Showing posts with label Engagement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Engagement. Show all posts

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Doing and Understanding

The latter part of the old saying, I hear and I forget, I see and I know, I do and I understand, is an important component of progressive education, as there is a strong link between hands-on learning and deep learning. 

This principle was evident in a recent Grade 9 Geography class on the rock cycle. In this lesson, students completed activities to develop an understanding of:
  • the classification of rocks by type;
  • how rocks are formed.


To fully grasp the role of heat and pressure in rock formation, the students took bits of shaved wax crayons and forced them together using small presses. This action produce a form which the students identified as sedimentary rock. They then used foil and small heaters to discover how sedimentary rock transforms into metamorphic rock. 



Based on the exit cards collected by teachers, students were able to demonstrate a "solid" understanding of rock formation.



Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Thinking Critically About Confederation

As part of the Grade 8 History curriculum, students study the evolution of Canada's Confederation. Our students engaged in this topic by adopting the perspective of one of the colonies involved in the Confederation debate and used this perspective to think critically about the pros and cons of this important decision. 

Working with their teammates, students used a variety of historical sources and class activities to examine the key issues relevant to their colony. The Confederation conferences were simulated using a fishbowl discussion, as it created an authentic environment for students to communicate and understand the competing points of view. Each fishbowl discussion contained one participant from each colony, which resulted in lively debate. Students outside the fishbowl offered feedback to the discussion participants.


In a debrief, students indicated they like the format of the presentation as they were able to really demonstrate their understanding of the topic and many even said they wished they had more time to discuss and debate! 

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Power of Collaboration

Having students work in small groups not only helps them develop important team-building skills, but it also enables students to share and construct knowledge. Adding a novel, hands-on component to the task deepens engagement and makes learning fun.

Students studying Grade 11 Biology had the opportunity to work in this way during a class on genetics. The class was introduced to the concept of inheritance patterns by having them build fictional animals named "Reebops". 



Students learned how information is passed from one generation to another, and how genes code for physical traits. They also explored how meiosis creates variation between individuals, which is why parents, and offspring have similar traits, but are not identical. 

As you can see, our students were pleased with their creations!



Thursday, 19 October 2017

Make It Relevant!


One of the best ways to engage students in learning is through the exploration of relevant issues and ideas. Allowing students opportunities for sustained discussion guided by the use of personal goal setting also enhances student engagement.

The Grade 11 FSL class depicted in this entry are exploring global communities, like Canada, that have Francophone cultural roots. In this instance, students read an article on Rwanda and listened to a song performed by a Rwandan musician who now lives in Montreal.

Before initiating the discussion, students set three individual goals to ensure that the discussion remained focused and personalized. The group used the Harkness Table framework, which encouraged students to take greater ownership of their learning, a desired outcome of engagement. When debriefing the activity, students indicated they really liked the topic, as well as the format of the lesson.


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Canadian History Through Interest!

Streamed field trips were key in
supporting this interest-based approach
to studying World War Two.
Interest-based learning is a potent factor in enhancing students’ individual experience during their secondary and postsecondary school careers. The Grade 10 Canadian history course has been an excellent avenue for students to experience the way that they learn and engage with their history and Canadian identity this year.

Through the use of historical thinking skills, including historical significance, historical perspective, continuity and change, ethical dimensions and primary sources, there are limitless ways that students can approach history’s events, people and places. Most recently, while studying Canada’s role in World War Two, students were able to choose specific topics to help gear content towards students’ interests. To further individualize experiences, students in each of the streamed topics (Living History, Holocaust or Technology) were able to identify specific events to which they could connect in order to develop a broader understanding of the Second World War.

