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Inquiry at Connect

An Introduction to Inquiry complete with a rubric to assess your practice.

Connect Charter School

Collaboration is seen as a “hallmark” of the relationships in the Calgary Science School community and particularly within the professional learning experiences of the staff. Staff members are encouraged to be producers of professional learning through “co-creating, co-labouring, co-teaching and co-reflecting”

Posts on School Leadership by Dr. Garry McKinnon

Posts from our school superintendent.

Illustrative Examples of Inquiry

Here at the Calgary Science School we build our understanding of inquiry-based learning around the Inquiry Rubric developed in conjunction with the Galileo Educational Network.

Providing Instructional Leadership

What are the essential conditions and practices in a school culture that support and promote exemplary teaching, student learning, and instructional leadership?

Grade 7 iHistory Projects - Trailer #1

by Rick Fawcett - Grade 7 Humanities

The Grade 7 Humanities teachers are supporting students in the creation of powerful documentaries that communicate an important aspect of their family's history. Using the iMovie program, students have included personal interviews and a variety of media and images to create visually compelling videos that honour the historical accomplishments of their family.

In addition to crafting creative iMovies, students were challenged to research their chosen topic from a critical, historical, and geographical standpoint. Extensive work was done to help students develop these important thinking skills and strategies, and they have provided evidence of their use of these skills and strategies throughout the learning process. Students were challenged to develop their work around a central theme that spoke to the emotional heart of the story.  One way this was accomplished was through the title.  Students worked rigorously on creating an impactful title that connected the topic of the story with the historical theme (sacrifice, bravery, perseverance, etc.) We are excited to see what our students will create. Here is a little "Hollywood"-style trailer that gives you a sense of what they are striving for.  Enjoy.


An Inquiry into the Northern Gateway Pipeline

-by Greg Neil, Grade 7 Math/Science Teacher


In the Spring of 2014, I was looking for an engaging question that would connect to the Grade 7 Science Unit Ecosystems and Interactions. At the time, I was hearing a lot in the news about the Northern Gateway Pipeline and I had just secured a grant from ESRI to get training and support with their ArcGIS platform. This quickly developed into an ambitious idea for a major inquiry. I wanted my students to take the lead role in a comprehensive study of the Northern Gateway Pipeline (NGP)—a proposed project to transport oil and condensate along a 1,177 km route between Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia.

I adopted a student-led, inquiry-based approach to studying the pipeline, by simply asking students whether they thought it should be built. This quickly led to a huge list of questions that we would need to address in order to back up our opinions with sound reasoning. It was very important that my class develop informed opinions about the internationally publicized NGP and to understand the perspectives of as many stakeholders involved as possible. It was also important that my own opinions remain hidden in order to ensure my students were not influenced in any way.

My Grade 7 students drove the project themselves, formulating their own questions, mapping the planned pipeline route using ArcGIS, and researching its potential environmental and social impacts. We brought in guest speakers from Energy companies, Pipeline Companies and from Environmental Organizations. We even built a large scale model of the pipeline, to accompany our story map, which became the culmination of the students work, complete with a summary of their final decisions. Students even experimented on plants in order to learn about the potential impacts of chemicals entering the environment.

We presented our finished project at the Mayor's Environmental Expo, held every June in Calgary, where our students received an award for their hard work. The video below provides a visual tour of this project and click here for access to our Story Map.

Innovate West - October 24-25, 2014


InnovateWest is a professional development initiative that focuses on bringing educators together to share, build and reflect on exemplary teaching, learning, and leadership practices with the goal of building a network of innovative educators.

This annual conference will be held on October 24 and 25, 2014 at Connect Charter School. The conference begins on Friday morning with a student guided tour of Connect Charter School on an instructional school day. Participants will have ample time to observe classrooms and dialogue with students and teachers in a rich inquiry setting.

Facilitated discussions will be hosted at the school during the three blocks scheduled on Saturday October 25 as well as one on Friday afternoon. Sessions are built around conversational discussions, collaboration and idea sharing which allow attendees to engage with ideas and actively participate in the event. Discussion Proposal deadline is October 10, 2014. 

Join this growing group of innovators at innovatewest.org and on Twitter using the hashtag #iWest. We hope to see you at the annual conference or at one of the many exciting opportunities this school year.

We have a special student teacher rate for registered university students.  Contact erin.p@connectcharter.ca for more information.



Beyond the Destination: A reflection on outdoor education

-by Deirdre Bailey, Outdoor and Environmental Education Portfolio Leader
My favourite moment was every moment. The quiet is beautiful... 
When I was a kid, I used to see faces in everything. It’s been nice to find them again.
Grade 9 OE Student

Things I realized I forget to notice in the city: mountains, clouds and the way their shadows move across the peaks, baby trees, the sound of running water, the flight of birds. Awesome moments: getting to know people better, getting to know myself, diving into the glacial water, crossing streams, cooking by the creek, seeing the landscape at 7am.
Grade 8 OE Student

Innovate West is moving to October!



