Nov 23
What Do We Mean When We Say Students Are Engaged in Learning?


"The epitome of student engagement is when

           students experience what is known in psychological 

research as flow

“joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life.” 

-   (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 2008)

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Teachers know the most exhilarating learning times with students are when they are both challenged and capable of engaging in a task that commands their attention due to curiosity, interesting content or physical engagement - those are the most engaging times for teachers as well! 

It is a challenge in classroom management to keep students sitting in place for extended periods of time completing written work - this has long been a traditional expectation in classrooms, and our experiences at EHS with cohorting classes through all of the 2020-21 school year reminded us all just how difficult it is to sustain this kind of 'learning' for any length of time - personally, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the souls who taught me as a small child - ADD active in a time when this was not something that mattered in schools at all!

The idea of 'productive struggle' is an underlying premise to teaching students of any age - if, as teachers, we are able to create structures for students to actively discover new or deeper understanding rather than simply providing information passively for students through direct instruction, they are more likely to want to engage in thinking and problem solving to discover something new on their own or in collaboration with peers.  And it is the wanting to engage in thinking and problem solving that leads to the best learning.

Productive struggle relies on a challenge (like a rigorous academic task) as well as a skill (such as categorizing, creating, sorting, inventing something new, finding the 'best way' to resolve a problem) coming together actively where learners are able to be actively involved by assuming a particular role or responsibility in the learning activity.

Engaging in this productive struggle causes children to think just beyond what they are capable of and encouraging them to try something a little more challenging is how learners further develop their skills and strategies and improve their overall understanding and achievement. Vygotsky, a reknowned 2oth century child psychologist, labelled this process the 'zone of proximal development' where children can learn tasks slightly more challenging than what they are capable of in the company of peers or teachers who can coach and support their growth in learning and understanding (Walker, 2010).

When we are developing tasks for learners, the idea of engagement is usually front of mind since we know this typically provides the best possible opportunities for student growth and improvements in achievement.  There are many considerations that impact the development of engaging tasks, but five key elements of learning tasks are relatively easy to identify:

1) Collaborative tasks - we know knowledge is constructed socially as children try out new thinking and ideas that either gets confirmed or changed as they explore with others

2) students are assigned - or choose - to take on roles and responsibilities  - when children feel they can take responsibility for something successfully, they are more likely to want to participate - we activate the 'curiosity' parts of the brain and they feel like they have efficacy

3) clear learning targets - making the purposes of the learning tasks clear so learners know what they need to be able to demonstrate by the end of the lesson, and having targets broken down in specific success points along the way will help students understand and appreciate when they have been successful

4)   adjusting the task as needed to keep students engaged - sometimes what we think will work well with students just doesn't - the task might be too challenging or too easy - so teachers monitor and change frequently, making small adjustments (0r large!) as needed to sustain student interest, engagement and subsequent success

5) always be ready to present a bigger challenge - this is the answer to the 'I'm done, Teacher' situation that seems to happen frequently in classrooms every day - teachers are ready with the 'what's next' expansion of the first task so when students are feeling like they have solved whatever task they have undertaken, there is a 'what's next' piece ready to go when some students are ready to move on to the next steps

Students engaged in learning looks like active, collaborative students exhibiting their curiosity, inventiveness, creativity and applying skills to achieve a clear learning target while investing their energy into trying to solve a problem, create a new project, write a description or story, read an interesting yet challenging story.  We use the principles of design thinking often in our classroom tasks so children are well aware they can make mistakes and learn from them - mistakes do not mean they are 'wrong' but that there is another opportunity to try again in a different way. Every task is achievable in some way.

Learning through engagement becomes deeper, more authentic and interesting and grows from a perspective of curiosity so that children can experience the joy of thinking and doing beyond what they thought previously they could do. This is where best possible learning happens for all our learners and it is the goal of every teacher, every day, in every learning task designed for our learners. 

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"Both flow and productive struggle make clear why student engagement is important in the classroom. When students experience the joy of accomplishing a worthy academic challenge, they are motivated to work harder. As students continue to work harder, they build persistence, critical reasoning, and the ability to apply their learning. "    - Michael Toth (2021) 


Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

Eric Harvie School 








Nov 15
Playing Safe Again - Re-Socializing Our Children's Pandemic Experiences



“Play and socialization are the ‘work’ of early childhood,” Dr. Wojciechowski says.
 “During this period, children are learning how to navigate social scenarios, 
such as when and how to join in with others, taking turns, conversation skills, 
emotion regulation, frustration tolerance, emotional expression and more.
 These lessons seem simple, but they are foundational to healthy social development." 
Dr. Jennifer Wojciechowski
 


This is the third year our learners have experienced the pandemic interrupting what we used to think of as 'normal living': 
  • Spring 2020 - all school-age children moved to virtual learning for the last 3.5 months of the school year, playgrounds were closed and everyone was required to work and learn from home
  • Fall 2020 - in-person learning resumed with children very tightly cohorted into single classroom groups for the entire school day - for the entire 202-21 school year, students could see each other from a distance but they were not allowed to intermingle under any circumstances - not on the playground, the playing fields, the gym, or in music; there were occasional interruptions to in-person learning - twice the entire province was moved to virtual learning for brief periods of up to 4 weeks; other interruptions occurred because students were exposed to positive cases in their cohorted classrooms 
  • Fall 2021 - in-person learning resumes amidst a very significant 'fourth wave' of infections; we continue to wear masks and distance, students continue to be cohorted although not quite as tightly - they are able to mix and mingle outside and are cohorted in team classroom pairs
Everyone is talking about academic gaps and how will we catch them up?  

From an educator's perspective, this is something we know how to address, supporting students in their learning from where they currently are to where they need to be. There are no magic strategies for filling in gaps, it's more a matter of ensuring they have the supported, direct teaching needed to continue growing in their learning. We can do this with additional support, allowing for greater time on task, offering short bursts of targeted instruction exactly when and where they need it. 

The concerns I have are far more focused on the socialization cracks and gaps that have begun to surface in our children's play, sense of fair play, capacities for solving interpersonal problems and resolving conflicts that begin small but have the capacity to quickly escalate if not resolved. These are the side effects of pandemic cohorting and tight management that have become the most prevalent and obvious as this third year of COVID-19 impact has unfolded.

Recently, we surveyed our grade 4 students - those who have experienced school as an 'expected experience' for the longest period of time across our school's population. We were surprised to find a significant number of these children no longer feel they 'belong' to a school community but rather they just attend school. This caught us off-guard a bit - we have worked hard through the entire history (6 years) that our school has been open to foster a sense of community through many different avenues - primarily using peace education as our sign post. Through our monthly peace assemblies, our Peace Ambassadors Leadership Program, several different community-based peaceful initiatives, our Coulee School initiatives, Wonder Time experiences and other whole-school initiatives, creating a sense of belonging to a community of caring learners has been a priority for us. To see this virtually disappear from our students' experiences of school was an abrupt call for change.

