What is Formative?

#EDUC454E100 – Week 9 – July 5, 2018

Everyday I am learning. This day was no exception. I often wonder why I am doing what I am doing. This is not meant to be an existential blog entry but I am curious about how we can do what’s best to maximize the student learning experience without getting bogged down. Teaching is a complex practice that changes over time because it needs to be responsive to what’s happening in the world. I am always in the struggle of doing what I think others expect me to do versus what I want to do. My thinking always leans into “you never know unless you try.” Reflect. Accept feedback. Re-imagine. And, try again.

I am a big fan of experiential learning and Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle and Ericsson’s Deliberate Practice. We need to engage in something to get better (and better) at it. But how do you move forward. How do you bring things to an end? I am stuck between two worlds of tradition and innovation. Yes, I can understand George Couros’s suggestion of innovating inside the system, but there tends to be push back. For example, when designing the course EDUC454 this term I struggled between flooding students with readings and getting them to synthesize other people’s thinking and creating space and opportunities for student learning and students choice. To add to that dilemma and finding that “sweet spot”… assessment and evaluation clouds that decision making.

I am working in a system that has predetermined rules, expectations, and structures… but within that, like the course syllabus, the instructor has academic freedom and autonomy. I wanted to take this opportunity in teaching EDUC454, but also EDUC471 when I am teaching that course, to play around with some of the ideals of BC’s New Curriculum with the understanding of experiencing of what BC’s New Curriculum could be like as pre-service teachers. What does it mean to be in the implementation dip? Here I am. How do you receive formative feedback post demonstration of learning when there is no second opportunity to return back to the activity, unless offered? Furthermore, if formative feedback is to help and support student learning, it should happen before (or during) the demonstration of learning. Descriptive feedback can be provided as summative where students may take them as formative for the “next thing” they do.

I’ve been left thinking about this all week. Next class is TODAY (I’m a really late on reflecting on last class). I wanted to free students from the burden of grading and wanted to take a MEETING or NOT MEETING approach to the learning activities they are participating and facilitating during the course then leave the summative assessment or grading for the end of the course. What makes this complicated is that the learning activities that they had completed during the course are also summative in nature as it was a demonstration of understanding, we are not returning back to those activities, and they get “marks” for MEETING EXPECTATIONS for those activities. In our grading system, it seems so extreme though… 100% or 0%. Yikes! No wonder students get stressed out.

No wonder it’s a strange expectation for teachers to KNOW what exactly they are doing and why… but also create at structure or plan that you are not able to steer away from to meet student learning needs. This seems absolutely crazy to me. I am the professional. If a student makes a mistake, should they be punished or should they be supported such that I make adaptions to make the situation possible for the student? What I realized last class is, it is evident when people are motivated by grades versus motivated by learning. What to do I mean by that? If the expectation is “X” then those who are just concerned about getting the task done and “meet expectations” they make every effort to meet the expectation as if it was the CEILING. But for students who are motivated by the learning and learning experience, the expectation serves as the BASEMENT or floor to what’s possible. I am witnessing this… but is there a rubric to depict this? NO.

I am beginning to question all of what we are trying to do and achieve in schools. Where is the fun? Where is the love? Where is the joy? Do we talk about these attributes at all in education and if so, is it valued? I would suspect not if we don’t put a grade to it or if it’s not substantiated with a list of literature to say that it’s true. Can we not experience fun, love, and joy as part of our LEARNING? This is where we talked at length at the Math K-9 Curriculum Development Team a few years ago… Where is the WONDER in mathematics? How do we get students to wonder when we are focused on worksheets or memorizing the times table so that we can DO mathematics? There are many interests in education that’s pulling us into so many different directions… nothing is getting done. We remain in the status quo and the system remains resilient. Knowing this is not hopeful.

Maybe this blog did become a bit existential… This has been a challenging week which puts me into of a place of reflection. Yes, I’m back into the experiential learning cycle.

I would like to thank Xylia, Christina, Balroop and Gorsharen for facilitating Week 9’s group facilitation learning activity integrating art, nature, patterns, and technology. I enjoyed the GooseChase APP to document learning. It was challenging to decipher some of the metaphors connecting place and patterns, but I think all of the teams met the challenge. I also appreciated using hands on learning using art and nature as a form of reflection of our GooseChase experience. It makes me think further about how we can integrate technology as a learning tool in our classrooms but also hands on learning (like maker space) to sense make, reflect, and personalize learning. Metaphors and working with my hands are not my strengths but I can really appreciate how we can use innovative strategies to invite students into learning opportunities they may not feel comfortable with. I love how this could lend itself to ELA, social studies, and math.

Finally, thank you Stephen (aka. Kevin, my bad) for taking the creative liberty of summarizing this week’s reading on curriculum maps. I liked how you had focused on the learning cycle instead of C.A.R.E., which we did at the beginning of the course. I also appreciated how you connected the learning cycle to your dad’s retirement and honouring him with shaving off your hair. That is BOLD. That is love. I feel honoured that you were willing to share that personal experience with the class and make a connection to the learning cycle. You got me thinking about where we can start in the learning cycle. I had always believed that the cycle started with a concrete experience. Yet, as you point out, it’s a cycle thus you could start anywhere on the cycle. You’ve heightened my thinking.

Weekly Journal Questions

„“All education is environmental education.” – David Orr
What are your thoughts on this statement?

Yes. I can see how environmental education can be an integral part of learning and learning experiences in all subject areas. If back in the classroom, I would like to teach outside and find ways where I could take my students outside to make meaningful and memorable learning experiences where they can take mathematics, for example, into place and connect what they know to the land. I would love to take that further in a Math 8-12 classroom and take learning outside that is meaningful and purposeful. „

„From page 9 of the Curriculum Maps reading, describe how EDUC454 has demonstrated each principle of C. A. R. E. and parts of the learning cycle.

COMPLEXITY: considering the complexity and interrelatedness of natural and human created systems, and how humans interact with and affect those systems
(GROUP FACILITATION)

AESTHETICS: developing an aesthetic appreciation for the natural world that encourages students to learn about and protect the environment
(GROUP FACILITATION/WARM-UP ACTIVITIES)

RESPONSIBILITY: providing opportunities for students to take responsible action and explore the environmental impact of their decisions and actions
(INQUIRY PROJECTS)

ETHICS: providing opportunities to practice an environmental ethic based on an examination of values that can give rise to new visions, possibilities and actions
(INQUIRY PROJECTS AND GROUP FACILITATION)

„Looking at the Curriculum Maps, find your subject specialty/grade level. Imagine and describe what a cross-curricular lesson would look like with respect to C.A.R.E., the learning cycle, and selected learning outcomes.

Math K-12 was suggested to be interdisciplinary… SO LET’S DO THIS!!! If back in the K-12 classroom, I would love to teach teach, co-collaborate, and design a course or unit that is cross-curricular, outside, and joyful. Let’s get math out of the silo and let’s interconnect.

The Amazing Race

#EDUC454E100 – Week 8 – June 28, 2018

A very clever name to this week’s group facilitation learning activity. The Amazing Race. We were all wooed by the lollipops. Liam, Stephen K., Dustin, and Jessica B. started off the activity by offering each of us a lollipop and explaining the rules of the game. We were then divided into groups of 4 and asked to pick a team name. I was on Team We’re Not Creative. We then participated in several team activities: (1) Grab 2 different coloured wiffle balls BLINDFOLDED; (2) spin around a baseball bat and run; and (3) do a math problem about circles or take 5 photos. In hindsight, these all pretty dangerous activities. I did fall on my knee and rolled on the ground soon after the baseball bat spin.

