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Peer Tutoring at CSS

Marla Paxton ~ Student Services and Counselling

“Peer tutoring is partnering a younger student who may be struggling in one or more subjects with an older student who is willing to take on a leadership opportunity, be a greater part of our school community and may have a strength in a certain subject area. Parents, teachers or students themselves can fill out a Peer Tutor form and Ms. Paxton, the head of the program will match a struggling student with a tutor. This program has allowed me to connect with other students in different grades and review past subjects. The best way get a deeper understanding of something is to teach it to someone else. I think that this program can benefit everyone in our school including tutors, students, as well as teachers.” 
 - Maddy, grade 9 tutor -

Team Teaching: Student Survey Results & Analysis Pt. 2 - Triumphs!

Jaime Groeller & Ivy Waite~ Grade 8 Humanities

This post is part of a series. Read the previous posts here, here, and here.

As discussed in a previous post, on April 30 we conducted a formal survey of our students regarding the team teaching approach we have taken up over the last 9 months. We had conducted informal surveys twice before, and tried to take into account the concerns and suggestions provided to make the experience more positive for the majority of the students. Here is part 2 of an anecdotal analysis of the formal survey. (Part 1 can be found here.)

Overwhelmingly, the positive responses outweighed the negative. Many students clearly understand and appreciate the learning experience we as teachers are trying to provide. They identified and commented on many of the specific items we outlined as goals of our team teaching:

Inquiry in Math: Order of Operations

Candice Shaw~ Grade 7 Math/Science

After reviewing integer addition and subtraction, and order of operations, I gave my Grade 7 students a challenge. This became a competition between many students and myself. The problem is as follows:

Given the following expression, What is the greatest solution you can create? What is the least solution you can create?

You can only manipulate sets of brackets - the order of the numbers and symbols cannot change.
You can use as many sets of brackets as you wish.

Team Teaching: Student Survey Results & Analysis Pt. 1 - Challenges

Jaime Groeller & Ivy Waite

This post is part of a series. Read the previous posts here and here.

On April 30 we conducted a formal survey of our students regarding the team teaching approach we have taken up over the last 9 months. We had conducted informal surveys twice before, and tried to take into account the concerns and suggestions provided to make the experience more positive for the students. Here is part one of an anecdotal analysis of the formal survey. (Part 2 can be found here.)

As is human nature, the less supportive comments often overshadow the supportive. As teachers, we want to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe, supportive environment, while continuing to provide differentiated instruction and authentic learning opportunities. The reality is, and we are learning to accept this and work through it, you can’t please everyone. Not every person in 100 will completely support anything, but we hope to find some compromises for those that are less than thrilled with the team teaching approach.

Using the SmartBoard to Teach Algebra

Kevin Sonico~ Grade 9 Math and Science

Some have referred to them as glorified whiteboards.  SmartBoards have had the unfortunate reputation of digitizing technology that was already in its own way a useful tool.  Some teachers may have even requested for the removal of SmartBoards for the use of that valuable real estate behind it. The challenge is the to rethink of how we can use them differently in our classrooms. So instead of thinking of them as expensive blackboards or overhead screens where we only project content, let us make them more dynamic and interactive.  Perhaps we can start to think of them more as oversized tablets.  

One of the most useful functions of the SmartBoard is the infinite cloner.  I was originally introduced to the idea of using the infinite cloner in modelling integers.  Because this was such an effective way to visualize why we “invert and multiply” in subtracting integers, for example,  I thought it would be great to demonstrate polynomial functions. Using individual manipulatives such as Algebra Tiles have been very helpful in visualizing such an abstract concept.  To use the SmartBoard much in the same way like an iPad:

Community Building in the Middle School

Erin Couillard~ Grade 5 Math/Science, Learning Coach

I have been thinking a lot about community building in the middle school.  I began my teaching career in a very small K-8 school in a rural Alberta town where one didn’t give much thought to community building, as the school WAS the community.  Parents were in the school regularly, siblings saw each other in the hallway all the time and families gathered at community events, soccer practices, swimming pool, skating rink.  In a large middle school (600 students, grades 4-9) which draws its population from all four quarters of a large city, a sense of community isn’t a ‘give-in’.  It must be purposefully orchestrated. 

Grade 6 Wind Tunnel: Air and Aerodynamics

John Cadman & Greg Neil~ Grade 6 Math/ Science Teachers
Calgary Science School

This is a design for an open ended wind tunnel. This means the fan pushes air into the tunnel instead of pulling it out the end. Assembled it is 4ft long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet high. Our hope in building this tunnel as we did was that in future it would require no tools to re-assemble. This design is a larger version of a tunnel original built by Louis Cheng at CSS using an old computer fan.

How it works in the classroom:
The challenge to students is two fold. They will design and build a wing/air foil that will generate the most lift in the wind tunnel and achieve the greatest distance outside the wind tunnel.

Team Teaching: The Reality

Ivy Waite & Jaime Groeller

This post is part of a series. Read the previous post here.


Jaime's "Work Room" (Left) & Ivy's "Collaborative" Room (Right)

When we set up our classrooms in early August 2012, we were both so excited to begin this adventure. We spent time thinking about how we could provide the best physical learning environments, and even searched the internet for affordable options for students who like working while sitting on the floor. (We eventually settled on those foam-like floor tiles from Canadian tire.) Because of the lack of “alternative” seating for the “tabletop-free room”, we reevaluated our plan and ended up setting Ivy’s room up as the “conversation room” and my room as the “work room.” We put all the tables into Ivy’s room, and set desks up in my room, trying to ensure we had room for 50 students in each room. We envisioned one room as the place where class discussions would happen while the other would act as the place for mini-lectures, etc. We soon abandoned this plan. Here’s a few reasons why:

ConnectED Canada 2013

The Calgary Science School is pleased to be hosting the ConnectED Canada Conference for a second time. This is a unique education conference where the first day of the event is held at our school during an operational school day with students. Student tour guides will host groups of educators as they visit classrooms, view student work and speak with the teachers and students.

This conference is the physical meeting of a digital community that meets throughout the year online through hashtags, hangouts, blog posts, MOOCs, and more. Emphasis is given to discussions and meeting time throughout the 3-days at Calgary Science School. The online community is a collaborative one, where all voices are equal in the discussion. The sessions at ConnectED honour this and are facilitated discussions rather than stand and deliver presentations. Everyone in the room is a contributor.

Our welcome reception on Friday May 24 will be held at the University of Calgary in the Alberta Room. Bussing has been organized for the 116 conference participants who are staying in the Mount Royal University residence. The schedule of speakers for the reception is available on the ConnectED website.

The session schedule for the following two days has been posted on

Our staff steering committee is working hard on the logistics for the event, which has seen almost double the registration from the first ConnectED. Our students are beginning to get excited to share their work and experiences at CSS.

CSS Reads- Grade 9

 Jason Publack & Abby Saadeh~ Grade 9 Humanities

The Grade 9 teaching team, which included two student teachers this term, constructed a reading competition based on the CBC’s Canada Reads program. Scott Bailey, one of our University of Calgary student teachers, created a CSS Reads website to share and track the process of competition. The site is an excellent exemplar for schools wishing to host their own ______ Reads unit. Please let us know if you are hosting a similar competition. We would love to connect.

Calgary Science School Animation

One of our talented grade 7 students recently created this animation about learning at the Calgary Science School in his animation elective.