We know this third year of pandemic influences has changed the ways we foster community in the building - we tend to do this with a far greater focus on shared virtual experiences now, and with a focus on the small classes or shared classes together rather than as a whole school community. Even when we engage in a whole school activity - such as our field trip to Glenbow Ranch Park on September 20/21 - we participated while still tightly cohorted in our class groupings. We have loosened our recess and lunch break restrictions somewhat so there are grade groups together; there are, however, no times when children can just be themselves anywhere inside or outside the school without cohorting restrictions. 

This level of control has a protective capacity for holding potential COVID-19 contact in abeyance - it also, unfortunately, does not allow for children to interact as freely or as often as one might expect or wish to have happen. And, consequently, our children are not practicing the interactive skills and strategies with each other in novel situations that they typically would in a regular school year kind of setting. 

This is not a permanent loss of knowing how to make friends, resolve small conflicts or be comfortable in a different social situation. It does, however, require some attention and support to nudge our students back into their more expected norms of behaviour when relating with each other - how to respect each other's space, listen before speaking, offer suggestions rather than ultimatums, be kind first, notice and suggest sharing, negotiate rules and expectations of play rather than announce them, etc.

Navigating childhood social situations has never been an easy task - children are in their formative stages with scant background experiences to fall back on when things don't go exactly according to their internal plans. We know, however, that equipping them with some easy, go-to strategies for sustaining positive play can make a huge difference in the way the flow of their learning days go - they no longer need to worry about what will happen at recess, who they will play with, will they get chosen to play on a team.

Teaching in what we hope are the waning days of the pandemic is a complex task on the best of days. We are focusing some of our energy into fostering positive play experiences with our students despite the pandemic restrictions - we believe strongly our students just need some gentle nudging back to their previous experiences and mindsets to re-capture the safe, family feeling our school grounds once experienced most of the time. We are beginning with noticing our own feelings, our own expectations and our own responses to situations. As we work through identifying our inappropriate and appropriate responses, we are confident our children will regain their sense of safety and belonging within our school setting. As Dr. Wojciechowski noted at the beginning of this post, emotional regulation, frustration tolerance and conversation skills are all about healthy social development. While our wings have been clipped somewhat (so to speak) as a result of the pandemic, they have not been removed and we are confident our children will soon be demonstrating more appropriate behaviours and attitudes as they learn to play safely, communicate positively and feel safe in our school community - feeling all the components of belonging. 

We are working on a Safe Play Project that is multi-faceted and we are confident will re-build, foster and re-kindle our memories and strategies of building peaceful communities together despite a pandemic that has worked to drive us apart from each other.  We can do this together!


Lorraine Kinsman
Principal, Eric Harvie School  ​


Nov 01
Importance of Engaged Learning

Dear EHS Families,


As our calendars turn to November, and 20% of this school year has somehow zipped by, it is an important time for Teachers and families to reflect on the importance of promoting engagement in learning. The excitement of being back in class and the energy of the first few weeks can be hard to sustain when the reality of the routines and schedules are becoming habits. How might the engagement level of our learning tasks help ensure we have activated, focused and energized learners?


Over the past 10-15 years, there has been an increasing shift towards the importance of intellectual engagement to create optimal learning conditions. The 2009 research from Dr. Sharon Friesen and the Galileo Education Network's landmark framework “What did you do in School Today?" helped frame the importance of the work that Learners undertake being personally relevant, worthwhile and capturing their attention and interests. Eric Harvie School's underlying philosophy, including our focus on building the “Learner's Toolkit", is centered on the importance of bringing relevance and meaning to the learning tasks and experiences that they face each day – during in-class experiences, outdoor learning and hopefully throughout their lives in the community.​

The evolving spaces and contexts of learning that have come out the past year and a half of interrupted classroom learning are other key reasons for ensuring Learner engagement is a key factor to consider. This article, Why Student Engagement is Important, from Michael D. Toth, provides a great summary of some of the challenges faced in today's classrooms with young Learners that have interruptions to so many of the pieces of their lives that they found engaging to them over the past months.

 

The pathway to increasing engagement for our Learners is a winding road that needs to have multiple directions for Learners to choose. We will be starting our journey with “Wonder Time" this Friday with our Learners to provide a different opportunity for design thinking and creativity. We will be focusing on our school-wide essential question, “What Matters?" from the perspective of another child. Each class will approach this challenge from a range of perspectives to try to design something that helps to meet the needs of another child. We have also extended an invitation to families to join the CBE-wide Minecraft Challenge, and some classrooms are also taking up this challenge as part of their planned curriculum. For a very interesting look at the benefits of learning through Minecraft, check out this interesting perspective: Minecraft can Increase Problem Solving, Collaboration and Learning...Yes at school! Each classroom team has their own angle on how to provide opportunities for engagement, which lately include stop-motion videos, artistic creations and personalized writing opportunities.

 

We appreciate that the families in our learning community have a strong belief in the importance of learning experiences that their children will remember years from now. One of my own measures for a successful school day is to be able to ask a Learner, “What did you do in school today?" and for the answer to start with something other than recess or lunch! The social experiences that children are able to experience during these less structured times of their day are wonderful, however, we should all strive for learning experiences that bring relevance, excitement and intrigue to each Learner and motivate them to keep learning even more!

 

Have a great day,

Ben Strand

Assistant Principal


Oct 12
The Times of Our Lives...

 

"If I don’t belong, I don’t see why what I do or how I am will influence and impact others. 
So, I don’t really have an incentive to care...You can’t ask people to have a sense of mutuality 
and agency and to build the communities in human-centered schools if they don’t 
have the sense of belonging, the sense of relating, or the sense of being part of 
something bigger than themselves." 
- Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, 
The Future of Smart: How Our Education System Needs to Change 
to Help All Young People Thrive 

******************************************

As our school grapples with building community and a sense of belonging in these days of 'fourth wave COVID-19 infections' that continue to restrict and limit possibilities for learning in a community, there are so many questions and concerns that are bubbling up almost every single day - worries about student achievement and learning after three years of pandemic impact, as well as worries about health and safety in these last few weeks before childhood vaccines are approved and available for 5-12 year olds.  If does feel like it is impossible to make decisions about anything that will last longer than a few days before something causes yet another change to process, product or organization. 

