Archive for the ‘first peoples principles’ Category

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about relationships – September 2017

Posted on: October 5th, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

Inspired by our staff’s visits to the Opal School in Portland, we continue this year with our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry Series. Sixty Richmond educators registered for this three-part dinner series, with a growing waiting list of educators wanting to be part of this series. This continued interest in this work speaks to the ripple effect that our playful inquiry community is having in schools and in our district. Many new teachers have heard about playful inquiry and how it aligns with goals and aspects of BC’s redesigned curriculum. A goal for the series is for teachers to consider: How can we create new possibilities for joy, wonder and inspiration?

So what is playful inquiry? Playful inquiry is not a new term and much has been written about it as a pedagogical stance. In Richmond, we have drawn upon our experiences and relationship with the Opal School in Portland and made connections to our BC context and curriculum. At our last study tour to Portland in March, the following explanation of playful inquiry was provided:

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In this explanation of playful inquiry words such as community, collaboration, citizen and uncertainty pop out. The term “learning alive” resonates with the spirit of inquiry we are hopeful of nurturing in our classrooms. Why playful inquiry? The above definition suggests an approach that will support students in thinking through the uncertainty in the world around them and nurture student agency in seeing themselves as contributing citizens in their community. So we can work together towards the goals and vision of what playful inquiry can bring to our classrooms and schools.

So how do we enact playful inquiry in our classrooms? For planning purposes, we often use the framework of -

  • playing with materials
  • playing with language
  • playing with ideas

to help us consider different ways to engage our students and ourselves with playful inquiry.

Playful inquiry creates opportunities for deeper engagement with concepts and idea, choice in ways students may pursue uncovering the curriculum, personalization and meaning-making as well as providing openings for connection-making, seeking relationships – both with self, each other and with ideas.

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As teachers arrived at Grauer Elementary, they were provided with provocations created by our playful inquiry mentors. These provocations were either pedagogical – meant to experience through the lens of an educator and to reflect on practice or, were those that students engaged with in Richmond classrooms.

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After a welcome, introductions and an overview of the series, teachers shared and discussed questions such as:

What is a provocation? How is a provocation alike and different from an invitation or a rich open task? 

Some conditions for provocations were shared:

  • žresponsive
  • žprovokes thinking
  • žconnects to a big idea, concept or theme
  • žis ongoing, lingering, extends

We talked about the theme of relationships for this session and how relationships were an inherent part of teaching and learning – social and emotional relationships but also relationships with and between curricular ideas. Some of the provocations shared and how the concept of relationships is embedded throughout our BC curriculum were provided to participants here:

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Other big ideas and themes that we have engaged with as a playful inquiry community were shared:

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Three of our playful inquiry mentors shared stories from their classrooms. Michelle Hikida from Diefenbaker shared how her and grades 2-4 group planning team are focusing on the big idea of stories this year and how they collaborate together to plan provocations based on students’ interests an questions. Laurie David-Harel from Whiteside shared the movie trailer she created for her school’s parent evening to share how the Kindergarten students in her class engage in playful learning. Karen Choo from Blair shared how sharing circles and using clay as a metaphor supports relationship building in her grades 4&5 classroom.

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After dinner together, teachers met in interest groups with conversations and sharing facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

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Many of the interest-based inquiry groups will continue their conversations with schools visits, online collaboration or other forms of sharing before our next whole group session together in January.

Participants were asked to consider what “one thing” they will play with, try , take risks with…what might be your one thing?

Blog posts from previous years can be found HERE

More information about the Opal School can be found HERE

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 1

Posted on: October 4th, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

On September 21, our primary teachers study group came together for our first session of this school year, hosted by Anna Nachbar at McNeely Elementary. Our focus this year, as chosen by participants, is outdoor storytelling experiences, connecting multiple areas of the curricula. This collaborative professional inquiry draws upon the work we did last year as a group around outdoor learning in general and also draws upon our district’s three year Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project. Some ideas from that project were compiled and shared with the group and can be downloaded here: SD38_Playful_Storytelling_FPPL_Ideas

Books that we will be working with together this fall include teacher resources and children’s books:

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We will be compiling ideas that are inspired by these books to share with others.