I love how were were all willing to participate. We did not question the rules nor did we know what we were playing for. What we did know was, the lollipops were important. I was not sure if I should eat one or not. I was confused but played along. I was enjoying myself and I aced the circumference/diameter math problem. Our estimated answer turned out to be a nice rounded answer of d = 14.0 m. I was personally impressed. What I was not impressed about was having to be TURNED AROUND and have to do part 2 of station 3. It set us behind… but this setback played a role. We would soon find out why.

No pics of the three preliminary activities, however the picture below depicts the next stage of the game. There was definitely an “inner group” and an “outer group.” The initial teams were now non-existent and now we were divided into two larger teams. As a member of the “outer group,” I spent most of my time observing and wondering what was going on. Other members of my group were a little more activated and more willing to ask members of the “inner group” of what they had wanted and offered their lollipops with hopes of getting some answers. At first the “inner group” was silent, but as time went on they were more verbal but vague. I learned that 2 of my students spoke American Sign Language: one from the “inner group” and one from the “outer group.”

As a member of the “outer group,” our mission was to get INTO the circle. Look at them… there was NO WAY we were going to get in… and I felt that we didn’t have enough information to solve the problem. We did regroup a few times to strategize. I had the exact opposite response of TAKING their lollipops (later learning that their objective was to NOT let us in and accrue as many lollipops, particularly the orange ones). We had opposing objectives and would say that the “inner group” were achieving their goals. The “outer group” were failing because we were not inside the circle and losing lollipops.

Thank goodness, the group facilitators ended the game (it was getting frustrating) and we regrouped at first as “inner group” and “outer group.” Then we re-grouped as 50/50. This was eye opening. The facilitator in each sub-group asked members from the “inner” and the “outer” group to share what we understood and attempting to do. As mentioned, the “inner group” was trying to keep people out and collect lollipops. The “outer group” was trying to find a way in the circle and some of us had to go in as pairs, triplets, or as singles. We could use the lollipops but did not know how. We were then asked to reflect on how we felt. I remembered someone saying during the last activity, “what happened to the Amazing Race?” It wasn’t fun. Then we were asked to think about COLONIALISM.

Mind blown. What an amazing close to the Amazing Race… hence the clever title. I internalized the feelings of being marginalized, playing a game without knowing all of the rules, and losing. It was like solving a math problem without enough information, such that we are forced to hypothesize some possible solutions, but none of them worked. I was also stunned by the idea of competition and the mindset it instills on each of us. All I could think of with competition was SCARCITY. We were all willing to play without knowing how to win or lose. We were so trusting. As it turned out, the teams from the start of the game who placed a clear first and second were from the “inner group” and the clear losers were from the “outer group.” Each lollipop colour had a point value. This was calculated at the end of the activity. What a complex learning activity… it reminds me of the “brown eyes/blue eyes” experiment done 50 years ago to Grade 3 students.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/lesson-of-a-lifetime-72754306/

After the break, Ally and Jeff lead us though a warm-up activity OUTDOORS after our break. Yes, we continue learning outside. We were doing relays and math problems related to environmentally conscious decision making. I liked that there was a connection to space and real life math problems that Grade 8 students can solve and consider. What caught my attention was the “best buy” concept. In Math 8, “best buy” means the cheapest or cost efficient. But, the math questions posed got students to reconsider what was more important… cost efficiency or carbon footprint. What we traditionally consider as “best buy” is changing and getting students to use, develop, and demonstrate their core competencies using critical/creative thinking, communication, and social justice and responsibility, students can DEFEND which is the “best buy” and explain why.

I love the next two speakers… and we’re back inside to summarize this week’s reading. Kehli and Aeri did an excellent job summarizing the article on math efficacy and math self-beliefs… by saying that the article could be reduced from 26 pages to 2 and that if you don’t feel good about math then you won’t do math. Although this seems obvious with respect to any learning, I was hoping that it was obvious to us as teachers that our math efficacy influences how students learn math even though they may or may not be teaching math when they enter the teaching profession. I am hoping that my students see that Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education is present and play a role in the curricular areas they are trained to teach. Math is DESCRIPTIVE.

Kehli opted to extend her presentation by sharing her math experience as a high school student. Aeri opted to read us a small children’s book (in French and English) about a penguin who believed that he could fly. Both presentations were compelling and creative such that I started to engage with the class about their math experiences and perceived math efficacy such that we did not get to the discussion questions posed and Kevin’s closing activity (which is postponed for next week). My students had a lot to say. Some students would admit that they do not have a problem with math (which is great!!!), but others had traumatizing stories that they have (or hope to) overcome. Kehli said that she taught Math 8 during her practicum and loved it. The experience boosted her confidence. Her attitude was, if I don’t know it, we’ll figure it out... an awesome demonstration of vulnerability. That’s a part of it. I was surprised how similar some stories were from each other and I hope by the end of the course that their math self-beliefs will transform.

Weekly Journal Questions

You may or may not teach math when you enter the teaching profession. Regardless of job assignment, how does your mathematics self-beliefs influence how your students learn math? Or does it?„

SEE ABOVE

„Given what you have learned and experienced so far in EDUC454, how does mathematics (or quantitative approaches) fit into your subject specialty (or grade level)? How does environmental education?

SEE ABOVE

20 Days

I was always so happy when my mom would agree to take a selfie with me and the family. It was a rare moment. She did not particularly like taking photos. In fact, she hated them. Ironically, I think she takes the best photos out of all of us in the family. I guess she was modest that way… or vein. I say that kindly as I know how she feels when someone takes photos of me. This is my webpage about a book I am about to write… 20 days. At first, I thought I could write it in 20 days… That was an unrealistic goal. That said, it’s a tribute to my mom. She is an incredible woman. I realize this more each day.

We just celebrated her 81st birthday. June 27th. She would probably hate that I’m sharing anything about her online. We’d remember my mom’s birthday with the numbers”627.” It is one of the phone numbers prefixes in Prince Rupert, BC where we had lived together as a family for more than 20 years. Anyway, this webpage is an opportunity for me to make my writing and work visible. She is my superhero. I’m not sure how she’s done it, but I hope to write about her and make her proud. I will keep you updated as to how my writing evolves. This is a step into a different direction, yet the same. There is much teaching and learning to be had. My mom is my greatest teacher. I am proud of her.

Disclaimer: This book is written from my point of view… non-fiction… and I may embellish from time to time to fill in some gaps with random personal thoughts. I know that each member of my family has a different point of view of my mom’s story, so I am compelled to tell how I saw things as “number three” and hope that I write a fair depiction of her during the 20 days. My mom inspired me to write this book. I never considered myself a writer, but I do consider myself to be a teacher and learner. My dad wrote a self-published book about his memoirs that you can purchase online at Amazon.ca. “My Life’s Journey in Surviving Times – A Memoir. https://www.amazon.ca/My-Lifes-Journey-Surviving-Time/dp/1460253582 My mom was never one to share her stories. This is me doing some forensic science and taking the opportunity to share some of my mom’s stories.

