Showing posts with label Community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Community. Show all posts

Friday, 5 May 2017

Reviewing the Research and Sharing Stories: Parent Conversations

"I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many parents," says Mary Gauthier,
Executive Director of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning and the facilitator
of our Parent Conversations.

Adolescence can be a very challenging time for both teens and their parents. Keeping up with the latest research is one way parents can navigate the thorny issues that arise during this time; sharing their stories with other parents is another.

Mary Gauthier, Executive Director of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning, began hosting “Parent Conversations” at Greenwood this year with these two goals in mind. Parent Conversations provide an opportunity to talk about the world outside the school, as well as current research that can help all parents better understand their children.

These conversations also encourage parents to share thoughts and ideas with each other. In fact, some of the most valuable insights to come out of these sessions came from parents - whether it was from a book they read, an article they reviewed or an experience they had with their own children. That’s why these sessions were conversations and not seminars - parents have much to contribute!

Mary has loved facilitating these conversations. “I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many parents, and it was wonderful that parents could take the time to join us,” she says. “Seeing how engaged parents were in the sessions highlighted the importance of continuing to provide opportunities like this.”

Some topics raised during these conversations also yielded follow-up opportunities for future sessions. For example, several parents were interested in learning more about teens’ use of technology - including social media and online games - and how they can help their children to manage that usage.

What did parents talk about?

Some of the most valuable insights to come out of these sessions came from parents.

Conversation topics this year included:

Click on the links above for summaries of the first two conversations. Read on for a summary of the year’s last conversations on “Teens and Finding Purpose,” held on April 24 and May 1.

Teens and Finding Purpose

There are three main ingredients that go into creating purpose:

  • A need
  • A skill
  • A love/passion

After learning about this framework, parents shared examples of when their child has been especially purposeful. This may have been in school (e.g. preparing for an upcoming evaluation) or outside of school (e.g. training for a big ski race). In every example, a need, a skill and a love or passion were present. In the studying example:

  • The need was performing well on the evaluation
  • The skill was anything from writing skills to study skills to research skills
  • The love was an affinity for the subject being studied

Parents then identified situations where they felt their child had lacked purpose - in these cases, one of these elements was usually missing. 

An “aha” moment for many parents involved discovering what purpose is not. We often attach our own adult definition to this concept and think of purpose as knowing what career we want to pursue, or what to study at university or college. For teens, finding purpose could mean deciding which courses to take in high school next year or what their summer plans are. As long as they combine a need, a skill and a passion, these decisions are purposeful.

Over 20 parents contributed to a very lively and engaging discussion of purpose at these sessions. Thank you to everyone who joined us!


Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Space for Artistic Endeavours to Flourish

Our student actors can now rehearse regularly in the space in which they will
eventually perform, which helps build skills and confidence.

When the cast, crew and musicians  take the stage for tonight’s opening of The Lion King, they’ll do it in our very own state-of-the-art theatre.

An ideal theatre is a blank slate - a space that students can use as a tool to express themselves. Greenwood’s theatre, designed in consultation with theatre experts Rick Schick and Philip Silver, encourages students to give their creativity free rein. Whether they’re performing in drama class, rehearsing for a school play or screening a film, our new theatre provides the perfect space for students to hone their skills.

The theatre's 144 seats can be retracted when not in use, giving students more room
for drama classes, rehearsals or grade-level activities.

How Does Our Theatre Make a Difference for Students?

Highlights of the theatre include:

  • Regular access: Our student actors can now rehearse regularly in the space in which they will eventually perform, which helps build skills and confidence. Having the theatre in the school helps build community, as student audiences can attend dress rehearsals.
  • Black walls: Students can use props and lighting to turn the theatre into anything they choose, from an office building to the African savannah.
  • Retractable seating: Our 144 seats can be retracted when not in use, giving students even more room for drama classes and rehearsals, or provide a large space to gather for grade-level activities.
  • The latest technology: Greenwood’s theatre is one of only three in Canada - and the only high school in the country - with full LED lighting. Coupled with a new sound system, our technical setup gives students early exposure to forward-thinking technology.
  • Accessibility: The theatre is fully wheelchair accessible and is enabled for Hearing Assist technology.