This method led to several important observations for teachers. Students showed higher levels of:
  1. Engagement, motivation and accountability;
  2. Understanding of the content; and
  3. Perseverance towards learning skills.
I would like to write briefly about the last point above. It was my experience that through students’ increased level of interest, teachers were able to challenge students to persevere and develop a number of academic skills.
  • Students persevered through a critical analysis of primary and secondary documents. They challenged themselves to research, find and analyze primary historical sources which gave very specific accounts of perspective within each of the events being studied, and to think critically about how these particular stories fit into the global picture of World War Two. 
  • Students in the technology stream were able to choose various pieces of technology and determine how each individual piece of technology impacted the war overall. They chose items like the enigma machine, Alan Turing’s computer, the Spitfire, the Lancaster bomber and the Sherman tank, among others. 

While studying individual topics, students challenged themselves to:
  • Practice research skills more rigorously;
  • Write reports more thoroughly;
  • Organize their ideas more effectively; and
  • Present their findings verbally with increased confidence. 

Teachers agreed that there were some exceptional pieces of work and the consensus is that interest-based learning created a richer environment for students to grow.


What did students think about the unit? See some of the feedback below.


“I found it easy to find primary documents.  I like using the historical concepts of thinking because I think it takes your ideas out of your head and makes you put them on paper.”


“I enjoyed being able to explore a path I was interested in and not just what the teacher was teaching. I enjoyed going on a personalized field trip to a place suited to our unit path. I liked how all the classes learned the same thing, although all in different paths."

“I think that I was definitely able to pursue some of my own interests. Through the project, I was able to research a relative. This gave me the chance to know more about my family history."

“I think that the historical concepts helped me focus on my research and thoughts because they gave me a sort of guideline that helped me find more research."

“I think that being able to choose which subject I was going to study made me much more interested. I chose that subject because it was something I wanted to learn more about.”

There were some very good observations made by teachers and some excellent experiences had by students. Moving forward, teachers will be collaborating on how to enrich this unit of study further.

Anthony Costa
History Teacher, Health & Physical Education Subject Team Leader

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Students Use pH Probes To Watch Chemistry Take Shape in Real Time

With LabQuest, students can see
their data displayed graphically, in
real time, as they collect it.
Use of Vernier technology has become widespread in the Science department this year. Almost every student in the school has now had an opportunity to experience the LabQuest 2, along with various probes and sensors, in their science classes.

Recently, the Grade 12 Chemistry class used the LabQuest with pH probes while conducting a titration to determine the Ksp (solubility product constant) of calcium hydroxide. Having performed several titrations in Grade 11, this procedure was fairly routine. Using this new technology, however, the experiment was really brought to life.



The Impact of Instant Feedback


With the LabQuest, students could now see their data displayed graphically, in real time, as they were collecting it. There was an immediate shift from students being passive observers to becoming more actively engaged in the experiment.

The visual feedback given by the Vernier equipment helped students develop a deeper understanding of the process of titration and made the experimental results more meaningful.

What did students think?


Many of the students reflected on the use of the LabQuest in their lab report assignment. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “Using LabQuest technology makes our experiments much more accurate and allows us to measure parameters that would be practically impossible to measure otherwise.”
  • “This technology is a great way to get accurate measurements and visually show us the titration curve forming.”
  • “The LabQuest can zoom so we could see the exact moment when (we) reached the equivalence point. After the equivalence point we could see the the shape of the curve has changed and that there was a huge drop in pH as it became more acidic. We were even able to take the derivative of the curve…”

Having become comfortable with the method and the technology, this past week Grade 12 Chemistry students used the pH probes to explore buffers. They each designed an experiment to compare the buffering capacity of various beverages (juices or soft drinks) and collected data and compared results using the LabQuest. This activity was a great example of how we can leverage this technology and allow students to personalize their lab experience.

Julie Way
Science Teacher

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Student Perspective

Group work was a major component
of the Integration Project.
Last week, teacher Kathryn Connelly shared her thoughts on our Grade 8 Integration Project. This week, Grade 8 student Graham Palmert provides his perspective on the same project.