 

Over Half Way

#EDUC454E100 – Week 7 – June 21, 2018

I cannot believe that we are over half way. We have completed 7 weeks of 13 and established the momentum of the course. We have arrived. The course is at a point where students are leading, personalizing their learning, and becoming more resourceful and imaginative of what possible with respect to teaching and learning in the context of Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education. I am pleased. It’s not about me downloading information from what I believe is true. I do that with my readings and course syllabus. The details and relevance come from the students. I collaborate from behind the scenes. I provide formative feedback. I am the “guide on the side.” Now that the class has seen and experienced a few exemplars from others in the class, students are finding their stride in this course. I am really enjoying their teaching and learning. Students should be active learners and co-constructors of knowledge. Sitting down and listening to me for 3.5 hours and preparing for an exam does not seem reasonable for this group of pre-service teachers. I love connecting what they are learning to their future practice. Learning by doing. It is challenging though to delve into deeper learning with diversity. That said, each group or individual as they prepare to present are delving in.

Our Group Facilitation by Kelly, Kehli, Amrit, and Jessica was complex and interesting. You can really see how they had tried to incorporate many ideas into their learning activity. First, I love that we are back outside and the weather is playing along with us very nicely. I love how we gather in a circle and throwing our stuff in the middle. They passed around maps, questions, and mini flags. We talked about “true north” and our challenge was to ESTIMATE where we live (with respect to time) and where we were born (with respect to distance). Ratios and rates were used to help us measure our approximate distance from SFU Surrey (Big Flag, see picture above). We took large steps for each interval of time for our commute to SFU Surrey and took a tiny step for every 10km from where we were born. As you can see, we come from many different directions.

While placing and locating our flags, were were asked a few reflective questions about place. They asked us what we noticed en route of our commute and discuss these observations with our group. We were also asked about our hometown and how it was the same or different from where we live now. For me, I realized that I live in similar communities from where I was born and where I live. I was born and raised in Prince Rupert, BC… the northwest coast. It’s a small coastal community. Now, I live on the Sunshine Coast in Sechelt, BC… another small coastal community. I like to live near the ocean. I like the small town and the quietness. I like to raise my daughter in a small town where everyone knows everyone within one to two degrees of separation.

I cannot believe how there are some of us commuting from Chilliwack. Based on our estimations, we are comparably close in commute. The only difference is, they are in a car all of the way and I take my car, ferry, bus, and SkyTrain. A slight difference. I was also amazed how some of us live close to SFU Surrey but were also born very close to this location as well. My biggest aha is, we are coming from all different directions and making the effort to arrive in one place to teach and learn together. It broke some of my assumptions where I just believed were were all from SFU Surrey. I know… sounds ridiculous. Obviously we come from different places… and we do. Our final destination in this activity is to stand where we would like to live in the future. I did not stray too far away… but I liked how I was close to those who wanted to live on Vancouver Island.

Personally, I cannot stop thinking about this activity. It has many connections and opportunities for those who are learning Math 8 and 9 or Workplace Math 10. Distance, referents, ratios, rates, frequency, and direction… and making a personal connection to place and land. This is a very nice activity for those engaging in BC’s New Curriculum. I think about comparing and contrasting distance, students talking about where they are from, and assess whether flag were situated in a reasonable place. From a social studies perspective, you can look at population density, Indigenous lands, locations of where people live and why, transportation, and the carbon footprint. There are many possibilities and extensions that can be taken with this learning activity, but time is limited.

Back inside… We head into our warm up activity. Love this. The Gorsharen and Balroop took samples of leaves from their backyards and asked us to take an imprint of them. I loved Balroop’s story of taking an interest in the plants around her home and how her grandpa got super excited. I love that connection between family and place. It was a beautiful narrative that played as an awesome hook to the activity. It was clear to me that content knowledge would have been nice. Life sciences was not my strength, thus identifying these leaves was challenging, but I appreciated how diverse the leaves were and intrigued by the patterns of the veins. From this curiosity, it could easily spring board into ideas of photosynthesis, osmosis, water absorption, surface area, and cell biology. I also wonder about Fibonacci Sequences in nature and Fractals as another application of math. I enjoyed this warm-up activity and how it could be brought back into high school mathematics and science. To go further, how does this connect to Gillian Judson’s walking curriculum and familiarizing students with place, science, and local plants.

We head into our weekly reading summary oral presentations. What fascinated me about this presentation is, Kim and Gorsharen collaborated their presentations. They were tasked with summarizing the second half of Gillian Judson’s book, A Walking Curriculum, but most of the content were sample walks. Some of these walks focussed on secondary students. Most of my class is composed of secondary pre-service teachers. I can see some of there skepticism because we continue with the same question over and over again… how do we get outside? Which is followed up with, how can we manage behaviour and stay on task when we are outside? These are two very good questions that they have faced as pre-service teachers and will face as teachers. Much depends on the school district, their policies, and strategic plan. On the Sunshine Coast, one of our goals in the strategic plan is ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION and we have a K-7 Nature School. We encourage our educators and students to get outside, so it would be reasonable that our policies and regulations follow suit. And, we hope students are getting outside.

Students made the best of this weekly reading summary by sharing a story… a narrative… with respect to Gillian Judson’s book. Kim started the presentation talking about the limitations of the book and complimented the reading with a book called, “Why Indigenous Literatures Matter.” She read a passage from the book talking about the importance of place. She then went on describing her experience with the book and selected one of the walks (something about aliens) that caught her curiosity and engaged in the walk as learner. She shared her experience with the class with what she experienced and how she documented her learning. I was so enamoured by her willingness and creativity to make the book meaningful and connected to her learning.

Gorsharen followed Kim with her story… it was a reflective story about her experience on practicum. It was one about a student who needed to go for a walk as a time out… or as the slide suggests from Gillian Judson’s book, A Mental Health Walk. It was a nice reflection about how this student struggled in school and how the walk helped the student to gather their thoughts and come back to class in a productive way. One thing I know for sure is, we just don’t know people’s stories. A plan was made for this student to self-regulate their behaviour as the year progressed. It seemed to be working until this student was identified as a hall wander. She was no longer allowed to leave class. This put a strain on the student teacher and school advisor. The mental health walked worked for this student but now a school wide rule inhibited this strategy. You can see that this would lend itself to a lengthy conversation on “what’s the right thing to do?” Challenging for a new teacher, but it’s about finding a way to rationalize what works for one student may not for others. Thank you Kim and Gorsharen for sharing your stories with us.

Finally… the closing activity… with THE CLOSER (and opener) Kelly. She got us to all fill out a YES/NO survey questionnaire about environmental education where quantitative approaches were embedded in the question like economics. We all answered the questions and threw our responses on the floor. It kind of felt good… throwing “garbage” on the floor. All submissions were anonymous. When we were done, we each picked up a ball from the floor and stood in front of the room in a circle. For each question, we were to put up our hands if our paper said YES. These were really great questions because they were so controversial. For each question, Kelly took a tally of YESs. From this data collection, she would pick out one or two questions that were about 50/50 and start a discussion from that. We talked about if bees were extinct, would we still be able to grow food. The other topic we discussed was the elimination of petroleum products.

This conversation led to another great conversation of how this activity could be used in the classroom. It keeps anonymity. I LOVE THAT. You get students contributing their opinions. It could be used as a formative assessment tool to see where students are. It could also be used as a summative assessment tool to put information learning into action with a debate or evidenced based discussion. I love that we can take these activities that we are sharing with each other and be able to see the possibilities in them and how it could be used in the classroom. I will definitely use this activity in a future class to create a discussion. Low risk. Thought provoking. Dialogical. Formative. All good things.