With that in the back of my mind, I spent some time recently considering the upcoming municipal election, the candidates that are running for the various positions - especially the school Trustee positions - and the referendum questions. I don't have any recommendations for the election, but a couple of things stood out for me - mention of traffic concerns in school zones, for example, as well as protection of wetland areas were issues that have been raised by our families and our learners over the past few years, so it is timely to see them at least surface on some election-related websites. These are issues that also impact our abilities to build community - from traffic around the school to conservation of the outdoor places where our students love to learn, creating a sense of belonging and community is never a straightforward or easy task.   

One issue that I did spend some time exploring was the question about establishing permanent daylight savings time. I had never given this much thought beyond not having to remember to either drop back or jump ahead with the clocks in my home twice a year.  As I began to read about the issue, I realized there were many different considerations - everything from circadian clocks to extended business opportunities to either increased or reduced traffic accidents, depending on which research I explored.  There was one fact that stood out for me as I tried to make sense of the issues: the fact that if the daylight savings referendum goes ahead, the sun will rise in December/January around 9:00 - 9:30 am - well after school has begun. The weeks in December when the sun currently rises at 8:20 - 8:30 am - usually just before winter break begins - are always challenging for schools as children are navigating streets and buses in the dark and safety concerns are prominent.  Extending that 'worry period' even longer than usual, and placing children in potentially greater jeopardy would not be something I would advocate. It is a consideration I had not been previously aware of before doing some rather extensive digging these past couple of weeks.  I would encourage families to do some research as well, before October 18th, into the time change question. 

As the effects of this pandemic endure, it is becoming increasingly clear humanity is shifting in its' values, relationships, perspectives and tolerances no matter where we live in the world. Nothing is the same and the possibilities - if they ever existed - of a 'somewhat return' to what used to be seem to fade more with each passing day that brings the unfolding of extremely complex issues and concerns. It appears COVID-19 is a multiple-layer, very complicated interruption with much greater long-term, continually evolving consequences than we ever imagined. In terms of schools and education, the challenges of building a vibrant, forward-thinking community of learners fully engaged in quality learning experiences have exponentially increased in complexity, even as the world continues to evolve and change with little regard for the immense pressures schools are under to both protect children's health and advance learning - two initiatives that often seem to be completely opposite in their intentions as well as their actions. 

The challenges are enormous - but I believe educators, learners, administrators are all more than up to meeting the challenges with vision, energy and innovation!

These are definitely the times of our lives - busy, demanding, constrained, unpredictable, layered with endless competing interests and shifting perspectives. As we continue our journeys with uncertainty, unpredictability and at least a little trepidation, I believe it will be imperative for us to hold relationships, belonging and community building as our guiding beacons, bringing us together in new connections and purpose.

"Up until this moment, the safest path was to give your kid what worked for you. 
I would argue that this generation of parents is probably the first one to have 
to deeply grapple with the fact that if you put your kid on the path that the
 conventional system gave most of us, it’s like walking down a
 sidewalk that’s crumbling towards you. The world is changing and 
what our children need to know and do in the world they will enter
 as young adults can’t be learned within the mainstream system of education. "
- Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, 
The Future of Smart: How Our Education System Needs to Change 
to Help All Young People Thrive 



Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School









Sep 26
The Dilemmas of Pandemic Learning

        

   .    

"Times have changed. Our world has changed. Our jobs have changed. Just as jobs have evolved over the last 200 yers, so have the skills needed to thrive in a rapidly changing, complex world. Researchers agree that young people are going to need a wide range of skills to succeed in today's rapidly changing world - beyond just reading, writing, and arithmetic."  - People for Education 2020/21 Research Report 'The New Basics' Canada

"Future-ready students need to exercise agency, in their own education and throughout life. Agency implies a sense of responsibility to participate in the world and, in so doing, to influence people, events and circumstances for the better. Agency requires the ability to frame a guiding purpose and identify actions to achieve a goal.

"To help enable agency, educators must not only recognise learners’ individuality, but also acknowledge the wider set of relationships – with their teachers, peers, families and communities – that influence their learning. A concept underlying the learning framework is “co-agency” – the interactive, mutually supportive relationships that help learners to progress towards their valued goals. In this context, everyone should be considered a learner, not only students but also teachers, school managers, parents and communities." - OECD 2020/21 Report: The Future of Education and Skills - Education 2030

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One of the most challenging aspects of entering a third school year impacted by the pandemic is trying to stay aware of the future our students are still going to enter regardless of the implications and impact on learning that the pandemic might deposit in their lives, their feelings, their belief systems, their memories. 

It is so urgent to keep the students safe from viral transmissions - especially in this fourth wave of variants with child-age vaccines so tantalizingly imminent in our future. 

It is so urgent to remember they are learning for a lifetime, not just for this time of pandemic, and continue to lay a foundation of skills, understandings, ways of thinking that will need to serve them effectively in their very near future as well.

It is so urgent to sustain their opportunities to interact with others, to acknowledge 'their wider set of relationships' that influence their learning in so many positive ways, and open up the world for them to see, experience and learn.

It is so urgent to reduce their circle of contacts, to trace any transmissions, to isolate or quarantine, to keep them safe.

The balancing act of these dilemmas have not diminished through the three years of learning impacted by the pandemic. We have been online, we have been in person. We have masked and cohorted and been more virtual in our teaching and learning, our celebrating and sharing, than even the most forward-thinking educator might have ever envisioned for the years 2019-2020-2021. 

We have also sought strategies to keep our learners connected with each other, to focus on the learning, to remember the pandemic will fade one day but their need for skills, understandings, relationships, innovation, communicating and especially reading, writing and mathematical thinking will only proliferate, not diminish.

Every day educators around the world - as well as in our school - face the dilemmas of pandemic learning and try to find a way to creatively, virtually, in-person, in writing, in video, in action encourage and support students advancing their learning skills, improving their understandings, developing their skills.

 We seek a balancing point, a way to honour both intimidating demands - learn and be healthy; be healthy and learn. We share this balancing act with our families every day too as they attempt to make their best decisions about keeping children safe and keeping them learning as well.

Three school years - for some of our students, their entire academic career - have been interrupted, changed, disturbed, re-written, limited or enhanced by a pandemic situation no one in the world seemed to anticipate or be prepared for - even now, well into the third year of impact. 

Yet their life stories continue, their thirst to learn, to connect, to engage in developing their own agency - their own abilities to identify purpose in life and in learning, and to know how to move forward to achieve their goals remains tantalizingly fresh and real despite the discouraging spectre of the pandemic. And, as educators and as families, we must find ways to nurture that zest for life, that love of learning even as we try to find the metaphoric 'bubble wrap' needed to keep them all healthy and safe until learning in it's truest formats are completely accessible again.

