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Arctic Games in Physical Education

Our Physical Education classes have been participating in 12 Arctic games this week. Some of our grade 9 students have been leading the different activities for the younger students.

Peace Festival at CSS

Monday December 17 saw the kickoff performance and assembly for our annual Peace Festival. The theme this year is 'Wellness'. A teacher committee, with the help of some grade 9 students, recruited parents and teachers as volunteers and experts to facilitate workshops that share the idea of physical, mental and spiritual wellness.

Exemplary Learning Formula

Margaret Leland-  Grade 5 Humanities

In a recent Learning Strategies class we had been discussing the interconnected nature of the pillars of our Exemplary Learning framework. The students were tasked with talking about two questions: How does relationships and communication relate to the other pillars? and, Do the pillars all connect to student success?

After about 10 minutes discussion one of the groups looked like they had found a 'big' answer. When I approached their group they stated that the only way they could really do it was to develop a mathematical formula to represent their thinking.

Trees and Forests Inquiry Grade 6

Does the Weaselhead Natural Area produce enough oxygen to sustain Calgarians?

Greg Neil~ Grade 6 Math and Science

Our grade 6 students investigated this question in their Math/Science classes this year. The question was developed as part of a brainstorming session with students. This inquiry required the use of numerous mathematical skills, introduced students to the idea of assumptions and bias in Science, reinforced the need for accurate data and provided an authentic investigation into an important natural region close to the school. A current proposal to build a ring road through this natural area, made this project even more relevant and engaging for students.

After introducing the question, students started the investigation by gathering important background information. Sources such as Environment Canada, Statistics Canada and NASA were useful in establishing some basic facts about Oxygen production, current population and average values of Oxygen consumption by humans.

ConnectEd Canada 2013

Registration Opens and a Call for Discussion Facilitators
The details are coming together for the second ConnectEd Conference. The discussion proposals that have been submitted so far have us very excited about round 2. We are looking for more proposals, please don’t leave it too late. We would rather have a tentative outline of a discussion now while we plot the schedule. We will be in contact with you for a more detailed description to print in the program early in the new year. The list of discussions from 2012 can be found at:

Using Infographics with Student Learning Plans

Calgary Science School students have been learning more about themselves this year with their Student Learning Plans (SLP's). During the learning strategies time in the schedule, classes have been discussing their personal learning styles and work habits. The information gathered through surveys, quizzes, conversations and observations are adding up. We needed a way to encapsulate this information into a summary that the student can reflect upon and share with teachers and family.

Infographics have been popping up for some time now online and in the news. These graphics are a great way to present information in an easy to understand and visually engaging way.

The Struggle to be an Instructional Leader

Darrell Lonsberry Principal

I don’t know that there can be any debate that the primary responsibility of school administrators is to provide sound instructional leadership. Certainly, this aspect of administration is recognized in the Alberta Professional Practice Competencies for School Leaders. Our own superintendent, Dr. Garry McKinnon discussed the importance of this aspect of school leadership in a previous blog post. Additionally, I haven’t yet met a school administrator who doesn’t want to make a positive difference in the quality of teaching and learning in their school through working directly with teachers. With all of the reasons why school administrators must be focusing on providing sound instructional leadership, there continues to be significant restrictions and limitations in place that often prohibit leaders from realizing their potential as instructional leaders. I suffer that same sense of frustration from time to time as the Principal of the Calgary Science School.

Grade 8 Light and Optical Systems

Mission Impossible

Our grade 8's have been trying to avoid our motion detectors this week in their study of how light is reflected, transmitted and absorbed by different materials. Our school has several motion detectors as a part of our alarm system, the students were challenged by their teachers to avoid detection. A motion detection light was also mounted in their classroom for testing.

Using the scientific process, students hypothesized what movements or materials would enable them to get close enough to the treasure (candy) without the motion light being triggered. Each pair of students had to devise and submit at least 3 different hypotheses and test them.

National Philanthropy Day

On November 15, 2012 the Calgary Science School grade 9 students, along with the grade 8 ‘Me to We’ elective students, were invited to participate in the National Philanthropy Day Youth Forum in the Palomino Room at Stampede Park. This generous invitation was extended by the Association of Professional Fundraisers who also organized a simultaneous luncheon for Calgary’s philanthropic community to highlight and celebrate the generosity of our city’s many benefactors.

