Archive for May 29, 2011

Student Exchange

A fortunate group of 27 Greystone students, from grades 7-9, were granted the privilege to participate in an exchange with students from Farnham, Québec.  The exchange began with twin students from Québec flying to Alberta at the end of March for a week stay.  One of the main highlights of their visit, without a doubt, was the trip to the Rocky Mountains for an overnight stay in Banff.  For many of our guests this was the first time they had ever seen a mountain.  It was truly a rewarding feeling being able to show these young people from Québec something we often take for granted.  The energy and excitement, as we neared the mountain range, was definitely noticeable with every finger pointing out the window and the multitude of pictures being taken to preserve that moment in time.

The second part of the exchange involved 27 students and 3 teachers flying across the country at the end of April to Montréal, Québec.  There were many firsts on this journey for many of our students.  The first time on a plane, the first time away from home, and even the first time travelling to a destination outside of Alberta.  The nervousness of being on a plane and leaving home was soon taken over by feelings of excitement and anticipation as we neared our final destination.  As we stepped off the bus in Farnham (45 mins south east of Montréal), students were greeted with hugs from their twins.  There was no sense of awkwardness as the students from Québec and Alberta had already established a bond.

During our stay in Québec, students had the opportunity to be immersed in a culture much different than what they were accustom to in Alberta.  The language was the most noticeable difference, but, it was not the only difference.  There was a rich unique culture which students from Greystone only read about before the trip.  Being immersed in the French culture brought to the surface many questions, as students made links to previous learning.  This was one of the main highlights for the teachers on the trip as they saw the learning come to life.

The one week trip to Farnham was a very busy week as our guests planned many activities and trips for us.  An overnight trip to Québec City, an authentic French meal at a sugar shack, and a trip into Montréal were just some of the main highlights.  The following video will take viewers through a more detailed look at some of the wonderful experiences our students had!

Kulbir Dhaliwal

NAIT Career Fair 2011

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All that NAIT has to offer!

On Monday, May 9 students and staff from our three middle schools in Spruce Grove ~ Ecole Broxton Park, Woodhaven and Greystone Centennial Middle School had the opportunity to interact with several departments from NAIT in our school gymnasium.

Business Degree and Diploma programs 

Biological Sciences Technology (Environmental, Lab & Research and Natural Resources)

 Engineering Design and Drafting Technology

Respiratory Therapy

Emergency Medical Technology – Paramedic

Medical Laboratory Technology / Medical Laboratory Assistant

Graphic Communications

Culinary Arts

Machinist

Automotives

 Insulator

NAIT Program Information (Student Recruitment)

We are thankful for the community partnership we have developed with Don Stewart ~ School Coordinator for Student Life at NAIT as he has been instrumental in setting up and providing this day for our students for three years in a row. As you can see from the video students enjoyed participating in a variety of hands on activities, asking many questions and taking into consideration all that NAIT has to offer as they near the transition to high school and life beyond.

Tracy Lachman

 

No One Goes it Alone

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Collaborative teaching, learning and leading ~ it’s what we believe in at Greystone Centennial Middle School.  This belief is built upon an understanding that together, we can accomplish bigger and better things than any of us can achieve on our own. 

We began this school year with our Annual Staff Retreat, spending time revisiting a set of beliefs about what it  means to be collaborative.  Using bits of wisdom from Stephen R. Covey and an article I picked up at a Leading for Learning Workshop, we reviewed the school culture characteristics of a learning organization dedicated to exemplary teaching and excellence in learning.  Key attributes  included the following:

 

  • High trust – team before self
  • De-privatization and de-personalization of instructional practice – transparency
  • Committed to learning individually, collectively and continuously
  • Learning with and from each other in context – on the job
  • Instructional leadership is distributed
  • Reflective practice in learning communities is common
  • Exemplary teaching is the norm

 At Greystone, we value the importance of building capacity and sharing leadership among all of our staff (and students, too!)  The goal…to become a learning community where there is no one individual leader who has all of the right answers – but rather, an empowered team of collaborative, interdependent individuals who have the confidence and trust in self and others to seek creative solutions to challenges and understand that the collective wisdom will provide the guidance and answers we need to continue to make a difference for our students.

Evidence that collaborative, empowered, shared leadership is alive and well at Greystone? 

1.  Teachers taking on roles of leadership in these areas :

– Participation in School Division initiatives for innovations in assessment/reporting

– Piloting technology projects including student blogging and the use of personal devices for learning

– AISI Critical Thinking Project ~ Galileo Inquiry

– Development of extensive school-wide supports for students experiencing personal, emotional and behavioral challenges

– Planning Professional Development Days

– Organizing educational trips (ie. SEVEC Exchange) and out of school experiences for students

– Sharing best practices and learning experiences with each other

2.  Different teachers within the school taking on the role of Acting Principal when our Administration Team is out of the building with the school community pulling together and carrying on without missing a beat ~ in fact, some days I don’t think they even notice when one of us is gone! Staff don’t look to the leaders of the school for all the answers, wisdom and direction – they are able to find answers from within themselves and from each other. 

