Friday, 9 March 2018

Integrating Student Learning

Grade 7 Integration Week helps students make vital connections between the different subjects that they learn in school. By creating a challenge for students to respond to that incorporates what they have learned across their courses, from Science, Math, English, and Social Studies students can see the connections between what are often perceived to be separate areas of knowledge.

The theme of Grade 7 Integration Week was “How to Survive a Natural Disaster.” Canadian author Eric Walters, who writes on the theme of survival, spoke to the students about the inspiration behind his stories and what it takes to survive disaster. Being able to hear from an author such as Walters, whose books they have read, was inspiring for students, encouraging them to really think deeply about their work during Integration Week.

For the rest of their activities, students broke into teams to solve problems that would arise in the wake of a natural disaster, taken from the pages of an Eric Walters novel. Each challenge required drawing on concepts they learned in class. For example, students applied their learning about heat, insulation, and distillation from science class to the challenge of how disaster survivors could cook food, keep warm, and purify water.

They designed original prototypes of survival aid devices, strategically selected gear for a survival mission, and wrote journal entries from the perspective of a character in their chosen Eric Walters novel. Each challenge required students to think critically, and encouraged the to create unique solutions.
By approaching one challenge from so many angles, they can also determine the best way to solve multi-disciplinary problems in the future. They can apply the strategies they develop from one subject to solve challenges in another. This will help them be more agile, adaptable learners, skills so crucial for lifelong learning. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Understanding Urban Sustainability

Our Grade 11 and 12 Green Industries program offers students a great opportunity to think critically about issues related to sustainability in urban environments. Recently, students in the Grade 11 class worked in small teams to plan and build sustainable farms.

This activity built on prior learning in which students looked at the components of soil. As part of this study, students learned how to use food scraps, newspaper and worms to maintain vermicomposters. This device produces “black gold,” a nutrient-dense soil additive.

Students then worked to design and build their sustainable farms; these farms include important real-life elements as seeds, aeration, and irrigation, as well as the aforementioned “black gold” soil additive. Having to develop a marketing plan for the promotion of their farm prototype adds another authentic learning dimension to the activity.

Students in this program have many opportunities for the kind of hands-on learning described in this entry. Besides engaging them fully, this approach also helps students learn to be adaptive problem solvers.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Thinking Critically About the News

Using topical issues to help students learn to think critically is another way we prepare our students for the future.

A good example of this approach was used recently in our Grade 10 English class. Students examined online articles about racism and homelessness and worked in small groups to build the skills needed to determine which stories were real and which were “fake.” Students then assessed their learning by viewing a TedX Talk by Morgan Campbell called “Race, Sports, and Telling True Stories.” Since this class is co-taught, students had ample opportunity for individual clarification from teachers.

Being able to read and think critically is a vital skill if students hope to participate meaningfully in civic life and navigate successfully the growing body of online content that is presented as truth.