Inquiring into Plant Growth and Changes in Grade 4

Amy Park and Deirdre Bailey

Earlier this year we had a pretty cool opportunity to connect with Mount Royal University professor Dr. David Bird to co-present on Plant Growth and Changes for the Calgary Science Network. We were most eager for an opportunity to ask Dr. Bird what one one thing he wished his university students came in with that we might be able to foster in elementary school. His answer was unhesitatingly curiosity. He wished his students arrived at university with a desire, confidence and ability to ask scientific questions. Overwhelmingly, many of them arrived reluctant to explore, preferring instead to wait for instructions on what to think or how to deliver in order to "pass the course".

Launch of the Imperial Oil Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative

Dr. Garry McKinnon

Dennis Sumara, dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, talks with Grade 4 student Sasha Longley, left, as Bruce March, chairman and CEO of Imperial Oil talks with Grade 4 student Owen Leveille, right, during their science class at the Calgary Science School after Imperial Oil and the University of Calgary announced a major partnership.
Photograph by: Leah Hennel , Calgary Herald

One of the 16 descriptors of Exemplary Teaching in the Calgary Science School makes reference to a research focus where classrooms are thriving places of active research and teachers and students are learning together and from each other. Another descriptor highlights a focus on inquiry where students and teachers explore real-life questions to develop a better understanding of our world. These two descriptors and several others in the exemplary learning and teaching frameworks were very much in evidence on November 6 when some very special guests came to the school for the launch of the $2.5 million Imperial Oil Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative (IOSTEM) in partnership with the University of Calgary. The members of the Calgary Science School community were very pleased to host the official launch of this exciting initiative.

Spelling with Substance

Mike Neufeld

As a teacher in an inquiry based school, I thoroughly enjoy approaching the curriculum with students in a manner that accommodates flexibility and open-ended exploration. This manifests itself easily in larger, inquiry-based projects, yet I always find that I ask myself, “What does Inquiry look like for smaller, day to day lessons?” With this in mind, I was curious as to how I might take spelling beyond rote memorization of lists and paragraphs and into something that was more individualized for the diverse students in my classroom.

Envisioning Exemplary Collaboration at CSS

Ivy Waite

Here at CSS, we are privileged in our school’s approach to collaboration and the time that we are given to work together. The inclusion of collaboration in the Exemplary Teaching and Learning frameworks is not just another indicator. Collaboration is at the heart of the amazing things that happen at CSS. That being said, the actual, lived experiences of collaboration are vastly different from one teaching team to the next. Teachers do, however, seem to agree that relationships are key to successful collaboration, and evaluating such dynamic processes is difficult. 

ConnectEd Canada

We are pleased to announce that the Calgary Science School will once again host the annual ConnectEd Conference on May 24-26, 2013.

The conference will begin on Friday May 24, 2013 at the Calgary Science School on a "regular" school day. Attendees are encouraged to visit classrooms, observe lessons, and speak with teachers and students.

Saturday and Sunday will have scheduled discussion topics hosted at the school. As was the case last year, the sessions will be built around discussions and conversations hosted by a facilitator. The event will provide the time and space for all stakeholders to discuss emerging topics, share practice and build relationships that will extend beyond the three days.

Dialogue with Alberta Education

Dr. Garry McKinnon

The members of the Calgary Science School leadership team (Superintendent, Garry McKinnon; Principal, Darrell Lonsberry and Assistant Principals, Phil Butterfield and Scott Petronech) were invited to make a presentation to the Deputy Minister, Assistant Deputy Ministers and senior Alberta Education staff in Edmonton on October 15. The purpose of the dialogue session was to share some background information in regard to the Calgary Science School with a specific focus on exemplars in learning, teaching and leading relating to the Inspiring Education agenda. The Calgary Science School leadership team members invited Dr. Pamela Adams, professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge to join them for the presentation. Dr. Adams is completing the second year of a two-year Naturalistic Inquiry research dealing with innovative practices to promote learner engagement, instructional leadership and professional learning.

