Monday, 7 October 2013

Caine's Cardboard Challenge- Fun and Learning...

A Global Day of Play.

Wow. What an engaging day of fun and learning at Glendale Sciences and Technology School last Friday during Caine's Cardboard Challenge. Kudos to staff, students and parents for taking a giant leap off the cliff to collaborate on providing such a unique learning opportunity. We observed projects that included so many curricular links across the grades...

Science- Building Things (from scratch in such creative ways)/Problem Solving/Devices with Moving Parts/Structures and Forces/Mechanical Systems
Math- Shape and Space/Patterns and Relations (in 3D as opposed to off the flat page)/ Geometry/Measurement/Working with Numbers
Social Studies- Building School and Community/Democratic Decision Making (having a voice in the project/process)
Art- Composition/Using Mixed Media
Health- Interacting with Others/Being Safe and Responsible/Making Decisions/Setting Goals
PE- Leadership/Fair Play/Teamwork/Cooperation
LA- Drawing Conclusions/Communicating/Formulating Ideas/Exploring Thoughts and Ideas/Manage Ideas and Information/Viewing/Listening
Creativity- Working toward the school of 2016, this element of curriculum was perhaps the most involved yesterday... Taking a concept (Caine's Arcade) and reconstituting it into something self-generated/Engaged kids working creatively together toward a shared goal with no micro-managed directions or instructions... just a simple framework/Extending beyond the supplied materials to add depth and sophistication to a project (thinking outside the box... pardon the pun:)

There was even more though...
Visceral Learning- Kids saw each others projects and how much fun they were all having/ felt what it was like to saw something, cut something, attach something, create something/ heard the sound of fun as the day whizzed by, the saw in the shop for the first time, encouraging words from each other and the adults hovering close by/ smelled and tasted... bubble gum from homemade gumball machines, water from cardboard mugs, the smell of a whole lot of cardboard, the taste of packing tape as they ripped through it with their teeth:)... multi-sensory learning was happening in every direction!

Team-Building- There were no kids sent to the office yesterday/ Kids from different grades learned together, and learned more about each other/ Staff members in some cases saw the CTS shop for the first time/ Grade 8 kids took responsibility for the clean-up... with no complaints/ Everyone stepped out of their comfort zone to tackle a project that was pretty near impossible to accurately predict what was going to transpire- We all took risks yesterday, and that's a very good thing!

Parent Involvement- We had at least 20 parents participate during the event, most stayed all day! Overheard from one... "I love this school! This is one of the most engaging things I have ever seen happen at school. My boys talked about this for weeks. Things like this never happened when I was in school. If my husband had opportunities like this in school he probably wouldn't have had such a hard time."

One thing I know for sure is that our students are going to remember their first cardboard challenge for a long, long time. Once again, a huge thanks to all for participating in what will be talked about  for a very long time as an epic day of holistic, visceral fun and learning at Glendale Sciences and Technology School.

"If your having fun and not learning, that's bad; if you're learning and not having fun, that's worse; if you're learning and having fun... that's our school!"

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Our inquiry disposition...

Think outside the box... it’s where the by ArtJonak, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  ArtJonak

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend ConnectED Canada recently at the Calgary Science School (CSS), and even more fortunate to participate in a dialog session with the schools superintendent, Dr. Gary McKinnon. At one point Dr. McKinnon was responding to a participant's question about the element of inquiry at the Calgary Science School. In our work with CSS to help develop an inquiry based school of our own, our definition of inquiry is perpetually evolving. Something Dr. McKinnon said resonated with me...
Inquiry is not a program; its a disposition.


[dis-puh-zish-uh n]
1. the predominant or prevailing tendency of one's spirits; natural mental and emotional outlook or mood; characteristic attitude.
2. state of mind regarding something; inclination.

I think it's critically important for us to understand Dr. McKinnon's words. Inquiry is not a program to be sure. Effective implementation of inquiry teaching and learning derives from thinking deeply about things we want to learn. It's about thinking outside the box as we ask questions seeking answers that lead to new questions. It needs to be framed as an attitude that permeates everything we do in a teaching and learning context at Glendale. It needs to evolve toward being an automatic response... an inclination that eventually feels effortless. Inquiry is a disposition.

