A friend of mine, Jason Hartl, the principal of Dr. Martha Cohen, recently shared an article entitled: Learning from Home: Top Ten Tips for Parents to Keep Kids on Track, from the STEM website Mindfuel.
Online learning requires more than just putting the curriculum onto tablets, we need to find engaging ways to teach kids and ensure they are learning and having fun, said Cassy Weber, CEO of MindFuel.
Tips to keeping kids engaged online:
1. Limit distractions and make sure the space is functional.
2. Encourage regular breaks and stretching, and remember mental health is just as important as physical health.
3. Turn learning into a game for a change of pace.
4. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and class.
5. Encourage your child to enhance their learning and try to learn something new.
6. Allow for flexibility in your child’s learning schedule.
7. Setting goals and rewarding success goes a long way.
8. Find ways to do things together throughout the day.
9. Take your child’s learning outside when possible.
10. Incorporate regular classroom activities into your child’s day.
Children thrive on routine. Chances are there are regular activities your student’s teacher plans throughout the week. Maybe there’s a theme for certain days of the week, or a certain activity they do together such as reading a book chapter at the end of the day.
At-home learning is a new reality Canadian students may face due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please see visit the website for more information.
“Moonshots" are the incredible, seemingly impossible, ideas that change our world.
Dr. Gray, RT Alderman's amazing Music and Band Director, excitedly shared Moonshot thinking with me this year. An avid learner, I immediately began to research this new concept, a concept that I hadn't heard of before. Immediately, I was hooked.
In his 1962 speech at Rice University, John F. Kennedy stated: “We choose to go to the moon this decade." Despite the barriers and obstacles, Kennedy believed that humanity was going to accomplish something incredible.
Moonshot thinking involves embracing the chaos and uncertainty and changing the world (hmm... does this sound familiar?) It's about better thinking: thinking bigger; thinking smarter and thinking faster. It's about thinking different. Moonshot thinking is only limited by imagination.
Moonshot thinking is when “you choose a huge problem, such as climate change, and propose to create a radical solution to the problem using disruptive technology. For this to happen you have to abandon the idea of creating a 10% incremental improvement and focus on a solution that will bring ten times (X10) improvements, or solve it completely" (Alayon)
Moonshot Thinking Framework
- Moonshot Thinking
- Moonshot Launch
- Moonshot Landing
- Transform Yourself
“Moonshots live in that place between audacious projects and pure science fiction" (Villafuerte). When I listen to our students' and our staff's learning, their conversations, their research, their brainstorming and their ideas, I realize that moonshot thinking lives and breathes at RT Alderman.
Each and everyday, I humbled and in awe of being part of the moonthinking!
- Leading the future | Moonshot thinking by Peter Fisk at the GeniusWorks.Com.
- Understanding Moonshot Thinking by David Alayon.
- Google X Head on Moonshots: 10X Is Easier Than 10 Percent by Fitz Villafuerte.
Fostering a Sense of Belonging
“Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them."
– Rita Levi-Montalcini (Italian Neurophysiologist)
As part of our SDP (School Development Plan), we have identified “fostering a sense of belonging," as our wellness goal at RTA.
In addition to disrupting student learning in the spring, the COVID pandemic has also unbalanced our connectedness to community. Teachers and students moved to a different type of learning, prioritizing well-being in a world of unknown. Teachers and students were separated from their peers, their friends, their teachers, and their school.
And while September has brought a new normalcy, we recognize that fostering a sense of belonging remains at priority.
Currently we have 74 students in HUB online learning, they are part of the RTA community; we have 22 Homeroom Cohorts, they are part of the RTA community; we have 4 HUB teachers, they are part of the RTA community; we have 2 EAs, a resource teacher, 4 office staff members, 4 caretakers, 1 library, 8 lunchroom staff, 2 PE and 1 Music teacher, they are part of the RTA community.
We are working very hard to create a sense of community in the building – a sense of community amongst the students, the staff and our families. The PE team has begun recognizing monthly Homerooms; in school and online classes are participating in our monthly STEM challenges; and, Ms. Grey has invited both in school and HUB students to present during our Remembrance Day Assembly. As always, we are open to ideas and suggestions as well. This is important work and we need everyone's support.
We will continue to have regular class meetings and check-ins, at all grade levels. This may take the form of a sharing circle or a conversation in grade 9. We will continue to invite student voice, through surveys and self-reflection and journaling. We will continue to grow and to learn together.
