LC5 Made The Front Page!

Our learning community’s partnership and visit with our local Spruce Grove Public Library to introduce our students to their brand new Innovation Lab was featured in the Spruce Grove Examiner this week.

Here is the article written by reporter Karen Haynes:

Ella Morrison didn’t seem shy as she belted out the lyrics to her favourite songs during a tour of the Spruce Grove Library’s Innovation Lab on Jan. 16. Morrison was using the library’s GarageBand technology to record her voice. - Karen Haynes, Reporter/Examiner

Ella Morrison didn’t seem shy as she belted out the lyrics to her favourite songs during a tour of the Spruce Grove Library’s Innovation Lab on Jan. 16. Morrison was using the library’s GarageBand technology to record her voice. – Karen Haynes, Reporter/Examiner

The Spruce Grove Public Library’s (SGPL) Innovation Lab is open for business and students from Greystone Centennial Middle School know first hand just how cool this library addition really is.

From Jan. 13 to 16, Grade 5 students from the Spruce Grove school toured the library’s Innovation Lab, testing its virtual reality program, Lego robotics, GarageBand software, 3D printer and circuitry systems.

“Libraries are not just about books anymore and they haven’t been for a long time,” said Leanne Myggland-Carter of the SGPL.

“We are a community hub — for many ages and stages in life… We have intergenerational learning going on. Kids come with their parents and grandparents, and they are helping each other. It’s a community based learning space,” she said.

Dana Ariss, a Grade 5 teacher from Greystone said the partnership between the library and the school was a prime opportunity for students to learn about the technology and resources that are available to them.

And it perfectly complemented the school’s recently completed Innovation Week, which finished right before the Christmas break.

“It was such a valuable experience for the students to see what there is. For them to have one-on-one building time, creation time and play (time), that’s where they construct their own knowledge. To give that to our students is something that is an absolute must,” Ariss said.

From Dec. 15 to 19, Greystone students participated in their fifth Innovation Week. For four days, students are challenged to question, investigate, process and create a final project in an area of deep interest to them.

“They go through the design making process. It helps students to have an understanding of themselves as learners and how to share their learning,” Ariss said.

Focusing on some of Alberta Education’s cross-curricular competencies — knowing how to learn, think critically, how to identify and solve complex problems, and how to create something innovative — students started their projects by zeroing in on what they are passionate about.

“It’s unbelievable the amount of dedication and perseverance these kids demonstrate. It’s something that is important to them,” because they take ownership of their projects, she added.

The projects included sewing, clay animation, creating special effects and make-up art for film, robotics, stop motion, caricature drawing, and others with a focus on engineering, horticulture and baking.

“The main focus is not just on the final project but also on the process: how did they get to this point; what did they learn; where did they fail; and how did they learn from the problems they faced.”

Greystone Centennial Middle School will host its sixth Innovation Week in the spring of 2015. At the end of the week, parents will be welcome to visit the school and see what the students have accomplished.

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Classroom Learning – October 16, 2014

Building community within a group of diverse learners is not a one time lesson or activity; it is an on-going and continuos conversation. As we get to know more about who we are as a team and how to work well together, certain themes continue to arise:

  • Demonstrating respect for one another
  • Showing care and understanding for one another’s needs
  • Taking personal responsibility for our actions
Sharing our promises to our learning community.

Sharing our promises to our learning community.

We took some time in the morning to review these conversations and to express what we are each bringing to the team. Students the shared out loud to the class to demonstrate ownership of their contributions.

In Math, we started to learn about estimation and rounding strategies. The three we are focusing on this year are Front-End, Compatible and Compensation. Students are learning how and when to use each strategy and the reasons behind why estimation and rounding is so important.

In Language Arts, we continued to read The Fourteenth Goldfish with our Global Read Aloud and make predictions. We also located a large Google world  map that had been started by a participating classroom detailing locations of all of the classrooms reading with us.

Students trying to figure out what the map is about.

Students trying to figure out what the map is about.

We then located Spruce Grove and placed our pin amongst the hundreds of others. Students immediately wanted to differentiate themselves and had figured out how to re-create the pin icon in Maps. We changed it to a fish, but in doing so….we accidently also changed everyone else’s! We hope they like our icon…

We changed our pin to a fish to represent The Fourteenth Goldfish!

We changed our pin to a fish to represent The Fourteenth Goldfish!

The afternoon was focused on Science as we learned what a circuit is and how it works. We worked through The Blobz Guide To Electric Circuits together and wrote the important information we would need to know when it comes time to building our own circuits and electrical inventions.

One of our classmates has a deep passion for creating and building electrical devices. He had brought in a fan he had built using batteries, wires and a computer fan. Once our discussion led to the use of batteries, negative and positive charges, the students asked him to show us what would happen if the batteries were not placed properly in the circuit.

What will happen if the batteries in a circuit are not positioned correctly?

What will happen if the batteries in a circuit are not positioned correctly?

Last week I had brought in a MakeyMakey that a teacher friend of mine generously let us borrow to experiment with. The students were absolutely fascinated by the intricate details of the circuit and after learning how circuits operate, we decided to try it out. No one knew how to operate it, myself included, but that was what made the learning more fun and authentic.

Working together to find out how we can build a working circuit.

Working together to find out how we can build a working circuit.

We figured it out together!

We figured it out together!

We used carrots that one of the student’s had grown at home, along with my laptop, alligator clips, the MakeyMakey and connectors. We finally got it working due to the student’s perseverance and sheer excitement to make it work : ” Try this!”, “It’s that cord!” “No, maybe this way?” until we saw the cursors on the laptop work through the circuit we built!

It was a great day full of learning! Students have been asked to find the electrical mains in their homes as well as research different ways we can use a MakeyMakey.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas for us in creating circuits?