After coming together in a circle and introducing ourselves, we shared ideas about working with groups of children at the beginning of the year with regards to learning outdoors. We then ventured out to the “McNeely forest” and spent time in the space noticing how the space might inspire storytelling. How do small spaces and big spaces allow for different storytelling experiences? What natural materials could students gather to contribute to their stories? How might a connection to place and knowledge of local plants and animals enhance their stories?

I brought out a bag of materials as a way to extend the experience – a collection of fabrics and some wooden and plastic animals. How do these materials extend or inhibit the storytelling experience?  Teachers came together in small groups to create and share stories and new ideas for storytelling that emerged through being outside and talking together.

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One area of discussion was what to do in schools that don’t have a wooded area such as the one McNeely does.  Some schools are using a garden bed and using it as a story garden. Another idea is to create small worlds using pots, planters or window boxes – plants can be created and pieces of wood, rocks and shells can be used to landscape a setting. How might the difference heights in a tree (base, trunk, branches) be used to create multi-level stories? Most schools have a few garden beds near their entrances – could one be used for storytelling? What characters might visit that space?

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Although registration filled up very quickly for this group, we will continue to share our thinking and experiences through twitter and this blog. We will be coming together in November at Woodward Elementary in their new outdoor learning space.

~Janice

playful storytelling celebration

Posted on: June 13th, 2017 by jnovakowski

We held our year end celebration for our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project on June 1 at Grauer. Teachers and school teams came together to share what they had been working on during this school year. It is always interesting to hear how each school makes the project its own.

An overview of our session at the beginning of the year is HERE

After an acknowledgement of territory and a welcome to some visiting educators from Manitoba, in circle each teacher introduced themselves and shared the principle that they have most connected to this school year.

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A group of us involved in this project visited the Vancouver Art Gallery in early May to see the Susan Point exhibit. We made so many connections between her work and story and came up with several questions to guide our practice when having students engage with art. We shared this with the group and also shared how some teachers had already taken up these ideas with their classes.

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School teams then shared how they have investigated playful storytelling in their schools.

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We noticed a clear move to many classes taking storytelling outdoors and this will be something we continue to investigate next year.

After a lovely dinner together prepared by Marie Thom, we moved to The Studio at Grauer to engage in some sensory experiences with materials that can be used to enhance the storytelling experience. Experiences with clay, watercolour and wet felting were provided, for teachers to consider – what stories live in these materials?

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We all left inspired by each other and full of new ideas to enact with our students. Looking forward to continue this work in our district next year!

~Janice

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.

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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

 

 

creating spaces for playful inquiry: April 2017

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our third session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series, Richmond educators came together at Grauer Elementary to share and learn together. This year at our sessions we have focused on broad themes or big ideas that cut across curriculum areas and grade levels, beginning with community, then identity and for our third time together this year, we chose to focus on place. Those that attended our Lower Mainland study tour to  the Opal School in Portland created panels reflecting on their experience. Many of our playful inquiry mentors set up either pedagogical provocations or shared provocations they developed to engage their students.

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Four teachers shared their experiences visiting Opal for the first or second time – what had an impact on them and how it is affecting their practice. Thank you to April, Louesa, Laurie and Karen for your thoughtful and passionate presentations!

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Based on feedback from the mentor groups during our January session, Michelle Hikida and I did a short professional learning presentation on playful mathematical inquiry and how we plan around a big idea, use provocations and projects based on students’ interests and curiosities and how we extend and sustain a math inquiry.

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After dinner together, we spent time in our mentor groups, zooming in on an area of interest and sharing and learning from each other.

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We are looking forward to continuing working together next year to support professional learning and building a playful inquiry community across our district.

