place-based learning at Diefenbaker

Posted on: February 7th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Diefenbaker was one of the four schools that began in the Ministry’s Quality Teaching and Learning project last year around our district focus of playful storytelling using natural materials and weaving in the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Three of the teachers and one new staff member are continuing in the project this year which is also meshing nicely with a school-wide professional learning focus on the First Peoples Principles of Learning, Aboriginal education and indigenous knowledge.

On Friday, I spent the morning at the school and a block of time in all four classes. A teacher from Tomsett joined me in the classroom visits as she is working on an Innovation Grant project based on the QTL project.

We began in Jaclyn Cruz’s kindergarten classroom where they are just beginning to engage in playful oral storytelling. Today, the students were focused on building and creating scenes for their stories. A variety of materials were provided for the students to choose from. The classroom teacher and ELL teacher both recorded students’ descriptions of their story scenes using their iPads.

IMG_0081 IMG_0082 IMG_0083


This student explained, “The bears are going to go in the forest and eat things. Here are trees and water and this is a log with grass in case you fall off.”

We then visited Michelle Hikida’s grades 2&3 classroom where the students spent the fall learning about the Fraser River. This week, they have begun to consider the stories that the Fraser River has to tell. The students created their story scenes, incorporating their factual and historical knowledge of the Fraser River – its depth and speed, what animals would be living in and near the river, what plants and trees would be near the river and how people interact with the river.

IMG_0088 IMG_0089 IMG_0095 IMG_0096

The classroom teacher paused the students so that a student could share his story. The students gathered around and watched and listened as he told his story. His classmates had thoughtful comments noting his expressive voice and a learning message about forgiveness built into the story.

IMG_0097 IMG_0098

After recess we visited Margaret Choinski’s grades 2&3 classroom where the students have written stories based on story scenes they created using photograph backgrounds.


The class has read the story Yetsa’s Sweater by Sylvia Olsen and the students have learned about the history of the Cowichan sweater.


Margaret has shown them a video documentary about the process of making the sweaters and the students have become well aware of the social justice issues involved with how these sweaters created huge profits for owners of tourist stores, particularly on Vancouver Island. The video of The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters can be found HERE.

On Friday, the students were creating border designs for a toque for one of the students’ new baby brother. Margaret is an expert knitter and is going to use of the student’s designs to create this special gift. Margaret shared knitting patterns she was able to find and provided the students with grid paper and some tips on creating a design that could be replicated. The students often chose elements from the artistic animal tiles that Margaret has in the classroom

IMG_0103 IMG_0105 IMG_0107

IMG_0108 IMG_0109

Our last visit was to Kelly Hink’s kindergarten classroom. Here is the area in her classroom full of storytelling materials.


On each table was a plat of materials ready for students to select from.


The students had previously read the little book Raven and the Box from Strong Nations and retold that story. Today they were reading the little book I Spy Raven and retelling it, using their own choice of characters. Kelli modelled choosing characters and using the language from the book, demonstrated how to change the language to make sense for the characters they had chosen and the materials they had available. The students were paired together for their story creation and telling.




As in Michelle’ class, Kelli paused the class to listen to one pair’s story, to inspire students with their own stories.


Here is a link to two students sharing their story – HERE.

So much playing with language for five year olds!




Comments are closed.