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Principal's Message

Alberta's New K-4 Curriclum

The year was 1985. Nokia released the first mobile phone weighing in at 11 pounds, the MacIntosh computer was touted as a mastery of technological design (with 128K of memory), and number 99 led the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup. It was also the year that the current fine arts curriculum was written.

I realize we need to be realistic and understand that education is tied to provincial politics. However, there is no mistaking that we need new curricula. Whichever government stamps their name on the new Alberta Program of Study, changes will be made that will reflect the changing realities of a global and digital society.

The newest draft  K-4 curriculum came out in December. It has been characterized as Concept Based. Some folks are understandably concerned or confused about what this means. At the heart of concept based curriculum is connected and purposeful learning. When teachers design learning that is concept based, they identify the Big Ideas that are most important for students to learn. All learning is then connected to these Big Ideas.
For example, a topic grade 4's currently study is Waste in our World. Arguably the Big Idea we want students to come away with is  “personal changes I make can have a big impact on our world”. When every aspect of students' learning links back to this Big Idea, students are able to connect their learning meaningfully to the work and learning endures. Similarly in grade 1 a Big Idea in math is equivalence. When students’ math learning links back to understanding that the equals (=) sign doesn't acutally mean “the answer is” but rather that both sides of an equation are different expressions of the same quantity, students develop stronger conceptual understanding that then sparks stronger and more active reasoning.
You can think of conceptual learning as a 3 dimensional. The first 2 dimensions are the content knowledge (facts we know) and processes (things we can do). The conceptual dimension anchors both content and processes to why the learning is important. The conceptual dimension also connects new learning to what is already known making the neural pathways stronger - the learning lasts longer.

Generally, I’m really excited by the direction curriculum writers have taken. Though I haven’t committed to memory every detail of  the new curriculum documents, I do have some initial impressions of content, intentions and organization. Here are some things I like about the new curriculum:
I like that all learning is anchored to important concepts and that learning is interconnected
Low, middle and high level thinking is honoured - for example in math there is a focus on basic fact memorization required as well as the development of computational strategies and creative mathematical reasoning
Guiding questions are used to help us frame learning with and for students so that the can make connection to the Big Ideas
There are intentional links to literacy and numeracy across ALL curricula
Teachers have more flexibility to use their own unique contexts to teach the Big Ideas, rather than seemingly arbitrary topics
The Arts curriculum is much updated and honours the arts as a vehicle for creative thinking and problem solving (Arts Centred Learning folks know this already!)
Every subject is has been developed at the same time, with intention and with the same organization, this is important to teachers interpreting multiple curricula.
Developmental Language is evident in the learning outcomes - this honours personalization for students
21st Century Competencies  are identified across all curricula - see diagram
Much of what is outlined in the new curriculum puts into expected practice what would widely be considered as "Best Practice" already. The draft curriculum formalizes and will require all teachers to do what the best teachers have always done: Link learning to Big Ideas and help students to make rich connections between what they already know and what they are learning.  ​
For now, at Belfast, we are treading cautiously. We aren't pressured to adopt a new curriculum that may or may not come to fruition based on political outcomes. BUT we are continuing to identify and plan around Big Ideas because we know this is good for kids. I believe that whichever government puts its stamp on future learning directions, deep learning will always require intentional connection to Big Ideas.
If you have questions about the new curriculum and our approach at Belfast please stop by to chat, we’d love to hear from you.
Lori Holford
Proud Principal

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RT @RanchlandsCBE: School-wide Weekly Math Challenge #2! Students discovered that if the value of the triangle is 1, the value of the trapezoid is 3. Here's a twist! What is the value of the entire shape? Explain what you notice, wonder and HOW did you figure it out? #WeareCBE @UsihChristopher

RT @Moskatuk: Skyscraper puzzle the objective is to place a building in each square, with height of 1-4, so that no two skyscrapers in a row or column have the same height. In the puzzle below, the clue ‘3’ states that you should only see 3 buildings #yycbe #edchat

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Belfast School

1229 17A St NE Calgary, AB, T2E 4V4
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Ms Lori Holford
Assistant Principal
Miss Jana El-Guebaly
Area Director
Mr Scott MacNeill
Marilyn Dennis

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3:15 PM
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