depend on someone or something?
*Will the disappearance of the honey bee impact human life at the local to international level? In what ways?
*How can we strengthen our own connectedness to the earth? To each other?
Social Studies: People and Environments, Political and Physical Regions of Canada (Ontario Curriculum)For More Detailed Curriculum follow this link
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 13:Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Pre-Lesson and Critical Literacy/Inquiry
To begin, we would use a “Flipped” approach. First, students would be given a task to investigate content related to the local and global issue of disappearing bees. Students explore, find, read,watch/listen and discover information related to why honey bees are disappearing. Second, students are asked to bring a leafy green vegetable and a fruit (and any type of super food such as chia or hemp). Contributing means feeling part of something and recognizing the value you bring in- your importance. This piece is vital. It strengthens community and builds trust.
Room Design, Bulletin Boards and Relevant Activities (Self-Directed Activities)
Kitchen (connection back to home/family)
Mock kitchen is created. Vegetables are displayed along with a nutritional information focus; Students would also share in a Tea Circle Discussion upon arrival (as they do most days); The kitchen would also have an assortment of plants (especially those with obvious pollen); A variety of honey types would be on display for students to explore the texture and taste and begin to make personal connections to the topic.
There is also a worm compost bin (vermi composting) to maintain the importance of connections and emphasize the value balancing what we take and give back to the earth.-Flowering plants on display for students to explore with microscope; A variety of informational videos available.
Living Room Area (literacy)
Word wall and activities; Knitting/crochet activities (in shape of honeycomb; Sewing (creating a beehive pattern activity); A variety of books, magazines, newspapers and literature
Collaborative puzzle for hands-on activities (an explicit way to demonstrate the connectedness of each individual piece and its necessity for the whole); A display that demonstrates facts and data, along with inquiry questions; A map display showing areas that are impacted; Honey Comb is be available to help students learn about the geometry of the Bee Hive and how the HoneyComb is made.
Maker and Art Space
Students will have access to lego; Sewing Machine Activities; 3D printer; Programming activities (using scratch to program geometric shapes);Green Screen applications; Pencil Sketching, Math and GeometryDesigning
With a cup of tea, the lesson will begin around the “Kitchen Table” where we will feel, touch, smell and taste some of the fruits and veggies that will go into the Smoothies. We will discuss how the veggies change their attributes and nutritional impacts when the are paired with one another (i.e., vitamin C with Iron). As a group we begin asking questions about what we know and don’t know about the vegetables, their interconnections to each other as well as to the earth. We will ask, what would happen if they weren’t available?
Here, we would begin our inquiry.
Following our Tea Circle, students will begin an independent exploratory activity where they will participate in a ‘shared’ Google Document and contribute to collaborative inquiry. (Here, a link is created by opening the document to anyone with link to make the process efficient.) Students contribute to information search focusing solely on the specific foods they brought in (or assigned to) and make explicit connections to nutrients. They use the information to create recipes that focus on a certain need or ailment.
We would later use this activity to make the connection that healthy foods are a necessity in our lives and begin the inquiry of WHY so many people continue to suffer obesity and health problems – relating this to our connections to the people and world around us.
We would discuss Nutrition in the context of wealth and poverty and further explore the Global Goals.
We would connect this to the biodiversity of our planet and examine the impact – the cause and effects of loss and gain. Students would see the chain reaction of how a honey bee can impact the lives of humans, food and climate change, and the impact this has for Ontario Farmers, Trade relations and cost of food. This article would provide a context: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/food-and-climate-change/
Students would discover that this loss would perpetuate poverty and would lead to a health crisis since our most valuable resources (as they’ve discover) are only accessible to people who can afford the high costs.
Minds-on & Hands-On
Together: Students begin the day, together in a large circle (this process helps students understand the impact of being connected and interconnected). Students are encouraged to be mindful of the fact that they all share in the moment, the day. One by one, students pass a ball of yarn while celebrating and sharing one connection (a team, a family, a friend, a book…). They form a web of direct and indirect connections and would learn that they can be impacted indirectly when the yarn is yanked or dropped by anyone in the circle, even those that aren’t directly linked.
compare this to our connections to our planet, to other living organism, to the foods we eat, to others – near and far.
bring this realization of interconnectedness back to the Big Idea (Is interconnectedness essential for our survival?)