A world with possibilities…
During the past few weeks, I have been inspired by possibilities – possibilities that bloom in the outside, in the trees and the parks, possibilities that change the way we use technology, while celebrate honoured traditions, and possibilities that bring us together in unique, but different ways. Despite a shift in normalcy, our new near normal identity, I know, with confidence, that greatness is a constant.
I have been inspired by our students – their resilience, their humour, and their compassion. Each and every day, I see students coming to school with huge smiles in their eyes. And, when I remind them of the upcoming non-instructional day, they say 'ah, but we like coming to school!"
I have been inspired by our teachers – their creativity, their passion and their potential to inspire and to challenge. Each and everyday, teachers share their learning stories and their adventures with the students. Our teachers eagerly greet RTA students outside in the morning and before school starts in the HR classroom, saying goodbye at the end of the day. In a very, very short time, teachers have explored Google Meets, D2L Virtual Classrooms, Skype and Microsoft virtual parent meetings, and our first school wide STEM challenge.
I have been inspired by our families – their gratitude, their understanding and their strong believe in the learning. On my morning and afternoon bus supervision, I have been told stories of students coming home excited to share their learning, taking over the dinner table. Thank you!
Together, we will problem solve and discover endless possibilities.
The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely great.
― Louis Pasteur
Transition to RT Alderman
to Middle School can be both exciting and scary at the same time. It is normal
to feel a bit nervous. There are approximately 200 new students joining RT
Alderman next year – students in grades 5-9. Therefore, if you are new, you are
definitely not alone!
are several practices that we have created at RTA to help facilitate the
transition into Middle School:
meeting with Ms. George and Ms. Renkema – RTA Resource Team
meetings with feeder schools
and family feedback
Scavenger Hunt for new students
Entry in September: Gr. 5s and Gr. 7s on the first day of school.
Orientation during the first week of school
5 Question and Answer Slideshow
5 Question and Answer Presentation to Maple Ridge School
7 Slideshow Presentation and Gr. 7 Slideshow
Middle years learning focuses on a strong awareness to the emotional, the physical, the cognitive, the behavioural and the social
domains. It is an amazing time
of exploration and wonder.
can all change our habits for a brighter future.” - Earth Day Canada
Earth Day celebrates its 50th
Anniversary this year!
My worldview is closely connected
to the environment. Growing up, a veracious reader, I was profoundly impacted
by the works of Rachel Carlson – a scientist and a poet. Moreover, as my
passions grew, I became further inspired by David Suzuki and Jane Goodall.
During my first venture into
post secondary education, my thesis, not surprisingly, focused on Environmental
Law and the cod fisheries in the Atlantic. It is hard to believe that it has
been over 25 years since I attended Carleton University. I can vividly recall
countless hours spent reviewing articles on microfiche (a kind of pre-Google
for my young readers). Moreover, it was an amazing professor, during a graduate
class on Environmental Education at the University of Victoria that inspired me
to become an educator – an educator that shared and that taught my passion.
The environment plays a huge
role in our daily lives. As a school, especially as a Science School, we have a
responsibility to protect and to promote environmental stewardship.
There is a lot that we can do
as both individuals and as a community to shift our thinking and to promote an
ecological transition. As a school, how can we take action and how do we become
greener? As a principal, I am hoping to look at ways to better promote
composing at RT Alderman. What are you going to do?
2020 RTA Staff:
an avid read, before Spring Break, I asked RTA teachers to send me the name of
their favourite children’s book. Like my husband, many teachers struggled with
the openness of my question. By favourite children’s book, did I mean favourite
picture books for 5 year olds and under? Did I mean favourite elementary book?
Did I mean favourite pre-teen book, and so on, and so on…
goal was not to cause any undue stress. Really, I was just interested in how
they would answer my question. Several
teachers changed the question (which I called ‘cheating’), providing me with name
of multiple favourite books. While some teachers answered the question based on
their family environment. Yet, other teachers, who gravitated towards a
specific genre or author, game me favourite names.
Strong themes of perspective and empathy with
each chapter told through the lens of a different character. - Braben
The Eleventh Hour
The Eleventh Hour
is a mystery story set around a birthday costume party. Both the rhyming text
and the beautiful illustrations give clues to solve the mystery of who ate
the birthday feast. The Eleventh Hour encourages the reader to delve deeper
and immerse themselves into the mystery; I spent hours poring over this book
as a child, and cannot recommend Graeme Base enough for the captivating way
he creates a journey through his books. - Hanley
The Giving Tree
Makes me cry every single time and is so awesome for teaching empathy. Forces the reader to
consider if they are the tree of
the boy. - Wiens
Hardy Boys & Matt Christopher books
Good old-fashioned adventure and mystery.