They are learning from this pandemic too - learning to be resilient and flexible, learning to care for the common good, learning healthy strategies that will continue to carry them through life long after the pandemic threat has retreated to the history books. They are learning to be responsive to the situation, to communicate as clearly as possible, that big problems have multiple layers of possible solutions. That they can be part of the solution, not just intimidated by the problem. That something as small as a mask and as easy as hand washing can be a safety precaution, just as much as a helmet or a seatbelt might be in different circumstances.

These are not easy days and they seem to be becoming more challenging as each day passes. They are not easy days for our children either - the past two years of pandemic influences have clearly shown us the emotional toll, the mental-wellbeing exhaustion, the frustration and reduced interactions with each other have a significant impact on our children. They worry, they get weary, they forget what the world was and imagining what could be becomes a much-reduced possibility as they consider possibilities within a framework that has primarily offered them restrictions for as long as they can remember. 

Yet they are our future. 

Our children will need to be the changemakers that anticipate and are better prepared for world events like a pandemic in the years to come. They will need to imagine possibilities for interrupting climate change, restoring hope and peace in a world that has been tilted for a great deal of their lives.  And we, as educators and families, must be prepared to somehow continually nudge their learning while trying to find ways to keep them physically safe.

Such are the dilemmas of the pandemic - those that lead to sleep-interrupted nights, endless discussions as we puzzle through possibilities and weigh them from both points of view - the learning lens and the safety lens, trying to make best possible learning decisions for students in a world that has not known appropriate, spontaneous learning in many, many months. 

At EHS our goal is to continue to let the children lead the way, to keep as many avenues of learning and communication and relationship open as possible with safe learning continually holding fast as our first lens of consideration. 

An impossible task in an impossible time - yet we will persevere and be patient with a world that is not as familiar, not as comfortable, not as inviting as it was just three short years ago. 

Because we know this, too, shall pass. 

And the children will grow, create, innovate and change the world for the better. These children who are learning resilience, flexibility, shifting perspectives and learning platforms while wearing masks and balancing hula hoops - they are still finding ways to laugh and share and ask questions every single day. 

Dilemmas still yield the future. And the future is always full of promise and possibility.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal, Eric Harvie School 


Sep 21
Let Learning Lead the Way into the 2021-22 School Year

 


"In my language the word for education is Akinomaagewin. When you break down the word - 'aki' means earth and 'no' or 'nong' means stars or sky world. So our word for education is the study of the earth and sky world."
- Dominic H.K. Beaudry



As this new school year begins, fraught as it is with an overwhelming feeling of deja vu and great insecurities about in-person learning without the presence of vaccinations for children, it is vitally important from my perspective that we return to our centre point for schools and explore the questions that have grounded our teaching and learning every other year of my career in education:

         Why do we have schools? 
Who learns here?  
How do we learn in a way that keeps our children as safe as possible?
How do we make learning as engaging as possible?
How do we meet the learning needs of all our students?

Last year, as the pandemic truly unfolded around us in an enormous bloom of anxiety, fear, exhaustion, questions and very few answers, we worked very hard as a staff to generate and sustain a safe learning environment that made sense to our learners as learners. We did not want the children in our school to look back on the 2020-21 school year and remember the year that:
       -  we were all forced to stay in one room
-  in one chair all year 
- the year we had to distance from each other all the time 
- the year we were always wearing masks
 - the year we didn't get to have Peace Assemblies or field trips or artists 
- the year we didn't get to swim
- the year we didn't get to have Choir
- the year we didn't get to have concerts
- the year the grade 4 kids didn't get to celebrate moving on to Middle School

So we focused on what we COULD do for learning regardless of all the other restrictions. And we were delighted with the students' great interest and investment in our Coulee School venture, as well as our grade 4 students' amazing work on our first art installation '5 Years of Learning Together' on the front of our school. 2020-21 will be, we hope, etched forever in our students' memories as the year we did Coulee School and the year we created the first 5-Year mural. In perusing our newly released 2020-21 EHS School Yearbook, it is astonishing to re-visit all the learning that did take place in our building despite quite significant restrictions - one of the many reasons I love our Yearbook:)

And now we find ourselves knocking on the door of school year 2021-22, opening the door with a fair bit of hesitation on another year of unknown and unexpected events still heavily shadowed by the pandemic. 

We learned a lot from our experiences last year - how strong we were as a learning community, how creative we could be even in the face of great adversities, how much we were willing to invest in truly caring for each other in multiple ways as we continued to build peaceful communities together. We also learned we needed each other - as humanity always does - despite our genuine fears and challenges. 

We are meeting the challenges of this new school year with a different perspective. 
We matter to each other. 
We matter - each of us.

Our school wide peace book that we have all read to inspire us to continue to invest in each other even though the messages of the world seem to cry 'distance! distance!' from every corner, is called "You Matter" by Christian Robinson.  It is helping us remember we matter to ourselves and to each other and will guide our connectedness this school year.

As will learning. 

We are working with our Artist, Rebecca Ellison, to complete two more murals for the front of the school. We are expanding our experiences in Coulee School back to Glenbow Ranch Park. We are looking forward and letting learning lead the way.  The pandemic and it's inherent restrictions will not define the learning experiences of our children as we 'study of the earth and sky world.' 

Learning will lead our way through the 2021-22 school year and we are excited to invite you to join the journey with us - virtually, in-person, in writing and in experiences!


Lorraine Kinsman
Principal 




Jun 30
See You in September Part 2
"Students who thrived in the remote environment during the pandemic demonstrated competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, resilience, independence as learners, self-regulation, cognitive flexibility and perseverance. 
These are the attributes that are noted as critical for future employability across industries and geographies."   - (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020)

 

n this final blog entry for the school year 2020-21, I am going to explore elements of academic achievement and school organization through the lens of pandemic implications on the experiences of children, as a strategy for considering learning in our school in the 2021-22 school year. Even as we contemplate possibilities for opening up schools again, there is an inherent layer of anxiety and concern that permeates every consideration, every plan, every decision. 


Academic Achievement 
An interesting element of cohorted and online learning has been that student achievement was impacted negatively for the most part - except for students who were already motivated to work digitally or in solitude, while students were often doing their very best, they were also very isolated and restricted in movements and conversations. Without the 'just in time' guidance of the teacher, there were significant impediments for students to demonstrate their own learning and understanding of new concepts and to receive the support needed to ensure learning was focused and on track.

Data from the Reimagining Education 2020 fall investigation into the global impact of the pandemic revealed that more than 98% of participating students indicated they preferred personalized learning opportunities with a teacher rather than automation. "Personalization is among the most effective means for accelerating academic and cognitive growth," the report noted, explaining further that "students want to be be creative and believe they learn more when they have greater voice and choice and receive personalized feedback."