We look forward to seeing you at the new Innovate West weekend, October 24-25, 2014. The feedback from the last few years was loud and clear: a fall date makes it much easier for teachers to attend, and will provide the opportunity for relationships and connections to grow all year long (and beyond).

Join us on Friday, October 24th for school tours in the morning and the first discussion block in the afternoon for those of you wanting to start the conversations early. Saturday will be similar format (3 discussion blocks) with the reception to occur that evening. Based on feedback from prior years, we have decided to finish the conference Saturday evening, foregoing the Sunday sessions.

Keep checking the website for more information. Registration is open!

Exemplary Teaching and Learning Frameworks

by Dan McWilliam 

In 2011 staff at the Connect Charter School, Calgary Science School at the time, were asked "What does exemplary teaching and learning look like?"

The process and rationale for the creation of the frameworks is described here. 
"In addressing this question, reference was made to the work that has been done on student assessment through our AISI project; the Galileo longitudinal research study of the Calgary Science School one-on-one laptop program and student engagement initiatives; the expectations for exemplary teaching outlined in the Alberta Teaching Quality Standard and a variety of artefacts including school evaluation reports, survey data and the fundamental framework as a school outlined in our charter. Students and parents along with school staff members were involved in the process of developing descriptors of exemplary teaching and exemplary learning in Connect Charter School (Calgary Science School.)"

Outcomes based assessment: Planning for assessment tasks

-a research project by Kevin Sonico and Louis Cheng (grade 8/9 Math teachers)

Terms such as benchmarks, competencies, standards, and outcomes are used interchangeably (Brindley, 2001) to indicate objectives that students must achieve. Hereafter referred to as outcomes-based assessment, the use of objectives in assessment compares student learning and progress with the intended targets. These outcomes are determined by the Education Ministry and, as such, are universal among all schools in the province. These outcomes are described in the Alberta Program of Studies and this document serves as a guide for teachers. Although there are ensuing conversations around primacy and utility of certain objectives over others, we accept and acknowledge the comprehensive nature of the outcomes.

For the purposes of this action research, we do not intend to contribute to the divisive debate surrounding the learner objectives’ complexity. Rather, we used the outcomes to reinforce our focus in our learning activities - from discussions, assignments, and tests. Although the use of outcomes as a basis for reporting learning may sound clear, their forms of implementation in classrooms by teachers vary. Some may place emphasis on standardized assessments, such as provincial exams. For others, it may look like the use of multiple sources of evidence, such as observations, portfolios, and conversations (Brown & Hudson, 1998, as cited in Brindley, 2001; Davies, 2011). Known as triangulation, assessment of student learning through the use of different assessment practices becomes more reliable (Lincoln & Guba, 1984, as cited in Brindley 2001).

For us, outcomes-based assessment is making the objectives more apparent not only to us, but also to the students. This includes identifying skills that we want students to develop and/or to assess prior to an activity. For this action research, we wanted to find out how outcomes-based assessment impacted three parts of our practice: planning learning activities, recording student achievement, and reporting progress. We collected qualitative feedback from students via survey and used our observations and reflections during the research process.

Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta's History Sing (Part 4: Going Further)

by Rick Fawcett 

In this fourth installment of Grade 4’s Folk Song Unit series, I speak with Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly about the real “meat and potatoes” of their inquiry unit. They address the challenges a multi-dimensional project can present along with the manner in which student success is being measured.


In my role as Curriculum Portfolio Leader, I have been involved in each stage of this unit’s planning and I have been impressed with the amount of careful thought given by our Grade 4 team to each phase of this dynamic project.

Students are quickly entering the stage of the project that will see their songs being published. I believe you will be as impressed as I have been with the depth of learning that is happening in our Grade 4 Humanities program.

University of Calgary Human Performance Lab

By IanV., Trevor B., and Parker S.
In April, the grade 8’s had the pleasure of visiting the University of Calgary for a human body
performance lab . During this time, we had the opportunity to visit 6 different stations, all with a general focus on human body performance.

The reason for this trip, aside from the learning experience, was to judge a university level kinesiology contest. The grade 8 students were provided with a sheet of paper, containing subsections for each station. We were required to provide feedback for each and every station, as well as a mark out of 10. The kinesiology contest had 6 different entries that included:

Student Learning Profiles (SLP’s) Part 4

By Tanya Stogre and Abby Saadeh

Continuing the Journey with Pathbrite, we took up the challenge of finding See our second blog the most meaningful platform. After exploring a variety of platforms, Pathbrite emerged as one that could work best for all individuals and groups at our school. With this information, we launched into a pilot study with all 100 Grade 7 students, their parents, and teachers to track their experiences with this new platform. Initial survey results from all groups indicated a frustration with different platforms being used across and within grades and a lack of cohesion with requirements of the Student Learning Plans (SLP’s). There was also a disconnect between parents and their child concerning the awareness and understanding of SLP’s.
With this information we recognized the overall need for a common digital platform for Student Learning Plans that would meet our criteria as teachers, students, and parents.