The Calgary Science School: Our Story

Deirdre Bailey and Amy Park

The process of inquiry can seem "undefinable" at times, however, through the process of documentation, it becomes clearer and more tangible - for students, teachers, and parents.
Earlier this month as part of an Action Research project, we proposed to compile a comprehensive video that effectively identified who we are at the Calgary Science School, what we do, how we do it and why. Our schools Exemplary Learning and Teaching Frameworks were carefully woven throughout the video.  Footage from all grades and subject areas served as visual representation of who we are, what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.  We were able to make use of the numerous resources compiled by Neil Stephenson, Erin Couillard and others via the school's Connect blog, as well as some of our own artifacts and more recent interviews. Testimonials from staff, students, parents and visitors to our school were integrated with snippets from current research in the education field. The goal was to use student, parent and teacher voice to describe the work we do and to attempt to articulate what is most powerful about teaching and learning at CSS.

Field Experiences

54 University Education Students between October 22-23!

From October 22 to November 2, 2013 we will be hosting two cohorts of 14 Education Students from the University of Calgary. The program is titled "Life in Schools" and will give the students a week of observation, participation and reflections at two public schools in Calgary.

The purpose of the course is to have the students inquire into and document the lives and cultures of students, teachers and schools. At the end of the week the students will prepare a digital/visual presentation of what they experienced.

Connecting with Quotes in Fine Arts

Grade 8/9 Drama Quote project
Heather Drage Drama Specialist

The quote project was created to get students away from being literal and finding creative solutions for ideas and thoughts. Many quotes may be interpreted or represented in a variety of ways. The majority of the project was student based research, peer assistance and group collaboration. As the teacher I was certainly the facilitator and assisted in aiding the students away from the literal representation. I modeled many times to be creative…. Be unique.

Drama Connecting with Quotes from Calgary Science School on Vimeo.

Bringing Beavers Back to the Cross Conservation Area – Site Visit #2

Parent Guest Blogger Denise Kitagawa Click here to visit "Out and About with the GeoKs" 

Our first visit to the Cross Conservation Area Pine Creek watershed was back in June. Against a backdrop of tall, green grass and leafy trees, a multitude of insects, toads and birds blessed us with natural “music” over the course of the day.

Things were a lot quieter during our second visit to the site, which took place in late September just after the students (now in grade 8) returned to school from their 3-day/2-night fall Outdoor Ed camp. The students were less boisterous than usual. A couple of ducks landed on the pond and took off a short while later. But most of the sounds were from a tractor and a crew of volunteers hard at work stockpiling small, felled trees and large branches at various locations around the pond, measures aimed at giving the beaver family (mature male, mature female, a juvenile and two 2012 kits) a better chance of making it through their first winter at the Pine Creek pond.

Learning Coaches Networking Day

Originially printed in the Calgary Science School Spectrum
Chris Dittmann Communications Director

On August 31, 2012 the Calgary Science School hosted a networking/PD event for learning coaches, organized by CSS PD and Collaboration Coordinator Dan McWilliam. The purpose of the session was to bring together learning coaches and instructional leaders from a variety of schools and districts to discuss the role and explore best practices and skills as they strive to support enhanced teacher learning. We also hope to build a supportive network of learning leaders in Calgary and the surrounding area, who can develop materials, structures, and supports for the role.

Preparation for Camp Sweet = Increased Chance of a Safe and Fun Experience

Parent Guest Blogger Denise Kitagawa
Click here to read the entire post and to see her stunning photography. 

One of the many amazing things about the Calgary Science School is the fact that students go on two overnight Outdoor Education trips each school year. One trip is to Camp Sweet (about 90 minutes outside of Calgary), where the students sleep in tents and spend a few days camping and exploring the woods and fields – including some free time splashing in the river if it’s warm enough. The other trip is grade dependent. This year, five out of six grades (500 students) are going to Camp Sweet between mid-August and the end of September (the grade 9 fall trip was to the Bamfield Marine Station on Vancouver Island).

Student Blogs "The Bamfield Diaries"

Student Guest Bloggers from grade 9

As a way to create an audience for their work, recently the grade 9 classes have begun blogging. As part of this process, students were asked to recount an experience they had during their week long adventure at Bamfield Marine Centre on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Here are some samples of their work along with their blog address.