Our new theatre is one more example of giving students spaces to develop character. Through performance, students build confidence, learn how to work together and experience what it’s like to see the world from viewpoints other than their own.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Supporting Health and Well-Being with Intramurals

Greenwood’s new gymnasium allows us to offer organized athletics outside of
 inter-school competition.

One of the main focuses of our new strategic plan is educating our community on the core principles of well-being, and integrating health and well-being into all of our programs. Physical activity is one of the keys to well-being, with benefits including decreased anxiety and increased concentration.

Intramural sports provide students with an opportunity to engage with their peers in a positive and meaningful way. Greenwood’s new gymnasium allows us to offer organized athletics outside of inter-school competition.

Run during part of the lunch period, intramurals get students’ blood pumping before afternoon classes while providing an outlet for stress. Currently, Greenwood runs basketball leagues for Grade 7/8, Grade 9/10 and Grade 11/12 students. Male and female students play together in 4v4 play. As we grow into our new space, we plan to introduce more leagues across a variety of sports driven by student interest.

Students looking for a less structured athletic opportunity can participate in open gym
periods held in our existing gymnasium.

Students looking for a less structured athletic opportunity can participate in open gym periods held in our existing gymnasium. Open gym is available daily at lunch to all grades and gives students supervised, safe time to engage in the physical activity of their choice.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Strengthening Our Community with Social Spaces

Our second-floor social space is one of many designed to build community at Greenwood.

When we began planning our building expansion and renovation, one of the messages we heard loud and clear from students was that they wanted more social spaces - places to talk and laugh together at lunch, before school and during spares.

Our second-floor social space was designed with this feedback in mind and has been very popular with students since school started in September. Cruiser tables allow students to have a snack or a meal in small groups, while glass-walled breakout rooms encourage larger groups to gather. Many students also take advantage of this space to work quietly during spares or before and after school, and to meet with their teachers.

Overall, this new space is one of many at Greenwood that helps to build community.

 Cruiser tables allow students to have a snack or a meal in small groups or to complete homework.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Customization and Optimization: Making the Most of Our New Spaces

This new Learning Community is one of the many new spaces at Greenwood that
is designed and furnished to facilitate fluid transitions between types of teaching.

Two key initiatives in our new strategic plan involve establishing a Centre for Teaching and Learning to help teachers advance their use of customized learning and ensuring that we optimize our new spaces to build learning and community. Throughout this year’s edition of our school blog, we will share examples from teachers of how they are working with students in the new spaces on these initiatives. We will also examine how teachers collaborate with one another to enhance their professional growth.

One key principle we want to illustrate with our new classroom spaces is how they promote individual, peer-to-peer and whole group learning. Physical settings make a significant impact on student engagement. Greenwood's spaces are designed and furnished to facilitate fluid transitions between types of teaching and ultimately, should enable students to take greater control of their learning. These spaces also feature technology that supports vertical and horizontal surfaces that can be used for projection, display and interactive learning.

Besides classroom learning, our new spaces are also designed to enhance the social, physical and creative culture within the school, all of which contribute to the development of character. So, we want to show you how students are using the Learning Commons, the second gym and the new arts spaces. Ultimately, we hope that students are engaged and enjoying life here at Greenwood.

Allan Hardy

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Leveraging Technology to Monitor Student Learning & Streamline Assessment

Hapara allowed teachers to reinforce
positive behaviour and promote
digital citizenship through encouraging
collaborationon shared documents.
In December, Grade 8 students immersed themselves in Toronto City Council business and municipal politics with proposals to improve City of Toronto drinking water treatment. We were able to leverage Hapara, an online education platform, throughout the project to help improve student learning and streamline teacher assessment.