Why Innovate West?

-by Erin Piper

As a charter school, it is one of our mandates and goals to connect and learn with other teachers and school jurisdictions. Innovate West, most recently held May 23-25, 2014, is one of the ways we facilitate in bringing together a growing community of innovative educators to celebrate the many great things happening in education today. We believe that this event, and the people involved, truly reflects the vision and values of Inspiring Education.

This short video depicts how this experience resonated with participants:
For more information on the most recent conference, see this blog post.

Innovate West Wrap Up


by Dan McWilliam
Our school is still reverberating from the energy and ideas at Innovate West this past weekend (May 23-25, 2014). This was our third year hosting a connected group of innovative educators from Western Canada and beyond. These educators are the 'grassroots' who have developed a social support network online and Innovate West provides the physical meet up of the social network.

The Conference celebrates people and provides them the time and space to share, discuss and develop innovative ideas for education. The conference format begins with a tour of Connect Charter School classrooms on an operational school day where students and teachers share what they are working on and are available to conference delegates. Facilitated discussions are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday with an emphasis on participation. This connected group of educators continue to work together and inspire each other through the year via social media, Edcamps, networking days, and more.

Learning Freedom



-by Carly DeBoice   (Connect Charter School Student-teacher Alumni and Substitute Teacher)

Occasionally, how students articulate an idea is much more eloquent than that of the teacher. So, I’ll use their words to help me explain the concept they coined today, “Learning Freedom.”


This arose out of a request for each class to nominate two students to join a team who will help visitors during the upcoming Innovate West conference. Choosing a few students can be a tricky task for teachers. To find a handful of students who were genuinely up for the task, students were asked answer the following question, “What is your favorite thing about Connect Charter School?”

It is important to note that the students wrote individually, without any discussion or prompting. The similarity of many student responses was fascinating. George was explicit, saying, “My favourite thing about Connect Charter is the freedom we are given. Connect Charter lets us have freedom to solve problems any way we want.” Rowan takes this idea further and explains, “I love the freedom because we give you the freedom of how to think, how to feel, and how to learn. In this school everyone is respected for their learning choices. We think this is important because everyone has a different learning way. We believe that everyone is different, and we should have the freedom to be different!”


Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta's History Sing (Part 3: Sorting Out)

-by Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly

Through their guided research, students have compiled a wealth of information on an important element of Alberta's history. So, now what? Determining what information is important is a valuable research skill and this is what students are now doing. By giving students the challenge of creating songs, they must make some thoughtful decisions about what information is included in the lyrics. The success of their song hinges on their ability to extract the information that matters most, so sorting it all out is a crucial step in the process.

Students are beginning the song creation process by constructing their chorus. To support them in this crucial step, teachers have enlisted the help of two local singer/songwriters. Tanner James and John E. Buckle spent time working with students to help them construct their song's chorus. The conversations between students were not only helpful, but highly sophisticated. Students were using the language of historians as well as musicians.

Once students have a chorus, they will be building verses to further communicate the story of their historical topic. It should also be mentioned that students are being challenged to approach the story from different perspectives. Considering multiple perspectives is a main focus of the Alberta Social Studies curriculum, and the songs will honor at least two perspectives through their lyrics. How teachers will be assessing student learning will be topic of the next video.

Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta's History Sing (Part 2: Finding Out)

by Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly

 In Part 1 of “Making Alberta’s History Sing”, students were tuning in to topics for their folk song projects. Part 2 of the project challenges students to assert their research and questioning skills by compiling information on a chosen historical topic.

After a full day of exploring the various exhibits at the Glenbow, students had a variety of observations and questions about what they experienced. Through a teacher-led class brainstorm, everyone shared the topics that they found particularly interesting. The next step was to conduct some research into each of their options to see which stories had enough information available to support their song idea. Using guiding questions, students visited a variety of reliable digital resources including the Glenbow Museum archives.

With a primary song concept in mind, the focus of their research then shifted towards folk songs. Students were asked the question: What is a folk song? After listening to a variety of folk songs, students thought critically about the various elements that they heard. Students generated questions about folk songs which further guided their own research into this unique musical genre.

Connecting with experts is an important step in the inquiry process, so visits by local musicians Tanner James and John E. Buckle were arranged. Working with actual musicians went even further in helping students acquire a sound understanding of what makes folk songs unique. In addition to answering students’ questions, each artist performed a variety of songs and explained how they take a song from conception through to completion. This co-constructed criteria of a folk song will become the basis for their own work.