Students love when people visit their blog (we are keeping a class tally for the blogs with the most posts). Please visit their site and feel free to leave a comment.

Grade 8 Writing Activity- Show Don't Tell

Jaime Groeller
"It was a crisp morning, but this fall is beautiful! I wish I was a poet or a photographer in order to capture it myself."

We were outside, silent for 15 minutes, in 8.3 despite the coolness. I had them choose a spot to start, then had them move to a second spot, all in silence.

Seriously awesome conversation between two students once we came inside:
Student 1: "How about, like, that the wind "digs its fingers" into you?"
Student 2: "Hmmm, not really. That's not quite it."

Math & Science Inquiry Projects

CSS Math & Science Inquiry Projects Database

Our Math and Science Team has created a Google Doc to house a database of inquiry projects that they will use throughout the year. The goal of this database is to provide a place where teachers within the school and ultimately, teachers from outside the school, can see how we foster inquiry within our own classrooms.

If you would like to learn more about one of the projects or have a question please add a comment below.

Click here to visit the Project Database:
CSS Math and Science Inquiry Project Database

Students Teaching the Student Teachers

On September 11, 2012 eight of our grade 8 students walked to Mount Royal University to assist with an Google Apps orientation for new Education students. We were contacted by Dr. Norm Vaughn, who sits on the Calgary Science School board, to come and help his students in using the different applications that our students as so familiar with. Our students not only worked with individual university students, but took to the lectern to share some of their examples from class.

Calgary Science School Parent, Student and Staff Interviews

Calgary Science School Parent, Student and Staff Interviews Executive Summary

Garry McKinnon-June 25, 2012

The annual superintendent interviews of parents, students and staff members were conducted over several weeks in the Spring of 2012 as a component of the ongoing school evaluation process. On March 8 and 9 during student-led conferences, 48 parents were interviewed. In May and June, grade 4 to 9 students as class groups (approximately 600) were interviewed. As well, teaching and support staff members (36 participants) were interviewed. The feedback generated through the two questions (without any prompting) "What causes you to believe that the Calgary Science School is a very good school and what suggestions for improvement would you like to offer?",

Slider Resources

Collaboration: The Art of Strengthening

[Investigating the truth of opinions] consists not in trying to discover the weakness of what is said, but in bringing out its real strength. It is not the art of arguing but the art of thinking... the art of strengthening.
(Gadamer, 1975)


Although there is substantial research supporting collaborative practices in school environments, definitions of the term vary widely. Most often, collaboration in schools remains limited to sharing resources or co-planning. A significantly prohibitive factor in allowing teachers to achieve mutually valuable, collaborative relationships are the perceived or established imbalances of power. Traditionally, collaborative arrangements implicitly assign authority to one member of a team or partnership over another (Awaya et al., 2003; Hellsten, Prytula, Ebanks, & Lai, 2009). Our journey this year has painted a picture of how re-thinking this historic relationship has the potential to allow for a more powerful collaborative relationship to develop, transforming teaching and learning in the classroom.

Instructional Leadership - Challenges and Opportunities

-by Garry McKinnon, Superintendent

In my first blog on instructional leadership, I described the ultimate goal of positively impacting the quality of teaching and the learning experiences of the students. I also observed that to be effective as an instructional leader one needs to have a clear idea of what it looks like. I suggested that in addition to making reference to the Alberta Teaching Quality Standard knowledge, skills and attributes of effective teaching, it is highly desirable for the members of the school community (teachers, students, parents and school administrators) to engage in a process of articulating descriptors of exemplary teaching.

Learning Coaches Networking Day: Creating Pedagogical Partnerships

On August 31, 2012 the Calgary Science School hosted a networking/PD event for Learning Coaches. The purpose of the session was to bring together Learning Coaches and Instructional Leaders from a variety of schools and districts to discuss the role and explore best practices and skills as we strive to support enhanced teacher learning. We also hope to build a supportive network of learning leaders in Calgary, and the surrounding area, who can develop materials, structures, and supports for the role.

Bringing Beavers Back to the Cross Conservation Area - Grade 7 Interactions and Ecosystems Field Study

-by Denise Kitagawa (Guest Parent Blogger)

Earlier this month I had the privilege and pleasure of accompanying fifty grade 7 students from the Calgary Science School as they headed into the field to collect some baseline observations prior to the reintroduction of beavers to the Pine Creek watershed at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.