During the week before the December holidays, the Grade 8 students were involved in an Integration project which drew from our four core subjects; math, English, science and social studies.

Each class contributed to a different aspect of the project. The beginning of the project was related to science and social studies. We had to pick substances or elements, such as fluoride or lead, and explain:

  • How the substance gets into our water system,
  • How it affects us, and
  • Ways to solve this issue. 

For English we wrote a final proposal, which outlined the research behind the issue we chose, how the issue affects humans, and potential solutions.

In relation to math, we completed a data analysis.

All of the subjects blended really well together and we required knowledge from all of them, such as:

  • Knowing the water system,
  • Taking data and turning them into graphs, and 
  • Knowing human settlement patterns. 

Each group chose their own topic to explore, such as how microbeads affect the water systems in Toronto. My group, which included Owen Bates and Jackson Cowie, learned about where lead comes from, how it affects us, and solutions to solve the problem of lead in our water system.

The two most astonishing facts that we learned were:

  1. Next year, the World Health Organization estimates that 143,000 people will die from lead poisoning.
  2. Lead pipes themselves elevate the risk of health issues for Toronto 35,000 households.

This project was a change from a regular classroom that provided different challenges. One challenge we faced was balancing working in a group, and dividing up how much each person had to do. The project itself was more challenging than the regular classroom work we are used to because we had to use knowledge from all four subjects instead of just one.  It was also different than a classroom because the whole week we worked in small groups, and I usually do not have class with some of my group members.

The final product had two different components:

  1. A proposal on what the problem was and how we can fix it. 
  2. A visual component. Our group decided to make a Google slides presentation on how lead affects us. Other groups used videos or poster boards. 

Upon completing the project, we showed our work to a Toronto city councilor, Jaye Robinson. Hopefully she will consider our ideas and make our water cleaner.

This was an interesting week for me as a student, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Take aways from the week were that Toronto’s water isn’t as clean as everyone thinks it is, and that working in a group requires a lot of patience.

Even though it was difficult, at the end, I think we all felt rewarded for the hard work that we had accomplished.

Graham Palmert
Grade 8 Student

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Teacher Perspective

This December, Greenwood piloted a unique project for Grade 8 students: an integration task involving math, science, social studies and English components. This problem-based learning activity requiring the students to look at a water issue in the city of Toronto and examine how this issue has either impacted human settlement OR is impacted by human settlement.

How did this project go? Teacher Kathryn Connelly shares her thoughts. Next week, we'll bring you a student perspective on the same project.

The Grade 8 Integration project took flight on the week of December 14-17, 2015, with great success!

The Project


Students` visual and verbal presentations
highlighted their proposed solutions for
the water issue they studied.
The students were introduced to the project by going on a field trip to the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant. They took a tour of the facility and learned about where our water comes from, how it is treated, and what Toronto’s challenges are in terms of water treatment.

Back at school, the students were placed into small groups and were presented with a problem statement: How does human settlement impact the physical environment and sustainability of water resources in Toronto? What are possible solutions to this problem?

The Process


In small working groups, the students chose from a variety of topics directly related to the science, social studies, math and English curricula. In teams, the students researched, summarized and identified the connection between the science behind water quality issues in Toronto and how human settlements have impacted these issues.

The students were engaged and energized through their investigation and new knowledge of the relevance of water issues in Toronto, and worked collaboratively to think critically about their research and data, while also thinking of potential solutions to their chosen issue. The ideas that the students came up with were innovative and inventive. Throughout the collaborative process, the students were extremely engaged and active problem solvers. They worked well within their groups, divided the work effectively, and worked together to find the most relevant research and data. As a teacher, it was most impressive to observe their minds at work!

The Presentation


As a group, the students created a visual component that reflected each of their written proposals, which were completed individually. The goal of the project was exhibited through the presentations, as the students visually and verbally presented upon the history behind their issue, their analysis of the present situation and predictions of future trends of their issue, as well as the possible solutions/recommendations.

