art and teaching


Physical Education

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.

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
Using a special telescope with UV filters to view the sun!
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 🙂
canines were the center of attention at the expo!

Watercolor Techniques & Positivity

Masked off and exploring techniques
Masked off and exploring techniques
Tape removed, great negative space!
Tape removed, great negative space!
Awesome techniques
Awesome techniques


The past two weeks my class explored watercolor painting techniques.  We explored many techniques that I showed them (wet-on-wet, splatter, using salt, using plastic wrap etc.)  Then I let them do their own experimenting in their Visual Journals.   Many of them commented that it felt like a Science class – awesome!

Each student was given a piece of watercolor paper, they loved how heavy it felt, and its texture.    I asked them to use masking tape to create negative space on their page.  Many chose to go with a geometric design, but some were also random.    Each section they created they were asked to demonstrate their new understanding of the techniques.  They could layer different techniques, or highlight just one.

We left those to dry for a few days and did some lessons in Health surrounding body image, relationships, and self-esteem.   Afterwards we made a list of ten positive things about ourselves.  We talked about being ourselves, loving who we are, and accepting our mistakes as learning opportunities.

After this was done we did a photography lesson!   The kids were so excited with all the different components to this project.   We discussed shooting close up faces for impact (SCUFFI), and using lighting to help create value on our subjects.    Students loved going outdoors and taking lots of various portraits of each other.

Final step was to put everything together in a creative way.   Don’t you just love how they turned out?

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Outdoor Education – Evidence & Investigation

Students were given bio-facts to start creating their own field guide.
Students were given bio-facts to start creating their own field guide.
The historic Colonel Walker House!
The historic Colonel Walker House!
ibsapr (7)
Evidence of a Red-Tailed Hawk!
ibsapr (9)
Many discoveries of bones from small creatures!
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Listening for evidence
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Clear evidence of a flood


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Using our senses to look for clues!

This week, our class took a bus out of the suburbs and into the heart of our vibrant city!   We were so fortunate that the snow hadn’t come as was predicted, and we had a gorgeous day of Outdoor exploration and discovery at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.   We discussed the different senses we would use to “look” for clues that animals were around us.   We sat by the Bow River for awhile in complete silence.  Just listening .  It was beautiful.  The students were serene and peaceful, and took notes on all of the amazing sounds of nature.   Afterwards, we played a game with smells – without speaking students had to smell various canisters and try to find their “family” (those that had the same scents) – it was a really exciting game, and so many of the kids managed to find each other.

The best part about being outdoors is the time for exploration and discovery!   Students walked around looking for evidence of animals.   Due to the flooding in Calgary last Spring, the sanctuary is still mostly closed off.   We had a very limited area to explore, but that didn’t stop my class from finding a wide array of evidence!   Bones, scat, feathers, burrows, coyote dens, and even a small squirrel’s skull!   Needless to say the kids were stoked.

After our day of exploring, and while waiting for our bus to arrive the kids got some unstructured play time.   During recess my class had created a game they affectionately call “infection” or “disease”.   My understanding is, is that its somewhat like tag, but once you’re tagged you’re amongst the mob of it people.   The goal of the game is to eliminate all the non-infected people by tagging them.   Its rather entertaining to see the whole class just get really interested in it, and play co-operativel, and positively.

Being outside was such a wonderful experience, so many of the kids who don’t get out much really enjoyed, and for the smaller group of students who are already outdoor enthusiasts, it was a great time for them to share their love and understanding of our world with their peers.

last week of february

This week was super busy!  Our class has a school-wide assembly to host in March as well as a Silent Film workshop that took all of Wednesday for filming and editing.  It’s been quite the creative chaos in our classroom.

creative work

As a class, we decided to create a large mural – pictures to come for our Kindergarten buddies’ play.  We helped make the costumes they would need as well.   We also have some students doing a dance to the new song from the Lego Movie – Everything is Awesome!

On Wednesday, students created Silent Films and edited them using iMovie.  They turned out so great, and were very comedic.  As a class we had a discussion about humour vs. being silly for no reason, and the message came across well.  We had some creatively funny stories!

Looking forward to this weekend, I have a lot of work to do, but because the weather outside is supposed to be in the -30 range, I’ll be bundled up with my laptop and some warm beverages to work.

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