Weekly Journal Questions

What tools will you use to create an imaginative context for your students’ learning in and outdoors?

I think we are doing it. A tough question as a question to answer as a journal or discussion question, but as we are proceeding in this course, student are TINKERING with possible tools and participating in learning activities that can provoke the imagination and be outside. I do like that we a learners and teachers have the opportunity to play and learn. This is definitely a personalized task. I love what I am witnessing from my students and I encourage them to push the boundaries to see what’s possible. We are playing.

How will you engage imagination in the assessment/evaluation of students’ outdoor learning?

Another great question from Gillian Judson. Again, we are figuring that out. We can get caught up in our traditions of assessment and evaluation. Just this week, a couple of students asked for feedback on their grade. I said that they are getting an “A” and the activities we are engaged are subjected to real-time, ongoing formative assessment. No learning activities would end unless it met my expectations (i.e. single point rubric). There are 3 summative assessments were traditional “grading” shall we say will be implemented at the END of the learning process. This class is not about accruing points or marks en route to the end of the course. The summative assessment, or evaluation of the student’s understanding and learning within the course is saved until the end of the course. This needed to be reiterated to the class via email, which is OK. Assessment and evaluation are habituated into our teaching and learning. I am trying to adhere to this concept of formative and summative. Students are learning too. This will take time to develop.

What are you learning about student led learning?

What I am learning is, IT’S AMAZING!!! This is what personalized learning should look like. Do what’s important to the student to learn and my role is to be the guide on the side. This makes sense to me. The diversity and creativity that is coming from my students are AMAZING and I truly believe that if we were driven my incremental marking, the quality of work would not be as good. Thank you to all of my students for taking the risk to try something new, collaborate with others, and define what Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education means to you. I really appreciate it.

Saying Goodbye

Chatelech Secondary 2018 Graduation Ceremony Speech

Good evening invited guests… staff & students… family & friends… and the Chatelech CLASS OF 2018. I am Trustee Christine Younghusband and I am honoured to be here tonight to send YOU greetings from the School District 46 Board of Education.

Can you believe that it was 30 years ago today when I was sitting on stage, like you, at my high school graduation? SAVOUR THIS MOMENT. Time does fly by. Before you know it, you’ll be finished school AGAIN, fully immersed in your careers, or having a family. Who knows? What I do know for sure is, you’ll be me one day… thinking about…

“Where did the time go?”

Tonight, we are celebrating YOU and your accomplishments in completing your K-12 education… but we are also “saying goodbye.” Goodbyes are not easy… particularly when you have close friends, a deep connection with a teacher or two, or wonderful memories here at Chatelech Secondary.

First, I would like to acknowledge and thank Principal Mark Heidbrecht, Teacher Nina Bartels, and Education Assistant Peggy Hunt for their years of service in SD46. They are retiring at the end of this school year and “saying goodbye” to Chatelech… but HELLO to the next chapter in their lives.

I am also “saying goodbye.” This will be my last graduation speech at Chatelech Secondary as a School Trustee. I will not be seeking re-election in October along with Trustees Dave Mewhort, Greg Russell, and Betty Baxter. It was a pleasure to work these people on the Board of Education… but it was also a pleasure to work with this year’s Student Trustee Pearl Deasey.

Finally, YOU are “saying goodbye.” No more bell system. No more hot lunch. No more exams, papers, or projects. You are “saying goodbye” to your K-12 school routine… YOUR RITUALS. You might be saying goodbye to your friends, family, or the Sunshine Coast… to turn the page to the next chapter in YOUR LIFE. Some of you might go to school in the fall… some might travel… while others will go to work. Regardless of plans, the world and it’s possibilities are right in front of you… and we hope as the Board of Education that your experience at Chatelech Secondary helped you. The Sky is the Limit.

As Paulo Coehlo said…
“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”

On behalf of the SD46 Board of Education… CONGRATULATIONS… Good Luck… and HELLO!!! We are excited for you and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Thank You.

Student Led Learning

#EDUC454E100 – Week 6 – June 14, 2018

We are finally at Week 6. Truth. I can’t believe that we are already at Week 6. We are approaching the halfway mark of EDUC454 this summer term. We finally had our FIRST class with all student-led learning activities within the time frame as intended, but we would surely appreciated another hour or two to get to the deep learning that could be achieved and experienced. This is definitely one of my biggest takeaways from this course… MORE TIME. If we want to go beyond surface learning, we need to minimize the breath of knowledge and trade it for depth of knowledge.

Although each student-led learning activity, whether it would be group facilitation, reading summary, or warm-up activity, we could have used more time to explore the learning further. That said, I have some learning activities I would like to share but I am almost coming to terms with the idea that I might have to let go of what I have to share. What students are sharing in the context of Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education is AMAZING. We are truly gaining a breadth of knowledge because students are asked to personalize their learning and share what’s important and interesting to them within the context of the course. Students are leading this course.

Admittedly, I am reporting these student-led learning activities out of order in this blog… and I hope that’s OK. The first few pictures depict the warm-up activity. Kim and Lauren spoke to the class, assembled in a circle, about acknowledging the unceeded territory where SFU is situated. We talked about our level of comfort and why it’s important to acknowledge the land and the history. Students, in pairs, were asked to pick one piece of paper that briefly describes an event that happened on the territory at SFU. They were then asked to use their devices to research information about the event they had chosen. From this collaboration, students were asked to stand out in the hall, talk with one another about their chosen event, and form a timeline. A discussion ensued after this formation and one pair walked around the top floor of SFU Surrey. That was bewildering, yet meaningful. I liked how these students used SFU as place and time as a quantitative approach to deepen their understanding of Indigenous history and the land.

The next two photos show the oral presentations of the weekly reading summary. We are reading Gillian Judson’s “A Walking Curriculum” (part one). I loved how each presentation was not a reiteration of what they had read… as one of the student’s said, “I’m not going to list of the activities, you can read it yourself.” I liked how they were able to personalize the information, pick quotes from the book that triggered them in a meaningful way, and took the liberty to be creative and learn “beside the book.” What do I mean by that? Kelly, one of the presenters, took photos of her place… her community… and created a automated slideshow during her presentation. As she spoke about what she had learned from the book, she went meta and showed the class what she noticed in her environment with photos (which was perfectly timed at 10 minutes).

Ally summarized the first four sections of the book and the importance of follow-up activities. She also reflected on Gillian’s visit to our class and brought up the first activity of remembering an important place that we had a personal connection to and that the book stated that you can’t make an emotional connection to place unless you step foot on it. Ally said picked Cresent Beach as her place and she’s a runner… a competitive long distance runner. She was awestruck with this concept because she couldn’t imagine the number of steps she took running on this beach. She realized after reading Gillian’s book why this place was so important to her and how she was emotionally connected.

The next few photos represent the group facilitation learning activity of Group 3 (Jordan, Jeff T, Stephen F. and Sunayna) that happened at the beginning of class. Although we did not go outside, this group was able to utilize a half a dozen teaching strategies to facilitate interdisciplinary learning that involved English, Social Studies, Environmental Education, and quantitative approaches. The group facilitation was about being Orwellian and George Orwell’s 1984. We talked about what it means to be Orwellian and “Big Brother is watching” then asked about our comfort level with social media on a scale of 1-10. Most of the class hovered around 3. I was in the minority standing around 9. We had a quick discussion about our positions then challenged with the next task of going in groups of 2-3 and scouting through the mall for examples of “big brother is watching.” This was a nice tie in to Gillian Judson’s book and NOTICING what’s in our environment.

