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art and teaching

Kitchen Adventures

Some of my students this year have really taken to the kitchen.   We have made fraction pizzas and for our Ancient Athens unit,  a few students made some Greek inspired dips as a way to continue honing their skills in the kitchen.   One of my ASD students is an absolute whiz with a chef’s knife,  and giving him the chance to be an expert in our classroom really makes him visibly proud.   He chopped all the garlic and ingredients for homemade tzatziki that he proudly shared with his classmates.   

Finding the “expert” level in each student and fostering those skills has been a way to really let each student’s confidence shine this year in Room 14.

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Campus Calgary / Open Minds!

In December, our excited and ready-to-collaborate classroom packed up our art supplies, our Visual Journals and our open-minded attitudes and hopped a bus to 2 School for a week long exploration of the theme “Collaboration Within a Community.”

Spending a lot of time beforehand exploring this idea about how communities collaborate, we did a lot of pre-work by actually getting out into the community to collaborate.    Our class met up with the Brentwood Seniors Association for their monthly tea a couple of times to chat, and socialize with our community’s seniors.    This went far better than expected.  Students and seniors both enjoying the time to eat some snacks, and discuss life in the past, and the present.

Upon arriving at 2School we were in awe of the downtown community of Connaught and Beltline.   Students immediately noted differences from our area of Brentwood.   Most notably all the public art,  the buildings and architecture, and the busy hustle and bustle of downtown.

The week went by so quickly as we sketched old artifacts, explored how various organizations collaborate with their community such as Inn from the Cold and the Mustard Seed.  We explored how the Grace Presbyterian Church helps its community, and discussed ways we could collaborate more to help out our own community.   We worked with Education Matters to discuss how funding gets allocated to schools, discussing what is important for students in a school, and wants vs. needs for education.

We looked at how public spaces are excellent collaborative spaces – our favourite being Devonian Gardens – such a great place to meet, talk, work together, and collaborate!   We even got to bring joy to the employees at the CBE Carl Safran Centre by singing them some Christmas carols we had practiced – creating a happy community of adults and children.

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The McDougall Centre – where we got to see where Rachel Notley has an office
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The Chinook Arch was one of our favourite spots to reflect and sketch!

Fall outdoors

I’ve been embracing the beautiful fall weather with my class this year.   We have been a community for a month, but already we have been successful at collaborating and journaling together in the great outdoors of Calgary.

We have been outside reading, going for walks to nearby forests to explore, and play games.   We have written poetry and sketched.

The idea of learning outside has allowed many of my learners to feel more confident, and comfortable.  I hope to continue going outdoors even in the cool winter months to explore how we can adapt to learn in our great city.

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Murals – Collaborative Art

Moving Forward Mural

After two months of hard work, and collaborating, my students completed our first mural!

Together we came up with a theme of “moving forward” and one of our students suggested trains as a way to represent this visually.   After deliberating and voting this is what was decided.

My students had total control over the look and theme of the mural with my guidance.  They debated, discussed, and came to a consensus together – talk about adding some Social Studies into the classroom 🙂

Then, the student who wanted to created designs for the murals in their sketchbooks.  We did an art walk and students put small sticky notes on their choice of design.   I picked the top two designs and sort of meshed them together and drew it up on our mural board!

Each day students took turns coming up to paint their sections.   One train car is white – that is mine.

What do you think?  Turned out awesome eh?

Getting Involved

I’ve always been someone who believes that it is important for a teacher to get right in there with their students and participate in the activities as both a model, and to show the kids that we’re a community in this together.   I paint with them, I read with them, I run outside in Gym with them, and I get messy with them.   I’ve loved showing the kids we are a community, and that if they are to run a warm up lap, I should do the same.

Yesterday we were outside playing Lacrosse, and I joined a group to show them how to get ahead of the person cradling the ball and call for a pass.   In doing that, my foot managed to find a hole (dug up by young students) in the middle of our field.  I got caught, twisted my foot and went flying.   Needless to say, in a very embarrassing way.

My foot got swollen within seconds, and my students rushed over to see me rolling around in pain on the grass.   Some of them took action and immediately ran into the school to get our AP and some ice.   Seeing their worried faces, plus the adrenaline of the injury I hobbled back into my classroom where I elevated my foot and iced it hoping it was just a sprain.

My autistic student warmed my heart, he came over, hugged me and helped me ice it.   Such a compassionate kid.

Unfortunately my pain increased, and my foot looked like it had a baseball under the skin, so my principal felt it best to call me an Ambulance.   My husband met me at the hospital.   This was my first time in an Ambulance, or going to a hospital for anything, so I was very nervous.  My students had already made me cards and were worried about me, but I told them everything would be okay, it was just an injury.

At the hospital I got x-rays right away, but then had to wait four hours for a visit with the Doctor to get a cast.  I definitely broke my left ankle bone, the Doc said I was lucky it was low and wouldn’t need surgery.    They fixed me up with an air cast and crutches.. and sent me home.