Opening Up a New Frontier of Exemplary Instructional Leadership

-by Phil Butterfield, Assistant Principal

Instructional leadership has been getting a lot of buzz in educational circles these days. It seems challenging enough to gain consensus on a definition for the role of an instructional leader without venturing into the potential minefield of strict adherence to a set of guiding principles designed to provide a framework for exemplary instructional leadership. Well…strap on your helmets and forge boldly ahead for a few minutes as we take the first tentative steps toward finding alignment between the seven Professional Practice Competencies for School Leaders and the frameworks for exemplary teaching and learning that have been developed at the Calgary Science School.

Significant Historical Events using Capzles and Augmented Reality

-by Jody Pereverzoff and Dan McWilliam, Grade 7 Humanities

In the final inquiry for the year, students examined significant themes in Canadian history by studying specific events, people, and places that have had an impact on the development of Canada. Students, using one of the major themes, created a monument or structure using Augmented Reality in our school field that showcased their understanding of the most significant event and its impact on Canadian history and our world today.

Learning Coaches - One Year Later...

-by Erin Couillard, Professional Development and Collaboration Coordinator

We have reached the end of our first year with designated learning coaches within the school. Last fall, two Math/Science learning coaches and two Humanities learning coaches were selected from teachers who applied for the positions through a letter of intent process. For more information on the impetus for learning coaches at the Calgary Science School, read the blog post I wrote at the beginning of this project. Midway through the year, an inclusive practices learning coach was added to the team in a part-time capacity. This coach specifically worked with teachers on ensuring that the learning needs of all students were being met.

Grade 6 Science: Evidence and Investigation

-by Carolyn Armstrong

When we, my teaching partner Candice Shaw and I, began to plan our “Evidence and Investigation Unit” we thought it would be fun to do it around a crime scene. We used the GEM: “Mystery Festival” to quick-start our story. From there we took artistic license to create our own series of events leading up to the tragic demise of “Felix Navidad”. It was suggested, by one of our teachers, to use actors as our unfortunate victim and “Persons of Interest” in our case. The students loved this.

Action Research: The Model Method in Solving Word Problems

-by Kevin Sonico

“Show me your ‘thinking’.”  “Explain your process.”  These are two statements that are often used to encourage students to communicate their strategies in solving a word problem.  In my experience, what is often produced, written, and described are algorithms, equations, and other symbolic representations.  Rarely have students submitted strategies that comprised of visual methods.  Because of this, I set out to see if there is an effect of explicitly teaching a visual strategy, namely the model method, in helping students solve problems.  Through the use of models, students worked on word problems around the concepts of fractions, decimals, percent, and ratios.  Described here are three examples of the many problems posed in class. 

Where do iPads fit? A Reflection...

 -by Lisa Nelson, Dan McWilliam and Jody Pereverzoff, Grade 7 Teachers

Near the start of this year, our Grade 7 team began a research project about using iPads in the classroom: Through a variety of sub-questions, we hoped to address the larger question, “Where do iPads fit in Education?” Using real projects, student exemplars, and parent feedback, we would explore where and how iPads fit into teacher practice.

This post is a reflection of some of the major findings we had throughout the project.

School Library or Learning Commons: What's in a Name?

-by Donna Alden, Teacher-Librarian

What’s the difference between a school library and a school learning commons, and does the name make a difference? The Alberta School Library Association, which is informed by a larger Canadian and American field of school library studies, offers this:
Traditional school libraries are seen as quiet places full of printed books, people reading and librarians ‘shushing’. A Learning Commons takes school libraries into the 21st century. Yes, we still have printed text, and there are still people reading, and there is still a librarian, however the Learning Commons has so much more! There is a hum of activity with students talking, learning, searching for information on a variety of devices, focusing on content creation and synthesizing of information. The Learning Commons becomes the hub and the heart of the school; a place for teachers and teacher-librarians to collaborate to build inquiry learning and critical thinking skills in students; a place for technology integration and experimentation; a place that is ‘owned’ by students and staff alike

Google just keeps killing it.