Simple reads, predictable stories, mostly traditionally masculine heroes, but
grade-5-Wiens read them voraciously. – Wiens
I have to go
Robert Munsch. - Rigg
This is my favourite book from my boys' early
years. The rhymes and slightly scary but fun storyline makes for a tale that
can be repeated over and over again. - Hadley
The Hunger Games
I read this series when it first came out and I
have reread it several times since. Engaging science-fiction/adventure story
of a dystopian society and the struggles of a teenage girl to survive. - Hadley
Any of them. What doesn’t it have? Good triumphs over evil,
there’s friendship and rivalry and
misunderstanding and above all, hope. – Peterson
Harry Potter &
I love the Harry Potter series, which I am
currently reading to my son at bedtime. Narnia series is another I hope to
share soon. It speaks of hope and people making mistakes. I love the morality. – Clark
Fudge Series &
The Fudge series by
Judy Bloom and the Shadow children series (Among the Hidden) by Margaret
Petersen Haddix. - Burkell
A Hero's Guide to
Saving your Kingdom
The book is laugh out
loud hilarious. As it is a trilogy, so two more books. - Armitage
For the animal lover, it is written
poetically. - Armitage
Trenton Lee Stewart
4 orphans problem solve to find the
truth - a four-volume series. - Armitage
A book I give to anyone who needs a good
laugh about a woman who struggles with mental health and writes about her
adventures dealing with anxiety throughout her life. - Davey
at the moon
This book is about a young
elephant who learns that a mother's love is everywhere and is enduring.
It tells a story about how a mom
elephant had to leave her little one and go ask the sky for rain because they
didn’t have rain for quite a long time. The things were getting dry. It’s a
beautiful story and tells how the little one waits for mom to get back. In
the meanwhile, he sings the song to her mom by looking at the moon and
remembering her love.
We (me and my daughter) both
still read this book at bedtime as it's very soothing. Sometimes, after
reading the book we will go gaze at the moon and the stars from the window in
my daughter's bedroom. - Khurana
Salt to Sea
as Junior High, but wonderful for adults as well. We also have Shades of Gray
by her - they are both WW II stories. I love history, and she helps us
understand, in a very real way, what it was like ! ILOVED it! – Smith
Oh the places you’ll go
Harry Potter Series
Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss is a good reminder of the ups and downs of
Harry Potter books for her imaginative story telling.
Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
a beautifully written book. It is my go to for a read-aloud, no matter the
grade. It’s both funny and sad at the same time. I get emotional just
thinking Edward’s journey. - Lewis
The Mystery of the Green Ghost
(An Alfred Hitchock and The Three Investigators book)
Lost in the Barrens
(aka Two Against the North)
Alfred Hitchcock mixed in with teen detectives. – R. Lewis
pivotal Canadiana story of survival. It is a defining book on the coming of
age story of Jamie and his friend, Awasin. – R. Lewis
What Do You Do With a Chance?
that this book helps children be resilient and confident to take
risks/chances in life, especially in their learning. I love the message. - Lee
This book was
published a couple of years before my oldest son was born and I received the
board book as a shower gift. It became a favorite bedtime story for my kids
and holds many fond memories. - Clack
Teachers’ Convention is always an exciting time for
teachers. Starting in mid-December, teachers begin by registering for workshops
and presentations. Important to the overall professional development for teachers,
Teachers’ Convention is a time to reflect and to grow as educators. Through convention speakers, workshops, exhibits
and social activities, teachers can keep up with educational developments, identify
and propose solutions for common problems, expand their educational knowledge
and skills, and exchange ideas with colleagues. (ATA Website)
As my mind tends to thrives
on organization, categories and groupings, each year, for Teachers’ Convention,
I select a guiding theme or a guiding lens. This year, I selected workshops
that focused primarily on supporting executive functioning. According to the Developing
Child Harvard University website: Executive function and self-regulation skills are
the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember
instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic
control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of
many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter
distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.
- Inhibition - The ability to stop one's own behavior
at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts.
- Emotional Control - The ability to
modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on
- Initiation - The ability to begin a task or
activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or
- Working memory - The capacity to hold
information in mind for the purpose of completing a task.
