Archive for the ‘inquiry’ Category

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about the hundred languages – April 2018

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our final session of this year’s Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series, we focused on the Hundred Languages – a grounding element of the educational approach from the childcare centres in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Hundred Languages concept is based on a poem by Loris Malaguzzi who suggests that all children have a hundred languages (or more) in which to express themselves and that are role as educators (and school systems) is to nurture these languages, not suppress them.

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As Richmond educators entered the room, they were invited to they were asked to reflect on how the hundred languages are living in their classrooms.

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The Richmond educators who visited Opal School in Portland over spring break shared their reflections on the experience through documentation panels.

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Carrie Bourne,  Jen Yager and Julie Curran shared what they learned at Opal and how they have taken some of these ideas up in their own teaching contexts.

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Marie Thom and I shared some of our experiences from our Canadian Study Tour of Reggio Emilia in March. I shared some ideas I saw about intersecting digital and analog languages through digital landscapes and Marie shared the power of the language of food and the metaphor of the table to bring people together.

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After dinner together (enacting the table metaphor) our interest groups met with playful inquiry mentors to share ideas and go deeper with their understanding about playful inquiry.

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We collected feedback from educators who have attended this three part series as we reflect on our learning from this year and think ahead to next year.

“Love the opportunity to collaborate with others and hear others share about their thinking/learning and what they are trying in their classrooms. It is thought-provoking and inspiring.”

“Playful inquiry and teaching is a learning process, always growing and changing and best in collaboration with others teachers and peers.”

“This series has kept me inspired when I’ve felt uninspired or simply tired.”

“This series completely changed the lens through which I see my role as the teacher and the roles of the students.”

There was considerable interest in creating opportunities for teachers to visit others’ classrooms to see playful inquiry in action and to be able to collaborate with colleagues from across the district.

 

Regardless of how how things unfold for professional learning opportunities in our district for next year, we know we have a strong and growing community of educators committed to teaching and learning through playful inquiry. Thanks to all of the educators involved in this series for their contributions and participation!

~Janice on behalf of the Playful Inquiry Mentors

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 5

Posted on: May 13th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On April 12, our study group met on the dyke of the middle arm of the Fraser River. We were joined by “Indigenous Plant Diva” and current storyteller in residence for the Vancouver Public Library, Cease Wyss. A short video about Cease can be found HERE.

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As we walked along the river, Cease pointed out different plants to us and shared knowledge and stories about the plants. Paying attention to a plant’s colour, shapes and texture can indicate part of the body or ailment it can provide medicine for. For example, red berries often support blood, muscles and organs.

Cease explained the importance of cattails to cleanse the water along the river as well as providing food and nesting materials for birds. We learned how some plants like dead nettle and chickweed can be used as salves to treat skin ailments and how other plants such as stinging nettle or salmonberry leaves can be infused in hot water to create teas to address different ailments.

We learned to identify plantain (frog’s leaf), dead nettle, chickweed, Nootka rose, sheep sorrel and horsetail, the oldest plant on the planet.

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Teachers left with so much new knowledge about local plant species. This knowledge building is an important part of our study group and was something that was requested by teachers to enhance they work they are doing with their students around storytelling outdoors. We can find ways to share this new knowledge with our students and weave this in to our storytelling experiences.

~Janice

elementary math focus afternoon 2018

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On the afternoon of January 26, staffs from twelve elementary schools gathered at Grauer Elementary for our annual Elementary Math Focus Afternoon.

The overview slides (photographs from classrooms not included to reduce file size) from the opening to the afternoon can be found here:

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Many school teams brought displays to share how they have been working with BC’s redesigned mathematics curriculum.

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Educators could choose from a variety of Richmond teacher-led sessions to learn about instructional routines and practices that are aligned with the BC redesigned curriculum.

FINAL_Elementary Math Focus Afternoon Jan 26 2018 program

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Handouts from Fred Harwood’s sessions can be downloaded here:

Elem Focus Day Jan 2018 Rich Investigations

2018 Elem Math Focus Visual patterns

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Thanks to Tracy Weeks of the Canadian Federation for Economic Education (CFEE) for coming and sharing information about financial literacy with Richmond educators.

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As educators gathered back in the gym for an end of afternoon prize draw of math resources, they were left with a reminder to consider the mathematical story that is being told in their classrooms and schools. What story do we want our students to tell about their mathematical experience here in our district?

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~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about reflection – January 2018

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On January 25, Richmond educators gathered at Grauer for our second dinner session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series. This month our focus was on reflection and time. Educators shared their experiences engaging in playful inquiry with their students and considering the role of reflection in documentation and making both students’ and our professional learning visible.