by Deirdre Bailey,

I work at an innovative and creative institution. Perhaps it is because of the freedom we have to explore possibilities that we are often unaware of the depth to many of the simplest resources that are available. It is also without a doubt hard to be constantly adapting one's practice to ever-updating technology applications. Certainly, in this day and age, the sheer volume of resources available in education can be overwhelming. Navigating options and rating their relative value is always intimidating, particularly on the heels of a full 7 hours in front of students. But google docs is so worth it. In the last 9 months, it has become one of the most valuable learning tools for me as I continue to inquire into teaching and learning and I am constantly excited by the facility with which google docs allows me to guide student collaboration, research and writing while tracking their progress, providing feedback and involving parents. And while my presence on twitter often gives me the impression that all educators are connected, deeply familiar with technological resources and employing them in their every day practice; it occurred to me, after a conversation I had today that this might not be representative of all cases.

E-Books or "Real" Books?

-by Donna Alden, Teacher Librarian

It seems to me there is no one answer.

For nonfiction, research activities, if given the choice, hands down I'll choose an online search for information, as opposed to searching through books. Is that an exclusive choice? Do I always recommend that to students? No, and no. But as a preference, an online search for information just makes sense, for a number of reasons.

Big Numbers and Sky Science: Grade 6 Math/Science Integration

-by Candice Shaw, Grade 6 Math/Science

In the Grade 6 curricula, there are many opportunities for meaningful integration between subjects. The Sky Science unit and Large Number topics fit harmoniously together.

With a focus on problem solving, students first went about solving a variety of astronomy themed problems, such as “How many times further is Saturn’s distance from the Sun than Earth’s distance from the Sun?” These problems had students working with numbers in the millions and billions, as well as estimating, rounding, using appropriate units and converting distances.

This problem solving was culminated with a major group problem: “How can we build a proportional model showing the distance of the planets from the Sun? How far are each of the planets from the Sun, in Astronomical Units?” 

UCreate Elective: Developing Entreprenuerial Spirit at CSS

-by Jody Pereverzoff

Elective Description: “From the fashion industry to the sports and electronic gaming industry, there is money to be made. But how to these ideas turn into money??? Well, if any of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, then this elective is for you! In this elective, you will have the opportunity to create a product, business, and/or app from the ground up. You will start with an idea, and work your way to a finished product that you will market to potential investors. If you enjoy thinking outside the box and have ever wondered how ideas are shaped into successful business ventures, then sign up today!"

A Different Kind of Test

-by Margaret Leland, Grade 8 Humanities

Over the Spring break I was reading Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?)” and began to question how best I could develop the unit final for my students to finish off our Worldviews in Conflict: The Spanish 
and the Aztecs.

I was mulling over the following quotes by Seth Godin:

“The obligation of the new school is to teach reasonable doubt. Not the unreasonable doubt of the wild-eyed heckler, but the evidence-based doubt of the questioning scientist and the reason-based doubt of the skilled debater.” 

“Unfortunately, the things we desperately need (and the things that make us happy) aren’t the same things that are easy to test.”

The Winding Road to Exemplary Instructional Leadership

-by Phil Butterfield, Assistant Principal

As you may know from visiting the Connect! Blog or the Calgary Science School website, we have developed frameworks for exemplary teaching and exemplary learning. Together these two documents form the guiding principles by which we believe students can enjoy rewarding educational and social experiences that will equip them for success beyond CSS. But what mention is made of the role of school administrators within those frameworks? Certainly leadership as a desirable attribute of teachers and students is a key element but there is no specific reference to the nebulous and hard-to-define capacity of instructional leadership. Our Superintendent, Dr. Garry McKinnon, has very clearly articulated the need for a rethinking of the role school administrators play in the teaching and learning process, but to truly operationalize an instructional leadership model that is aligned with the exemplary teaching and learning frameworks is a challenging task that will pay huge dividends for
student learning when we get it right.