I think we're getting close to a collective inquiry disposition at Glendale School. We are changing for the good, and we're doing it together.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

We created a "Starbuck's" classroom...

We started with an inquiry question... "why aren't Starbuck's Coffee houses drive through only?" 

We discussed this question for quite some time... here's what we came up with:
  • They wouldn't sell as much coffee (to which we asked why, and the answer was "people like hanging out at Starbucks")
  • They like hanging out at Starbuck's for a number of reasons:
    • The smell
    • The coffee
    • The treats
    • The books (if the store is inside a chapters book store, which they often are in Canada...)
    • The leather couches
    • The fireplace on a cold winter day
    • The free wifi
    • The ambiance (we looked that one up...)
    • The public art (done by local artists)
    • The comradeship; hanging out with friends
    • The patio (on warm summer days)
    • The friendliness of the baristas (we looked that one up too)
    • The background sounds (music, chatter about interesting topics)
    • The "coolness" of it all... the environment as described by the above reasons. We felt it was a laid back, relaxed and enjoyable place to be
    • We even figured out that every time you turn around in a Starbuck's coffee shop, you run into something (and further realized that what you run into is usually for sale:). We realized that cramped spaces don't have to be cramped in a bad way if they're set up right, and if the folks within the spaces get along OK. So we came up with this model of learning and living to frame our learning interactions, and put a giant version of it on our wall.

We reference the Hope Wheel often. We use it to contextualize our learning, to solve problems, resolve conflicts, set goals and teach others (that's the "Elder" part of what we do in the Responsibility phase of the north.) It has become the social, emotional and intellectual platform that our physical learning space is supported by. It's the model we use to think about things. You can learn more about this learning model here.

So we took a look at our classroom and decided that we could create this type of environment to learn in, sans the coffee perhaps:)

We decided that couches, books, free wifi, public art (done by students), comradeship, friendliness and the "coolness" of it all would be easy to emulate.

We got rid of the desks and put tables in their place. We found a couch and a coffee table. We hung (and continue to hang) art created by students. We put some mats on the floor. We created a private corner office that we take turns using each day. We already had free wifi. We created some cool lighting effects with a couple of lamps. Recently we even took a donation of a free electric fireplace! How cool is that?

So now we learn in a "Starbuck`s classroom," and we really like it.

Answers need questions...

Generally speaking, questions need answers, but a colleague reminded me a few week that some answers need questions too.

Learning slows down drastically, or even stops completely when we get to a point where we believe we know everything we need to know about something. When we think we have all the answers, perhaps that is when we need to question things even more. Innovation to me isn't necessarily a completely new approach, idea or process. Innovation can often mean a retooling of elements that already exist.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust
At the heart of inquiry is the art of questioning. I believe the "voyage of discovery" Proust refers to is entirely about perspective. When learners instigate their own and others thoughts through questioning they are pushing the boundaries of perspective. Challenging our conventions about learning and knowledge happens in that cognitive place where time is taken to deconstruct what we think we know about how things should be, and where unencumbered thought magically turns into innovation. I am encouraging this process within my classroom.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Social Collaboration...

The Collaboration Pyramid by oscarberg, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  oscarberg 

The Collaboration Pyramid offers a great visual to dive deeper into the nature of authentic collaboration and optimized production.

In traditional team-based collaborative models we experience the "form, storm, norm and perform" process, and it has proved to be very useful in the context of team effectiveness, but perhaps leaves a bit of a void in the area of personal responsibility, or individual motivation to make a meaningful contribution to the team.

The Collaboration Pyramid displays a broader platform to support a different context for collaboration that may eventually lead to more authentic and meaningful personal investment in the team process. I think social collaboration as framed in the diagram is closely related to the concept of morphic resonance. 

morphic resonance [ˈmɔːfɪk]
(Life Sciences; Allied Applications / Biology) the idea that, through a telepathic effect or sympathetic vibration, an event or act can lead to similar events or acts in the future or an idea conceived in one mind can then arise in another...