Archive for the ‘critical thinking’ Category

The Studio at Grauer

Posted on: June 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

The Studio at Grauer came to be based on a need we felt existed in our district – a space to engage in professional learning experiences for teachers as well as for a learning environment for students that could be left  “set up”. My office partner, Marie Thom, and I have been talking about this for the last couple of years. The notion of a “pop-up” classroom emerged and Andrew Ferguson, the principal at Grauer, was approached to see if we could use one of the school’s unused classrooms.

December 16 2018 – Room 102

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Room 102 was being used as a storage room until we began our transformation of it in January 2017. Blending Marie’s background in learning environments and my understanding of mathematics teaching and learning, we developed a space focused on mathematics, filled with inspiring materials in a learning environment designed for learners K-Adult. Our goal was to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment.

Room 102 – January 10 2017

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January 13 2017

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The learning environment is set up to create opportunities for choice, collaboration, personalized learning and inquiry. More specifically for mathematics, our hope was to broaden understanding of what mathematics is and what the teaching and learning of mathematics can be. Often school mathematics is perceived as “arithmetic” and mathematics is a much broader discipline that this. We wanted students and teachers to see math all around them and be inspired to think about mathematics in different ways – to see mathematical ideas in the materials, in pinecones, in buildings and structures, in images of our community, in art, in stories.

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As we discussed how we were going to use the space, we decided to call it The Studio, inspired the notion of an atelier, a studio space used in the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia.

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Classes from Grauer, as well as visiting classes on “math field trips” visit The Studio to engage in mathematical inquiry. Marie and I take on the role of atelierista, working with the classroom teacher to facilitate learning experiences through different materials in the space. We have intentionally curated both mathematically structured materials like pattern blocks and Cuisenaire rods alongside materials often known as loose parts such as ribbons, gems, rocks, pinecones, etc. We also have art materials available to the students such as paint, clay, charcoal, yarn and wool so that students can express themselves and think using different languages. Students also have access to various tools to support their investigations such as measuring tapes, protractors, grids and ten frames.

The first class to visit The Studio – the grades 3&4 students from Grauer on January 18 2017

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The learning environment is intentionally flexible with choices in seating and tables available for both students and adults. Interestingly, although we have some chairs available, none of the students using The Studio have used them, preferring instead to stand or sit and lie on the carpet or use pillows. We have observed the flow of movement in the space and intentionally have large open spaces for students to move through. Shelves filled with baskets of materials are open and accessible to students. Students can choose the materials they want to use and take them to where they would like to engage.  We took doors off of some cupboards to create more open shelving. All of the furniture, except for four small Ikea open shelves, was found in school storage rooms and thrift shops.

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Provocations are set up on tables for students (and educators) to inspire mathematical thinking and inquiry. Inspired by one of the students’ interests in optical illusions, the grades 3&4 students from Grauer investigated the mathematics embedded in optical illusions. I gathered materials and tools that I hoped would provoke their thinking about optical illusions and the students also accessed and were inspired by other materials in The Studio.

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As we have more classes through The Studio, we have developed documentation to share in the space. Panels, photographs and photobooks are available for students and educators to engage with, to reflect upon and to inspire new experiences.

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One area of pedagogical intention in The Studio has been on noticing, naming and nurturing the Core Competencies and the Mathematics Curricular Competencies from our BC curriculum framework. A focus has been on both communication and creative thinking in mathematics. We intentionally create opportunities for students to engage in different types of communication and to reflect on how they are doing.

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We have had many groups of educators also visit The Studio. Our District Support Team, educators attending our Playful Inquiry professional learning series and teams from schools in our district. Many BC educators involved with our BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project have visited the space as well. We have also had visitors from Manitoba and Sweden! We often focus the visits with the questions – what do you notice? what do you wonder?

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We also have a dedicated professional learning library with the teacher resources we recommend around teaching and learning mathematics, the use of loose parts and the importance of the learning environment.

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We had hoped The Studio would inspire similar learning environments in our district but recognize that many schools do not have access to a dedicated room for a studio space – we hope that teachers will be inspired by elements of The Studio for their own classroom learning environments. What has been exciting for Marie and I is that this little project has had a huge ripple effect at Grauer, in our district, and beyond!

