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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 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 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:
noun: punctum; plural noun: puncta
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.