- Planning/Organization - The ability to
manage current and future- oriented task demands.
- Organization of Materials - The ability to
impose order on work, play, and storage spaces.
- Self-Monitoring - The ability to
monitor one's own performance and to measure it against some standard of
what is needed or expected. –
Cooper & Dietzal
Mindful strategies to help support neurodiverse
students with executive functioning:
Focus on strengths: respect a child’s
teaching of social skills
(Review weekly with student)
Review before new learning begins:
on google docs (love, love)
in activities or environment
in at Digital Age
the winter break, I read Reader Come Home:
The Reading Brain in the Digital World, by Maryanne Wolf. The book itself
is somewhat of an academic read, one that I had to read and re-read for
understanding and clarification. Ms. Wolf describes how reading, unlike
speaking, is not a natural brain function; and, as such, we need to develop and
strengthen brain pathways to assist in the creation and to strengthen the
ability to read. As we becoming increasingly dependent on digital technologies –
checking text messages, emails, social media, etc. – Ms. Wolf cautions that our
reading brain, and it’s capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and
reflection, are at risk.
I keep coming back to the book and it’s message, my thoughts are divided. Despite
their potential of negative influence, these technologies have also fostered and
continue to support reading and writing for many individuals who are able to
experience success for the first time ever. It’s about balance, intentionality
such, I thought that I would share some of my favourite digital supports as a
parent and as an educator.
All students in Calgary have access to Solaro,
through the Calgary Public Library website. Following the Alberta Curriculum,
Solaro provides access to science, math, social studies, and language arts’ study
notes, lessons, review, links to videos and practice tests for student in
grades 3 to 12.
This is an app available
through the Calgary Pubic Library as well. For veracious readers, purchasing
books can be a costly endeavor. Libby allows students (and parents) to borrow
ebooks and audiobooks or place holds easily, with a few taps. For many
students, listening to an audio book, while reading along reinforces their
comprehension and supports focus and attention.
FOR GOOGLE CHROME
As teachers, we have spent a
couple of Professional Development Days discovering the myriad of features and
supports provided through Read&Write. As parent, I encourage my children to
use this app regularly when completing their assignments at home. Read&Write
allows students to use speech to text; transfer text to PDF; read PDFs,
websites or good docs aloud (or in our case, to help edit and proofread
assignments); it also translates documents; helps minimize complexity; and, the
list goes on and on… All CBE students have access to Read&Write through
their secured Google Drive Account.
I was introduced to Big Huge
Labs as a grade 9 teacher and Learning Leader of Language Arts at David
Thompson about 10 years ago. Easily accessible, it allows students to create trading
cards, motivational slides, magazine covers, CD covers (for those of us who
remember), etc. Moreover, it is linked to Flickr, which has a free reservoir of
clip art for students to use in their work.
As a Science School, I would be remiss
if I didn’t also highlight Scratch. At RTA, students begin to learn coding in
grade 5, as part of their CTF option, connecting it to Makey Makey. Scratch allows
students to program interactive stories, games, and animations: “Scratch helps
young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work
collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.”
Positive Psychology and Wellness
As part of our School
Development Plan, we have identified student wellness as a key goal to success
and to learning in our school. Homeroom teachers have conducted surveys with
students, identifying adult and peer connections and supports inside and
outside the building. Furthermore, as a staff, we have learned how to journal with
students and to communicate through sharing circles. It is rich work; it is
important work; it is emotional work.
Realizing that the impact of
wellness touches all of us, Alberta Heath Services presented a Wellness
Workshop to RTA staff in December, focusing on Positive Psychology. We were
reminded of the importance of making a paradigm shift towards positivity: the
study of human flourishing – the strengths and virtues that enable individuals
and communities to thrive.
So, what is happiness?
experience of joy, contentment, or positive wellbeing, combined with a sense
that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” - Sonja Lyubomirsky
Ways to wellness:
(mindful listening; mindful grounding; mindful awe; mindful eating and mindful
Calm Welcoming Spaces Exercise
is not a one-size fits all practice.
Mindfulness Apps and Mindfulness Websites:
· Anxiety Canada MindShift (website
· Calm (app)
(website & app)
· re (website & app)
· Heart-Mind (website)
· Insight Timer (app)
for Teens (website)
· RelaxMelodies (app)
Mind (website & app)
· The Breathing Room (app)
· UCLA Mindful -
(website & app)
· University of
Berkley - Mindful Breathing Instructions (website)
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