~Janice

 

 

Vision, Mission and Values Project at Thompson Elementary

Posted on: March 20th, 2017 by jnovakowski

The Richmond School District is embarking on a legacy project, developing new Vision, Mission and Values statements for our district. Teachers were invited to engage in discussions with their students and collect artifacts to contribute to the district process of creating new VMV statements. Two intermediate classes and their teachers from Thompson agreed to do some special filming for a district video for this legacy project.

At the beginning of January, I was able to meet with classroom teachers Lyanne McCaskill (grades 5&6) and Kevin Dimmick (grades 6&7) to plan how this project might unfold. The teachers put a lot of thought into the experiences they wanted to provide for their students. I was fortunate to be able to attend three different learning experiences with the students and to capture the students’ thinking and ideas with photographs and videos.

On the first day, as is the usual routine, the students in both classes entered their rooms to the morning provocation: What do you imagine school could be? They were invited to respond to the question using loose parts. Some students focused on the physical environment while others focused on metaphors and ideas. Each class paused to go to each table group and have those students share what they had done. Students could go back to their spots to revisit their work, connecting to new ideas or inspiration. Students were then asked to reflect on their thinking using a familiar response form.

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In the grades 5&6 class…

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In the grades 6&7 class…

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On the second day, the teachers used the Vision, Mission and Values from the Vancouver Aquarium website to initiate discussion about what Vision, Mission and Values are. In one class, the students were asked to use a familiar response format (Notice, Connect, Wonder) as they discussed and thought about the Aquarium’s VMV statements while in the other class, they used the Vision, Mission, and Values framework and questions as a way to respond.

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In one of the classes, the students sorted different statements they had made in their own reflective writing about VMV – there were very interesting discussions that emerged as students distinguished between what was part of a vision, mission or values statement.

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The students worked in small groups to create charts of words and phrases that connected to Vision, Mission or Values and these were displayed in the classroom for students to read and discuss.

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On our third day together, the teachers began their days as they had the first day – with a morning provocation posted for the students to engage with and loose parts available. The original question of What do you imagine school could be? was now linked to Vision, Mission and Values. The students could choose one or all of the three areas to represent and record their ideas about.

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It was fascinating to watch how the students’ ideas evolved over time and how each class had its own particular culture it terms of what came out in the students’ representations – kindness, inclusion, community, diversity and collaboration were the five big ideas that stood out to me as I listened to and read the students’ contributions to the project.

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An short video compilation of the Thompson VMV experience can be viewed HERE.

What has stuck with me, while spending time in these classrooms is the wisdom of our students. Their lived experiences in different types of learning environments, their understanding of each other, the importance of collaboration and the purpose of schools within a society made my heart sing. Our future is in good hands.

~Janice

Vision, Mission and Values Project at Blair Elementary

Posted on: March 20th, 2017 by jnovakowski

The two kindergarten classes at Blair Elementary took part in our district’s Vision, Mission and Values project in February. As our district develops new Vision, Mission and Values statements, student comments and contributions are being collected to inform the process.

I worked with teachers Lauren MacLean and April Pikkarainen to develop questions to be a part of their regular routine of morning provocations for when the students arrive at school. 

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As the students chose what materials and question to engage with, we had the opportunity to capture some of their thoughts about what schools could be.

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The students had clear ideas about what schools should have and how they should be designed. They talked about natural spaces and spaces to work together. There was a lot of conversation about how schools are for all children and that happiness is a feeling we should have at school.

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The classroom teachers then facilitated a sharing circle during which students shared their ideas about school. We unpacked the questions around Vision, Mission and Values with the students. The students “turned and talked” to a partner about one of these questions.

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Building on and connecting to the ideas they heard from their classmates, the students were given time to go back and revisit their creations and ideas.

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I was able to “interview” some of the students and capture their thinking about what schools could be. This tweet kind of sums up the wisdom from these amazing kindergarten students:

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I am looking forward to a district gathering in April when artifacts from classrooms across the district will be available for us to think about and am glad that the voices of these kindergarten students will contribute to the important discussions our district is having.

