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.


Innovation Week in Tweets!

This is a collection of all the tweets and activities from our Innovation Week!  Please visit our student’s blogs to read their reflections from their projects.

#IWeek5 – Day One

#IWeek5 – Day Two

#IWeek5 – Day Three

#IWeek5 – Day Four

#Iweek5 Showcase

“YOU” Can Be The Expert!


Lego self-portrait by one of my students.

Lego self-portrait by one of my students.

Our school year began last week, and for both my students and I, this marked the start of many new things. As grade five students they were embarking on a new journey and transition from elementary school to middle school; while as their educator, I too, was experiencing the very same thing.

After looping with my previous students for three years and knowing what their goals and expectations were, I was unsure as to what my new group would need and what I could do to assist them this year.

As our first week unfolded, our focus and direction soon became apparent when our class discussions started to centre around learning, knowledge and expertise in different areas. One of my students said ” Miss Ariss, you are the teacher. You are smarter than us.” To which I replied. ” I may know more things because I have had more life experience, but that doesn’t mean I am smarter than you. You may have more experience than me in many areas, and because of that, you have a lot to teach me.” They pondered this and I wondered if they truly believed that they could be experts in an area that their teacher, who in their eyes, knows everything about everything all the time, was not.

We started an Art project where I asked them to represent themselves as Lego figures. As I walked around and began to assist my students, my eyes turned to one drawing. My student was effortlessly shading, detailing and bringing out his personality in his figure in a way I had never seen before. It only took a few seconds before everyone was huddled around his artwork. I took this as an opportunity to refocus them on the concept we had discussed earlier, that every one one of them can teach all of us something. That every one of them has an area of strength that can be shared with others. We had found our resident artist who has a deep love and passion for artistic interpretation and creativity.

The week progressed and student’s strengths were slowly emerging and not only that, they were starting to see them. Those who were strong in technology were helping those who were struggling to connect and learn while those who were code masters were assisting those who had trouble to unlock their locker locks. The best part to see however was that they weren’t doing the work for others, they were teaching and working with them. They were implementing their strengths.

One afternoon, one of my students said to me ” Miss Ariss, I don’t think I’m an expert at anything.” I replied, ” I know you are, but we just haven’t found out what yet.” I didn’t realize it then, but this stuck with him all day because as the home bell rang I noticed him lingering around the door. I walked over to him and he started to talk to me about the things he would be doing this weekend and then he said he loved to build robots in his room whenever he could. I asked him what kind of robots and what he meant exactly, to which he proceeded to explain to me just how he uses wires, cardboard, light switches, batteries, light bulbs and anything he could find to build and take apart things in his room. As I stood there listening to him and watching his face light up, I was amazed at how passionate he was about this. I stayed silent and listened when all of a sudden he says ” Miss Ariss… I think I’m an expert at making things. Can I make you a robot? ” I looked back at him unable to contain my smiles and just said, ” I can’t wait to have my own robot!”

On Monday he came to school carrying his tools and showed me the most incredible moving car that he had built for me:

My student's homemade part robot-car.

My student’s homemade part robot-car.

He had used a cardboard base, a light switch, batteries and wires to create this amazing robot and he made it for me. His excitement, that what he loved to do was relevant and meaningful, overtook him and he just wanted to share his creation with everyone, especially our AP Jesse McLean who he knew loved electronics. The class was riveted watching him make it run and he was beaming with pride after showing Mr. McLean and having other students ask him to teach them how he built it. He realized that he was making an impact and that his talents and strengths are important.

Most would have been happy to have reached this point, that being an expert means you are finished, but when you are dedicated and passionate about something, your learning never stops. My student went home tonight after watching this Vine video that Mr. McLean took, to refine his machine and try to see if he can alter the wiring to make it do spins.

This is only the start of our journey and I cannot begin to express just how excited I am to help my students to find out what they are experts at or what they would like to work towards becoming an expert at this year. I want to bring out their strengths and help them gain the confidence to grow and truly find their passions. Most importantly I want them to know that they matter, that I will support them and that expertise is something that is constantly evolving as they learn and share with others, that learning and expertise is a process of growth.

If They Build It, They Will Learn


Display at Lego Fair.

How do we learn best? Why is it that we can recall certain aspects of our education but not all? What is it that resonates with a learner? I’ve been focused on creating a collaborative learning environment this year with my students. I believe that my role as an educator is to facilitate their learning, to assist them in their own understanding of their learning and how to connect this to their everyday lives. This is especially difficult with a prescribed curriculum and standardized testing that are pervasive in education today, however as an educator, if I can locate ways to circumvent these obstacles while still maintaining the student’s learning and excitement for learning, I do so.

Our classroom operates as a collaborative mini-society of thoughts, ideas, questions and most importantly opportunity. The opportunity to try, fail and try again. The opportunity to create and construct our own learning through activities chosen and put forth by us all as a team.

Our most recent endeavour was in Science, where we decided together to combine two of our units: Building Devices and Vehicles That Move and Wheels and Levers into one large encompassing project utilizing the student’s choice of Lego and K’Nex building materials. We discussed what the units looked like, what we are required to learn and understand and then we set about finding a way we could do this that excited and motivated us. The students immediately chose Lego and K’Nex, I supplied the materials and support, and the building began.

They worked in self-chosen groups based on interest and build they did. There were four groups: wheels and axles, gears, levers and pulleys and together they built vehicles,  ferris wheels, long and short ramps, sail boats, flag poles, egg beaters, chain saws, trikes, helicopters and wells.

Machines built at school.

Machines built at school.

A group of my students came to me and said that they have been building at home and would like to bring in their work to share.  They had extended their own learning beyond our classroom walls and were getting together on their own time and building. I was flabbergasted but extremely proud so we held a class discussion and decided that not only was it ok to bring their work in, but that we needed to showcase it. Together they came up with the idea of hosting a Lego and K’Nex Fair for their parents and our school. Within a week, our classroom was transformed into a warehouse of Lego and K’Nex creations. There were more machines built at home than there was in our room, and they kept coming in.

Machines built at home.

Machines built at home.

Sensing their excitement building beyond anything I had ever witnessed, I asked them how we can make our fair even more interactive. We talked about stations and one student asked if we could use our iPads in some way. I suggested we try and use the Show Me app to explain how they built their machines, the machine’s purpose and what they learned. They loved this idea and paired up with their building partners and began taking photos of their work. They uploaded these photos into the app and created mini-videos explaining how their simple machines operated. They not only created them for the projects at school, but also the ones they created at home.

iPad table featuring their Show Me videos.

iPad table featuring their Show Me videos.

We hosted our Lego and K’Nex Fair yesterday in our school’s gymnasium. We had a total of  8 tables and an iPad viewing centre for visitors to watch and listen to their Show Me app videos. The students gathered and organized their machines and welcomed their proud and excited parents and peers for an hour of learning and discussion. Each group chose a table of expertise and explained to the guests just how each machine operated, how it was built and its need and importance in our world.

Vehicles, buildings and free-time build projects.

Vehicles, buildings and free-time build projects.

As the fair commenced, I stood back and just watched them interact with each other and their guests. I saw responsibility, independence, growth, learning, understanding, teamwork and most importantly pride. They were beaming with pride from owning their learning. I will forever recall them answering questions but making eye-contact with me through the crowds and smiling wide knowing-smiles. THIS is what learning is and it’s the students who need to build it for themselves in order for it to be life-long.