The first phase of the “Sorting out” process will challenge students to construct a catchy chorus using a 5-8 sentence summary of the event. Students will liaise with our musical experts during this step since it will involve some sophisticated and specialized language skills and knowledge. From there, the students will develop the verses using relevant historical information gained through their research.

Student Learner Profiles: Student Voices

A Path to Digitial Student Learner Profiles: Student Voices
by Tanya Stogre and Abby Saadeh

At approximately the midway point of the Student Learner Profile Pilot using Pathbrite, we wanted to ensure we were hearing what students had to say about their experiences. We endeavoured to include a range of student voices. In an informal conversation, we asked students the following questions:

• Do you like using Pathbrite, why or why not?
• Do you think using Pathbrite for your Student Learner Profile (SLP) has or could help you understand more about yourself as a learner?
• If your teacher next year said that they would be using Pathbrite to continue the work you have started on your SLP, how would feel?

After conversing with 11 Grade 7 students, several insights emerged from our discussions. One of the key ideas arising was that Pathbrite was user friendly. One student commented, “It’s easier than most other websites that we used. It’s more simple than others and straightforward. It doesn’t have a bunch of unnecessary items that you won’t need or ever use.”

Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta’s History Sing (Part 1: Tuning In)

by Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly

The Grade 4 Humanities teachers at Connect Charter School are currently designing an exciting unit of inquiry that provides students with an opportunity to create folk songs that communicate a story from Alberta’s rich history.

The design of this unit incorporates a number of Social Studies and English Language Arts curricular elements while also challenging students to express their knowledge and understanding through creative channels. Technology will play an integral role in the process and students will work directly with expert singer/songwriters to create folk song lyrics from their independent research findings. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but the potential for deep and profound learning is obvious.

The Inquiry Cycle 


Helping learners understand the various stages of the inquiry process, and what success means at each of those stages, is important in helping them reach their full potential as inquirers. If students have a firm grasp of what skills and behaviors befit strong inquirers, they know what it takes to be successful. To this end, the Grade 4 Humanities teachers have been working with the model pictured above. This framework also plays an integral role in the construction of inquiry units.

Innovate West Update

We are officially a month away from the first annual Innovate West Conference at Connect Charter School. The event unofficially begins at a Tweet-Up, the evening of Thursday, May 22 at Wild Rose Brewery and will officially start on Friday, May 23 with a school tour on a regular instructional day.
This was a highlight for those who attended ConnectED Canada in previous years and we will continue with this unique opportunity to see engaged learning in action and to hear the student voice.

On Friday May 23 we are also hosting an evening reception at Telus Spark to welcome delegates and invited guests. We have assembled an inspiring group of keynote speakers to share through the evening punctuated with time to connect and network with innovative educators.  Please note that we have additional tickets to the reception for sale ($25/each) on the website for spouses, friends etc. 

Saturday and Sunday will consist of 4 discussion blocks (3 on Saturday, 1 on Sunday).  A list of these discussions can be found on the website.  A daily schedule of discussions will be announced soon.

For a complete daily schedule, including times and locations, click here.




Connecting with the Performing Arts

“I on the Sky”
Brittany Babott ~ Grade 4-9 Fine Arts Pre-service teacher
Werklund School of Education

A reoccurring theme in my drama classes the past term has been the exploration of what a ‘punctum’ is and how it relates to theatre.

The word punctum is a Latin word:
punc·tum
ˈpəNGktəm/
nountechnical
noun: punctum; plural noun: puncta
1. 
a small, distinct point.

I had first been introduced to this seemingly strange word a few years back when I attended a Ghost River Theatre workshop on devising theatre. Co-Artistic director David Van Belle had asked us to participate in an exercise where we would listen to a story and record 10 ‘punctums’, any part of the story that resonated with us or ‘pierced’ us. I have been fascinated with this term and its applicability to drama ever since.

Outcomes Based Assessment and Feedback Loops

Cynthia Nilsson~ Grade 9 Math/Science Pre-service teacher
Werklund School of Education

As a graduating student from the Werklund School of Education, experiencing my final practicum
experience at Connect Charter, one of my professional goals was to focus on assessment for learning in a real and meaningful way, rather than only assessment of learning. With the support and mentorship of Louis Cheng, I was able to gain experience in implementing assessment for learning in a Grade 9 Math/Science class, by combining feedback loops with outcomes based assessment.

Grade 7 Recycling Centre Geometry

How to build a recycling centre?