~Janice

primary teachers study group: sixth session

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our sixth and final session of the year, the primary teachers study group met at Blair Elementary. Thank you to Karen, Robyn and Tanyia for hosting us!

We broke into small groups and worked on our environmental inquiry visual – still a work in progress! Lots of great feedback from the group.

We then toured the outdoor learning spaces at Blair. I was the teacher-librarian at Blair for three years when I introduced Spuds in Tubs to the school – since then the school has embraced school gardens and many of the teachers have made outdoor learning and integral part of their programs. April and Karen shared how they use some of the typical suburban school spaces around the school for outdoor learning and also shared how they involved the district Works Yard employees in creating an outdoor classroom space and storage.

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There was much talk about school gardening as a way to get students outdoors and feeling connected. We left thinking about ways to continue our work around environmental inquiry and creating opportunities for students to take action and take care of the outdoor spaces at their schools.

Next year, our primary teachers study group will be entering its fifteenth year as a professional learning structure in our school district!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: second session

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by jnovakowski

A summary of our first primary teachers study group session and goals for the year can be found HERE.

For our second session of the school year, the primary teachers study group met at the Richmond Nature Park. We read and discussed the story of this place and learned about the formation of the bog environment and the uniqueness of this ecosystem. We connected this to the video of the formation of the delta from the online Musqueam teachers resource developed by the MOA and the Musqueam Nation which can be found HERE.

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We visited different parts of the Nature Park, thinking about how we could engage students in different spaces. The Nature Park has a covered area with picnic benches for eating or journalling as well as other seating areas.

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Another favourite spot is the bird watching area where there are many bird feeders set up that are visited by a variety of birds and squirrels. Makes for excellent observing and a chance look closely at animal behaviour! I like to take video to share with students after a trip to “re-live” and discuss what they noticed.

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We walked through along the board walk and took a short trail loop to notice and talk about the variety of trees and plants in the park and ways to engage students. We also bounced on the bog!

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One of the plants we looked closely at was Labrador Tea, a common local bog plant, turning the leaves over to help identify it. Traditional local indigenous uses for this plant include making a tea infusion to treat colds and sore throats.

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We looked at the variety of bat and bird houses and discussed these as a great ADST project for students to consider and design based on the needs of their local environment. “Bug hotels” or pollinator houses are another design option as well for school garden spaces.

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As it got dark, we visited the Nature House where one of the staff members shared some interesting information about local snakes with us.

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Teachers who have brought classes to the Nature Park shared some of their experiences and the Blair team shared how they were doing a self-guided trip with three classes the following week and were doing three different inquiry-based stations during their trip.

We will be meeting again in January, registration is still open on the Richmond Professional Learning Events site.

I am curious what sort of questions our students are having about the impact of the snow and cold on the living things around their schools?

~Janice

playful storytelling opening session

Posted on: November 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Marie Thom and I hosted our opening session for our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning series. We are in the fourth year of this project in our district, involving ten elementary schools over the years.

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Many of the storytelling experiences we have engaged in so far have involved local plants and animals, the use of natural materials to create local settings, retelling of stories by indigenous authors and illustrators and the use of animal characters, story stones, puppets and “peg doll” characters for the students to create their own stories. We have attended professional learning opportunities at the Musqueam Cultural Centre to consider how culture, language and place could inspire our project.

After an acknowledgement of territory, a welcome, introductions, and an overview of the history of this project, as we sat in a circle, we asked each teacher to consider and then share what First Peoples Principle of Learning they identified with and why and to share what they were curious about in terms of this project for this school year.

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Kathleen Paiger and Ellen Reid, who taught together at Steves Elementary last year and are going into their third year of the project (Ellen is teaching at Blair this year), shared their story of their experience and their students’ experience in this project.

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Leanne McColl, one of our district’s teacher consultants shared the draft goals of our new Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement with the Musqueam community and we considered how this continues to inspire and give meaning to our project.