~Janice

introducing WODB in Kindergarten

Posted on: October 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski

I was back visiting the kindergarten classes at General Currie last week. After being introduced to Counting Collections, the students and teachers were interested in being introduced to a new math routine. Because I had noticed they had been exploring gourds the week before when I visited, I used gourds to introduce the idea and thinking behind a WODB (which one doesn’t belong?). As is the case with most young students, the students stayed quite focused on one of the objects being “the” right one and we needed some prompting to look at  various attributes – colour/s, shape, size, “bumpiness” – to think about why each gourd was unique within this set of gourds (how they are alike…all gourds, all have some orange). The students began to use language layering attributes together to describe uniqueness – “this one is the bumpiest and mostly all orange”.

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After looking at the gourds together and talking through “justifying” their choices, I showed them a WODB from the website wodb.ca - one I often use when introducing WODBs to primary class. I asked the students to notice how the dice were the same and then how they were different and then to turn and talk to a math partner.

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The students then moved on to some table time, choosing from more WODB experiences or working with counting collections. I just used masking tape to add a WODB frame to a table top and added a basket of  fall leaves. The things the students noticed and their theories  - “this one doesn’t belong because it has holes, it has holes because an animal was hungry and munched it” were interesting to listen in on. Lots of opportunities for sharing thinking and reasoning along with oral language development.

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I also had copied some WODB grids for students to use with materials from the classroom. One of the kindergarten classes used a basket of blocks to create WODBs for each other. Some students began by making three items similar and one that was significantly different and then, as they played with the idea of  a WODB a bit more, the students were able to explain a reason for each of the blocks not belonging in some way.

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The routine of WODB emphasizes many of the curricular competencies in K-9 mathematics:

  • use reasoning to explore and make connections,
  • develop, demonstrate, and apply mathematical understanding through play, inquiry, and problem solving,
  • communicate mathematical thinking in many ways,
  • use mathematical vocabulary and language to contribute to mathematical discussions,
  • explain and justify mathematical ideas and decisions.

Using WODBs as part of your math program provide opportunities to develop curricular competencies connected to curricular content.

wodb-student-book-coverBuilding on the exploration the students were doing with shapes, I left a copy of Christopher Danielson’s book Which One Doesn’t Belong? with the classes so they can continue thinking about shapes and WODBs!

I will be back to visit these classes in a few weeks and am looking forward to seeing and hearing how their mathematical reasoning and communication has developed!

 

~Janice

BCAMT Fall Conference 2016

Posted on: October 21st, 2016 by jnovakowski

On Friday, October 21, our Provincial PSA day, I had the honour of sharing the work we have been doing in the Richmond School District as we have been enacting BC’s redesigned curriculum. This year’s BCAMT conference had over 900 attendees and speakers. Fawn Nguyen shared an amazing keynote address with us, reminding us that we are a gift to our students and to honour their time with us.

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“that’s me in the front row!”

In the morning I was part of Curriculum Focus Session with a three-member panel – Ray Appel, Marc Garneau and myself. We shared aspects of the redesigned curriculum and then broke off into primary, intermediate and grades 8&9 focused breakout sessions.

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During the primary session, I shared snapshots and stories from Richmond classrooms. The handout from this primary breakout session can be dowloaded > bcamt-overview-primary-focus-oct-2016

One of the particular areas I shared was looking at the connections between the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics. My begin thinking around this can be downloaded > k-5-math-connections-between-core-and-curricular-competencies

I also shared the link between the heightened focus on computational fluency in the curriculum and the importance of regular number talks in classrooms.

Some info on Number Talks can be downloaded >

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I also shared some of the BC Curriculum summary pages that reflect the work in the Richmond School District. They can be downloaded >

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The next primary-focused session I presented was on Mathematical Routines such as counting collections, number talks and WODB.

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The handout from this Mathematical Routines session can be downloaded > bcamt-2016-mathematical-routines

There are many blogs posts about Mathematical Routines available on this blog – use the search tool to search for number talks, counting collections, WODB etc.

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Apparently, Counting Collections are taking over BC!

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During my last session called Playful Mathematical Inquiry for grades K-5 teachers, I shared the thinking I have been doing with teachers in our district around frameworks to think about inquiry in mathematics and how playful inquiry encompasses the curricular competencies in mathematics.

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The handout from this Playful Mathematical Inquiry session can be downloaded > playful-mathematical-inquiry-bcamt-2016

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As always, it is great to re-connect with colleagues and a special thank you to the teachers who participated in my sessions! Thanks to Rick Hikida for this photo from the back of a very crowded room and for his tech support!