Throughout the learning process we shared templates and resources with students in their Integrated Project Folders on Hapara. Students used these same folders to develop their ideas and create their proposals. All Grade 8 Teachers had access to the folders and we could monitor individual progress to prompt deeper learning and identify students who required additional support. This technology also allowed us to reinforce positive individual and group behaviour, and promote digital citizenship through the collaboration process with shared documents.

Once the Grade 8 students completed their final proposals to the City of Toronto and presented their ideas to City Council, the integrated project was complete. Each student’s proposal included curriculum expectations for mathematics, English, Canadian Social Studies and science. Teachers worked together to mark the final products. Hapara significantly streamlined the assessment process as teachers from different disciplines could efficiently access students’ products to mark the appropriate curriculum expectations.

In the integrated project, students created products that examined a social issue with improved breadth and depth by looking with different subject perspectives. The careful design and implementation allowed curriculum expectations from four disciplines to be effectively addressed. Using technology, we were able to help ensure each student was supported and challenged throughout the process, and student products could be efficiently evaluated.

Elysia Jellema
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Science Teacher

Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Learning Strategies Teacher

Want to read more about our Grade 8 Integrated Project? Read a student's perspective and a teacher's perspective.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Greenwood's Grade 7 Climate Change Revolution

Recently, Grade 7 students completed a unit of work focused on gaining a better understanding of the key issues related to climate change. 

Having watched the documentary Revolution by acclaimed Toronto filmmaker Rob Stewart, students were tasked with orchestrating a public awareness campaign focused on an environmental issue of their choice. The aim of this task was to raise the environmental consciousness of the students, as well as develop their ability to learn, interpret and synthesize geographical information and data.

Students were challenged to select one of the global issues presented in the film, choosing from:

  • Climate change
  • Deforestation
  • Overfishing
  • Ocean acidification
  • Saving human life
Once they had made their selection, students had to conduct further research on their topic and then generate a public awareness campaign using a minimum of three communication outlets.

This project was differentiated based on students’ interest. Students were then able to further personalize their project by choosing the manner in which they communicated their message. While all students had to demonstrate the ability to explain the concept of sustainability and defend their point of view, they were able to show this in a number of ways. Some students created visual advertisements and others redesigned the poster for Revolution to reflect a focus on their issue.

For a period of time surrounding the project, the Greenwood community was made aware of these issues while students lobbied for support through petitions and utilized their social media accounts to spread the word online. Students also contacted politicians across Ontario directly to share their concerns. They even received a response from the Office of the Prime Minister, thanking the students from Greenwood for their intelligent communication about their environmental concerns.

Ultimately, the Grade 7 students developed their ability to locate and record geographical information and present and defend a point of view. They not only improved their awareness of environmental sustainability, but also raised the consciousness of the Greenwood community in regards to these important issues.

As climate change looks likely to impact future generations more significantly than previous generations, this foray into social activism (with support from Mr. Harper himself, no less!) was a valuable exercise that will hopefully encourage the students to engage further, as active global citizens.

Samuel Clark
Teacher, Social Studies, Health & Physical Education

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bonjour Toronto! Exploring Francophone Culture in the City

Drama and French teacher Emily Hincks explains how an assignment exploring francophone culture in the Toronto helped push students out of their comfort zone while providing an authentic learning experience.

Earlier this year in Grade 11 French, we explored the many French-speaking countries and cultures around the world. In this unit, students were asked to find francophone culture in Toronto, participate in a francophone cultural activity in the city, and report back to the class in an oral presentation. As part of their outing, they interviewed a francophone person who was involved in the activity and took photos or a video of their experience.

Some of these excursions involved activities such as interviewing the head chef at a French restaurant, learning about pastry making at an authentic French bakery, and attending a francophone service at a Roman Catholic Church. Grade 11 student Sarah Langill visited the Alliance Française to attend a lecture by French mathematician Cédric Villanin, winner of the prestigious Fields Medal. According to Sarah, "I enjoyed participating in the francophone activity in Toronto. It made me work independently and encouraged my organizational skills. If you were with a group [or on your own], you had to make sure you were free to attend the francophone activity. Also, asking a person who speaks French fluently or is from a francophone country [for an interview] can be intimidating, so it was a good opportunity to venture outside my comfort zone."

