Archive for December 21, 2012

Christmas Came Early for Me

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning today as I entered the gym on the final day of my school’s first ever Innovation Week. Rows of tables had been set up, by students, to display the results of their week long exploration into self-directed, creative innovation. What I saw absolutely BLEW ME AWAY!

I had been in and out of learning spaces all week long, checking in with students to see how they were doing with their projects; however, I had no idea what the final results of the efforts of 260 students would be. In fact, I had convinced myself that the end product wasn’t what mattered, it was the process that was the most important part of this week. I said that, in large part, because I had absolutely no idea how this would all turn out.

Well, not only has the process proven to be successful in that students demonstrated perseverence, problem-solving skills, independence and interdependence – but the final products they displayed today showed that they have the ability to be CREATIVE!!! They came up with original videos, comics, music, games, new inventions that I had no idea they could produce. We are onto something truly remarkable here – and I can’t wait to take the lessons learned from this extraordinary week of learning back to our classrooms. How can we inject a little “Innovation Week” into every week of learning in our school?

Thank you Greystone Innovation Week Students for my early Christmas gift – you are an inspiration!

 

 

Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

 

Tomorrow is Day #3 of our school’s first Innovation Week and I really wish I could be there to see the day unfold. I will be away at our monthly Leadership Meeting with the rest of our School Division’s Administrators but I don’t want to miss a thing that happens back at the school during what is proving to be a most interesting, unpredictable and inspiring time at Greystone. There are so many stories that need to be told about the things that are happening in and around the school these past two days – from new baking creations to sculpting, dressmaking, songwriting, music-making, novel writing, cartooning, rebuilding engines and even designing a hovercraft – to name just a few of the projects our students are exploring. I wish I was recording every incredible moment that I happen across as I spend time in and out of each learning space that has been set up to accommodate more than 250 students who are engaging in learning projects of their choice this week.

For me, the real highlight, so far, has been watching the process of putting together this amazing experience for our students and then seeing our students come to life with enthusiasm and dedication. The other part that gets me fired up is the unpredictablity of the whole thing – from day to day, we really have no idea how things will work out, if they will work out and what the day will look like. It’s energizing, really – coming to work for the past two days and just being completely open and present for whatever the day brings. I don’t want to share too much in this post about all the learning that is happening (for both adults and students!)or about the projects that are coming together as I know the students will be doing a lot of sharing in a few days when we celebrate their efforts from the week. However, for me, it’s all about the process and so far, the process has been about kids passionately pursuing their interests while learning how to create, invent, design, explore and persevere. I hope Day #3 goes well tomorrow, Greystone – I really don’t want to miss a thing!

Excitement in the Air

 

Typically at this time of year we should expect our students to be getting tired, counting down the days until the well-deserved holiday that is just around the corner – but this year is different. There is an intriguing sense of excitement in the air…

This year we are winding down (or should I say winding up) into our final week before the Christmas Break. Instead of the typical fun activities that are a part of the last week before holidays – which often include making gingerbread houses, Christmas carol singing, crafts, classroom parties, Christmas tree decorating – our students are excited about our first ever Innovation Week. This will be a week long exploration into areas of choice and interest for our students. Our School Support Coordinator, Jesse McLean, introduced this engaging learning opportunity to our students several weeks ago and since that time, our students have been buzzing with enthusiasm for what they might take on as an innovative project, with the goal of having them tap into their creative side, during our last week before the Christmas holidays.

Jesse was inspired to give students the opportunity to choose learning that was interesting and meaningful to them as he read about an Innovation Project taken on by Matt Bebbington from Cheshire, England. Students at Greystone were invited to complete a proposal to participate in Innovation Week. In order to participate in this week long school-wide initiative, students needed to complete an application stating what their creative endeavour would be.  At last count, over 250 applications were approved for participation in Innovation Week.

While we do not yet have all the details figured out – one thing we know for sure…the student excitement for learning is contagious and no matter what bumps in the road we may come across along the way – the ultimate goal of having students engaged in learning is certainly going to be achieved. We have seen evidence of this throughout the application process as we met with all of our enthusiastic Innovation Week participants. There’s no doubt we will learn a lot from our very first “test-drive” of this experience. What we know for sure – we have the right people – those who are willing to take risks for the sake of doing what’s right in helping our students explore and discover what engaging, meaningful learning can look like when we are truly motivated to learn about something that is our choice. Also, we have the flexibility to do whatever we need to do to make this happen for our kids AND we have the trust of our parent community who know that we are working hard on behalf of the kids. They trust that we want to get it right for our learners.

We are looking forward to seeing the excitement continue next week as we launch our very first Greystone Innovation Week!

Blown Away!

I often find myself getting frustrated with the timing of what I feel are extremely important learning days in a school – our Professional Development (Learning) Days where our lead learners (teachers) come together to reflect, discuss, collaborate, share best practices and learn together in order to create engaging learning for our students at Greystone. These very important learning days are usually scheduled on a Friday – not always the most productive day of the week. Our most recent PD Day fell at the end of a week when we were pretty exhausted from endless hours spent on getting Report Cards and Individualized Program Plans completed, reviewed with students and sent home. I went into the PD Day last Friday thinking it was going to be incredibly tough, due to bad timing, to get our teachers to do some very thoughtful reflecting and sharing around creating criteria together for what we believe learner engagement should look like in our classrooms. I really wasn’t sure what to expect…

First, we started the day looking at this inspiring video to get us thinking (and re-thinking) about the possibilities for our learners. It was included as part of the day at TEDxEdmonton last October.

Future Learning

We spent time reflecting individually, and sharing in groups, about what stood out for us in this video. We then moved on to a four corners activity where we discussed and debated our level of agreement with the following statements:

  • I believe I have to teach all the foundational skills before I can do inquiry work with my students.
  • I believe I need to know something really well before I can teach it to my students.

Teachers entered into dialogue around their individual experiences and beliefs. What we discovered was that there are so many different ways to interpret these statements, but fundamentally, most were on the same page about the importance they placed on creating learning opportunities for students that allowed for exploration, curiosity, providing meaningful context for learning skills and following student interests.

We then asked teachers to work in groups to revisit the components of learner engagement that they had established at our last Professional Learning Day. We asked them to create criteria on a google doc for what they would see students and teachers doing when there was a focus on these areas:

  • Creating
  • Questioning
  • Collaboration
  • Authenticity
  • Evidence of Learning
  • Risk Taking

I was absolutely blown away with the engagement and thoughtful contributions made by our teachers that day. What an excellent example they set for our students as the lead learners in our school!

I am looking forward to our next steps as we continue to develop our “This We Believe” document for Greystone this year.

 

 

 

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