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Examples of Parent Involvement and Engagement

-by Tanya Stogre, Grade 5 Humanities

In the preceding blog, #2 in my 4-part series on parental and community engagement, I discussed the differences between involvement and engagement. However, the distinction was not made to suggest that if a parent is ‘involved’, their actions, care and personal investment in their child’s education is any less than one who is ‘engaged’. In order to create a meaningful and healthy school community, I would suggest that both involvement and engagement are necessary.

In this blog, I would like to share with you some of the specific ways parents and the Lakeview Community residents are involved and engaged at the Calgary Science School.

Thinking and Acting like Mathematicians

-by Candice Shaw, Grade 6 Math/Science

Since my beginning year of teaching, my science program has focused on having students think and act like scientists. Often, the year has begun with discussions and research about: What do scientists do? What types of characteristics do scientists possess? What processes do scientists follow in order to arrive at strong conclusions? Scientific skills and concepts are reinforced throughout the year, especially during student-led projects, such as science fair.

Using ShowMe for Math Communication

-by Lisa Nelson, Grade 7 Math/Science

Communication is an important part of mathematics. As a math team in our school, along with others involved with mathematical education, we have discussed what Strong Work in Math looks like. We discussed many different components including Mathematical Inquiry, Demonstration of Knowledge, and Work Habits. One component of this discussion was Mathematical Communication. Students are strong mathematical communicators if they can

a) Show their work using writing, charts, diagrams, etc
b) Use appropriate mathematical terminology and notation
c) Organize complex ideas
d) Use metacognition to help explain the process they undergo during problem solving.

Real Time Settlement

-By Dan McWilliam and Jody Pereverzoff, Grade 7 Humanities

We were looking for a way for our students to make a connection with life in early Canada. After reading the Real time WWII Twitter, we realized this would be an effective way to bridge modern communication with the Canadian immigrant experiences Pre Confederation.

Students would assume the role of an immigrant from a historically accurate home country and create a social networking profile where their updates would describe their journey to Canada as well as their life after arrival.

Life in Early Canada Assignment

Implementing iPads @ CSS

During the 2010-2011 school year, we discussed the idea of implementing an iPad project. We were having problems finding school-based evaluations on mobile devices and decided to implement a pilot project where staff could apply to receive an iPad to integrate into their classroom routines and lessons. This group of teachers met regularly to discuss their findings and reflect on the advantages and drawbacks of the device.

This was a departure for us because we had implemented a school-wide 1:1 project with MacBooks four years earlier. We had been extremely pleased with the educational advantages of providing 600 grade 4-9 students with a laptop, but were interested in researching the advantages of mobile devices.

Using Video for Term-End PE Assessment

-By Dean Schmeichel, PE Teacher

Why this project?

For the past few years I have been recording conversations (audio versions) at one of the term ends; whether it was term 1 or term 2 depended on the time commitment and how much procrastination I had done prior to November. These conversations were valuable, but not very efficient. Each conversation took about 5 minutes, plus set-up of the software (Garageband) and organization of each student. I teach 300 students and this process took approximately 2000 minutes of school time. This equates to roughly 33.5 hours of instructional time. Through the support of my fellow teachers and administration, I was always able to complete the process but I was searching for a more efficient medium. Along came the iPad.

I am in the process of recording each of my students in action during class for one minute, followed by a two-three minute conversation that includes a student self-assessment, my assessment of them and their description of their activity levels outside of the school. I follow two students per class for a total of twelve students per day. This video assessment is made available to their parents and serves as the “comment” portion of their term report card. A number grade continues to be given to the students on their report cards. The process is running smoothly and from the informal feedback I’ve received from the students, they like this format much better. We had a parent volunteer in to run “Bootcamp” for our students and she was overwhelmingly in favor of this type of assessment

The goal of this project is to determine if the video assessment gives our students (and parents) a better understanding of the PE program goals and their progress in class with relation to these goals, than a traditional written assessment. From speaking to our students, many of them don’t even read the comments that we write on the report cards. So, at the very least, we are ensuring communication with each student.


Inquiry takes time.  This has been a recurring theme, and one we have discussed at length, in our math/science class over the past few months.  If we want students to become proficient in any aspect of their learning, or life for that matter, we must give them time.  Time to wrestle with challenging issues. Time to celebrate small successes. Time to learn from mistakes. Time to listen to each other and time to grow.  When we rush kids through the learning process we deny them the necessary foundational blocks needed to develop into successful, self-directed learners.  The curriculum is filled with content and at times can seem overwhelming.  If we focus on “covering” each strand, then we lose sight of the big picture.  By pushing through the curriculum, we change the focus from being student centered to teacher centred.  This is not to say that the curriculum is not an important document. It is. However, as a professional, I see it as my responsibility to carefully read through the curriculum and determine what are the “need to know”, “nice to know” and “worth being familiar with” components – a model based on Wiggins and McTighe research.