Our grade 7 students were tasked with designing a recycling centre for each of the 4 homerooms in Geometer's Sketchpad. The result was a net that they printed onto a regular sheet of paper. Students then recreated the boxes from the printout to become scaled versions of the original.
their hallway. To begin the process they deconstructed a box and plotted the lengths, angles and shapes into

Magic Spots and Earth Walks

Here is a blog post that highlights some simple activities you can do with your students to get outside in the beautiful spring weather and have them investigating the natural world.  These activities can be done in your school yard or in a nearby natural area.

Since our early days the Calgary Science School has provided outdoor and environmental education experiences at Camp Sweet which is near Olds, Alberta. The camp, developed by former Calgary Science School principal Ron Sweet, has been used for the past 10 years to provide highly successful learning experiences for all CSS students in grades 4 to 9.

Each grade has two overnight camps per year where at least one of them is held at Camp Sweet. Our grade 7 students attended the 3-day and 2-night camp on their second week of school this year!

Science Communication Opportunity

Our Science Communication Club are looking for opportunities to share their knowledge and demonstrations this spring. We would like to support their hard work in helping to find schools, centres, malls or other venues where they can safely demonstrate some of what they have been working on this year. 
If you are interested in hosting our club or have questions about the project, please email dan.m@connectcharter.ca

Student Learning Plans: Choosing a Platform

The Quest for the “Perfect” Platform at Connect

Through formal and informal conversations with colleagues, students, parents, and administrators over the past two years we have determined the characteristics necessary in a platform for our student learning plans (SLP's). Although recognizing some classes at Connect house their SLP’s in binders and duotangs (as a paper format), we realized early on in our process that a digital platform was critical in ensuring information is easily transferable between and amongst all stakeholders. Asking questions such as: What are the different platforms available? And, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each? were important in our process to find a platform that would meet the majority of student, parent, and teacher needs. The specific characteristics we felt were most important to our school were the following:

  • Security
  • Access - ipad/laptop & home/parents/teachers
  • User friendliness
  • Transferability between grades & years
  • Clear visual/clean...easy to view
  • Good “fit” with our Exemplary Learning Framework (ELF) … re: its set-up (Please see our previous blog post discussing our ELF and SLP’s)
  • Individuality/Personalization
  • Cost
  • Options
  • Multimedia options
  • Living/easy to edit or change
  • Age appropriate features

Energy Diet- A student post

Our grade 4 and 7 classes are collaborating this year in the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge. The students have been assembled into small combined teams where each takes up the different challenges. Our grade 7 students have taken up these leadership roles, and below is a blog post written by a grade 4 and 7 pair. They could earn up to 15 points for their team!

Energy Diet (Letter to the editor)
By: T and P

What are different types of energy sources? And which one is best for our environment?

Sun

Solar panels generate electricity from the sun. The old solar panels were made of silicon and now solar panels are made from cheaper crystals but do not work as well as silicon. Solar power is made when the suns light hits the solar panel, the electrons in the silicon get up and move instead of just jiggling in place to make heat.

An Inquiry into Words and Spelling

-by Abby Saadeh

In an Inquiry based environment, we get excited and enveloped in our questions and ideas. At Connect Charter we want to take these opportunities to incorporate Spelling into our explorations and develop skills into our practice. Together with the Grade 4 Humanities team, we identified a need to develop some ideas on how to approach Spelling. I gave the students a Spelling Questionnaire that would give me more information about how they felt about Spelling and what they thought about themselves as Spellers. From the information gathered, I came up with the first discussion question, “What is Spelling?” And, “If we made Spelling important, what would it look like?” This is what the students came up with.

Class Brainstorm
Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.35.50 AM.png

Next, we discussed words that they found interesting or were curious about because of the way they sounded or simply by the way they looked or how they sounded. I encouraged them to talk to each other about words that they found difficult, words that they continuously spelled wrong, or words that they spelled wrong in their previous assignments. We decided that we could get the words from anywhere, as long as they give reasons why they chose them, it could be from their writing, reading, signs, television...anywhere. We came up with a list of words that answered these questions and began to explore them.


Inquiry and Assessment in Inquiry: Views from an Internationally Trained Teacher

By Joanne Eloho~ Werklund School of Education Bridge to Teaching Program

It was quite the experience partnering with Ms. Pereverzoff at the Connect Charter School, (formerly Calgary Charter School) to teach her seventh grade class in my first practicum as a Bridge to Teaching student from the Werklund School of Education. As an internationally trained teacher, I expected to find significant differences in Alberta classrooms and there was no surprise there, however, I have found that learning through inquiry is such an extreme deviation from my more traditional practice of teaching. For the first time in my practice, I was actively encouraging students to assume more responsibility for their learning and they were working to meet that expectation. I was stepping back and allowing them the opportunity to expand their knowledge by exploring the curriculum through their interests. Inquiry, from what I have experienced in five short weeks, is indeed an innovation in how we want our students to learn; ultimately as teachers our aim is to help students develop as independent, critical thinking citizens of society, inquiry not only initiates the process, it affords every student the opportunity to be independent and think critically by stressing the importance of the “Why” in whatever it is students are learning.