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After dinner together, teachers participated in interest groups facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

A handout with curricular connections to the idea of reflection can be found here: Reflections_Provocations_Jan25_2018

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 4

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On March 1, the primary teachers study group met at the Richmond Nature Park. We shared resources for learning about local living things and discussed the different services the Nature Park provides to schools and the community. The Nature Park is situated on a bog which is a very unique ecosystem.

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We visited different areas of the park, watching the birds come and go from the feeders, walking along the trails and boardwalk area.

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How does looking closely at a found object help you think about its story? What is the story of this (skeleton) leaf?

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There was still snow on the ground in some of the more shaded areas of the park and we used the snow as a story context. How could we use the snow as a background for map-making? We used found natural materials to create a map of a special place to inspire memories and story.

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The Nature House has lots of interactive displays. living things (including a functioning bee hive), and lots of information about species of plants and animals living in Richmond. Brochures are available listing local plants, birds and insects as well as brochures with self-guided tours of the park. We were all keen to continue to build our own knowledge of local species to be able to weave this knowledge into the outdoor learning experiences we are creating for our students.

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The Nature Park Society’s website can be found here: Richmond Nature Park Society

The City of Richmond’s Nature Park web page can be found here: City of Richmond – Nature Park

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 3

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On January 18, Cori and Jen hosted the primary teachers study group at Diefenbaker Elementary. Teachers shared the different storytelling experiences they have been engaging in with their students.

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We went outside to a small stand of trees near the school and used natural clay from Deserres to create story trees with found, natural materials.

How might the shape, texture, crevices, branches or bark of a tree inspire a story?

What different parts of a tree could be the site for a story setting?

How can we transform clay to create characters for our stories? What can we add to clay? How can we spread and mold the clay? How might water transform the clay and our stories?

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One of our young guests created a dinosaur and was happily telling stories while the adults also played!

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As we left the traces of our stories behind, we wondered what families would think and wonder as they encountered them on their walk to school the next morning and what new stories might be inspired.

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 2

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On December 7, Anne-Marie Fenn hosted our primary teachers study group at Woodward Elementary. We went outside and Anne-Marie shared the vision and plans for their new outdoor learning space.

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As the sun was going down, we played with the elements of light and shadow and considered ways we could include these ideas into our outdoor (or indoor) storytelling experiences, thinking about how these ideas might enhance or add new problems to students’ stories.

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After coming back in to Anne-Marie’s classroom as it started to get dark, teachers shared different outdoor storytelling experiences they had tried with their students.

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Thanks for hosting us Anne-Marie!

~Janice

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

summer professional reading: THINQ Kindergarten (and Grades 4-6)

Posted on: July 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

IMG_6380THINQ Kindergarten: Inquiry-based learning in the kindergarten classroom

by Joan Reimer and Deb Watters

THINQ series authors: Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer

published by WAVE Learning Solutions, Canada, 2017

accompanying website: www.wavelearningsolutions.com

This is a relatively new series of books, written by Canadian (Ontario) authors. The Kindergarten book just came out this spring. One of the many things I like about this book is that it acknowledges that there are many interpretations of inquiry and not “one way” to engage in inquiry. There is a focus on remembering that being inquiry-minded is part of being human and that we are born with curiosity. I also like the recognition of the importance of the learning environment and the emphasis on developing inquiry dispositions. The “Inquiry in Action” sections share learning stories or case studies from classrooms. As I read the book, I added lots of post-it notes to pages to go back to, particularly connections I was making to our BC competencies – both core and curricular.

There are seven chapters:

1) Inquiry-based learning in kindergarten

2) Wondering and questioning

3) Creating an inquiry environment

4) Negotiating the curriculum

5) Documentation

6) Inquiry assessment in kindergarten

7) Final thoughts

IMG_6381The layout for each chapter is very similar. There is lots of “white space” and use of text boxes and colourful visuals to support the content of the chapter. Each section has a big idea and often quotes from well-known educators and authors.

 

 

 

 

IMG_6382At the end of each chapter there is a chapter summary with some questions to provoke reflective thinking. There are also “thumbnails” of the blackline masters/printables that accompany each chapter and can be found at the back of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6383The printable resources at the back of the book correspond to each chapter and focus on the big ideas from the chapter as well as templates for educators to use for planning and assessment.

 

 

 

 

The Grades 4-6 book was release last year and is very similar in format to the Kindergarten book. Interestingly, in this book, the assessment chapter is up front and then assessment ideas are woven throughout the rest of the book. I wonder if that is because this is a pressing issue for intermediate teachers – how to assess student learning during the process of inquiry? I know this question comes up a lot in my work with teachers. There is also much more of an emphasis on questions of personal significance, inquiry approaches across disciplines and the importance of providing feedback (often through questioning_ during the inquiry process in the Grades 4-6 or Junior book. The printable resources focus more on student self-assessment templates than the Kindergarten book.

The Grades 1-3 book and the Grades 7-9 book are supposed to be released this summer or fall.

~Janice