The whole experience left me feeling both good and bad.

swollen at school cast at home

Good:
– All the amazing people in my life who are willing to inconvenience themselves to help me – my AP has been working her butt off to get my insurance and get me a rental car (I drive stick so can’t get to work), my co-teachers who have reached out offering rides, lesson plans, etc. and my students who have emailed me already to check in and tell me they miss me and hope I feel better.
– My husband, being there for me for everything..  I had a mini meltdown about being helpless, got depressed about ending the year this way, and got mad at him for driving too fast.   He is so patient to deal with my roller coaster.
– Resiliency, although this is the first time I’ve had an injury I already know I’ll be ok and that I will be back on my feet in no time with the support of my family, teaching staff, and friends

Bad:
– I can’t get involved with all the great things going on in my classroom to the same extent that I did before.  No more running with my class, playing dodgeball.  I am sad I have to step back and be less involved for the last 4 weeks of school.  It makes me depressed.
– I can’t go to my gym anymore until I am healed, and I was starting to get into a good fitness routine.

Spring

With Spring comes a busy flurry of student activities.  I find that my calendar fills up way faster in April and May with in-school residencies, and other school-wide events.   We’ve been very busy learning about Democracy and the Election process in Social Studies – our students participated in Student Vote, and were almost bang on with the way the Election results actually were reported!   A testament to the research and critical thinking skills our students have developed.

In Science, we’ve been busy at work learning about Sky Science – the moon, sun, stars, planets, and space technology!   This unit is always a favourite amongst the kids, as they love the chance for inquiry, and deep exploration about the great big universe we live in!

My Grade 6s just finished their first Provincial Achievement Test in Writing.  They had to write a short story based on a picture prompt, as well as a newspaper article based on information they were given.   I’m not a supporter of standardized testing but want all my students to be successful in a system that I can’t singlehandedly change.   So we did some test prep, and we talked about ways to de-stress and take care of our mental health.   This group did very well based on my first glances, and they seemed calm and cool about the whole thing.

I managed to get a large piece of wood installed outside my classroom so our class debated and discussed a theme, and then sketched images based on that theme, and then democratically we voted on the top 3 designs.  I took those 3 and combined them to create a great mural for this year.   The best part about the wood is that we will be re-painting it over and over again so the art changes with our learning 🙂

Here are some photos of some of the going ons in our busy Room 14!

Painting our Train Mural - keep on moving!
Painting our Train Mural – keep on moving!
Drumming residency
Drumming residency
Student Vote day!
Student Vote day!
Paper Mache bowls for our Healthy Eating Unit in French and Health!
Paper Mache bowls for our Healthy Eating Unit in French and Health!

EdCamp Musings

Today I had the great opportunity to attend a PD away from my school, and join 400+ teachers from around Calgary (as well as some pre-service teachers) who want to discuss some of Education’s tough questions and movements.

EDCAMPYYC 2015 is about meeting with other like-minded professionals to create a learning network and discuss topics that we are passionate about.

Entering the new highschool up in Nose Hill; Robert Thirsk Highschool is beautiful.   It still had that new school smell, and was exceptionally laid out.  What a treat it must be to get to work there.   They had some beautiful living walls, and a lovely outdoor terrace for teachers to shmooze and have breakfast.

My first session was put on by Joe Bower who is an advocate for a shift away from grades and tests.  He facillitated an excellent discussion about the “whys” and the “hows” related to moving away from giving students tests and grades.  We discussed the difficulties, the roadblocks, and some of the successful ways teachers from K-12 were managing to provide formative feedback, collaborative reflections, and more.   Joe did an excellent job inspiring the crowd with his own personal anecdotes about dealing with parents and kids who are still “number obsessed”.   He explained that every number is subjective.

Some take aways from this discussion were:

– that we need to teach kids how to collaborate and share their learning.  Many know how to talk about their weekends, but when they have a school q. they raise their hand to ask the teacher.  Have to teach and train them to use each other as a community of learners

– instead of tests – look at objects, performances, and portfolios (digital or physical) – students always need to know the purpose and context of every task in order to be engaged.

– Success and Failure should not equate to Reward and Punishment, but INFORMATION!

– We need to give students a space where they can take risks, where a number doesn’t define them, where process is important, and reflecting on how they grew from the process.

Secondly, I went to a discussion about Outdoor Education, put on by Paul Kelba.   He shared some great links and a video about the importance about getting outside.  We discussed together the challenges and roadblocks to getting outside to be active and to do field work or field trips.   Many common roadblocks are the paperwork, costs, not enough volunteers, and resistance from teachers, or kids themselves.   We discussed ways to overcome some of these roadblocks such as going on walking trips (cost saving, and almost no paperwork now thanks to the CBE and their walking distance trip letter).   We talked about creating dialogue with parents to help stress the importance of doing field trips and the need for volunteers at your school and using student teachers/university students as volunteers.   Overall I was very inspired to get outside more, and take advantage of our beautiful city.

Some take aways

– the benefits of revisiting the same place multiple times in a year
– using GIS
– mapping and orienteering
– using art and science outcomes for any outdoor trip – journaling, reflection, field studies, etc.