Underwater ROV Elective

This term we offered students in grade 6 and 7 an Underwater ROV elective. In this elective students design, build and test an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle, or ROV. ROVs are used for a variety of reasons, including marine biology research, military applications, underwater archeological exploration and more.

Students used PVC pipe, wires, 12 volt DC motors, batteries and other supplies to construct their ROV. Propellers were designed in Google Sketch Up and printed on our MakerBot 3D printer. In the end we found a propeller design online and printed several to provide students the best chance for success on testing day in the Mount Royal University pool.


Property of Air Demonstrations, Grade 6

-by Erin Couillard, Lisa Nelson, Carolyn Armstrong and Carly DeBoice

For our Aerodynamics and Flight unit this year, we decided to begin with students gaining an understanding of the properties of air, as outlined by the Alberta Program of Studies. To do this, students would be paired with a peer and assigned a property of air to investigate. They would then choose a demonstration that best explains/proves that specific property of air.

To begin with, we chose a small demonstration to do for them. This had two purposes. First, to construct a criteria around what an effective science demonstration looks like and second, to start digging into the properties of air. The demonstration we chose was to prove the existence of oxygen in the air by lighting two candles and then placing a jar over one of them. Students predicted what would happen and then attempted to explain why it happened and to indicate the property of air that it proved.

After observation and discussion, students co-constructed the following criteria around “What makes an effective Science demonstration”:
• Facing Audience
• Speaking loudly with enthusiasm and inflection
• Knowing your information
• Proving something with visual evidence
• Explaining each step
• Asking audience to make a prediction, giving them time to think
• Asking audience “Why”?
• Asking audience for observations

 Next, students will practice their demonstration to gain feedback from peers, teacher and parents (at student-led conferences) prior to creating a video of their demonstration for final assessment and sharing. Throughout this process each group will gain an understanding of all of the properties of air through learning how to write observations and conclusions. We will also be co-constructing criteria around observations and conclusions to ensure that each student has an understanding of the expectations. Stay tuned for more blog posts as we work our way through the unit(s).

Up next!
• Wind tunnel engineering project (see blog posts from previous years here and here)
• Parachute Design
• Paper Glider experiments

What are you doing for your Aerodynamics and Flight units? We would love to know! 

Master Chef Electricity Challenge, Grade 9

-by Louis Cheng and Cindy Nilsson

Today the grade 9 students were given a series of instructions to complete a Master Chef Electricity Challenge.

In teams of four, they were provided a box of electrical supplies and had 10 minutes to begin researching how to build some circuits.  After their research time, they had to put away their laptops and textbooks to attempt to build the following:

Profiling SLP’s - Student Learner Profiles at Connect!

Tanya Stogre and Abby Saadeh

Students and teachers at Connect Charter School have focused on creating Student Learner Profiles (SLP) for the past few years. More recently, at Connect, these SLP’s have become a more significant focus. In the spirit of Personalized Learning from the Inspiring Action on Education, SLP’s are gaining momentum in Alberta. See http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/aisi/themes/personalized-learning-.aspx for more information on this provincial initiative.

With greater time and attention being placed on SLP’s, it is important for us to have discussions regarding the ways they might inform and impact learning at our school. Over the course of the past few years, each grade has explored a variety of platforms to house these profiles. In our second blog post, we will further discuss the strengths and limitations of some of the platforms available, but first we would like to discuss what a Student Learner Profile (SLP) is and why they are important.

Connect Board Retreat

It's never just an ordinary day: Directors cut
Ashley Nixon- Connect Charter School Board Member.

Tessellation shown in this pavement
 mosaic from Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
 It was a privilege to spend my afternoon visiting classrooms and interacting with students and teachers at the Connect Charter School, Calgary on Friday. Two students, Will and Oman, guided myself and other Board Directors in and out of various learning places, the "field survey" part of the review of the school's strategic plan "Lead, Share, Transform" conducted annually.

The tour began with an iPad training session in the library led by some young experts from Grade 6. I came away knowing more about how to pull similar apps together and grab images from the web. Geometry was under exploration in Grade 5, where I saw students shaping their own learning through turning, translating, even tessellating objects.

Grade 7 Canadian History: Post 2

Jody Pereverzoff and Chris Dittman - Grade 7 Humanities

In our last blog post, we described the genesis of our Grade 7 Humanities project focusing on early Canadian (pre-confederation) history. We left off with students having just determined the most historically significant event in their debate group, each of which consisted of 4-5 students, each seeking to prove the historical significance of their specific event.  