On the last day of the project, Toronto City Councillor, Jaye Robinson, listened to each group passionately present their discoveries and solutions to Toronto’s water quality issues.

Overall, it was an extremely successful integration project which the Grade 8 students embraced with open arms. Through a problem-based approach to the project, the learning became wholly student-centered, which enabled the students to work to their full potential. This project enabled the Grade 8 students to embark on a different type of learning than they were used to, allowing for more flexible and innovative thinking. The students thrived, showing them that hard work and dedication to a relevant issue leads to a heightened sense of accomplishment.

The project also gave the team of integration teachers an opportunity to communicate and collaborate outside the classroom walls, which was enriching and energizing. The first integration project helped solidify the value of student-centered learning, which will continue to be a focal point in future Grade 7 & 8 integration projects.

Kathryn Connelly
English & Learning Strategies Teacher

Friday, 11 December 2015

Using Vernier to Accelerate Learning

Now that the school year is in full swing, science classes in all grades have had an opportunity to try out our new Vernier probes and LabQuest 2 devices in their science classes.

So far students have been able to investigate:
  • Carbon dioxide levels with reference to climate change
  • Accelerated motion
  • Temperature change in different substances

The Grade 11 physics classes used the Picket Fence (pictured at left) and photogates to measure acceleration due to gravity. Many of the students were really impressed by the simplicity and accuracy of the equipment.

Small groups worked together to collect several sets of data, which were then downloaded to each student’s computer for analysis. Once uploaded, the data will automatically save on each student’s computer, giving them the opportunity to work through the analysis at their own pace. 

The graphs that were generated were easy to understand and manipulate, giving more time for students to analyze and discuss their results. 

This lab activity allows for the students to investigate why and how objects accelerate towards the earth due to gravity, and gives many opportunities for related extension activities.

Emma Seaborn
Science Teacher


Friday, 9 October 2015

Integrated Projects: Learning Through Cross-Curricular Programming

Grade 7 and 8 students learn best through meaningful and rich experiences that connect to real life, incorporate multiple disciplines, give students choice and provide time for experimentation.  

In June, a diverse group of Grade 7 and 8 teachers met to brainstorm and develop integrated projects to improve how we address these students' needs. These week-long projects meet expectations for social studies,  English, science and math.  Each grade will have the opportunity to participate in two projects this year.  The first project will run during the school year and the second project will be implemented during the culminating period.  

The themes for the first projects are:

  • Grade 7 - Designing for Disaster:  In teams, students will design a device that will help a literary character survive a disaster.  They will need to use their scientific knowledge and understanding of how humans acquire, manage and use natural resources based on their environment to help them achieve their task.

  • Grade 8 - WAPT (Water Action Project Toronto):  In teams, students will create a proposal for Toronto City Council that focuses on improving water sustainability within the city. In creating the proposal, they will investigate the various ways people impact the physical environment and sustainability of water resources in Toronto, and use statistical data to support their ideas.

The integrated projects are developmentally appropriate, sensitive, and encourage critical thinking skills. These projects are piloting an integrated approach for the Grade 7 and 8 program that could be extended into the flexible spaces in the new building in the future.

The opportunity for teachers to meet as a team for extended periods of time during the Summer Institute allowed for efficient and innovative programming to be created. Grade 7 and 8 teachers are excited to continue planning and building an authentic cross-curricular program for our students!

Elysia Jellema and Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Teachers

Friday, 18 September 2015

Greenwood’s First Summer Institute for Teachers - Collaborating to Develop Personalized Education

The teachers at Greenwood strive to create a personalized program for students through the use of technology-rich resources (blended learning) and innovative programming. The development of forward-thinking approaches to education takes collaboration, time, and support for teachers. To achieve this goal, we recently launched our week-long Summer Institute.