Individual: Students are given time to explore hands-on activities provided throughout the classroom – all that demonstrate concepts of interconnectedness. This can be done at the start of class (when they arrive, or throughout the class as time allows.
knitting, crocheting (co-creating a quilt)
Circuits and Programming activities
(Assessment Opportunity – Teacher/Student time)
Inquiry – Student Driven:
As a class, students create a COLLABORATIVE book that identifies a variety of topics/issues involving the plight of the honey bees and the interconnectedness of the environment and humans. Together, students create a list of issues involving the disappearing bees ( focus on trade, farmers crops, use of pesticides, GMO’s, cause and effect on environment…). Upon completion, each of the Inquiries will be posted.
List of topics will focus on specific learning curriculum expectations
*connections between natural environment, employment, jobs and consumer (relating to bees)
*Jobs, land and organizations dependent on survival of bees
*Impact and connection of environment effects and land use (cause and effect)
*Environmental issues at an international scale and its impact on Canada
In partners or individually, students are given a full period (or more) to research and discuss the topic of their choice, but always relating it back to the inquiry topic of the Honey Bee and its interconnected value to the world.
Staying engaged… feeding the body and soul…
*Note – Throughout “Worktime”, students will have an opportunity to make SMOOTHIES based on their recipes and ingredients (from earlier activity). During this small group time, students will be asked to share how the ingredients and the nutrients are directly connected to their inquiry topic. AT this time, we will make connections back to the land and its impact on farming and then back to the consumer.
(Assessment Opportunity – Teacher/Student time)
Product (Culminating) – What are students working to create/produce?
*Podcast – Students learn to use Audacity and begin exploring podcasting techniques. As part of Interconnectivity, students use SKYPE to discuss Podcasting techniques with an expet in podcasting -Rodd Lucier.. Students are given examples and podcasting techniques -how to express voice, to conduct an interview, to use voice to convey a message, etc. Students will create a podcast interview, informational podcast or a skit.
*Blog – Students upload their podcast to their blog along with a blog describing the topic and inquiry question.Students have a prior knowledge of blogging. They will be reminded to use more than one medium in their blog and to end their blog with an inquiry question.
*Collaborative Book – Students will contribute to a Collaborative book using OneNote or Google Drive
Students will add their information to the WHOLE class creation using Google Drive or OneNote, thus demonstrating and participating in a connected activity
*MinecraftEDU – Students will design their solution or their information topic in a collaborative world. Here students will design a collaborative museum, where they will add their information through design and interactivity.
Learning criteria will be established with the students. As a group we will discuss some of these expectations:
Research and Information produced must contain local and international data that explains a topic.
Students address connections to themselves as well as looking at connections at a large scale (consumer, poverty, land use)
Students will ask relevant and critical questions as part of their research
Students recognize the impact that the topic has at a larger scale and discuss reasons for this
Students use appropriate vocabulary
Students recommend solutions
*describe some major connections between features of the natural environment and the type of employment that is available in a region, with reference to two or more municipal regions in Ontario
* “Why are some jobs dependent on the seasons?” “What are some of the jobs that are connected to forests, lakes, and rivers? What sorts of jobs are connected to agricultural land use?”
*gather and organize a variety of data and information on the environmental effects of different land and/or resource use and measures taken to reduce the negative impact of that use
*evaluate evidence and draw conclusions about issues related to the impact of natural resource extraction/harvesting and/or use around the world
*communicate the results of their inquiries using appropriate vocabulary (e.g., non-renewable, renewable, flow resources; extraction; sustainability; deforestation; fossil fuels; aquifer) and formats appropriate for specific audiences
*explain why some environmental issues are of international importance and require the participation of other regions of the world, along with that of Canada, if they are to be effectively addressed