We were left around 5 events in each of the 4 classes. Our focus now was to return to our original inquiry question; Why do so many Canadians know and care so little about our nation’s history?  We returned to our original class brainstorm around the importance (or lack of) of knowing Canadian history.  Specifically, we drew students’ attention to the reasons they gave for a lack of interest.  These included:

  • History is boring
  • People have studied events in history, but often forget
  • Events are not relevant

A Principal's Perspective: Back to Basics

Darrell Lonsberry - Connect Charter School Principal

It seems as though the pendulum is swinging once again, this time motivated by some people who are espousing a back to basics approach to mathematics education, in large part as a response to the most recent PISA results. I don't want to remain mute on this, as mathematics education is near and dear to my heart. One of the difficulties in using results from standardized tests such as PISA, TIMSS or PIRLS to compare nations on the quality of their educational systems, and even in determining change over time within a single system, is that these tests often do not measure those things that teachers would say are most important. While some may purport to measure these things, I haven't yet run into a standardized tests that adequately and appropriately measures a student’s ability to think creatively, to persevere in a challenging task (these international tests are all timed), to collaborate through a problem, to use research strategies to find missing information, to share their learning in novel and effective ways, to access expertise when it is required, etc. I don't want to come across as trying to justify lower results by blaming the test, but in considering the results we must also look at what students are actually being asked to do.

Grade 7 Canadian History

Jody Pereverzoff and Chris Dittmann- Grade 7 Humanities


We invited David Scott, a former CSS teacher, to collaborate on a unit to engage students in early Canadian history and provide students an opportunity to wrestle with why we learn history and whether history is important to understand. We asked ourselves what most Canadians think of history in general, and Canadian history specifically. We came upon the government’s Heritage Minister lamenting the fact that Canadians do not know our own history. He went so far as to call this current situation a future threat to Canada as a country. We read this article as a class and students offered their reactions to it: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/11/country-in-jeopardy-if-ca_n_3422683.html.

Professional Networking Day for Outdoor Education teachers

Deirdre Bailey (Connect Charter), Jason Lindsay (Calgary Arts Academy) and David Manning (Westmount Charter)

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” 
Richard Louv -  Last Child in the Woods
In collaboration with Outdoor Education specialists from the Calgary Arts Academy and Westmount Charter, Connect Charter School (formerly the Calgary Science School) is hosting a Professional Networking Day for Outdoor Education teachers on Monday, February 3, 2014. The intent to provide an opportunity and location for Calgary and area based Outdoor Educators to connect, share their unique approach to OE programming, and extend their professional community of practice. The primary purpose of the day is to allow attendees to share elements of their practice and in return, leave the day with new resources and contacts. Our goal is to allow for collaboration and feedback from a wide range of colleagues and mentors and to allow OE teachers to broaden their professional network in order to improve practice and advance the learning of colleagues.

Grade 9 Identity Poetry Anthology

WHO AM I?: Identity Poetry Anthology Version 2.0 
Jaime Groeller and Ivy Waite- Grade 9 Humanities

Ivy and I are very excited to once again be team teaching grade 9 Humanities this year. We taught this curriculum in our first year together, went back down to grade 8 for our second, then looped back into grade 9 with the same students for the 2013-2014 school year. We went back to our year plan from our first time through grade 9, looked through the projects we created and adapted, and in doing so decided to begin the year once again with a poetry unit on “identity”, an important guiding concept in the grade 9 social studies curriculum. We love this project because it also allows us to meet some ELA objectives and have the students interact with poetry beyond merely “analyzing.” Armed with our detailed reflections from last time, we worked to adapt the activities and projects we used before to meet the needs of our current group of students, and also to improve upon certain aspects of the inquiry. The assignment sheet and graphic organizer look very similar to last time, but we did make some significant changes to how we approached this study, as well as the organization of the anthology itself.

Evolution of Inclusive Practices at Connect Charter School

Abby Saadeh ~ Inclusive Practices Coach

When starting the position of the Inclusive Practices Coach at Connect Charter School in 2012, I was
asked time and time again, “What does Inclusive Practices mean exactly?” And to be honest, at first
there was a struggle to give it a definition. After months of work in this position I have realized that this is a field that is constantly evolving and adapting to respond to the needs of our school.

Some of the things that I learned over the past few years are that it is not only about making sure that every student has an opportunity to learn, it is a proactive process with the intention of valuing and motivating learners while fostering and advocating for their independence in an environment where everyone can feel safe and accepted. How we do this, starts with understanding who our students are. We do this through Learner Profiles, relationship building, Student Resource Group Meetings, past history, student and parent interviews, STAR reading assessments etc. Then, partnered with students and parents, we mutually agree on goals, and come up with an implementation plan that is tailored to the individual student’s learning style.

