Archive for June, 2016

reflections and highlights from 2015-2016

Posted on: June 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski

The end of June always brings lots of good-byes. We are losing about half of our curriculum department for Learning Services in Richmond – it has been an emotional month and change is always hard. We’ve been through a lot together as a team over the last three years and this year was particularly full with the addition of the two Curriculum Implementation days in our district. Through planning and hosting those two days, we have dug deep into understanding the aspects and layers of BC’s redesigned curriculum.

We have spent much of June “populating” the Curriculum page on Scholantis and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities in Richmond.



Next year will be an exciting year for our district as we embrace and enact BC’s redesigned curriculum. My portfolio is shifting from a focus on both K-12 Mathematics and Science to mostly focusing on K-12 Mathematics. Although I will continue to work on interdisciplinary projects the responsibility of curriculum “implementation” in science will be shifted to another teacher consultant’s portfolio (position to be filled soon).

As I look back on this past year, some professional highlights for me include:

  • the Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series – this large group of K-7 teachers came together to engage in provocations and think about playful inquiry across the curriculum; it was exciting to see this embraced beyond the early years and to see a large group of teachers in our district begin the ripple effect in their schools
  • sharing work from our district at the Northwest Math Conference in Whistler in October
  • the Provincial Numeracy Project – as a pilot project this year, three school teams took part in this project modelled after Changing Results for Young Readers
  • Science Jam was back for its thirteenth year at Aberdeen Centre – this year there was greater evidence of students’ personal inquiry questions being reflected in their projects
  • attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference in San Francisco in April (thanks to the RTA for Major Conference Funding)
  • attending the Opal School Summer Symposium with a team of 17 educators from our School District
  • helping to support Inclusive Learning Communities projects at Cook and Boyd and thinking more deeply about inclusive practices in mathematics
  • continuing to the develop a working relationship with the Musqueam community as we think about storytelling, plants and mathematics
  • the number of mathematics and curriculum evenings I helped facilitate for parents this year
  • being a part of the BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics collaborative professional inquiry project – this project has grown in unexpected ways and it is so inspiring to work alongside teachers interested in making mathematics engaging for their students

And both a personal and professional highlight this year was celebrating 25 years of service to the Richmond School District – such a special event celebrated with colleagues.

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Thank you to my CNC colleagues for an amazing year together – best wishes as you move on to new adventures – Brooke, Sarah, Diane, Kevin, Gordon and Lorraine! And a special thank you and good-bye to our administrative assistant Lisa Buemann for all she has done to support me!

Have a wonderful summer!


tessellating inspired by Tessalation!

Posted on: June 28th, 2016 by jnovakowski

I visited the grade 2&3s at Grauer Elementary on their last day of school at the end of June. I had spent some time in this classroom the previous year and was happy to see some familiar faces…excited first thing in the morning to do some math with me!

I told them about a new picture book called Tessellation! that I was excited about and explained a little bit about Kickstarter to them and why I only had a pdf version of the book at this point. I explained that the girl on the cover was named Tessa and that the title was a play on the word tessellation. We looked at the colour cover I printed out and asked them what they noticed.  They noticed the shapes in the trees and on the girl’s skirt. They explained that the shapes were “connected” together.


We read a few pages and they noticed more tessellations making connections – “They are like a puzzle!” “It’s like a checkerboard!” “It works like a quilt!” The students were  particularly taken with the turtles – I think because they were not “regular” shape and they were curious how they all “connected” together. Inspired by their curiosity about the turtles, I suggested they might want to investigate what shapes tessellate and what makes something tessellate-able.


At this point, I stopped reading the story, leaving it with the classroom teacher Mrs. Partridge to finish reading later to the students. I explained that I had put out several materials around the classroom and they could choose what materials they wanted to work with to investigate shapes, designs, patterns and tessellations.

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The tessellating turtles (available here) were very popular with the students and I appreciated how collaboratively the students worked together to find different ways to tessellate them.

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I also demonstrated how by beginning with a cardstock square, they could cut out a part of it from one side, slide it across to the opposite side and tape it down to create a “tile” that would tessellate. I left some squares, pencils, scissors and tape out for students to experiment with.



Some of the other materials the students explored with were patterns blocks, glass tiles and wood shapes.

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The students were fascinated with the colourful transparent plastic triangles I recently ordered (from here). The set comes with hexagon trays which the students used to create their designs – focusing on repeating patterns, colour and symmetry, before placing them on the old-style overhead projector.

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I’m always on the lookout for books that inspire mathematical thinking and that lead to investigating mathematical concepts. Tessalation! does this nicely – encouraging students to look closely at the illustrations which in turn leads to students making connections and wondering,which for these grades 2&3 students then led to their own investigations with materials to explore tessellations.

The Kindle Edition is available here. Hardcopy versions of Tessellation! can be ordered here.


Opal Summer Symposium 2016

Posted on: June 26th, 2016 by jnovakowski

A team of 17 educators from the Richmond School District attended the Opal School’s Summer Symposium (at the Children’s Museum in Portland) from June 16-18. Our team consisted of four teacher consultants, one elementary school principal,  two Strong Start teachers and ten K-7 teachers from both French Immersion and Neighbourhood programs. We joined educators from all around the world (and quite a large Canadian contingent) for three days of examining what it means to invest in a pedagogy of play. We heard inspiring speakers, visited the amazing classrooms at the Opal school and engaged in studio experiences. As we were inspired to think deeply about our practice, we made connections to our context in Richmond and to BC’s redesigned curriculum and how taking a stance of playful inquiry, of seeing inquiry as a state of being, can be transformative for education.


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“Be curious, try it out and say I can do it.” – lots to be learned from children as we aim to continue to create, nurture and grow spaces for playful inquiry in the Richmond School District.