Creative Expression

Today I introduced a mini project to my class – how cruel of me immediately returning from Spring Break!   However it seemed to be just what everyone needed go kick off the week and jump back into the swing of things!    I gave them a checklist with success criteria and off they went.  Their task?  Depict the life cycle of a star.   Many chose to do average sized stars like our sun but also wanted to show what happens to larger stars – mostly I think for the challenge of visually depicting a black hole might bring!   (Hello negative space lesson).   So many students went the traditional poster, marker route which they love and I have no issue with.   Many however took time to look around my well-stocked classroom and came up with some unique ideas.

– cutting Styrofoam balls in half to glue down to cardboard
– chalk pastels on black paper (a beautiful way to make nebulas)
– one student pulled out the flour and found a non-cook play dough recipe so he could model the shapes of stars and nebula
– with the help of an Ed assistant, one of my autistic students made a large painting, found some round stamps to make stars, and then used black, blue and yellow paint to splatter and create a cool looking universe

Although it was loud and messy everyone was deep in their own work and ideas and created dialogue with each other to provide techniques or advice to each other..  It truly was a collaborative and creative work period.   Look forward to some more in progress shots and the final products!

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Field Trip Frenzy

So due to some scheduling issues (aka – my disorganized brain) I thought it would be okay to go on two separate field trips two days in a row this week.   Yesterday, our class went to the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, and today the City of Calgary Safety Expo at City Hall.    Both experiences were very rewarding and educational for the students.   However, after today, day 2 of the field trips was the equivalent of a two year old tantrum.   The students were exhausted and coming down off a two day high of excitement and new experiences.   There were tears, tantrums, mental breakdowns (and that was just from their teacher.. haha jk).     What better way to learn a lesson than to experience it first hand.

Note to future teaching self, try to put at least a day between separate field trips so the students don’t get over stimulated and then come crashing down on that over-stimulated roller coaster only to result in said teacher having to help with the issues of kids just too tired to cope or problem solve on their own.     Live and learn!

With that being said, here are some wicked pictures of our two awesome days.

The Observatory was fantastic, we got to build our own telescopes, then go test them out in the foothills –  many cows were spied on.   We also got to explore all the different telescopes, mostly optical, one radio.    We discussed the potential of life as we know it on another planet in another galaxy, and even got to view the sun through a special telescope with UV filters to protect our eyes!

Gazing at the cows in the foothills
Gazing at the cows in the foothills
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Using a special telescope with UV filters to view the sun!
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One of the Observatory’s optical telescopes!

Today was the Safety Expo, where I coincidentally also ran into my very own 6th grade teacher 🙂 My students sure were weirded out by this time warp!    We got some time to view and interact with the various exhibits, I was thrilled to hear all of the intriguing questions they had for various agencies in Calgary.   We then had a session about Electrical Safety which was very interactive and engaging.  We then had lunch in Olympic Plaza, the kids loved the fresh air and opportunity for some running around – I don’t think downtown knew what hit’em.   My students were “parkouring” all over the place trying to see what they could climb and jump off.    Many of the adults nearby were fascinated with the newly vibrant plaza filled with hundreds of excited youth.    Finally, we went to see a session about Internet Safety.  My class seems to be experts on the subject, as we did cover this in Health at the beginning of the year.  I was so happy to see them participating with the Youth Link presenters with their knowledge on privacy settings, and cyberbullying.   We had a great time being in downtown Calgary.

learning about how hard it is to drive while being distracted!
learning about how hard it is to drive while being distracted!
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parkour! But being respectful of the young saplings – thanks to our Trees and Forests Unit 🙂
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canines were the center of attention at the expo!

Look at what Stacie does with those heaps of Scholastic Book Order forms!

The Chapel

Teachers amaze me!  I particularly like it when they find ways of reusing items that would otherwise head for a landfill somewhere.  Scholastic Book Orders are very exciting for most students, but let’s be honest, there seems to be an excessive amount of paper that, monthly, appears in your boxes and spread all over your staff room tables.  True?

ScholasticThis week I happened to notice Stacie’s solution and re-purposing of the leftovers.  In the past, I’ve had students roll sheets of newspaper to use in the building of a whole number of three dimensional constructions and also as a base for papier mache building.  I’ve used newspaper in the construction of masks and helmets as well, but I’ve never thought to harvest the piles of book orders and create impressive sculpture with the resulting rolled pages.  Longer rolls can be made rolling corner to corner…shorter and stronger, directly across, edge…

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Cyberbullying

This month our 5/6 class focus was online safety.   Together, we watched videos, brainstormed, and discussed how to be safe online.  An interesting topic came up around being polite online as well!   As a group students came up with some “netiquette” policies and some tips to stop cyber bullying!  Some made visual journal pages and I think they turned out wonderfully. 

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Visual Journals

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Learning about micro beads inspired many of my students to journal about it.   They got super creative using tape transfers, watercolour, and flaps.

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