3.  Teachers learning in community through ongoing, reflective time spent both with their teaching teams and with “critical friends” on staff.

4.  Honesty and openness during our Faculty Meetings, Professional Development Day discussions, Design Team Meetings and Team Meetings where colleagues are encouraged to share perspectives, challenge existing “norms” and debate vigorously in search of the best answers.

We have come a long way in our growth as a collaborative learning community and while we know we will never “arrive” at having everything figured out, there is a calm confidence that permeates our school, a growing trust in the power of otherness…

 ~Together We Are Better~

 Carolyn Cameron

 

What Really Matters

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I have been away in the land of learning, dialogue and planning for what the future of education should look like in our province.  This is an extremely uncertain time for us as educators.  The students and families we serve are coming to represent a more diverse and complex range of needs.  We are finding ourselves faced with the challenging task of continuing to find ways to personalize the learning for our students.  As a classroom teacher, I always found this a most difficult yet crucially important responsibility  – how to find a way to reach each and every one of the special and unique learners I had in my classroom?  Now, it has become even more complicated for our teachers as we must address additional factors including a new understanding of the dynamic nature of what it means to know and understand in a way that prepares our learners to become successful in a world of continuous change and uncertainty.   As a result, we are often left questioning ourselves as teachers.  Are we making a difference?  Are we helping our students to feel that each of them is a success story just waiting to be written?

Currently, our government is making some great steps forward in the area of inclusive education, curriculum re-design and the integration of technology to transform learning so that we, as teachers, can be supported in the challenging work that we face.  The dialogue has begun and the groundwork is being laid so that we can make improvements to our school system.  I had the opportunity to be a part of the dialogue this week as I attended roundtable research discussions around Action on Curriculum.  The process that was facilitated by Alberta Education was excellent.  Gathered together, in an extensive two-day “think tank”, were educators from around the province who had experience, expertise and a willingness to do what’s best for our students in order to move them forward through an educational system that prepares them to be successful, lifelong learners of the 21st century.

We heard from a variety of experts in the field of Education, who helped us to understand the bigger picture of what constitutes real learning.  We uncovered, together, a shared understanding of different ways of knowing .  The big message that resonated for me was that real knowledge and understanding cannot necessarily be imposed – rather, it comes from within a very deep, rich, contextual history of experiences, stories and values, unique to each student, each family, each culture and each community.  This way of knowing should be respected, as something that is worthy of carrying forward among our learners and has a place in the curriculum that we develop for our learners.

Conversation also centered around personalized learning and what that meant to each of us – how do we recognize and value the individual in the context of the prescribed program of studies.  We discussed the breadth and depth of learning – and came to an awareness of the constant struggle to determine when it is most important to come to know a little about many things or when we should go deeper into a particular discipline so that we come to understand the complexities, connections and applications about a topic of inquiry that we can personally and passionately connect to.  So many excellent conversations about what is most important for our students to learn.  What is it that constitutes real, memorable, relevant learning?

 

The learning continued as I left the roundtable discussions in Calgary and headed to Banff to join the Senior Executive and Principals from Parkland School Division for the College of Alberta School Superintendents Conference.  More dialogue and discussion followed as we worked collaboratively to plan the way forward in Parkland School Division.  We heard presentations from Ben Levin and Michael Fullan, who have led school and system improvement projects in Ontario.  There were many reminders from this session that assisted our team in re-focusing on the most important factor leading to school and system improvement:  excellent school leadership and excellent teaching.  As long as we stay focused on this goal, we will be able to meet the needs of our students and provide them with the strong foundation they need to become confident, curious and capable learners in the 21st century.  When we look at what really matters for our students…we can sum it up very simply:

Excellence in Teaching = Excellence in Student Learning

This message was created by one of our students last week during our Spring Fling – so great to see that our kids understand what really matters !