Thoughts and Viruses Interdisciplinary Inquiry Unit

-by Dave Scott, Grade 8 Humanities

This year one of the goals of the Grade 8 team was to undertake an interdisciplinary unit that brought together the four core subject areas of math, science, language arts, and social studies. With the aid of Erin Couillard, PD and outreach coordinator, after an afternoon planning session seeking an inquiry topic and question that was generous enough to engage all these domains, the team settled on a unit exploring the similarities between how viruses spread, and how ideas, social movements, and trends can become contagious in similar ways. Here we saw a question that could help us simultaneously explore the topic of cells and systems in the science curriculum, exponential growth in the area of math, how the Renaissance sparked the growth and exchange of ideas and knowledge across Europe in the social studies program, and a myriad of outcomes in language arts including revising understandings and ideas by connecting new and prior knowledge and experiences.

Connecting with an Expert: Grade 4 Humanities Picture Book Project

-By Heather Fawcett, Grade 4 Humanities

Through the Learning Through the Arts (LTTA) initiative, Grade 4 students at CSS had the opportunity to work with local artist, Val Lawton, to develop professional grade picture books. LTTA partners local artists with schools to facilitate rich integration of Fine Arts and the core curriculum.

The picture book project had students working in groups to write short stories set in one of Alberta’s natural regions. Magic in the Mountains, a picture book by Carol McTavish, Lori Nunn, and Linden Wentzloff, was used as a model for the project. Students were provided with graphic organizers and a checklist to guide the group development of their story. Our partner artist, Val Lawton, visited each class once a week to deliver art instruction and to assist in creating the illustrations for the books.

Video Assessment in Phys. Ed - A Reflection

-by Dean Schmeichel, Phys. Ed Teacher

This is my final blog for the Research project – Video Assessment in PE. This was an extremely worthwhile project and it has shaped the future course of assessment for me in my career. From past experience, I know that I will continue to develop, adapt and modify this process. What works one year, might need to be overhauled the next, depending on the group of students, parents, teachers and my own level of commitment and excitement.

There was an 86% response rate to the survey that I asked the Grade 9 students to complete. I targeted the Grade 9 class specifically because they were given written comments in Term 1. Both the Grade 5 and 7 classes were given recorded (verbal) assessments in Term 1. The survey that Tammy (my teaching partner and co-researcher in this project) and I designed was done collaboratively with Dave Scott (colleague and Ph.D. student) and Dr. Pam Adams from the University of Lethbridge.

Using ShowMe in the Humanities Classroom

-Jody Pereverzoff grade 7 Humanities

After reading Lisa Nelson’s blog on using ShowMe in the Math class, I thought it would be a successful tool for students to demonstrate their understanding of editorial cartoons. Students first read the short story “Back to our Roots” by Fernando Sorrentino (translated from Spanish by Iris Maria Mielonen) and brainstormed the main themes of the text.

Verbal Assessment in PE – Part 2

 By Tammy Berry, CSS Phys. Ed teacher

 For more information on this project, please read the first blog post here.

I have now completed 100 grade 6 Garage Band (converted into iTunes) audio recordings. These audio recordings were placed on the desktops of students’ personal computers. Students received a mark on their written report card and then had an audio recording to replace the written comment for PE Term Two. These recording were about 3-4 minutes long in length.

Why did I do these recordings?

Action Strategies for Fostering Effective Relationships

-by Garry McKinnon, Superintendent 

In my last blog highlighting the first of the seven school leadership competencies, fostering effective relationships, I presented three scenarios which represented real life experiences I have encountered. It is helpful to consider the school leadership competencies in the context of realities which those in formal school leadership roles (principal, assistant/vice principal) may encounter. In this blog, I will present two more scenarios and will offer what I would describe as action strategies for school leaders to foster effective relationships.

Parent Engagement: Where to from here?

-by Tanya Stogre, Grade 5 Humanities

In the preceding three blogs, I have outlined the research behind why parental and community engagement is important; the differences between ‘involvement’ and ‘engagement’, as well as specific examples of each at the Calgary Science School. In the final blog of the series, I want to look at the question “where do we go from here?”