As we explored the overall achievement of our students at Eric Harvie School through this pandemic year, we were intrigued by many of the findings. Overall, our students' achievement levels did not shift significantly through the 2020-21 school year, likely as a result of the stability of our in-person learning environment overall. 

Students generally achieved a similar success ratio to what we have consistently achieved in our previous four years across most curricular areas, with slight variations downward in applying new thinking in novel situations (an expected outcome of being constrained primarily to the building and to particular classrooms for much of the school year).  Areas where we really focused - like teaching writing - were where students generally demonstrated the greatest overall levels of improvement, while students demonstrated a slight deterioration in social/emotional stability as the year progressed (as expressed through our pre and post wellness school surveys). Since these levels began high (with almost 90% of students expressing feelings of safety and happiness at school in November), declining to approximately 86% in June is noteworthy but not disconcerting. 

The interesting factor for us as teachers results from the more traditional approach we had to take to classroom-based instruction this past school year. With students cohorted closely with each other and their classroom teacher, we were not able to regroup for instruction based on personalized learning needs, nor were we able to offer the same level of personalized supports such as SPARK, Calm, Zones, HeartMath, etc. that we typically offer students to help them learn to self-regulate and be prepared for learning. Children did not work as collaboratively as they usually would, were confined to specific learning spaces and unable to make use of the Learning Commons or Maker Space, for example. While, in a usual school year we would anticipate overall improvement in most curricular areas with respect to whole-school learning achievement, 2020-21 maintained the status-quo in terms of achievement levels for the most part.   

There are many factors at play here - this was the most extraordinary year of teaching and learning any of us have ever experienced and we don't want to read too much into the data we have collected. Instead, we are going to look to the fall as a time where we will re-establish our school goals towards developing a strong learners' toolkit of skills that will support students to wonder, investigate, problem solve, pose questions, represent their thinking and work collaboratively in a peaceful community. 

We are going to focus on student learning - meeting any and all students where they are at, rather than where we might expect them to be as they enter their 'next grade level'.  With students returning to in-school learning from a variety of situations - Hub School, CBE-Learn, Home Schooling, interrupted learning due to extended isolations or quarantines and online learning, as well as possibly entering grade 1 without any Kindergarten experiences, or entering Kindergarten without preschool experiences, we fully appreciate every child is going to be coming to school with a highly varied set of previous learning experiences and levels of achievement. We will be establishing our teaching to reflect these realities.

And, our direct and simple mission for the 2021-22 school year will be to "successfully meet learners where they are and support them to achieve academic success through collaborative teaching and learning opportunities.'  These opportunities will continue to be offered through the lenses of peace education, place-based learning and design thinking, as they always have in our school.  This is not new work to us at EHS; it is more a matter of accommodating small differences to reach the highest potential of every student. 

 "Going forward the learning process must foster these competencies through authentic, relevant learning that provides voice, choice and agency to learners.  This necessitates a new role for teachers; one in which they are activators of learning; practitioners who can differentiate task, time and space to meet student needs and include them as co-designers of that learning."  - (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020) 

School Organization
There is no doubt the school's organization will be much different in the fall than it was this past pandemic year, and different again from how we were organized previous to the pandemic. Not only has the pandemic shaped our most recent experiences, the budget constraints have also generated a much changed landscape for our school as we anticipate returning to in-person learning in the fall of 2021.

To begin with, we no longer have a Physical Education Specialist to plan and offer our PE program with and for students. This will fall to the classroom teachers as elementary generalists. And our Music program is being re-imagined as a Fine Arts program with greater emphasis on integrating Music into the overall daily learning of every student. While our beloved Music teacher, Mrs. Coulson, will still be with us, her work with students and in classrooms will look and sound much changed from what it has in the past - we are looking forward to this exciting and energizing way of bridging learning through Music, Dram, Art, Dance across all curricular areas as it makes sense for our learners.

The school will be organized differently as well. There will be six grade 3/4 classes, all housed in one hallway (the HOPE hallway), to facilitate greater access to re-grouping and collaborative projects as we strive to personalize and meet the needs of every learner. There will be 3 team teaching teams of Grade 3/4 teachers to facilitate this work. The Grade 1/2 team will also consist of six grade 1/2 classes as well, all housed in the PEACE hallway, for the same reasons. With considerably less support staff, all extra support for learning will need to come from classroom teachers who will be working collaboratively to plan, instruct and support every learner from wherever they are in their learning journey.

We will teach curriculum of course, but most importantly, we will be teaching children through the curriculum to ensure they are able to progress and grow from wherever they are when they arrive at school in September, 2021 to the highest level of achievement they are best able to attain by June of 2022.  And our learning will be designed to support each child as much as possible with a highly reduced number of staff, understanding as we do that deep learning is what ensures children will be able to progress in life successfully.

 "Deep learning experiences are those that produce learning that sticks for life. They are both profoundly personalized and student-centered and are intrinsically motivating for students as they pursue topics that are real interest to them, have authentic meaning, and are more rigorous. These learning experiences make students want to persist and to succeed. 

This combination of autonomy, belonging and meaningful work inspires students. When students are invited to demonstrate their learning differently, and when learning environments include all students as contributors and change agents, they begin to develop a sense of efficacy. 

Relationships and engagement - the gatekeepers of learning - are emphasized in this learner-centered model. Voice, choice, and agency are central to deep learning." (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020) 

We are excited about the possibilities even during these times of great reduction and change. Education is a changing profession and CBE has a long history of changing successfully to meet the demands of society, of children, of families. As part of the CBE family of schools, Eric Harvie staff look forward to welcoming all our learners on September 1, 2021 for an exciting and much different year of learning experiences!  We are very proud of the work we have accomplished this school year - #CouleeSchool and our beautiful 5th anniversary Mural stand as amazing examples of what we were able to accomplish with our students even during huge pandemic constraints and we know our children will soar next year as well :)


"Education doesn't need to be reformed - it needs to be transformed. the key is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions."  - Sir Ken Robinson 


See you all in September!  Best wishes for a safe and relaxing summer!

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School 






 


Jun 15
See You in September - Part 1

"Through this disruption, there has been a recognition that schools play a vital role beyond learning. Their custodial and community roles are central to a healthy society."   -   'Education Reimagined: The Future of Learning'   (Fullan, Quinn, Drummy & Gardiner, 2020)

 

It is the middle of June...

And now our thoughts, deeds and concerns begin to point to September - always the mingling of 'good-bye' with 'Hello!' and a conglomeration of planning, cleaning, organizing, anticipating, re-visioning, sadness and joy. Such is June in a school and, despite the pandemic, this is still true in 2021.