Science teachers Julie Way, Nancy Clarke and Vanessa Floras
developed technology-rich lab activities for students during the
2015 Summer Institute.
Teachers were enthusiastic about this initiative: we received 18 proposals from 30 teachers, which accounts for half of our teaching staff. Nine of these proposals were selected and 19 teachers participated in the Institute, using devoted time to collaborate with colleagues and develop curriculum to support personalized and visionary education


Listed below are the projects teachers worked on:

  • Developing a curriculum that integrates Grade 12 English (ENG4U) and AP English (ENG4UO) using a team-teaching approach within one learning space.
  • Developing blended learning materials for Grade 11 Biology (SBI3U) to provide a student-centred learning approach.
  • Designing the WWII unit in Grade 10 History (CHC2D) to integrate blended learning, community service, and experiential learning opportunities.
  • Generation of teacher expertise with Vernier Lab Equipment. Expert teachers spent time developing technology-rich lab activities for students and training modules for teachers.
  • Redesign of the Grade 10 Core French (FSF2D) course to integrate project-based assessment and more personalized learning activities.
  • Development of blended learning materials for Grade 10 Careers (GLC2O) to allow for personalization of the curriculum.
  • Development of integrated, cross-curricular projects for students in Grade 7 & 8.
  • Visionary investigation and planning for an enhanced Grade 7 & 8 program. Teachers looked at the new classroom spaces that will be ready in September 2016 and how these can be used to provide Grade 7 & 8 students with age-appropriate and integrated learning opportunities.


Having a week to work together and to focus exclusively on curriculum development was greatly appreciated by all participants. The school is fortunate to have the resources to provide these teachers some additional compensation for their efforts. This work also provided teachers with an excellent, job-embedded professional learning opportunity.

This work will support the transition in the fall of 2016 to the new learning spaces in our expanded campus and advance our ongoing, personalized learning initiatives.

Throughout this school year, teachers who participated in our Summer Institute will use this blog to illustrate the impact of these new teaching approaches on student learning.

Allan Hardy
Principal

Heather Thomas
Vice-Principal, Student Learning

Monday, 15 June 2015

Personalizing Historical Thinking Skills

History teacher Alex Hurley explains how history students enhance their historical literacy and gain an increased facility in making connections to contemporary issues through informal conversational assessments.

This year in Grade 11 American History, students have been developing their knowledge and understanding of significant historical events by adopting a critical thinking framework that applies six historical thinking concepts:
  • Historical significance
  • Cause and consequence
  • Historical perspective
  • Continuity and change
  • The use of primary source evidence
  • The ethical dimensions of history

In order to practice and develop these historical literacy skills, we created a personalized sequences of learning that used a variety of teaching strategies and gave our students the opportunity to choose from a range of historical documents, events, figured, themes and final products based on their personal interest and individual learning style.

During a recent study of the African American Experience (1865-1965), students analyzed key events, figures and themes, ranging from the failed promises of Reconstruction to the struggle and hope characterized by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its use of non-violent strategies, such as boycotts, marches and legal challenges to bring an end to systemic racism in the United States.

Students deepened their understanding of these events by focusing on the historical thinking concepts of applying the use of primary source evidence and analyzing multiple historical perspectives. They were given the opportunity to focus on these concepts in their Civil Rights Protest Song Assignment. This was a conversational assessment of learning that asked the students to prepare for and participate in a conversation about a civil rights protest song from the 1950s and 1960s. The students were given the opportunity to choose a protest song from a variety of musical genres (jazz, blues, folk, rock 'n roll) that was of personal interest to them. Some of the songs included Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Bob Dylan's "A Pawn in their Game," Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Happen," Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn," Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" or Neil Young's "Southern Man."

There was also an extension opportunity for this assignment that allowed students to choose a protect song to analyze about the Vietnam War. Some of the songs included CCR's "Fortunate Son," Crosy, Stills, Nash and Young's "Ohio," Country Joe & The Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" and John Lee Hooker's "I Don't Wanna Go to Vietnam."

