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Inquiry Based Learning at Calgary Science School

We loved our visit to the Calgary Science School last month as part of the Connected Ed conference  and were most excited to see  inquiry based learning in action. We thought that CSS is such an innovative school and that we would love to see Fraser Heights delve more into inquiry based learning.  We are experimenting with project based learning but would like to go deeper.  At CSS,  students were deeply engaged in their learning and eager to share it.  We were also impressed with the openness of their teaching staff to share their learning as well.  We saw so many great projects in math and science  but one that really caught our attention was grade 7 Humanities students creating monuments of a figure from Canadian History.  It was also great to see how teachers are using twitter as a teaching tool in classroom assignments.   The teacher, Dan McWilliam was generous enough to share his lesson plan with us.   I am including it here:

I have attached our lessons for the Memorializing Canadian History project below. Feel free to contact myself or Jody Pereverzoff,,  if you have any questions or improvements. They are always in development and we would be excited to hear about your experience in using them or passing them around.

Dan McWilliam
Grade 7 Teacher
Humanities Learning Coach
Calgary Science School

Its never just an ordinary day at the Calgary Science School


Calgary Science School

On May 25th I had the opportunity along with Jessica Pelat, Humanities and IT teacher, and Elisa Carlson, Director of Instruction for Surrey School District to visit the  Calgary science school.  This was part of the ConnectedCa conference. This public charter school in Calgary has grades 4 – 9 with about 650 students. There are long waitlists of students wanting to attend this school. They are using an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning. We were welcomed by students and staff to freely visit the school and drop in on classes. The school has a 1:1 computer for each student. These are Mac laptops or ipads. Students pay $65 year to rent and insure their computers. They can purchase the laptops fairly inexpensively when they leave the school. Students were deeply engaged in their learning. I tweeted out many of the lessons I saw that were most impressive. Inquiry learning involves students tackling real world problems, having students beginning their learning with their own questions, collaborating within and beyond the classroom, and sharing their work and learning publicly. Inquiry learning is an umbrella term to project based learning that we are beginning to dabble in at Fraser Heights.

The learning was fun and engaging and had little to do with memorization of facts or traditional teaching, testing, and quizing.  Instead the students got involved with projects that were everything from using foam sort of pool noodles to make rollercoaster physics, to plastic water bottles becoming wind turbines, Grade 7 Humanities project on Canadian History using 3 D walkabout app to create monuments that memorialized a figure from our history, Grade 8 Humanities Renaissance project  that linked experts in Calgary’s oil patch and compared them to the Medicis. Grade 9 math used manipulatives both real and virtual.  A grade 8 physics lesson used algodoo machine simulation software.  Math class had students balancing equations using software from the University of Utah.

We met with the conference organizers:  George Couros, Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning in Parkland School Division, Alberta @gcouros, Neil Stephenson who worked at CSS but is now District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry in Delta School District @Neilstephenson, and Erin Couillard who is the full time Professional Development and Outreach Coordinator for Calgary Science School @ErinCouillard

I intend to blog about the ConnectedEd conference in another post. The learning was fantastic but almost overwhelming.  The blogging will help me to sort through my learning.  It was some of the best professional development I have ever attended. Here are some pictures of the students at the Calgary Science School.