A few years ago, when I had been a principal for just a couple of years, I remember describing the process of closing a school in June, only to re-open in September, as being similar to shutting down a bank in June, closing out all the accounts and changing at least 30% of the staff and sending everyone away on summer vacation. Then re-opening the bank branch on September 1st with some of the same clients, a whole bunch of new ones and everyone opening their accounts even though none of the customers had the same needs as before!  it is a process quite unique to learning institutions and, as I have come to learn over the many years between sharing that description and today, this it is a process that takes several months to execute successfully. Planning for June actually takes the months of April/May/June - at the very least!!

As we look to close out the 2020-21 school year, there are still many pragmatic pieces of information that have not been decided yet for Eric Harvie School - such as the impact of pandemic health and safety procedures - as well as some undefined components like how many students will be returning from home schooling or CBE-Learn online schooling to in-person learning - or vice versa. Slowly, we are beginning to fill in some of these questions with answers but there is still much to be determined for our school before the beginning of September. Class lists, teacher partnerships, use of space, whole school initiatives, professional development, extra-curricular events, parent evenings, etc are all still in the development stages this mid-June. However, the thinking and planning are well underway - there is much thoughtful considering required to open a school year successfully for all students. 

In preparation for the next school year, I have also been reading and researching about potential issues regarding a return to 'before' in schools as we all fervently hope to see the end of the pandemic restrictions we have lived with for about sixteen months begin to recede. Throughout the world, many realizations have emerged from the various closedowns, virtual classroom experiences and the impact of these past months on children globally, including in Canada and in Alberta. I believe the one common experience that has been universal is simply that every child has experienced the pandemic differently - and most of them have experienced an identifiable impact of some kind on their learning, emotional well-being and/or sense of trust in the security of the world. 

Understanding the implications the pandemic experience may have on children is a significant element of effective planning for schools as we contemplate in-person, unrestricted learning once again - what used to be so natural now seems so foreign and strange!  Considerations for our school as we make plans for re-opening as fully as possible in the fall of 2021 include exploring the dynamics of student engagement, emotional well-being of all students, student academic achievement and skill development, and the best possible organization of schools to meet the needs of students coming to class with vastly different learning histories and experiences.  In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, I am going to explore ideas related to student engagement and emotional well-being; next week, in Part 2, I will take a look at academic achievement and school organization - specifically within the lens of EHS. 

Student Engagement

One of the primary areas emerging as a potential concern for educators and parents everywhere is the impact of motivation on student success. This is not an outcome of the pandemic - while student motivation has certainly been exacerbated by the current situation, the pandemic did not cause motivational concerns for and with students over the past decade or so. Fullan, Quinn, Drummy and Gardiner, in their 2020 report "Education Re-Imagined: The Future of Learning" clearly describe the motivation (or lack of motivation) phenomena:

 "The challenges highlighted during the disruption should not come as a surprise. Over the last decade, student engagement has plummeted. Almost one in every five students does not reach a basic minimum level of skills to function in today’s society. (OECD) 

 Moreover, many school systems have not maintained pace with technological advances; schools have not provided widespread access to digital tools. When the pandemic hit, 1 in 5 students did not have access to the internet or a device to support them in lockdown. This disruption revealed systems that already struggled to support all learners. To put it plainly: it’s time to situate education as an instrument of individual and societal good." (Fullan, et. al. 2020)

Motivation, student engagement and attention are all closely interwoven with cognition and academic achievement. When learners feel comfortable, are interested in attending to the learning, have tasks to take up that provoke their thinking and curiosity, their capacity for learning something new is maximized and their achievement improves. These student perspectives are all connected through emotion and “emotion is the gatekeeper of motivation, cognition and attention.” Therefore, establishing an environment that focuses on well-being and belonging for all is job one for teachers. In short, well-being and quality learning are intimately related. (Fullan, et. al. 2020)

To improve student engagement, educators must find ways to strengthen and continue to foster emotional connections with students, and to help learners develop greater emotional connections with each other.  As our children come back to school in the fall following a long stretch of uncertainty, forced isolation through fixed student cohorts in school, stretches of online learning or periods of quarantine due to illness or exposure to positive cases, they physical safety requirements may begin to wane just as the emotional needs take centre stage. 

Social isolation from a larger peer group inhibits the growth of social interactions that would usually grow and change through any given school year in the company of multiple peers from a variety of classroom settings as children gather both formally and informally throughout a school day. This may lead to loneliness, less connection or fractured relationships with other children they are now seeing repeatedly for a whole school year with an almost relentless consistency. During periods of online learning, social and peer connections may be completely interrupted or, in some cases, disrupted with longer-term consequences for friendships. Students may have enjoyed online learning more than school, or appreciated the independence and autonomy it afforded them. Others may have enjoyed their leisure pursuits more than normal, with lots of play in the picture. Some students may have simply refused to participate and idly pursued other interests while at home. And any emotionally challenging period of time in a child's life will naturally impact motivation, attention to task, ability to cognitively engage in an activity and their overall level of interest in being in school - their school engagement. 

Teachers can ease the social pathway

  • facilitating connection and conversation

 • re-creating norms that will allow students to feel psychologically                                                              safe in an optimistic and efficacious learning environment 

• Inviting each student’s perspective by asking open questions so that each student feels connected to the learning community• Providing trauma-informed learning for staff, parents and students, enabling everyone in the school community to recognize and respond mindfully during this crisi

  • Appoint a caring adult to build a relationship with those students you know to be vulnerable (Fullan, et. al. 2020)

 It is clear that emotional health and student engagement are tied very closely together - to successfully re-integrate students into a world of engaged learning will take time and effort but it is essential if we are to support our learners to become adaptable, skilled thinkers and doers in the world. 

"Educators would be wise to examine their own practices that can extend flexibility, choice and voice to students. Simple ways to do this are to: 

• Invite students to share the positive insights emerging from the pandemic. What did they learn? What did they learn about themselves? What are they grateful for?

 • “De-front” the classroom by taking the emphasis from the teacher and placing it on students 

• Promote collaboration among students. When students work in groups, there is flexibility, more voices engage, and smaller children can wiggle around as needed 

• Incorporate choice into assignments and classroom activities 

• Arrange the classroom to support student movement 

• Create a discrete way for students to share vulnerabilities or concerns 

• Enable students to make suggestions about what and how to learn

                                                                        - Fullan, et. al., 2020

Prior to the pandemic, education systems around the world were beginning to re-examine teaching and learning practices and to explore possibilities towards developing responsive approaches to learning that would engage students more fully and successfully in the learning process. 