In order to prepare for this conversational assessment, the students were asked to annotate the lyrics of their chosen song by highlighting key events, figures, ideas and themes that they studied during our unit. They were also given a list of guiding questions to answer that allowed them to think critically about the larger themes of the course and communicate how the lyrics of the song could relate to any current struggle for rights that exists today - something that the majority of students successfully accomplished through their astute observations on parallels between Civil Rights issues and current events in Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement. Each conversation (which was about 5-7 minutes) was led by the teacher during which time we listened to the song in the classroom and the student answered the chosen guiding questions.

This assignment was a great example of how letting our students choose a topic based on personal interest and allowing them to demonstrate their critical thinking skills through an informal conversation with their teacher leads to an increased facility in making connections between issues that existed in the past and continue to persist today.


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, 28 May 2015

Students Showcase Findings at Annual Climate Change Fair

Each year, Grade 10 Science students have the opportunity to explore a topic of particular interest to them that relates to climate change. Their task is to design their own research project and apply what they have learned to a new situation. With this open-ended project template, we are able to personalize learning and help students discover areas of scientific interest, while guiding their exploration of such topics.

The opportunities for discovery are limitless. One student chose to extensively study the effects of global warming on the country of Tanzania, which has been severely affected by extreme droughts and floods. The student had the opportunity to then travel to Tanzania, where she could witness these issues firsthand and speak with the people who are being affected. Through photography, she documented dried-up river beds, as well as animals and locals suffering from food and water scarcity.

The significance of these experiences was evident. In her own words, "In Tanzania, I was able to apply my knowledge and get an incredible chance to learn how [climate change] is affecting these people...From this experience, I will rethink many of the things that I do at home that contribute to global warming because I can appreciate who is facing the consequences."

Depending on individual strengths and interests, some students were encouraged to design, conduct and analyze experiments to support a particular hypothesis related to climate change. Through controlled experimentation, one student analyzed the effects of deforestation on atmospheric temperatures. She found that environments exposed to high levels of greenhouse gases remained cooler in the presence of vegetation, thus illustrating the role that plants play in regulating climate change. Another student investigated the effects of carbon dioxide on rising sea levels. She designed a laboratory procedure to effectively demonstrate that atmospheres rich in carbon dioxide are able to rapidly melt ice, thereby contributing to rising sea levels.

In the end, students were able to explore topics of interest while developing scientific reasoning and research skills. The project concluded in a Climate Change Fair, during which the Grade 10 students showcased their topics and findings.

Caroline Ferguson
Teacher, Mathematics and Science

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Connecting Visual Arts to World Issues

The concept of personalized learning is likely most applicable to the visual arts when students are taught to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, and to make and justify critical judgments. Art teacher Colleen Petch shares how, in the senior visual arts program at Greenwood, students are provided with a tremendous amount of choice and are consistently challenged to problem-solve, persevere, be resilient and to find a personal connection to their work.

Recently, in Grade 11 Visual Arts class, students inquired about the correct technical approach to paint an acrylic portrait. My response was, "Well, that depends...on your comfort level with acrylic paint, your level of experience, how you want the viewer to feel about this person, what style of painting you appreciate, if you want to work on blocking the form or defining specific details first, how many tones of one colour you want to use, what your intended final product might look like, etc." Each student requires a different personalized discussion with the teacher and spends time developing an individual plan to approach creative assignments. One-on-one meetings and discussions are common during each period.

Grade 12 Visual Arts students recently completed their first independent large-scale work for their final exhibition, based on their year's personal theme. They were required to
  • create a large-scale work of art based on a current social, environmental, global or political issue of their choice;
  • take a stance on this personal interest and then express this stance visually; and
  • connect this issue to their personal theme.
The students were challenged to find an interesting way to connect the issue and their personal theme visually, which then became the subject matter for a creation in a medium of their choice.