We returned back to discuss with others what we had found and we were encouraged to be as creative and critical with what we had found and hypothesized. It was very interesting what we had thought and wonder what high school students would have noticed doing a similar activity. What I noticed was, there were many messages telling me that I can achieve the perfect life… just buy here. We then transitioned into our next activity where we were divided into groups of 4 and we were asked to review and article about a current event that related to the idea of Orwell. We were asked to discern if what we read was Orwellian and discuss a few follow up questions. My group read about Amazon’s Alexa and the recent event of the device being asked to record and send a couple’s conversation. There were 4 other current event topics that each group had to summarize and share findings. In the end, that activity was about how decisions are made based on data collected and how it can also be used to manipulate your thinking.

Well… I was blown away as to how complex these student led activities can be. The class concludes with our closing activity that addressed another local current event: Kinder Morgan. Xylia indicated to the class why this topic was of importance to her and asked the class to participate in a simulator activity of activists and lobbyists. The class exercised all three-core competencies even though Xylia had focused on the personal/social core competency of social justice. Students did not know of the number of lobbyists were in the crowd but the objective of the game is to find and connect with other environmentalists and not have the group be infiltrated with a lobbyist. What an excellent activity this would be for students to deepen their understanding of the pipeline via role-play and gamification. Roles were randomly assigned. After 10 minutes, the lobbyists had to self-identify. 3 groups had formed and one person opted to standalone. All 3 groups were infiltrated. The lone person won the game. This activity modelled a current event where lobbyists were immersed into a crowd of protesters to influence and assess them.

Weekly Journal Questions

In what ways does the practice and underlying philosophy of The Walking Curriculum align with the BC curriculum?

See above.

„How can imagination- and inquiry-driven outdoor explorations support your teaching?

See above.„

„How are you doing on your inquiry project? What help do you need? How did you get started? Have you changed your mind?

For my inquiry project, I have to carve out time to read THE 100 MILE DIET. I also have to make time to go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays in Sechelt. I am curious about the variety of food I can get from local markets, the cost of food, and convenience of obtaining food. I am also drawn to PLASTIC CONSUMPTION when food shopping. I bring my own bags and try not to use any additional plastic bags in produce, for example, but there is A LOT of food wrapped in plastic. I was awakened by this phenomenon. Furthermore, much of this plastic wrap has to be recycled separately because it is soft.

I love how this class has parked the grade aside, for a moment, to focus on what’s possible in the classroom… the core competencies, interdisciplinary learning, and quantitative approaches to environmental education. The definition is broad and we implement ongoing formative assessment to achieve outcomes greater than expected. Learning is fun, engaging, and empowering. I think that we are achieving that and feel safe to delve deep, play, and explore what is possible. This is much like, in many ways, what Trevor MacKenzie writes about… letting go of power for inquiry. I’m not the expert in the class. We are all experts and we are all learners. We’re having too much fun!!!

Time Constraints

#EDUC454E100 – Week 5 – June 7, 2018

As mentioned in my previous blog, this EDUC454 class is engaging and dialogical. I like how we are able to delve into conversation to establish a deeper understanding of what we are learning about. That said, we are quickly running out of time. It’s a crazy idea to think that I might be over prepping. I think that I am just prepping and the students are carrying the torch with their teaching and learning. It’s one of many things I am exploring in my practice. How do we shift teaching and learning from student ENGAGEMENT to EMPOWERMENT. This idea comes from George Couros and the #InnovatorsMindset.

One of the things that I am working on in my teaching practice is transforming my role from “teacher” (aka. bearer of all knowledge) to “facilitator” of learning (aka. designing the class in such a way so that the students co-construct their knowledge together). I love the idea of building a learning community amongst ourselves. I am always surprised and grateful for what students have to contribute… particularly pre-service teachers. It’s also a time for them to PLAY and try new ideas in context to this course (Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education). At the same time, I am trying to model BC’s New Curriculum with personalized learning, formative feedback, and student-led learning.

My job is to create the framework, guide their learning, provide feedback, and ultimately evaluate their understanding/learning from the course. Their job is to learn what they want to learn within the context of the course, teach others what they have learned, and reflect upon what they have learned and how it would apply to their future careers as BC educators. As a result, the EDUC454 students are deeply engaged in what they are doing, prepping learning activities, and participating in what their peers have prepared for them. I also appreciated our guest speakers, Dave Barnum and Dr. Gillian Judson, who spoke to our class about place and space. They too took an experiential approach to learning.

The first 5 photos of this blog attempt to capture our first GROUP FACILITATION learning activity where groups of 3-4 students facilitate a learning activity that captures Quantitative Environmental Approaches to Environmental Education in a subject area or areas of choice. It’s an application of what this could be and their job it to teach what they have learned in an interactive class oriented way. Kim, Sommer, and Erin facilitated the first of three segments of their “Citizen Science” Unit Plan called SENSORY OBSERVATION. Citizen science means that anybody can collect and contribute data. The data collected can form a sense of knowing or understanding. It has an excellent exemplar of Indigenous ways of knowing, as discussed in the group facilitation activity.

GROUP 2 started the group facilitation learning activity by reading us a book called the “The Snowy Day.” A short discussion ensued after about why was this story book selected for today’s group facilitation. The resounding answer was EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION. We talked about our 5 senses and the group asked the class to find a place in Holland Park and focus on the sense of HEARING. We were asked to take a moment to listen to our surroundings, then report back what we had heard. This was amazing. Many of us closed our eyes so that we could listen. As mentioned in my last blog… IT’S LOUD. There was no road construction this week, but I heard planes, vehicles, leaves, basketball bouncing, and birds. I was also able to briefly experience Gillian Judson’s ACTIVENESS. I was engaged with my surroundings and my sense of space via my body. We then repeated the activity being aware of our kinesthetic sense. That was a bit tougher. The group facilitation concluded with what is CITIZEN SCIENCE and how this could be applied in science.

Thank you GROUP 2 for getting our class started on group facilitation learning activities OUTSIDE, for taking the time to collaborate and plan together, and to demonstrate for us how you can share your learning with us is an interactive and participatory way. I loved our post-chat and how we could have done one more sense like touch, I loved how Erin was prepared to give a concrete example of Citizen Science with her passion for bees and POLLINATORS, and I loved how student input exceeded your expectations in such a way that it turned out better than you had hoped or planned. That was amazing!!!

I was so happy to have our first group facilitation activity situated outside. It was a nice continuation of what we had experienced with Gillian Judson the week before, but also Dave Barnum’s presentation on place and space. I also appreciated how Gillian’s talk from last week transferred into our learning this week with our group facilitation and the number of students who referred to that learning experience. However, this week was “catch up” week. Because of our enthusiasm and collective engagement, we postponed a few of our student-led presentations to the following week… for a couple of weeks. Thus making THIS WEEK the week to catch up on what we had intended in our schedule.

After the break, and returning back to our classroom (on the 5th floor), we resumed with the weekly reading summaries oral presentations. We had 2 presentations from Week 4 and 2 presentations for Week 5. Normally, I would ask the students to compose an oral summary and have 2 questions to pose to the class for discussion. This week, the students were limited to no more than 10 minutes to present and present 1-2 questions for the weekly journal for students to respond to. A slight adaptation to what was intended but these students were up for the challenge. What was interesting to me was, with each pair of presenters for each week, one would summarize the assigned reading and the other took a personal account or personal experience to depict or model what they had read. I could not have planned it out more perfectly. I’m not sure if the students had planned it that way, but it was brilliant. I also believe that we had more that 8 questions for students to choose from and reflect on for the weekly journal. Well done!!!