Our current system has been called into question numerous times for its flexibility, ability to respond to student learning and weave effective use of technology organically into teaching and learning.  While reforms to education have received significant attention in the past couple of decades, they have been quite focused on improving teaching and learning in literacy and numeracy, and with the goal of improving high school completion, rather than focusing on enhancing the emotional connections students might make that will keep them connected to learning throughout their lifetimes. Living in an unpredictable global society requires attending to students' holistic needs as a person, rather than strictly their academic development.

"Quality learning must be built on the interests of students along the following dimensions:

 • Connecting to purpose and meaning

 • Challenging students to have high expectations 

• Positioning learning goals that focus beyond the basics 

• Using engaging pedagogies 

• Building relationships and belongingness

 • Providing opportunities to contribute to the world

This combination of readiness for change and urgency arising from the current crisis has the potential to shift the education system from one of outdated “schooling” to future focused ‘learning” and take learning out of the classroom and into the world." (Fullan, et. al., 2020)


Emotional Well-Being

A key finding through the multiple options that have emerged for teaching and learning through the pandemic has been the emphasis on the importance of student-teacher relationships. While this is not necessarily a new finding - relationships have long been the most common predictor of student success - it is telling that learners clearly indicate they do not want to be taught digitally, by and large, but rather by teachers who know them and understand how they learn best. (Class of 2030 & the Life-Ready Learning Report, 2020).  Most teachers with traditional pedagogy struggled with transferring their particular styles of teaching to the digital environment and found it challenging to engage students in open-ended learning tasks that would encourage creativity, collaboration or pique curiosities. 

Since relationships remain the strongest predictor of student success, and acknowledging the need to develop positive emotional well-being connections for students to foster interest in learning and positive student engagement, it is essential as we bring all our learners back together in open, inquisitive learning spaces that educators, parents, community partners and students seek to optimize student engagement through positive relationship development. 


Some key questions can foster deep reflection and be used to engage thinking about what are the next best steps for learners in our schools:

 1. What knowledge, skills and attributes do our students need to thrive in this complex world? 

2. What kind of learning is needed for this current and future complexity? 

3. How do we ensure equity? 

4. How do we attend to well-being? 

5. How can technology be best leveraged for learning in the future?

Our current system of educating children in schools was created to serve two purposes: 

    - to organize students when they learned (time)

    - to confine students when they learned (space)

 These two principles were useful in the 1800 and 1900’s but the COVID disruption has rendered them redundant. Students can learn and demonstrate this learning without bricks and mortar or bell times. With digital and deep learning, students can learn where they are. Students can learn when they are ready. They desire relationships with teachers who know them and achieve best success in that environment. Our challenge as educators moving forward is to determine how to best meet student learning needs in less structured environments, with fewer external controls and greater focus on motivation, relationship and curiosity. 

"For decades the literature has been flooded with discussion of future ready skills, including the higher cognitive, social emotional, and technical skills and attributes needed in a complex digital world. This kind of learning changes the learner’s perspective, behaviors, and develops skills for life. It leaves the learner wanting to learn more. 

We know one thing for sure. 

The absolute key to doing this is to cultivate the intrinsic motivation of students to learn, individually and together. The essence of this powerful learning is fostered by a student’s sense of purpose, meaning, belongingness and desire to make a contribution to society. Ignoring these essential goals is a profound weakness in many education systems." (Fullan, et. al., 2020)


Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

Eric Harvie School 




Jun 07
Something to Remember....Something to Share....

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NueIHENCckw

"To tell the truth that,  for a very long time in this country there were laws that sent Indigenous children to schools that were far away from their homes, and in those schools really bad things happened...to have that conversation with your children...to let them read the stories and for you to read with them...
If they are ready to have these conversations about why these laws were put into place, then be truthful that Indigenous people were seen to be inferior and that they needed to change their ways, their cultures, their language, their ways of knowing, being and walking in this world - these were not seen as something to share with dignity, not held with respect...
If the children are old enough to understand, you can talk about assimilation...you can talk about genocide and how that is actually what has happened in this country..." Monique Gray Smith

*************************************

It has taken me a long time to process the enormity of 215 unmarked childrens' graves - not because a story of unmarked graves for children has never surfaced before, but rather because such stories have.  

I expect there will be blood woven through the annals of history - humanity has a long history of finding ways to kill each other without too much provocation, to be honest. Looking back through times past, one will find many sad and terrible examples of unmarked graves, unremarked deaths of a nation's youngest citizens, unreported child deaths for any number of not-particularly-valid reasons. I may react viscerally and with anguish to stories of genocide and assimilation but I do not find them to be shocking or overwhelming, they are part of the historical record written in words, in blood, in bone across nations of all political dimensions. 

What takes my breath away, makes me stop whatever I am doing because I am still in shock - is that we are still trying to cover any of this up rather than acknowledging we messed up and will do better in the future.  

"Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.
- Maya Angelou

We do know better. Why are we hiding the truth? Why are we not releasing any and everything we know about residential school deaths, burials and losses so that, collectively as a nation, we are able to mourn and grieve and then do better? It is this knowledge that more cover-ups exist that keeps me awake at night. 

215 voices were silenced. Yet, it required a long time, investigations and insistence by the families for their truths to be revealed. That is roughly half the population of our school - imagine losing half the school's population of children - how quiet the world of school would become. Imagine the anguish of families never knowing what happened to their child after being taken away to school. A simple disappearance with no simple situation left behind. 

Last Monday, as classes gathered beneath our lowered flags to speak in hushed and tearful voices of what this discovery actually meant to them, a young child in grades 1/2 came up to me and asked, "But, Mrs. Kinsman, why did the teachers let this happen to the children?" 

I was not - am not - able to find words to offer in response to that question. 

********************************************

What we are able to do is speak from a place of empathy, of kindness, of peace. What we are able to do is share the stories of the survivors and the children themselves. We are able to acknowledge Canada has a bloodied past and still move on towards a brighter future. We are able to stop perpetuating the grief of determined searching in a world that already knows there are other truths to be found. 

"How do we want to be together? You hold me up when you are kind to me, when you play with me, when you respect me, when you listen to me...Kindness is really a salve right now, if you are looking for some ways to change things right now,  find ways to be kind." - Monique Gray Smith

When we were able to sit with our learners and hear their questions, and to discuss the history of our country in real terms rather than postcard descriptions, we learned from the children that being 'different' in any way was not necessarily a trait to be overlooked or diminished but more likely to be celebrated. if one can draw 'differently' than most other children, or play a musical instrument better than expected, or create a game that wows all their classmates, this accelerates feelings of success and belonging. Different does not necessarily mean inferior.  At least not in our school - 'we have room for different', as one child reassured me today. 