~Janice

introducing WODBs to grades 4&5 at Westwind

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

I was invited into a grades 4&5 classroom at Westward to introduce the mathematical routine, Which One Doesn’t Belong? Teacher Carlos Victoria has emailed me to let me know the students had been learning about place value and different ways to represent numbers.

I began with a geometry WODB (found at wodb.ca ) and began the conversation about how these shapes are all the same, how they belong to a set or group. The students used the term shapes, then 2D shapes and with some guidance got to the term polygons. Then we looked at ways each shape was different than the others…unique. The students then turned and talked about if they had to choose just one shape, which one did they think didn’t belong? and WHY! We talked about how justification is a big part of being a mathematician.

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We then moved on to the following WODB – one I often start with regardless of grade level because there are so many ways to analyze and compare the numbers. Same questions as before – how are they the same (numbers, numbers under 100, numbers between o-50, etc) and then how are they different. So many creative responses! As students described and defended their choices, I highlighted the mathematical language students were using such as “digits” and modelled new language for them such as the term “square numbers”.

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After our two introductory WODBs, I shared our learning intentions for our time together:

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And then we moved on to two WODBs that focused on the mathematical content the class was learning about. The students were given a quiet minute to examine the WODB on their own and then were asked to turn and talk to their table group about which one doesn’t belong? Some students focused on form (a visual entry point) while other focused on the numbers.

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The students were then invited to work together to create their own WODBs. This is not as easy as it seems! I provided some guiding questions for the students to go back to as they were working through the process. As students completed their WODBs, the moved to a part of the classroom together to discuss and try and solve each others’.

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And as I said goodbye to the students, I know their teacher will continue the WODB routine with his class, as he just received our district’s WODB kit from the DRC – full of WODBs from the website as well as Christopher Danielson’s new WODB books  (picture book and teacher guide).

I am looking forward to hearing about more of their WODB experiences!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: inquiry in social studies

Posted on: May 21st, 2016 by jnovakowski

For our ongoing look at inquiry in the curriculum, the teachers in the group chose Social Studies as an area of focus for the third term. When we met in April at Blair (thank you Jaclyn and Karen), teachers shared what they had been doing since we last met and then our new area of focus was introduced and discussed.

We looked at an overview of the K-3 curriculum, focusing on big ideas such as community that tell a story across grade levels. Connecting to the First Peoples Principles of Learning and the Core Competencies, ideas of place, story and self-identity were discussed.

Several books and resources were made available to teachers: the new K-2 Social Studies and Science big books from Strong Nations, Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell, a photo book of Places in our Community and then some materials from the Richmond Museum and Archives – self-guided tour books of different regions of Richmond and a set of archival photo postcards.

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Jaclyn and Karen from Blair shared their ongoing inquiry into place – connecting both Social Studies and Science through their investigation of Richmond.

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Our final session of the year was hosted by the McNeely team in their library.

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Teachers shared how they had been thinking about social studies through inquiry with their students. Gillian from Grauer has been looking at diversity in Canadian communities and as an art experience, students drew portraits of themselves and then created outlines just using glue coloured with black tempera paint, squeezed onto recycled cardboard pieces. These art pieces, displayed together highlighted how much we are the same.

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She also had student randomly choose skin, eye and hair colours to paint their portraits to highlight the idea of diversity. Interesting juxtaposition.

Rehang from Tomsett shared how her class had been investigating what Richmond was like now and in the past. Using archival photos, students compared and contrasted different places in Richmond and different services, such as transportation.

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Terra from Homma shared an inquiry into the students’ names and their realization of the power of names and how they are linked to personal identity. Jenna from Homma shared the Newbery award winning (thanks Shannon) picture book Last Stop on Market Street and the potential for connections to big ideas of community, diversity and social responsibility. Jaclyn and Karen from Blair shared their ongoing study of place, recently looking at a map of BC and the different First Nations territories. Anna, Deanna and Shannon from McNeely shared their garden inquiry and all the student investment that has gone into planning and planting.

After our sharing time, teachers were asked to work together to create an inquiry map of one of the inquiries they engaged in with their students this year, based on the work we have done in our study group. The idea of this kind of mapping came from a workshop some of us from the group attended in early April, facilitated by the Ontario group Natural Curiosity.