Parent Involvement vs. Engagement

-by Tanya Stogre, Grade 5 Humanities

In my first blog in this 4-part series on parental engagement, I gave a brief outline of what the research says about why having parent and community involvement is significant. In this blog, I will discuss the difference between parental involvement and engagement, the importance of the distinction and the research behind it.

Learning Off the Grid! The beginning...

-by Greg Neil, Grade 5 Math/Science

Editors note: Greg's classroom was just featured on Canadian Geographic's the Energy Diet Challenge. One of Greg's students recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Calgary Herald. To read that letter, click here.

As a science teacher at the Calgary Science School, I am always looking for ways to engage my students in rich, authentic learning experiences. When planning for the Grade 5 Electricity Unit, I was looking for ways to move beyond the basic outcomes associated with this unit and to tie our learning to a more meaningful project that promotes ethical citizenship and environmental stewardship.

Parent Engagement: What does the research say?

-by Tanya Stogre, Grade 5 Humanities

I have been encouraged to write a series on parent engagement and the implications for the Calgary Science School. As a grade 5 Humanities teacher in my 5th year at CSS, I have had the great pleasure of working with many parents, as well as Lakeview Community residents.

In this four-part series in intend to: 1) Outline what the research says about why school, parent and community connections are important; 2) Describe the difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘engagement’; 3) Illustrate what is currently happening at CSS as it relates to both parental and community involvement and engagement, and finally; 4) Next steps to develop and increase CSS’ parental and community involvement and engagement.

Teachers as Action Researchers in the Calgary Science School

-by Dr. Garry McKinnon, Superintendent

The Calgary Science School Board of Directors in setting the direction for the school for the 2011-2012 school year, adopted a strategic plan with four key strategies, one of which involves fostering research initiatives and building research capacity to inform teaching practices for the benefit of students. This strategic goal is in keeping with the Alberta Education research and innovation mandate for charter schools. To support the achievement of this goal, the board established a Research and Innovation fund which makes provision for teachers to access $2000 to undertake an action research project or to implement an innovative teaching practice, which is supportive of the school charter, strategic plan and the Calgary Science School descriptors of Exemplary Teaching and Learning.

iPads in the History Classroom - A Teacher Reflection

-by Jody Pereverzoff, Grade 7 Humanities

This reflection is based on the Pre-Confederation Canadian History Unit, Determining Historical Significance (reference Determining Historical Significance and Determining Historical Significance Part II)

This unit required students to work individually, as well as collaboratively, to demonstrate their understanding. The discussions were thoughtful, and rating the events using the historical significance criteria was not an easy task without really discovering why each event occurred, and how each event was connected to another event in time.

Determining Historical Significance Part II

- by Jody Pereverzoff, Grade 7 Humanities

In this unit, students discussed and evaluated events in Canada by rating them using the historical significance criteria found on the website: Historical Benchmark Society. They then created timelines to demonstrate their evaluations and get a better sense, visually, of how each event was connected.

Steve Jobs, Modern Day Renaissance Man?

-by Margaret Leland, Grade 8 Humanities Teacher

I found it curious the day after Steve Jobs died that I overheard some of the students wondering who the image on our Apple start page was and, moreover, that they didn’t take the time to investigate. After all, that’s what we do at CSS. I then thought that I would have my Humanities students link their inquiry into the Renaissance through delving into the life of Steve Jobs. The purpose would be to argue whether or not they considered Steve Jobs to be a modern day ‘Renaissance Man’.

Why Would Anyone Ever Want to be a School Principal?

-by Garry McKinnon, Superintendent

The seven school leadership competencies and accompanying descriptors in the draft Professional Practice Competencies for School Leaders in Alberta document provides a comprehensive overview of the expectations for principals and assistant (vice, associate) principals. Principals are accountable for the demonstration of all of the competencies throughout their careers while assistant, associate, vice principals are accountable for the demonstration of those competencies that are directly related to their assigned role and leadership designation.

ConnectEd Canada May 25-27, 2012

Registration for ConnectED Canada is now open.

Registration is being generously handled by the Calgary Regional Consortium.

You can register for the event by clicking here.

We have set aside 150 spots for Alberta attendees and 150 spots for out of province. If the out-of-province spots are not filled by April 1st - the remaining spots will be made available to Alberta attendees.

Information on accommodation for the event can be found here.

Sign up quickly before it fills up!