This project was personalized for students as they had choice in which activity they wanted to explore. Their learning was inquiry-based and authentic, as they connected the course to the city in which they live in a meaningful way. It created challenges, as they had to rely on their French skills outside the classroom and use them in a real-life setting. The depth of conversation that each student had with their interviewee varied based on language level, and students felt compelled to challenge themselves to their full level.

When I first assigned this project, the students were a little overwhelmed, asking questions such as "Where can I find French culture in Toronto?" and "Is my French strong enough to participate in a cultural activity in this way?" In the end, the students were pleased with their findings and proud of their accomplishments. It was rewarding for all of us to see how and where francophone culture lives in Toronto.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Grade 12 Leadership Takes Students Out of Their Comfort Zone

Leadership at Greenwood is an opportunity for students to engage in activities and conversations with peers and staff that often require them to go outside their comfort zone as they strengthen old traditions and create new ones for the Greenwood community.

Leadership at Greenwood is a progressive model in which each grade of students is afforded more opportunities and responsibilities than the previous year. This culminates in the roles that some of Greenwood's Grade 12 students take on as executives for various committees such as Arts, Athletics, Diversity and Social Affairs. The Grade 12 students also act as leaders in the fall to younger students at Kilcoo Camp during the fall outdoor education program.

Starting their graduating year as counselors, large group activity coordinators, small group activity leaders and skill developers is the greatest leadership challenge our students face and, I would argue, the most important. At Kilcoo, the grads are responsible for welcoming new Grade 7, 8 and 9 students, mentoring and guiding them through their first week of school, and helping students navigate the social climate of high school as cabin counselors.

Beyond these general leadership roles, the grads are able to personalize their own Kilcoo experience with the additional specialized roles they select. A Grade 12 student can request to
  • A large group activity coordinator - Student in this role work in conjunction with teacher-advisers, House captains and members of the Student Council to plan three-hour integration blocks. In this role, students are challenged with the logistics of organizing up to a hundred students at a time, while liaising between different facets of the school community. This experience provides excellent preparation for those who will go on to create initiatives for the entire student body throughout the school year.
  • A small group activity leader - These Grade 12s work with groups of ten of fewer Grade 7, 8 and 9 students, as they move through traditional summer camp activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and more. The challenge for our grads here is to build a cohesive group that stays motivated, engaged and safe throughout an exciting but also tiring week.
  • A skill developer - Assuming a graduating student has been at Greenwood since at least Grade 9, they have a wealth of their own outdoor education experience to share with our younger students. Grads that choose to be skill developers will instruct activities such as kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and so on. The challenge with being in this role is much the same as being a substitute teacher. The skill developer does not have a developed relationship with the students who come to their activity. In this role, the grads learn how to manage and troubleshoot the dynamics of smaller groups and break down larger skills into a manageable and logical progression, while keeping engagement and safety at the forefront of their minds.

The relationships the grads make with the younger students set the tone for the school year and have an enormous impact on the school's culture. In my mind, leadership development and the opportunities Greenwood provides are the best examples of building and stretching each individual student's leadership potential and ultimately character.


Erin Porter
School Life Coordinator and Mathematics Teacher

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Challenging Civics Students through Authentic Learning

If it were up to students in Grade 10 Civics at Greenwood College School, Toronto residents would face harsher fines for neglecting to pick up after their dogs; all new building projects in the city would have a green roof feature; it would be mandatory to offer your seat on the TTC to the elderly and pregnant; and wearing a  bike helmet would no longer be optional for people over the age of 18.

These and other new by-laws were enacted in class during a mock city council debate, where students proposed and voted on a series of new regulations that they considered to be in the best interest of their constituents. The heated debates that occurred leading up to the votes could be heard ringing in the Greenwood hallways and are testament to the potential for enthusiasm and passion from a generation that is too often labelled as apathetic and disengaged.