After very swift transitions between each oral presenter for the weekly reading summaries, we managed to take the time to discuss the reading as a class. I think were were afforded this luxury of time because the group facilitation activity ended 20 minutes early. This was awesome because it gave the class the opportunity to grapple with the ideas of Trevor MacKenzie’s “Jump Into Inquiry” and discuss what they would do in class and why. I loved the class conversation about teaching and inquiry-based learning. It’s something that we are all wrestling with and taking the moment to examine and imagine what it would look like in our future teaching practice. Soon after the class discussion (anyway), we swiftly transitioned to our three remaining warm-up activities… one from Week 4 and two for Week 5. The adaptation for these learning activities was NOT to discuss the Core Competencies, but keep them in mind, and limited to 20 minutes.

One activity got student to go out into the mall and FIND MATH on their phones and compare with other groups. POINTS were given out to the most original pictures. The second group got the class to make pinwheels and focus on deep breathing and mindfulness. The final person, Liam (aka. the closer) got us all to sit in a circle and figure out who was tapped on the shoulder and take a moment to figure out “who’s the liar.” Deductive reasoning. Non-verbal cues. LISTENING again… and nice follow up to our class from the group facilitation earlier on the senses. It turned out, of course, the liar was him… so think about your inquiry projects??? It was a fun way to end our class ON-TIME.

Weekly Journal Questions:

What are some strengths of applying inquiry to a classroom? What are some struggles? 

Inquiry can give students some personal freedom and autonomy of their learning. They have choice. They can delve deeper into a topic of interest or passion. They can find learning more meaningful. Some struggles would be differentiating learning (not all students operating at the same level of independence). Another struggle would be assessment and evaluation. When all projects are not aiming towards the same goal (of sameness), it can be challenging to evaluate. For example, if the product is a paper versus a video blog as a demonstration of learning, how can you tell the difference? Grading must be based on a set of curricular competencies to be found in all projects.

Is it true inquiry if the students are not come up with their own essential questions or topics?

Inquiry, in my mind, is to be curious. If the student does not come up with their own essential question, but the teacher did, then the inquiry is guided. That’s OK. There can be varying levels of inquiry, as mentioned in Trevor MacKenzie’s book. It does not need to be FREE INQUIRY all of the time. I do suggest that the student has to have some choice in the project so that they can be agents of their own learning. Offering a specific set of choices versus unlimited is OK. It just can’t all be about compliance and conforming.

How could you see yourself working with your teacher librarian?

If I was back in the K-12 classroom, I would be all over the teacher librarian… particularly now that most are being restored in schools. They are experts in “library” and research. They have the skills and knowledge to helps students (and me) on what’s available, how to find useful information, and how to discern through information that goes beyond Google. I’m a math and science teacher, so having the teacher library provide a social science approach to compliment my teaching and learning practice PLUS the opportunity to collaborate with another teacher in the school in a different space is a WIN!!!

How you been inspired to being planning something based on MacKenzie’s book? 

I liked how Trevor MacKenzie reflects about his practice in his book. That inspired me to use his book as one of the required readings for EDUC454 this term. Last term, I had only used articles about nature-based education, environmental education, and experiential education to be my required readings. This term, I decided to look at Inquiry-Based Learning from Trevor Mackenzie and A Walking Curriculum by Dr. Gillian Judson instead of some readings. Dave Barnum did bring back some of the readings I would have assigned into his presentation. Assigning this book was my first step into inquiry and I was curious if it would help my students with their inquiry projects for this course. We soon shall see.

I want to thank my students who were present this week for making this happen… taking on the challenge of TIME CONSTRAINTS and catching us up for Week 6. I still have things I would like to accomplish, but I am happy that we are back on track and class will resume as intended this week. I am looking forward to using Gillian Judson’s book to formulate a “field trip” for my class on Week 13. I am embracing this challenge to see how this resource applies in higher education and particularly in EDUC454, and because my students want to end the course with a class “party” (during an evening course at Surrey Campus) has now it’s become a LEARNING PARTY of Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education via A Walking Curriculum. Let’s see how this goes. SURPRISE!!!

#GetOutside

#EDUC454E100 – Week 4 – May 31, 2018

Thank you Dr. Gillian Judson from SFU IERG #imaginED for visiting our EDUC454 class last Thursday night to discuss a #walkingcurriculum. We were learning outside with purpose. #GetOutside. This was the first time that our EDUC454 class got outside. For the first few weeks, we interpreted “outside” as outside of the classroom and roamed the Surrey Central Mall as place. I was so happy that Gillian took a moment to sell her book “A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder and Developing a Sense of Space K-12” at the beginning of our class and took us on a thoughtful walking field trip to Holland Park. Security locked the classroom. We went down 4 floors. Walked through the parking lot. We went down the parkade stairs, around the Brick, and crossed the street to the park.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day. I love the idea of being productive while walking to our destination. On our walk to Holland Park, Gillian asked us to think about a place that we cherish and love such that we would be devastated if a Walmart parking lot was built upon it. Our work was to think about this place and DESCRIBE it to someone else en route to Holland Park. Once we arrived, we formed a circle (so that we can see and hear one another). In this circle, Gillian talked about her doctoral research that brought her to this place of ecological imaginative education and her current work with the Walking Curriculum and Imaginative Education. At the end of her introduction, we had the opportunity to NAME our place. My place was my hometown of Prince Rupert, BC.

Gillian’s presentation was a beautiful introduction to her book (our future course reading). She spoke about three components that make learning meaningful for students. First point was FEELINGS. Students have to feel and make a connection to what they are learning with feelings. The second point was ACTIVENESS. Students need to be moving and have a sense of self in a state of being. This was a big idea for me. I took this point as being physically engaged with their learning. The last point was PLACE. Students need to have a sense of place and “getting outside” is one way of doing so. I loved being outside, but what I did notice was the NOISE. Yikes. Coming from the Sunshine Coast and teaching outside at Surrey Central was a clear demonstration of the importance of place. The metro area revealed some challenges. Although I was very appreciative be in green space, there was active road construction happening next to Holland Park. It was loud.

Nonetheless, we proceeded and had the opportunity to break up into pairs and look at one of 60 Sample walks as seen in her book, A Walking Curriculum. The task was to randomly choose a walk, do the walk, and talk what was learned and experienced to a learning opportunity in our classrooms. Students had to record this curricular opportunity on an index card and hand them off to Gillian after 20 minutes of roaming through Holland Park. I am confident that students had a lot of conversations as to what they were experiencing and what is possible for the K-12 classroom. At the end of Gillian’s session, we met at the waterfall and students had the opportunity to ask Gillian questions. I appreciated what my student-teachers asked and I am curious how many of us will #getoutside with our classes in the new school year. I’m hoping we will in EDUC454.

WEEKLY REFLECTION QUESTIONS

How can going outside (with your class) fit into your teaching practice?