Carolyn Cameron

  

African Proverb ~ It Takes a Village to Raise a Child “Ora na azu nwa”

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Recently we have been meeting with many new families who will be joining our school community next year and as we tour the school and share highlights it always reminds me of how immensely proud I am of our staff.  It is certainly true that at Greystone “it takes a village to raise child”. One of our most important relationships is with our parent / guardian community as we know that working closely as a team is in the best interest of our students as they develop and grow into healthy citizens of the world.   Our staff recognizes and embraces the importance of not only developing the academic learner ~ the intellectually  engaged mind ~ but also how important it is to create an environment in which a healthy mind, body and soul are enriched through a variety of meaningful extracurricular activities, peer mentorship groups and school wide activities. Many times I am asked if we have a formal counselor at our school, and although we do not, I feel very confident in saying what we do have are numerous supports for our students. These supports include, above all else, an incredibly dedicated staff who are always there for our students. Our team understands the importance of focusing on being an adult mentor, role model and advocate for our students.  Our staff ensures our students receive the immediate supports that they and their families need at any given time. In addition, we have found it beneficial to have three administrators at Greystone to increase our supports and resources for students, families and staff.  This week our two Assistant Principals, Kulbir Dhaliwal and Tracy Lachman, will be participating in a Counseling In-service to further develop their skills in working and supporting our diverse group of students.

Opportunities for our students at Greystone include:

Challenge Day ~ “Be the Change you want to see in the World” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

For the past three years, students in LC 8 have had the opportunity to participate in Challenge Day. This is a transformational day of fun, leadership, and empowerment that can change the way people view each other forever.  Students, staff and community volunteers participate in a variety of team and trust building activities and discussions focusing around goal setting, self esteem, bullying, conflict management, peer pressure, and other issues that our adolescent community faces in today’s world. Everyone is given a unique opportunity to see themselves and the people around them through a new set of eyes.

NAIT Career Fair ~ Greystone is looking forward to hosting our first annual Tri School NAIT Career Fair during the afternoon of Monday, May 9 in our school gymnasium. Several departments from NAIT will be setting up hands on displays and providing information to our grade nine students from Greystone Centennial Middle School, Ecole Broxton Park, and Woodhaven Middle School. For the past two years, Greystone has worked with NAIT and we are excited to share this opportunity with our friends at our other two middle schools in Spruce Grove. Students and staff can plan on seeing leaders from Chemical Technology, Auto body, Millwork and Carpentry, Nanotechnological Systems, Petroleum, Chemical, and Geological Engineer Programs and many more. This will be a great experience for our grade nine students as they are preparing for high school transition and thinking ahead to their future.

 

Girls and Boys Groups ~ Greystone in partnership with FCSS ~ Family and Community Support Services has been able to offer Girls and Boys Groups to over 60 students in the past two years.  These groups focus on building positive relationships, self esteem, and will address other topics that young adolescent students face today through a variety of activities and conversations.  We have seen great benefits in having a small group of students closely connected to an adult role model where they can hang out and have some fun in a structured and supportive setting.

 

Heroes ~ Students in LC 7 have taken part in the Heroes Program for the last four years. The City of Spruce Grove, FCSS ~ Family and Community Support Services, and the Impact Society offer the HEROES program to all of the middle schools in Spruce Grove and surrounding area.  Facilitators join our classes and their teachers once a week for a twelve week program focusing on self esteem, choices, character building and relationships. The program celebrates and builds upon the unique gifts and strengths of each individual to inspire themselves and others. This program is an excellent link to our health curriculum, our division and school priority on Citizenship and Social Responsibility, in addition to many integrated curriculum opportunities.

After the Bell ~ We have had the awesome experience of working closely with the City of Spruce Grove and FCSS to provide an after school drop-in program for our students on Mondays and Thursdays. Youth look forward to exciting activities, an opportunity to connect with other students in the community and receive additional homework support and mentoring. 

Rainbows ~ is a peer support program for children who have experienced a significant loss to their family or lives. The loss may be due to separation or divorce of parents, the death of someone close to them or some other painful loss to the family. Greystone has offered this program over the past 4 years to over 50 students.

D.A.R.E.  ~ For the past 6 years students in LC 6 have participated in the D.A.R.E Program facilitated by an RCMP liaison officer from the Spruce Grove detachment. This program focuses on drug abuse resistance education; our students are provided with information and awareness of substance abuse.  

In past years we have also had many guest speakers and presentations on cyber bullying, internet awareness, power positive thinking, life choices and tolerance. Just this year we had Holocaust Survivor, Eva Olsson,  speak to our students and share her inspirational story about courage, tolerance and compassion for all humanity. It was the most powerful, moving and impactful presentation that I have seen. For two years we have also connected with the DST – Tri Municipal Drug Strategy Team – to have our students involved in the Youth Mentorship Program.  In addition, our students have attended presentations shared by the guest speakers that the DST brings into the community. Since we opened the doors of Greystone six years ago, we have continued to build community relationships with AADAC, Children’s Mental Health, Roots and Wings, FCSS and others agencies to ensure we have the necessary resources at our fingertips to support our students and families.

Responding to an ever changing society, we take great pride in accessing the resources from within our school and our community to wrap around with services and support for our students and families.  We recognize that to successfully prepare our youth for the future, it takes a village working together.

For more information on any of these programs please contact our school office @ 780-962-0357.

Tracy Lachman

 

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