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Leanne also shared information about the new Musqueam teaching resource and kit that was co-created with UBC’s Museum of Anthropology and the Musqueam Nation. The link to the online resources to support the Musqueam teaching kit developed by the Museum of Anthrop0logy and the Musqueam community is HERE.

To extend the story experiences we have been engaging in so far, we focused on the idea of creating story landscapes by weaving in more sensory experiences to our storytelling experiences- sounds, movement, textures and scents. I shared a video I had taken at Garry Point as an idea to use video of as a background or backdrop for storytelling experiences, inspired by the “forest room” created by the educators at Hilltop School in Seattle. The video can be viewed HERE.

Marie presented several storytelling provocations to inspire new layers and dimensions we could add to our storytelling experiences with students.

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img_8946To honour the importance of the learning through the oral tradition, at the beginning of our time together, we asked Michelle Hikida, who has been a part of this project since the first year, to listen during the session and to synthesize and summarize the key learnings at the end of the session. Michelle chose to use pictorial symbols to help her remember the four learnings she wanted to share with the group.

 

In their reflections at the end of the session, many teachers commented that they wanted to try more storytelling experiences outdoors as well as adding more sensory layers. We are looking forward to lots of inspiring and creative stories created by our students this year!

~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

creating spaces for playful inquiry: October 6 2016

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In the Richmond School District, we have a history of groups of educators visiting the Opal School in Portland, Oregon as it is a school that enacts many of the goals of BC’s redesigned curriculum and the teachers have been researching their practices together for years and share openly through their blog, twitter and visitation days and symposiums. In response to a visit there in January 2015, we have developed a professional learning series in our district to further nurture our thinking around playful inquiry in our school district. Educators who have visited Opal become our district’s “playful inquiry mentors” and open their classrooms to visitors and contribute to professional learning events. This year, our main series is a three part dinner series open to 60 Richmond educators. In September, our playful inquiry mentors met together to think about their role and what their own professional goals are. We thought of a powerful word that captured each of our goals and then wove these words together on a loom.

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We thought about ways to enact and nurture playful inquiry in our classrooms, schools and within the district.

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And finally, we planned our first session of the three-part series. For each session we focus on a big idea or “theme” and after much debate, we settled on the big idea of community for our first session. After hosting this series for two rounds, we have a bit of a structure that works – open with provocations, sharing by educators, a professional learning segment, dinner together, breaking out into interest-based mentor groups and then a closing.

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And so on October 6th at 4:00pm, 60 K-7 Richmond educators descended on IDC and engaged with provocations about community created by the playful inquiry mentors.

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An overview from our BC curriculum was provided as to ways the big idea of community is woven throughout curricular areas and competencies:

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Erin Cammell (grades 4&5 EFI at Dixon) and Kevin Vines (grades 6&7 Quilchena) shared how they began their school years focusing on community, identity and using circle pedagogy. The importance of building relationships was a theme throughout their presentation.

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Sarah Yick (grades 1&2 EFI Dixon) and Carrie Bourne (K-12 French Teacher Consultant) shared how they were both inspired by the responsive learning environments at Opal and are transforming their classrooms (a process…) to better meet their students’ needs and to create access to materials for students to use for thinking and representing their learning.

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Brooke Douglas (VP at Anderson Elementary) led us through the focused professional learning segment of the evening – connecting provocations to the core competencies and using I can statements for self-assessment. Her slides are now available on our site on the portal.

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After a lovely dinner together, educators chose an area of interest and met in small groups to share, ask questions, discuss and set goals. Each group was facilitated by playful inquiry mentors.

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After a few closing words from Marie Thom, reminding us “that we are all researchers of life,” teachers left the event with a large black felt mat and a collection of beads, wire and wire cutters so they could use these materials with their students, mirroring one of the provocations teachers had engaged with earlier in the evening.

We have an open group on our Richmond School District portal so that we can continue our conversations and share between our sessions. And of course, there’s twitter ;)

~Janice