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Refreshed, Renewed, and Ready

These last few days we have had many teachers coming into the school to prepare for the new year ahead. Everyone looks so tanned, healthy, and well rested from summer. The school too seems fresh and ready to go. The floors are all newly polished and we have lots of new enhancements that give the whole place an air of renewal. Outside, we have a new school sign capable of text and video read out (kudos to PAC) which is up and ready to go helping us to send our message to the community around us. Inside the school we have replaced many of the old bulky TV’s in the hallways with new high def flat monitors, together with new software that enables us to share information in an engaging and accessible way. Even more exciting is that we now have fhlearn.ca which is a wordpress multi user site that we envision staff and students will be getting onto for blogging. Shelly Wright @wrightsroom calls blogging the new persuasive essay. She says blogging requires a different voice that needs to be rich, sharp, and distinct to gain an audience. She adds that blogging has the potential to reach and influence many. We believe that fhlearn.ca will open up new opportunities and audiences for our students to enhance their learning. This year we also plan to launch e portfolios through the Humanities 8 classes on fhlearn.ca and we have teachers who plan to impliment Inquiry Based Learning.

Tomorrow we have our first day of summer pro d with our guest speaker, George Couros, @gcouros, Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning, Parkland School Division, Alberta coming back for another full day of training with our staff on social media and blogging. This promises to be a wonderful day of learning. More about this in future posts. Also our school district and school have just launched a new website on surreyschools.ca . All this new technology. What is it all about? In the end, it is all about wanting to do a better job of communicating, sharing our message with staff, students, parents, and finding a wider audience in the community. It will also mean learning new teaching strategies. For now everything feels fresh and new. There is an excitement in the air as we launch this school year. There is so much going on at the school that it feels like we are ready for lift off. Let the 2012-13 learning journey begin!

Big Plans for the Fraser Heights Learning Community

There is no better indicator of student learning than to know that our school is full of teachers and admin  who are also learning along side them.  We want to share the excitement of all the new learning going on through our reflections on our teacher and admin  blogs.  Our writing for a public audience through blogs has been growing as the year progressed. You can view our teacher’s blogs at: fhsslearn.blogspot.com   We hope this will give you a flavor of what we have been doing in our school and classrooms.  Next year we hope to move to a multi user wordpress platform for teacher and student blogs.  Our grade 8  students will be developing digital portfolios that  they will be able to use throughout their high school years.  We will also be using the school district new surreyschools.ca web space for students and staff.  You will have a chance to view our new school website on surreyschools.ca after August 20.

This past year our school received a $25,000 grant from the Surrey School District for what we refer to as the Innovative Learning Design Grant.  A group of teachers have been meeting all year to develop collaborative projects that involved more innovative teaching and learning.  The teachers first learned Backwards Design as a way of planning their lessons.  They also tried some cross curricular projects that involved project based learning.  This has been an exciting time with lots of new learning.  We also purchased an ipad cart with 30 ipads and these were used in many of our classrooms and in our Learning Commons.  In addition, next year 4 of our Social Studies 11 classes students will be using ipads to access an electronic version of the Social Studies 11 textbook. We really appreciate the support of the Surrey School District to make these projects possible.

Recently we have also applied to the Ministry of Education to be considered an innovative school and to have permission to waive some of the Ministry of Education regulations that might be getting in the way of our becoming even more innovative.  We are wanting to pilot a grade 8  and 9 loop that would have a cohort of 60 students take Humanities 8 and Math and Science 8 with 2 teachers for 1/2 day for all of grade 8 and then again in grade 9.  The teachers would be using inquiry based learning in their classes and would have lots of opportunity to team teach and collaborate.  Research tells us that this looping makes a big difference in student learning.  Next year we hope to get approval to pilot a Senior Science Academy that would involve many Advanced Placement courses (eg. AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Physics for example)  with 2 teachers for the first year and 2 more teachers the second year.   This would also be a cohort of 60 students who would apply for the program.  We would also be using inquiry based learning and field studies in this senior pilot project.  We are very excited about the possibility of beginning this work for the senior science pilot for the 2013-14 school year.  These two pilot projects are both very innovative but otherwise not connected.  Our conversations have been rich and stimulating and while we acknowledge that we have an excellent school that is getting excellent results we also know that we can get even better.  We look forward to sharing our learning with our  school and community in the year ahead.  It promises to be an exciting learning process.

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, jody.p@calgaryscienceschool.com,  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 georgecouros.ca, Neil Stephenson who worked at CSS but is now District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry in Delta School District @Neilstephenson www.thinkinginmind.com, and Erin Couillard who is the full time Professional Development and Outreach Coordinator for Calgary Science School @ErinCouillard  www.calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.com/

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.

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