Teachers began with the starting point or provocation for the inquiry and then mapped how the inquiry unfolded with the students, noting significant events that were either turning points or high engagement points for the students.

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The teachers agreed that this was an interesting way to reflect on their studies with their students and a way to be mindful of what structures or events proved effective and engaging for our students.

At the end of the session, we discussed what would like to focus on next year in this group. Many teachers are interested in outdoor learning and looking at more interdisciplinary or environmental inquiry. The area of personal stories as well as stories of family and community was an area of interest. There was also discussion around documentation to support student inquiry and the way that technology might support that. Study group members will continue to cast their votes and we will see where next year takes us!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: inquiry in science

Posted on: April 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In its thirteenth year, the Richmond Primary Teachers Study Group chooses a focus each year to guide their professional collaborative inquiry. This year, building on the focus on inquiry in BC’s redesigned curriculum, teachers wanted to investigate inquiry across curriculum areas and we’ve chosen one curriculum area as a focus for each term, with the second term focusing on science.

We did an overview of the science curriculum framework on the BC curriculum website, paying particular attention to the curricular competencies.

Anticipating (or hoping for) some winter weather, we shared some “winter books” that might inspire students to ask questions about the season, particularly during time outside.

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This term we have four picture books to inspire inquiry in science – The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino, Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, and Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay. The whole Stella series of books is excellent for modelling curiosity and asking questions, as Stella’s little brother is full of questions!

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One of the articles we referred to that outlines a grade 3 teacher’s yearlong journey with inquiry is the following article from the NSTA journal Science and Children:

Inquiry Takes Time

The teacher/author describes three inquiry projects moving from structured to guided to open inquiry.

As a group, we co-constructed some inquiry-based experiences for our students and then shared how these went with our students at the next session. Unfortunately, we only had one very light dusting of snow this winter so teachers will be saving the snow books for next year!

Many teachers used the Flashlight book to use the structure “what do you notice? what do you wonder?” and to inspire students to play with and investigate the properties of light, darkness and shadows.

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Our second session of the term was hosted in Louesa’ K classroom at Thompson as she usually has a science/nature provocation table…

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Louesa shared some science inquiry projects she had been doing with her Kindergarten students, including looking closely at frost and noticing trees in their local environment.  Students also chose areas of interest to them and some of them engaged together in inquiries into rainbows or dinosaurs.

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As the weather warmed up, students have found worms and snails outside and have had lots of questions – Sharon and Stephanie have started inquiries with their students beginning with their questions about worms and snails. Louesa and her K students have been discussing “How are living things in our community connected to one another?” beginning with considering how to bring “life” into their classroom and what that living thing might need.

Many of the teachers’ science inquiries are very much focused on connecting to place, which will overlap nicely with our group’s third term focus on inquiry in social studies.

~Janice

Science Jam 2016

Posted on: March 2nd, 2016 by jnovakowski

SJ 2016 logoThe Richmond School District is celebrating its thirteenth year of Science Jam, a featured event of Education Week.

Science Jam is BC’s largest non-competitive science fair, bringing together students in grades 4-7 from across our district to share their science inquiry projects. This year students from 11 schools participated choosing to do projects under three broad themes – environmental sustainability, going local and looking at the redesigned curriculum.

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Science World started off Science Jam with a *bang* with a science surprises show.

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And then it was time for our district’s young scientists to share their projects with “celebrity scientists”, parents, community members and each other.

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A video with highlights of the event can be viewed HERE.

~Janice

grade 2 science: forces and motion

Posted on: February 20th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Based on feedback from teachers last spring, we have planned a series of after school sessions supporting new content in the K-7 science curriculum. Each session will look at the learning standards around a specific grade and content area and teachers will experience both the curricular content and competencies through an inquiry-based approach. Connections to the core competencies and First Peoples Principles of Learning will be also be woven throughout the sessions.

This month, the after school science series session focused on the grade 2 science curricular content of forces and motion. This is a content grade shift, most of which was previously at the grade 1 level but now with more emphasis on how forces affect motion.

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We looked at the big ideas, curricular competencies and content along with the elaborations and then considered ways the curriculum could become uncovered through investigating with materials

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and supported with children’s information and fiction books.

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The following are some resources to support this area of study:

Grade 2 Forces and Motion

Grade 2 Force and Motion Resources

~Janice