I love going outside, particularly with EDUC454. It makes sense to me. Our course is Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education. We need to get outside. Admittedly, it’s been challenging this term being at Surrey Campus as a night course. That said, here we are. We’re OUTSIDE. I love how it feels and I love how Gillian said… THIS IS ON TIME. Absolutely. If I was back in the K-12 classroom, I would like to be outside as often as I could. How would I do that as a secondary math teacher… well, I would have to take the time to figure that out. For science it seems a bit “easier” but I like going outside with a purposeful learning intention. Last year, my EDUC454 class went outside 12 out of 13 weeks. The one week that we stayed inside was memorable because I had huge regret after that class by not going outside. As a consequence, it was a positive reminder that going outside is important to student learning but also student wellness. I just love it.

Where is your place? (i.e. topic of discussion with Gillian Judson)

The place I was describing to a student en route to Holland Park was of the Prince Rupert waterfront. As a youth and young adult, I loved walking to the Rupert waterfront to listen to the waves, look at the view, and enjoy the quietness of my surroundings. It was a place I would go to find solace. What was weird, when I was describing MY PLACE, I felt like I could have been describing the Davis Bay waterfront or Sechelt waterfront from where I live on the Sunshine Coast near Sechelt. I love living near the ocean. I’m one of those people. I love being near the water (even though I don’t know how to swim).

How do you (or would you) use feelings, activeness, and place in your teaching and learning to educate for ecological understanding?

I would love to make a connection between learning mathematics and being outdoors. It’s like journalling or reading outdoors, but doing math. What would make learning math enjoyable, activated, and meaningful? I was remembering when my high school math students used to ask me to go outside to learn math. I would always say NO. I just made the assumption that it would be OFF TIME when really it was an opportunity for me to make going outside during math class ON TIME. Why not experience some joy in the sun and in the forest (or on the field) doing math. It’s more than just finding math in nature, but having nature (and walking) as part of the math learning process. It’s definitely got my creative juices going. It can be very exciting for me and my K-12 math students.

We conclude our EDUC454 with student led learning activities. The first one was with Stephen F. who was very enthusiastic about Gapminder and Dollar Street. I loved this activity. The room was divided up into A, B, C, and D (multiple choice options). Students are asked to get up and move to answer the question. The content of each question related to social studies. Students are asked why they had chosen their answers (aka. prior knowledge). The class was then asked to watch data change over time, which was correlated to place and related to the question (i.e. birth rate, death rates, education of women, etc.). After watching data change over 100 years, for example, students are asked if they would change their mind on how they first answered and move accordingly. Great discussion and answers revealed. I loved the meta data collection by Stephen who was collecting data on how students answered the questions correctly initially and how it changed given the data trends. All I can say is, what felt like a 20 minute facilitation was actually 60 minutes. Yup, it was an exemplar of student and teacher engagement.

The class ends with ONE of three reading reflections. Thank you Erin for leading us through our first oral summary of Trevor MacKenzie’s book on Dive Into Inquiry. I loved the Prezi presentation and how you’ve embedded the class discussion questions into your presentation. It was greatly appreciated. I love how students are taking the lead in this course. Something that would have normally took 6 weeks, took only three… and now we’re behind schedule. No worries. I made those decisions and postponed three student presentations for next week. What I appreciate is the level of engagement students have in this course, but also our next challenge for next week, which is TIME. That said, we will be GOING OUTSIDE for our first group facilitation in Week 5. It’s only getting better. Thank you EDUC454E100 Summer 2018. Let’s keep this learning momentum going!!!

Place-Based Education

#EDUC454E100 – Week 3 – May 24, 2018

What an incredible class and it’s only Week 3. We were so lucky to have guest speaker Dave Barnum (@DavidBarnum) from SFU Graduate Diploma Programs talked about Place-Based Education. He brought samples of journals and definitions of what place-based, community education is and could look like. Students had the opportunity to grapple with these definitions and discuss what it means to them in their future (and current) practice as teachers. There was thoughtful discussion and ideas shared. What struck me was the conversation about the barriers of place-based education and how it can be perceived as utopian considering the workplace conditions of secondary teaching (i.e. permission forms, liability, and administrative approval). These are all real constraints but I believe they can overcome them if they really want to. The new curriculum is a policy document that encourages and enables teaching strategies such as place-based learning.

Understanding by Design… or work backwards with your planning. To orchestrate place-based learning with our current 20th century structures and 21st century curriculum, work with the end in mind. If going to the aquarium, going camping, or walking outside can bridge the gap, enlighten, or inspire student learning, then design your unit, lesson, or class routine to include that and find ways to make it happen. If it’s worthwhile, do it. As a friend and colleague of mine would say, there are a million reasons why not to and only one reason why to. Let’s focus on that one reason. In listening to and talking to Dave Barnum, I realized that place-based learning can reveal interdisciplinary learning, provoke imagination further by bringing students to place rather than just talking about it, and that place-based education can be anything that situates the learner for deeper learning.

We needed to hear about place-based education as a class for this class (EDUC454), but also for our future practice as teachers. Sometimes it’s difficult or less meaningful to only learn from a textbook. A textbook, for example, has limitations. Going out into the environment, finding a sense of place, or going to a place that would enhance the student learning experience are integral to deeper learning in addition to all of the opportunities to engage in and practice the core competencies in real-life situations. I appreciated the activity Dave facilitated with the students. He asked them to IMAGINE… if they were asked to choose a curricular area and grade level from BC’s New Curriculum and from this lens if they were given 2-days with their class in this place (SFU Surrey – Surrey Central), what resources could they find, how can this space and place teach students, and how does place address the Learning Standards. Students went out individually or in small groups to take notes, JOURNAL, and imagine what would be possible. I was amazed by what the students shared with the class. Place-based education has a place in education.

THANK YOU again Dave Barnum for visiting my class of EDUC454 and thank you for spending extra time after your presentation during the dinner break to talk to students individually and for them to look at the journals as exemplars of ways to demonstrate and record student learning. I believe that my students were inspired and took away many ideas about place-based education for their teaching practice and future lesson planning.

Back to class business… and onto discussing their Inquiry Project and participating in student-led warm up activities. I love it when student-teachers are engage in teaching and learning in my classes at SFU. It’s an opportunity for them to create and facilitate a short activity with the class that connects Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education to student learning. Furthermore, we also want to use these activities to acknowledge the Core Competencies, develop “I can…” statements, and self-evaluate with a single-point rubric scale (meeting/not meeting OR approaching/exceeding). Developing our Core Competencies as we learn how to teach students about the Core Competencies is my main objective with the student-led warm up activities. I love the level of student engagement but I also love how we are learning by doing (aka. experiential learning). This “mingle, mingle, mingle” student-led warm up activity nicely framed the 3 core competencies with 3 distinct activities, as seen in these photos. Students were engaged.

As we move forward with our student-led warm-up activities, students are becoming more comfortable as us as a LEARNING COMMUNITY, but also it’s a time to play, experiment, and have fun. We are getting better at identifying our “I can… ” statements as a way to reflect on the activity and Core Competencies. I appreciated how the second warm-up activity (no pictures because half the class “died” and the rest of us confused) used NON-VERBAL CUES as a means of communication of who you are and identified the class and person as place-based learning. The “murder game” required strategy (i.e. critical and creative thinking) and there was an underpinning of social responsibility for the “police” to find the “murderers.” It’s fun (for me) and I hope the students to identify the Core Competencies in everything that they do as educators and that students can self-identify and self-assess their core competencies in light of their learning. With student engagement and the constraints of time, we had to postpone our oral presentation of the reading summary for next week. Thank you Erin for your patience and flexibility.