Grade 5 Genius Hour

Calgary Science School
Grade 5 Team

Framework for Student Learning Graphic
The Grade 5s are excited to be starting Genius Hour this year! Every day 3 we will be dedicating 80 minutes to Genius Hour work, providing students with a voice in what they want to learn, promoting their passions and encouraging creativity. Students will be expected to be prepared and to use this time effectively.

Genius Hour is tightly linked with objectives outlined by Alberta Education in their document Framework for Student Learning:

Genius Hour will help develop life skills such as planning, teamwork, meeting timelines, and following through on commitments. This experience will inspire self-direction, pride and responsibility in each student.

Celebrating Connect Charter School

Dr. Garry McKinnon - Connect Charter School Superintendent

New Year's Day 2014 will have special significance as Connect Charter School officially replaces Calgary Science School as the name of our school. This will be the third time the name of the school has been changed and the name change reflects its ongoing evolution. Originally when the charter school received approval in 1999, through an application by the Science Alberta Foundation, the school was known as the Science Alberta School. The belief by the founding members was that there was a need for a charter school which fostered cross-curricular learning with an emphasis on the scientific method, research, inquiry and the enhancement of learning and teaching through the use of technology.

Girl Rising Documentary - Monday, December 16th, 7:00pm

On December 16th, Calgary Science School is please to host a screening of the film Girl Rising. Girl Rising is a groundbreaking feature film about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to transform societies. The film presents the remarkable stories of nine girls around the world, told by celebrated writers and voiced by renowned actors.

Girl Rising is a grassroots global action campaign for girls’ education, powered by girls, women, boys and men around the world who stand for equality. Millions have seen the film and are spreading its message across campuses and communities of all kinds - raising both awareness and funds. Girl Rising partners with established nonprofit organizations that drive donations to programs that help girls get in school and stay in school.

After the film there will be a Q&A/Panel Discussion with Donna Kennedy-Glans (MLA for Calgary Varsity, Founder of Bridges Social Development, first female VP of Nexen, advocates for female eduction in Arab and African countries), Shirley Steinberg (Chair and Director, The Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education, Professor, Youth Studies) Karen Cuthbertson (founder of HANDS: Helping Across Nepal Development Society) and Calgary Science School students.

The screening will take place on December 16th at 7pm at the Calgary Science School. Along with the screening there will be a Craft Market with proceeds going to the Calgary Drop-In Centre and Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society. Doors open at 6pm.

Spatial Reasoning


Heather Melville- Grade 4 Math and Science

In July 2013, I had the privilege to work with students, teachers, Galileo Network experts and researchers at the University of Calgary. (Brent Davis – Professor and chair of mathematics education, Krista Francis Poscente – IOSTEM Director). We met in May to discuss the research portion of the spatial reasoning project. In that one day in May I discovered the importance of spatial reasoning as I went through my own testing and problem solving activities. I learned very quickly that this is a skill that needs to be taught and explored throughout our education. We cannot assume that everyone will be in an environment that allows for this particular skill to be enhanced. I am a believer in providing students with every opportunity to reach for goals that may potentially transpire into future careers. In discussion with the researchers and their knowledge, it was apparent that the careers people choose are based in part by what their spatial reasoning capabilities are.

Innovate West Update

We are thrilled to be announcing the first annual Innovate West conference to be held at Connect Charter School, May 23-25, 2014. This conference will be a gathering of forward thinking educators in western Canada and will be an opportunity to share, collaborate and reflect. We are looking forward to reconnecting and learning with our own professional learning network which consists of many schools and school boards in Alberta and British Columbia with whom we have worked with over the past decade.

If you have attended ConnectED Canada here in 2012 or 2013, the format will be familiar. Friday is an instructional day where conference attendees have the opportunity to visit classrooms and talk to students and teachers about their learning. Tour guides consist of grade 4 to 9 students who have a lot to say and will tell you all about learning in an inquiry setting and what that means to them.

Inspiring Change Through Teacher Development

The Spirit of Inquiry: Inspiring Change Through Teacher Development

Maikala Harris~ University of Calgary Student Teacher

As a pre-service teacher at the Werklund School of Education I realize how fortunate I have been to take a glimpse into the Calgary Science School (CSS) for my first field practicum. With a capped student wait list, this charter school is rooted in inquiry and clearly on course with establishing an ecological model of education. Instead of starting with the curriculum, teaching the subject matter, and allowing time only at the end of class for inquiry, at CSS teachers start with and build upon inquiry relevant to student interests and the curriculum.

Alberta Education’s new Student Act signed in May 2013 has initiated curricular redesign that emphasizes inquiry-based, student centered, and collaborative environments. There has been a large debate on how to best incorporate these aspects into an already busy school schedule. Although my time at the CSS has been brief, I have observed an administration that invests in teacher inquiry and collaboration, a procedure that promotes these activities throughout the entire school.