The process was part of a larger project we have been working on in the Civics classroom for the past month and will continue to work on until the municipal election on October 27. Students have been learning about democracy as a system of governance and the functions of the municipal government. Given recent happenings in our city and the upcoming election, it has been an exciting time to explore the many facets of local government and how this impacts our lives. The Civics teachers have worked to offer a variety of challenging learning opportunities and projects that suit individual interests as a way to prepare for our school's participation in Student Vote, a province-wide initiative run by CIVIX that allows high school students to vote on who they think should be mayor of their town or city.

By personalizing learning through choice, our students have been working on one of four different roles related to the election:
  • Journalists have been covering the lead-up to the event from a number of angles and are finding ways to use social media to encourage a high voter turnout.
  • Politicians have been spending time critically comparing the platforms of the front-running candidates and are preparing to campaign on their behalves on the day of the vote.
  • Elections officers have been investigating issues related to voting such as citizenship requirements and electronic voting and will be running the election itself on October 23.
  • Social justice activists are coming to a more in-depth understanding of some of the major issues facing the city of Toronto and will be on hand on Election Day to provide information for their fellow students and perhaps offer suggestions as to which candidate would be most likely to advance their causes.
All four options not only require students to engage in the research process, using tools such as the recently released Toronto Vital Signs report, but also have the added challenge of engaging with the entire student body, lending a degree of authenticity to the task.

To supplement the students' choices, visits from two recent guest speakers have been a real highlight of the unit. Journalist Desmond Cole, who writes for Torontoist and Now Magazine spoke to students about his passion for local government and his role as project manager for the City Vote campaign, which is aiming to give permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections. And Luke Larocque, Ward 2 candidate, spoke with students about the campaigning process and the issues with our current voting system. Both speakers were quite engaging and have given students valuable insight into the political process.

The Civics class's collective goal is to encourage a high voter turnout on Student Vote day by sending the message of the importance of voting and engaging in local politics. We will look forward to receiving our school's election results from CIVIX and comparing them with the rest of the city's schools. Often, by factoring in the Student Vote tallies, the results of the official election would be very different. In that case, I would not be at all surprised to see a new by-law related to voting age proposed during the next council meeting in the Greenwood Civics class.

Michelle Johnson,
Teacher, Civics, Humanities and English

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Supporting Student Growth with Adviser Report Cards

As students learn and grow at Greenwood, their Adviser is always there as a consistent adult contact, advocate and guide. Adviser Coordinator Garth Nichols explains how Adviser Report Cards provide an exceptionally personalized experience for students.

At Greenwood, we strive to understand, educate and develop the character of the whole student. The new Adviser Program, implemented in 2012-2013, fosters a unique and supportive relationship between student and Adviser.

Some key features of this program are:
  • Students meet with Advisers at least twice a week.
  • Students keep an ePortfolio to reflect on their experiences and their personal growth.
  • There is ample coordination with and connection to students’ experiences in the community and school, and through outdoor education and community service.

As a result, Advisers can accurately report on a student’s individual character development and intellectual growth beyond their academic results. This is accomplished through the Adviser Report Card.

Each report is written with the express purpose of providing evidence of, and next steps for, student growth. The report itself is a 1500-character prose reflection written by the Adviser, rooted in their discussions with their advisee. It is a report about the whole child and how they are engaging in and growing from their unique Greenwood experience, whether it is through their diverse athletic, dramatic, academic or outdoor education involvement.

The new Adviser Program leverages the more frequent interaction between student and Adviser to help them personalize their overall education. The Adviser Report Card is an artifact of this. It also allows for parents to know where their child is on their journey, where their journey is taking them, and what the necessary steps will be to get there.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Blended Chemistry: Resources Make the Difference

How do you know you've got a good resource? Your students recommend it to their peers. Science teacher Liz Greflund discusses how Greenwood's chemistry resources bring the best of the new and the traditional to the science classroom.

Flash Video Still
Visual reinforcement, through materials like
this flash animation, promotes understanding
rather than memorization.
Blended learning in chemistry has evolved over the past few years at Greenwood. As a team, the chemistry teachers have been determining how to use course resources to best enhance student learning. Our aim is to increase student perseverance while providing a supported education in chemistry. 