Weekly Journal Questions

What is place-based education? „

Using place as part of the learning experience. The classroom is a place and has it’s place, but also learning can be enhanced if we consider other places to help students realize possibilities, complexities, and realities of what they are learning and find deeper meaning. I am struck by this notion and wonder if taking photos of my class and including them in my blog entries is a form of evidence of student learning. I feel that it enhances my blog and what I am trying to describe, but also it helps me realize that learning happens in place. I love the idea that place-based learning can intuitively demonstrate interdisciplinary learning and help students make connections to the real world.

How could place-based education influence your pedagogy?

Each term I teach at SFU, I am struck by the reality of place-based education and even more so this term with EDUC454 being situated as an evening course at Surrey Campus. Where we teach (i.e. facilities and location) influences how I teach. Last term, I had a small room with almost 40 students with only 2-blackboards at the front of the class behind the screen of the overhead projector. That was a challenge. We had to use poster paper or use technology more to collaborate ideas. My first year teaching at SFU we were in portables. It was another evening class but we had lots of room to work with and lots of whitewash boards to place with an collaborate. Last year, I taught EDUC454 in the morning at Burnaby Campus. We were learning outside every week. This year, we have not been “outside” yet, but we have a huge classroom, whitewash boards to use, and our newly defined OUTSIDE that is the mall. I have to plan my course around place.

What are some strategies you can take to overcome some of the barriers to implementing place-based education into your classroom?

Work with what you’ve got. Make the most of what you have. And, plan carefully if you’d like to take your class off-site to engage in a place-based learning experience. Yes, the class has voted on having a field trip and class party on Week 13, our last day of classes. This decision alone has reconstructed our course outline to have an endurance test of IGNITE on Week 12 (maybe this could be an outing too) and now I am faced with the challenge of finding a field trip experience connected to Quantitive Approaches to Environmental Education that can be facilitated on a Thursday night (possibly in Surrey). It can be done, but it does take time, patience, and creativity to make things happen.

What would you like your EDUC454 inquiry project to be about?

I mentioned to my class that I would be reading the 100 Mile Diet book that I got from the Sechelt Library for $2.00. A super awesome deal… but also serendipitous. I am also considering the @BCSCTA tweet and video I posted on sustainability to reduce the carbon foot print with what we eat (i.e. eat less meat). I might combine the two ideas together. Buy locally (i.e. farmers market) and eat less meat. I want to do a before and after comparison and look at money spent, convenience, and how I feel from eating locally. I also have my husband and daughter that I am recruiting into this little experiment. I will need to plan wisely, but also take into account that my family may not be fully compliant.

Bringing Nature To Us

#EDUC454E100 – Week 2 – May 17, 2018

We are jumping into EDUC454 with our first student-led warm-up activity. Two students brought nature to us. I much enjoyed this activity. They had prepared about 8 bags filled with natural materials. The class sub-divided themselves into groups of 2-3 and grabbed a bag. The goal was to make patterns with the materials inside the bag. Each bag had different materials. We repeated the activity 3 times and with each round, the class adapted to what was expected, took less time, and got more creative. I loved that the room smelled like the outdoors. I also appreciated our student facilitators for preparing a lesson plan to share, facilitating the activity so nimbly, and being early adopters. It’s not easy going first and they did GREAT. They set the stage for the rest of the class. Furthermore, we modelled formative feedback on the fly. We were working on creating “I can…” statements based on our learning experience from the student-led warm-up activity and self-assessing ourselves with a one-point scale rubric. We made our first steps.

The class continued with a teacher-led activity where we used iPhones to take photos of the environment around us. The learning objective was take picture of MATH. Where do you see math in your environment? Students did an excellent job taking photos of architecture, lottery and locker combinations, and people roaming around Surrey Central. What interested me was only one group of 7 went outside of the building to take photos. Another indicator that we are in a different place from Burnaby Campus where we are defining our environment, knowingly or unknowingly, as the classroom, the building, and maybe outside. We also had a very engaging and thought provoking dialogue on use of technology in the classroom. Points of view ranged from not having them to using them but let’s be aware of the self-regulation required for responsible and purposeful usage in addition to quality of teaching and student engagement. Thank you for participating.

We ended the class with our first reading summaries. The 1-2 page written summary was submitted a few days before and posted on Canvas for classmates to read. The oral summaries happen during class time and questions are created by these students and posed to our class for discussion. I loved the summaries. One student was unable to come to class due to illness. She was sooooooo responsible, that she video recorded her oral summary and emailed that to me along with her discussion questions. It was so well done and very timely with the use of technology in the classroom discussion. Students were engaged with her video clip, which was followed by our second presenter who endured some technology issues with his PowerPoint (which I managed to figure out… kind of). Nonetheless, another thoughtful oral presentation of the reading. The written summary reports out what was read and the oral summary, students can put their own spin on what was read and ask thought provoking questions. A great discussion and wonderful moment of reporting out; a nice representation of the diversity of our class.

It strange to think that I am “over planning” for my EDUC454 class but you never know how things will unfold and I like to guide my instruction based on student input and participation. We were so engaged in class discussion and our warm-up activity, for example, it’s easy for me to adapt my lesson to go with with the flow of the class without losing focus on what we are trying to achieve. That said, I missed asking the class… “What do you expect to learn from this course?” Well, I did ask that question as part of the WEEK 1 Journal, but didn’t ask for me to learn. I guess I will keep that a surprise (to me and the rest of the class) until the end of the course when student submit their weekly journal and one-page summary. Mentioning that I go with the flow, my questions about their perceived math efficacy. As seen in our last week’s journal, many of us clustered to one end of the continuum indicating that math may not be their thing.

Weekly Journal Response – Week 2

What is your perceived level of math efficacy?

I think I’m OK at math. I would put myself with the few on the continuum who were also science people. I majored in Chemistry and minored in Mathematics. I got an A/B in high school math, failed Math 100 (which totally offset my undergraduate career), and managed to get the grades I needed in my minor and required courses to get into the Faculty of Education at UBC to teach math. I like math. I enjoyed data analysis during my dissertation… a nice application of math… but I also loved teaching high school math.

What is your math story?

It started when I dropped high school calculus in my Grade 12 year. That was a BIG mistake. I come from a small town… Prince Rupert, BC… (and just celebrated my 30th reunion). Going down to UBC to do first year science was OVERWHELMING to say the least. I even remembered not being able to find the math building for my first math class. I walked across the entire campus to realize that the building was right outside my dorms. Sad. Anyway, I had a professor who made us purchase his unpublished book and about 2/3 of the class dropped out or transferred. I endured and yes… failed. It was a bit of a stab to the ego… but I did take Math 100 again as a night course and got an A.

How does math fit into your pedagogy?

Math completely fits into my pedagogy as a high school math, science, and chemistry teacher… but also as a sessional instructor at SFU teaching EDUC471 (Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice) and EDUC454 (Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education). Teaching math has taught me so much about how students learn. Feedback is immediate. Results are visible. And, teaching math created the foundation for my career in education and educational research. Math is FUN.

I conclude my weekly journal with some excitement and joy. I can’t wait for tomorrow and next week. I have two guest speakers coming to talk about place-based learning and the walking curriculum. Dave Barnum from SFU’s Graduate Diploma Program and Dr. Gillian Judson from Imagination Education are coming… I can’t wait. It’s going to make our learning experience in EDUC454 more rich and diverse. Welcome to our class!!!

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