To answer this question, I look specifically to a document written by Dr. Garry McKinnon & Mr. Lyle Lorenz (2005) from the College of Alberta School Superintendents Module Building Effective Partnerships for School Improvement: A Principal’s Guide for Promoting Meaningful Parent and Community Involvement through the School Council and Beyond

The Cat Food Problem

-by Val Barnes (Grade 5 Math Teacher) and Kevin Sonico (Math Learning Coach)

The Grade 5 students were posed with the task of determining which store, Petland or PetSmart, gave a better deal on the same brand and same size of cat food (Figure 1). Before proceeding with their solutions, students must hypothesize through estimation and rounding which of the two would be the better deal. Students then worked in groups to solve this problem. Each group was also assigned a Grade 8 student who facilitated the discussion. The facilitators’ responsibilities did not include providing hints or strategies, rather to ask questions such as “How do you know this is true?” or “How do we prove this?” and make statements such as “Let’s show proof of this.”

Video Assessment in PE, Part II

-by Dean Schmeichel, Phys. Ed. Teacher

(For more information on this project, read the first blog post here)

I have now completed all of the video recordings for 300 students. There is a clip of the students participating in PE class (approximately one minute) and a conversation between each student and myself that lasts for an average of three minutes. This process was a lot of work and at times I questioned my own intelligence in taking it on.

  1. The four minutes of total video each student receives, is far superior in multiple ways to a traditional written comment in my view: content; authentic assessment; student voice; long term student understanding and growth; students using the “language” of assessment.
  2. As opposed to written comments, these interviews are done in class and actually take up less of your preparation time than a written comment. 
  3. Talking to the students gives each student a chance to explain, defend and advocate for him or herself during the assessment. A surprising number of students will challenge my assessment, opinions or presumptions. 
  4. I feel that I have a better understanding of each of the students who I teach after this process. It is especially valuable with the more introverted students who might not speak up during class. 
  5. The action video combined with the interview gives a fairly complete “picture” of each student’s progress in PE. 

 Lessons Learned:
  1. I should have followed my original plan and videotaped two students each class, each day. Due to my procrastination, I ended up having to take a bunch of video and do a bunch of interviews on multiple days, leading up to the report card deadline. It caused me unnecessary stress and probably resulted in lower quality conversations. 
  2. I also should have named the videos after I uploaded them onto my computer. Such a small oversight meant that I had to spend Sunday night naming all of the files on my computer. 
  3. Make sure, before beginning, that there are various ways to distribute the videos confidentially to each of the students and store the videos for record keeping. 
  4. Keep in mind that although it might be the 245th conversation that I (the teacher) has had this term, it is the first conversation that particular student has had with me. I tried to keep this at the fore-front of my thinking when I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of interviews I had left to do. 
  5. Administration and colleague support is not only key, it is crucial to the success of this project. Without buy-in from the school, there is very little chance for success.

Grade 8 Magazine Project

-by Dave Scott, Grade 8 Humanities

Recently grade 8 Humanities students finished an inquiry unit that brought together an independent novel study with the creation of their own magazine. For this project students were asked to select a novel of their choice and work through a series of four writing assignments listed below. Each writing piece was given a two page spread in their magazine. This along with a cover, quote page, table of content and ad page, resulted in a 12 page magazine. An outline of each of the four writing assignments can be found at these links on the class blog:

The Scorpion Project: Novel Inquiry in Progress

By Ivy Waite, grade 9 Humanities

This novel inquiry is housed online at The Scorpion Project. As students are sharing their work through blogger, building the project there as well allows us to model the use of technology that we expect to see. 

Novel studies are supposed to be about connecting with literature. They are intended to give readers an opportunity to look deeper into themselves and their surroundings through another set of experiences, whether real or fictional. The Scorpion Project is more than a novel study however, it is a novel inquiry

Aurasma: Augmented Reality in the Classroom

Dan McWilliam - Grade 7 Humanities

Augmented Reality is the digital layering of information overtop of, or in front of, the real world. This content is viewable through a digital device that places it realtime over the real world through the camera. Imagine a pair of eye glasses that could show the Facebook status or most recent Twitter above a person’s head. Augmented Reality browsers are working to make this possible. Some advances have been made in this with browsers such as Wikitude, Layar, Junaio, Acrossair and others. These make it possible to view YouTube videos in the places they were created, or to see a Wikipedia entry for a location at that location.

Implementing iPads (Part 2)

In the last posting I looked at the technical setup of our iPad initiative, but never really touched on our rational for the project and some of our initial realizations. That will be the focus of this posting.

Our interest in iPads was two-fold. We wanted to find a product that encouraged content creation with the freedom a mobile device permits.