The class time is run in a traditional manner:
  • The teacher runs a lesson and coordinates activities.
  • The Moodle page contains many resources that students can use to solidify their understanding.
  • We make an effort to build community in class, often beginning with a starter to get the students engaged and working efficiently. We then move on to a lesson which ends with students practicing the material.
This approach is quite straightforward, and is practiced in many chemistry classrooms across the country. The difference in the blended learning chemistry classes comes with the resources, including:
  • Completed class notes: These are posted for student reference, as well as a variety of activities, videos and interesting links.
  • Visual learning: The image included here comes from a flash animation developed for the Grade 11 Chemistry course. For some, it is the visual reinforcement that allows students to understand the problem as opposed to memorizing the process.
  • Online problems: Students complete a series of problems, and check each answer before moving to the next problem. Prompting is given if the answer is incorrect.

What do students think?

Students respond well to these resources. I often hear students say “you should watch the video - it was really useful." We constantly evaluate the effectiveness of the resources, and we think we have found a nice balance. The students enjoy the demos, lab and lessons that run during class and are able to access the material at home as they wish. We think this blend is the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Personalizing the Performance Environment

This week, music teacher Ben Wright shares his experience preparing Greenwood's senior music class for the ultimate in real-world music experience: performing in a pit band.

The Junior school musical is something to look forward to each fall term. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the event, as the school shifts its focus from the dreary darkening autumn months to bright lights, costumes and the sounds of musical theatre. For the senior music class, the chance to perform as the pit orchestra for these productions provides a perfect personalized learning opportunity.

SeniorBandPhotoThe senior music class learns upwards of 20 pieces to accompany the young singers, and also performs transition music to distract the audience during set changes. It’s a daunting task to proficiently perform so many pieces - one that requires each student to be working at their personal best.

To ensure success as an ensemble, students are assessed on their performance skills at the start of the term, and their results on these initial evaluations determine the difficulty of their first pieces. I repeat these short performance assessments multiple times throughout the term and adjust the level of difficulty to match the student’s progress. 

As the teacher, I write and arrange the music for the production. This means that as the term unfolds and I see students progress, I can push those who require enrichment by writing more difficult performance pieces, and accommodate students who aren’t progressing quite as quickly. By matching the pieces to work with the ensemble, we can ensure that an advanced tuba player is not playing whole notes for hours, and a beginning flutist is not faced with strings of notes beyond his abilities.

All of the music written for the students is used in the musical. The music is written and arranged specifically for each student, so the parts are challenging but achievable. The performance in front of hundreds of audience members provides a very accountable performance environment. This is just one of the ways that Greenwood's Arts Department makes the arts personal for every student.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Extending Personalized Learning into the Community

Today's post comes from Lisa West, Greenwood's Arts Coordinator.

Personalization at Greenwood extends beyond the walls of the classroom and into the community to create an experience that is unique to each student. Last year, I led a personalized and community-driven project for the students in my Grade 11 Drama class. We partnered with Youth Without Shelter and created a public service announcement that was used to promote their most significant fundraising event: Tokens 4 Change.

Students worked with Naomi Tessler from Branch Out Theatre Company to explore the issue of youth homelessness in Toronto. They participated in a series of brainstorming sessions and acting workshops where they researched statistics and heard written accounts from teens who accessed the services of Youth Without Shelter.

From their exploratory work, the students were joined by Paul Davis, Founder and Director of PACTFilm, who brought his 20-plus years of working in the film and TV industry into the classroom. Students learned how to storyboard their ideas and act for the screen as they were directed and filmed over an afternoon. Each identified their area of interest and focused their efforts on that particular aspect of the film process, creating a polished end product that was created from individualized parts. The finished product was shown provincially on Global television and Shaw Cable.

The students ended this exciting experience by participating in Tokens 4 Change and raising the most money of any of the teams in the city. Check out the PSA below.

Lisa West
Arts Coordinator