Classroom Learning – September 22, 2014

Providing peer feedback

Providing peer feedback.

Students today reflected and brainstormed on the differences between leaving comments to generate conversation on a written piece and providing effective feedback to help peers grow their learning.

They shared their written pieces via Google Docs based on the topic “Microsoft bought Minecraft…Now What?” and practiced providing feedback to their peers focused on how, where and why their work could be improved. Students also ensured that their feedback was kind and helpful instead of judgemental. I was really impressed with how they thought and re-thought the wording of their feedback to make sure it provided growth opportunities.

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Collaborating on peer feedback.

What has also really stood out was the enthusiasm students had for this writing topic. We had discussed the implications of the sale and how it might impact them as the target audience, and they had quite a lot to say about the situation. Their posts will be uploaded to their blogs by the end of this week, revised using the feedback provided to them by their peers.

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Working on peer feedback.

We have also began our focus on the importance of understanding mathematical place value and the role it plays in our lives. Students were asked to think about where a knowledge place value is needed, and the majority struggled to find examples beyond the use of math in a classroom. Students will be asked this year to step outside of the box, and apply in-class learning to real-world necessities and applications. This is a difficult concept, but will be vital for their growth.

I have also noticed a struggle in saying large numbers, beyond a thousand, out loud and so today we practiced visualizing and saying numbers through an activity using a deck of cards and student-made place value holders. The place value focus this year is on whole numbers to 1,000,000.

Visualizing place value.

Visualizing place value.

This activity assisted students in visualizing numbers spoken and applying their individual values. It was a great way to have them practice saying the larger numbers out loud in a fun setting.

Miss D. Ariss

More Questions Than Answers

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I used to believe that professional development meant finding answers. That as an educator, I was meant to attend professional development conferences to gather ideas, however the more professional development I attend, the more I realize that for me, it’s about the questions, not the answers.

This weekend I am attending Innovate West, a conference that gathers networks of innovative educators from across western Canada and the US hosted by the Connect Charter School.  I was introduced to Innovate West last year on Twitter and was amazed by the learning that was happening and so made it my mission to attend this year. Now, not only am I attending, but I am honoured to also be facilitating a session.

Today was a whirlwind of activity that has left me full of questions. Questions that I do not have answers for yet. Questions that I know will fuel my passion for education and guide me in growing my teaching for the betterment of my students. Questions that are swirling in my mind with no intention of going away until I find a way to answer them.

The day started with a student-guided hands-on tour of the active learning happening at the Connect Charter School. We were able to walk into classrooms to not only witness learning but to engage with students and learn directly from them. I met with an incredible group of  sixth grade students who were programming an educational video game using Scratch based on Ancient Athens in Social Studies. They had divided themselves into working collaborative groups with each member contributing to the project based on their own personal skills and passions. There was a programmer, story boarder, music composer, story writer, artist and leader. This was incredibly powerful to watch as each student owned his role and because it was centred around their individual strengths, the group dynamic produced an equal and distributed sharing of knowledge. This was when the first of my questions began:

  • What if we were able to tap into each student’s individual strengths and highlight them in such a way so that everyone succeeds, learns and grows?
  • How can we combine student passions and interests with current curriculum in fun, innovative and engaging ways but also ensuring it is relevant to skills they require in the real world?
  • If this can be created in this way in Humanities, how can this be implemented for other subjects?

We continued on with our tour and entered a grade four classroom. I was immediately drawn to the large four-table-long display of what looked like plaster. The amazing student I spoke to explained that they were studying Canada’s ecology layer and building a model of it using a combination of drywall compound, flour, toilet paper and water. They had researched the layer and elevations using the ArcGIS program and were moulding and sculpting it by hand to present it at city hall later this month. More questions:

  • How can we make abstract concepts more concrete in such a way so that students connect to them?
  • How can we collaboratively create something that benefits our community and grows our learning at the same time?

Our tour then took us to what is called the Collaboratorium which is a room for thinking, sharing, reflection and learning. I am a huge advocate for alternative learning spaces which allow students to be comfortable in an environment conducive to their learning needs. My favourite part of this room is that it had Idea Paint or whiteboard paint on the walls so students were free to reflect. Even more questions:

  • Why aren’t all classrooms “Collaboratoriums”?
  • What are the ways in which I can assist my students to create a culture of collaboration and reflection in our classroom?
  • Is our room set-up conducive and reflective of this?

The day led to evening where we had the opportunity to learn from three amazing keynote speakers: Michelle Baldwin, Joshua Hill and Brad Ovenell-Carter. Following their presentations, I was left feeling inspired and hopeful for the amazing learning and opportunities our students can have, but once again I was also left with questions:

  • If curiosity is what drives students to learn, how can we foster their natural desire to question and allow those questions to guide their learning?
  • Is our learning environment one where struggle is not only ok, but a growing and learning opportunity?
  • Do we provide enough time for our students to truly reflect on what they have learned and more importantly what they think they need to learn more of?
  • Are our students cognizant of how they learn best? How can we provide them with these skills?
  • How can we provide our students with more opportunities to experience learning first hand rather than reading about someone else’s experiences?
  • “What if we let our students do work that they care about and want to create because of it’s potential contribution and effect on the world?” – a question from Will Richardson used in Joshua Hill’s presentation.
  • Are we as educators reaching out to our students to find out how effective we have been in teaching them things they can’t find online?
  • We can teach our students to curate information they find, but are we teaching them how to create it? Are we providing them with the tools to be contributors and creators of knowledge instead of just consumers?

As the evening ended, I’ve realized that these questions have been building within me for the past year as I grow in my teaching and being in this learning environment today just propelled them to the forefront of my mind and practice. These are my guiding questions.

Professional development isn’t about finding answers, but about learning to find the questions from which you will grow.