Last week, we had children playing a game where they were recruiting new Peace Ambassadors for the school - complete with questionnaires and clipboards. Part of the game was to present yourself as a potential Peace Ambasador for the school and describe how you might make our school a peaceful community. There were lots of ideas that emerged from the game - more importantly for me was the clear understanding of what makes a peaceful community care for each other articulated by several students.  We are far from perfect, but we encourage children to do their best to accept each other as joyous, creative humans in a busy, loving school. We encourage kindness and acceptance. We promote sharing and caring.
                    
                                        And these days, kindness is definitely a salve.

***********************************************

To remember the 215 children whose graves are believed to be located on the Residential School site in Kamloops, BC, we have decided to incorporate the number '215' somewhere visibly on our first reflective outdoor mural.  We have worked hard with Saa'kokoto over our five years to develop a clear sense of how Indigenous perspectives can both inform and strengthen our understandings of the natural world, as well as human relations, and many of these teachings and learnings have been captured in our overall mural design. To our way of thinking, this is how we move confidently into a more just and caring world - with kindness, with empathy, with a deep appreciation for the value of humanity as we honour every human life and build a peaceful community together. 

We will continue the discussions, the reflections, the story sharing with each other and around each other. we will not forget the 215 who were found last week,  nor be wholly shocked when other situations like this arrive. We will celebrate and embrace our differences and work hard to urge new approaches, renewed openness to the truths that are lurking in the backgrounds of the stories being told and shared. We will remember and we will share. 

***********************************************
 
"And this is one of those times when can begin to come together...to say 'Can you imagine?' And that is what is happening now. Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles are imagining and the empathy is coming alive. And that empathy will move us forward and it will create change. We cannot rely on the federal or provincial governments for that change - we've seen that. 
The change is incumbent upon us as citizens who live in this place we call Canada. 
So, I invite you to have these conversations with your children, in your classrooms, with your family and friends.
Hold the space.
The reality is that we are only beginning this journey to feel, to understand, to uphold dignity and to move forward. 
And every single one of us has a role in this. 
So I invite you to create a role for yourself.
What can you be reading, what can you be listening to, who are having conversations with so that, when the children ask you - and they will - that you are ready to have these conversations.
A big part of all of this is our humility to realize there is lots we don't know and more to be revealed. 
Please continue to educate your heart, your mind and your spirit." 
- Monique Gray Smith


Something to remember; something to share. 


Lorraine Kinsman

Principal​


May 27
Bringing Imagination to the Table of Learning

"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. " - Margaret Wheatley

 

Once upon a time...lots of great stories begin with this hopeful phrase....

Once upon a time teachers at Eric Harvie School imagined a year of learning during a pandemic that would not only be a story of limitations and constraints.  This story of learning would carry children into the natural world intentionally, making connections with each other and honouring visible relationships.

This story would elevate the notion of relationships, embodied in the words: We Walk This Path Together...

Teachers dreamed of possibilities and engaging students in breaking those possibilities wide open to be bigger, better, more interesting and engaging than teachers might ever begin to imagine!

And so the concepts embraced in the notion of 'Coulee School' emerged from imaginations seeking to break the restraints that would define all learning in school year 2020-21. 


 


That imagined beginning nested in the work of the students and gained life as a new story of learning - a story that nudged children to question, wonder, reflect, discover, innovate or explore as they uncovered and began to make sense of new elements of life on our planet, making connections with prior understandings and knowledge.  Imaginings of the teachers flowed seamlessly towards the collective learning  the children would create as they acknowledged and understood every story begins with a blank page...

 


"Research shows a direct connection between a student’s mindset and academic success." - Ron Berger

As the school year unfolded, the work of our learners began to emerge both physically in their numerous representations of their school work, and virtually on the pages of our Coulee School website. The diverse teaching and learning across the school was phenomenal in scope - relying on the questions of students, we witnessed the brilliance of learner curiosity as it became the impetus for investigations and explorations as students acquired and assimilated new information into their knowledge repertoire. The array of information was captured so eloquently by learner representations - and then we imagined bigger, transitioning student work into public displays of exploration and new understandings. 

 

The energy of this project has been oxygen to our school during this year of constraint and limitations. We were outside where viruses seemed less menacing.  And we were engaged actively in real discoveries, authentic questions, puzzles that we needed to make sense of and perpetually changing natural conditions. The more we ventured into the Coulee, the greater our awareness of learning possibilities became until we were positively crackling with energy, curiosity and open minds!


 


“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s 
mind there are few."
     - Shunryu Suzuki  (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind) 

What began as possibility - imaginings and ideas from a group of teachers trying to open up learning opportunities in a year where every familiar experience had been swept off the table - came full circle, reflecting the power of relationships, consideration, perseverance, tenacity and inquiry when students were invited to participate in the learning processes.  And #Coulee School became a real event to celebrate!

As we look ahead to the fall, there are many uncertainties for sure. We wonder what the expectations for each teacher, staff member, student will be as we sit, firmly mired in the face of not knowing, of speculating, of being anxious. This pandemic year has brought about some amazing learning for the children in attendance when they could be here - but there are also children who weren't able to be in school every day this year - sometimes for extended stretches of time. And others who will be returning to EHS from a variety of possible teaching situations. One thing we know for sure: our expectations will need to be tempered with reality and be judiciously shared. 

We have to imagine ways to bring school to life as we enter the fall, to celebrate families, siblings, friends and share stories. To make the unknown visible for and with our students. Some will need extra support; some will need the freedom to fly. All will need interested, caring, supportive adults to guide them in these journeys. 

"But our kids are not broken.
To foster students’ growth, districts should think beyond traditional ways of grading and teaching. 
Instead of federal and district test results becoming labels...districts should use them diagnostically, as guides only,
 and encourage teachers to collaborate with students in understanding their skill profiles so that the kids feel empowered in their own development." 
                                 - Ron Berger 


As staff and teachers begin to envision next school year, we know there are many things to celebrate - imagination and resiliency immediately come to mind. We also know whatever our journey becomes next school year, it will be best led by student questions and curiosities and the more hands-on, engaging learning opportunities included, the more likely learners are to invest themselves in developing deeper understandings of the world. 

A beginner's mindset stays open to new possibilities. Even as we anticipate knowing what the outcomes will be, we still want to experience the richness of living in the possible, imagining the best, seeing what happens as we navigate the journey.  

 Schools should also recognize their students’ resilience over this past year, support their healing and emotional growth, and honour them with meaningful and challenging academic work, not with remedial classes. That’s how we’ll get our children back on track. " Ron Berger 


Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School







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