The process involved individual and group process work, such as:
  • An evaluation of each student's technical strengths, weaknesses and goals
  • Class critiques in which students expressed issues of interest, as well as their personal and thematic connection to the issue
  • An exploration of materials, subject matter, techniques and approaches.
The final works are thought-provoking and technically impressive. Each represents aspects of the students' identities and creativity, local and global and concerns, and a superb commitment to their artistic studies. As the students reflected:

"I am proud of the message I represented and how I have portrayed it. My main goal was not just to represent the issue, but to [also] evoke guilt and responsibility for the issue, which I feel I have accomplished."

"The one main thing that I have learned is that, once I go deeper into [the] thought [process] of making a more creative piece, I can make it look amazing. I have also learned that I can paint and do very well with issues and pictures that I am passionate about."

"I scrapped a piece the day before the final critique and started a new one. This new image captivated my thoughts and with the help of espresso coffee, I painted throughout the night to meet the deadline. Switching my idea was worth it in the end."







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, 9 April 2015

Coastal British Columbia Serves as a Classroom for Regional Geography Students

The Grade 11 Regional Geography course is the first of its kind at Greenwood. Fully integrated with the fall outdoor education program, students enrolled in the course complete the first third of their credit while participating in a sea kayaking adventure off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Using kayaks as their vehicles for learning, students explore the historical, cultural, economic and physical geographies of the Kyuquot Sound.What better way to learn about the composition and importance of the estuary environments than by paddling up Clanninick Creek? How better to study the lasting impacts of Canada's residential school system than by visiting the local school to learn about current programs supporting language reclamation?

The trip itself provides students with hands-on learning experiences that are enhanced by the passion and local knowledge of the guides at West Coast Expeditions and through interactions with members of the local community. Working from a base camp on Spring Island, students have opportunities to learn about and explore old growth forests, intertidal and estuary environments, past and present First Nations communities and much more. They also research topics of interest using the field library at base camp and teach each other about their findings. Time for reflection is provided at the end of each day. Students use this time to respond to prompts in their field guides, to make notes and to produce sketches of the local environment.

Upon returning from Spring Island, students write a test that covers pertinent topics from their field study. They also complete a reflection-based culminating activity that asks them to select and expand on the most important lessons learned on trip (this component is 10 percent of the credit). From there, they switch gears to focus on the final 60 percent of the course, which enables them to expand on their learning from British Columbia. This portion of the course is delivered primarily online and is supported by two thirty-minute meetings each week.

By completing a series of self-paced modules, students delve deeper into the four strands introduced on the trip: historical, cultural, economic and physical. Assessment of students' learning takes place in the form of module tests and internet-based assignments. Two to three assignment options are available for each unit, and students select and complete the option that best meets their needs in terms of both content and skill development. As the modules can be completed in any order, weekly meeting times are often spent sharing ideas and points of interest from the different topics of study.

The format of the course allows students to self-pace and self-direct through the material. One of the many benefits of this program is that students complete all of their regular assessments (and half of their culminating activity work) prior to the winter holidays. During the month of January, they work toward the completion of a major research project. In this culminating assignment, the students seek to answer a guiding research question of their own creation and present their findings in a manner suited to their research. Project topics and presentation methods are negotiated through a proposal process with the teacher in a manner that reflects geography courses at the postsecondary level. These projects are due in early February, which marks the official end of the course.

The regional geography program provides students with a truly experiential learning opportunity in British Columbia, as well as a condensed timeline for course completion that supports self-pacing and interest-based differentiation. The condensed format also supports student learning by providing participants with a spare in their schedule to use for homework completion and group meetings. Once the course ends, that extra time can be used to balance workloads in other courses.

With the first year of the program successfully completed, plans are already in motion to expand and refine the process for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Katharine Rogers
Teacher, Geography and English

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Design Projects Add Creativity and Individuality in Physics Class

Each year in Grade 11 Physics, students build a multitude of contraptions, machines and gadgets to allow them to manipulate a real-world application of the theories they are learning. Physics teacher Emma Seaborn explains how these projects add creativity and individuality to the class.

Design projects are intended to let the students show their creativity in science and are also a great way to analyze the kinematics, forces or other physical components of machines. At the end of every unit, the class tests out their designs as a group, analyzes the findings, compares results and decides how we might build a better machine, slingshot or instrument.

The design project for the winter term was a whole-class Rube Goldberg machine. (Not sure what a Rube Goldberg machine is? Here's a great example.) Personalization is embedded within the project, as every student is responsible for one section of the machine. They can choose to make something simple, like a pattern of dominoes, or extend themselves to make something a bit trickier, like a pulley system.

Students must work collaboratively with the entire group to determine the order in which the components will run, and how to piece the machine together. This is an excellent opportunity for leadership within the classroom and students have plenty of space for creativity and individuality within each section.

When the whole machine comes together, students are very excited to see it in action, and with any luck, the whole thing runs from start to finish as planned. As a class, we then analyze the energy transfer in the machine and have a discussion about how to improve the design.

Students are already looking forward to building their very own instrument for our next design project!

Check out this video of one of last year's machines.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Vernier Technology Takes Science Learning to a Whole New Level

Science teacher Julie Way explains how the implementation of the Vernier LabQuest 2 technology is providing Greenwood science students with unique opportunities to extend and enrich their learning.

Using probeware to measure temperatures inside three different
toy cars to compare the heat released from different road surfaces.
New to the Science Department this year, this interface is a stand-alone tablet that connects to various probes and sensors used to collect and analyze data. A wireless connection allows students to share their data so that it can be further analyzed on their own personal computers. The use of probeware enables students to deepen their understanding of abstract concepts and allows them to design and carry out experiments in ways not previously possible.

The LabQuest 2 has already been used at various grade levels for a wide range of experiments.

Grade 9 Physical and Chemical Properties: Temperature Probes

Earlier this year, while investigating physical and chemical properties, Grade 9 students used temperature probes to explore what happens when water boils and freezes. The heating and cooling curves visible on the display helped students understand that temperature remains constant during a phase change.

Our initial exploration of boiling and freezing points led to an extension activity for several students who in turn designed an experiment to explore the effect of salt concentration on the boiling point of water. Having sensitive temperature probes and the ability to save and export data allowed the students to fully experience the scientific method at work. The students compared initial trials and continued to modify the experimental design until a suitable plan was established. Even more valuable than coming up with a final conclusion was the process of reviewing the results and critically analyzing their experimental design.

Grade 10 Climate Change Project: Temperature Probe

As part of the climate change project in Grade 10 Science, one student chose to use the temperature probes and the LabQuest 2 to compare the amount of heat released from three different road surfaces.

Comparing the heat absorbed by different road surfaces
(asphalt vs. cement)
Her experiment was left running for the entire winter holiday, set to record the temperature every minute over this period of time; thus, she was able to collect a huge amount of data. A significant variation in the temperatures from the different surfaces was noted. This type of experiment would not be possible without this new technology.


Grade 12 Physics: Magnetic Field Sensors

The Grade 12 Physics class recently studied gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. Using the Magnetic Field Sensors, the LabQuest 2 and a Slinky, students were able to investigate how the magnetic field varies inside and outside a coil of wire when an electric current passes through it. This investigation also led to an interesting discussion of how the Earth's magnetic field might affect the data being collected.

Electromagnetism and magnetic field strength are abstract concepts that can be difficult to grasp, but the ability to accurately measure this invisible field and display it on a graph significantly helps students deepen their understanding.

As the Greenwood Science Department continues to explore the diverse range of Vernier applications, it becomes clear that the benefits to student learning and engagement are vast.

For more information on the LabQuest 2 and the Vernier Connected Science System, click here.