Category Archives: Education

general ed. stuff

Journals – the logistics guide

Every year the CCOM teachers purchase THOUSANDS of journals for the students in preparation for their week. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things that work well… and we’re happy to share!

1. Size: “basically, you want a journal as big as your students can handle” – Grade 4 teacher

There’s nothing more adorable than a tiny tot holding on to something waaay to big for them. But it can be frustrating for them (and for you, “can you carry this?”) if the journal your students have is too big, or too thick for them to carry comfortably. Likewise, if it’s too big, some students have trouble taking care of their journal respectfully. Choose a size that feels right for you – if it means waiting a month to get to know your students before you order them – that’s a-okay!

2. Material “durability is key” – Grade 2/3 teacher

There are a lot of different journal choices out there right now, but the most common one we see is the letter (8.5×11) size, coil bound, and blank insides. These have plenty of pages, and they’re a bit sturdier than floppy journals because they come with composite covers. This is super important, because the ideal journal is comfortable to use in a variety of settings, not just at a desk. Here’s the thing though… those covers rip right off. Here’s two techniques we like for keeping them on. Have students design their own front and back cover using one side of one piece of A3 sized paper then use clear plastic tape to cover the whole page, and affix it to the composite covers, completely covering the binding. OR make a strip of laminate the same length of the journal and big enough to cover the binding and at least 1.5 inches on either side. Tape this laminate to the covers using duct tape or something else strong. BONUS: if you have the coil journals, this will also help students resist the urge to pull the coil out.

3. Lined or unlined? “work with what your students will use” – Grade 5 teacher

Lined journals encourage writing, unlined encourage other forms of communication. Generally, we recommend providing unlined journals for younger folks, but keeping some lined paper handy to glue in if they need it. Whatever you choose, practice a lot (if it’s unlined, practice writing in it with students, if it’s lined, practice drawing)! This will help students get over their discomfort with the page.

4. Fold or coil? “I prefer coil myself, so I use that with my students” – Grade 1 teacher

Ideally you want a journal that can lay flat, so that either side can be written on, and students can use the stability of the pages as a writing surface if they’re not working at a desk. Lots of types of binding allow this, but coil seems to be quite popular. BUT – there’s always those young folks who tear that coil out. Here’s two tips for curbing that. Glue a paper “fidget” onto the cover (a textured piece of paper, maybe a pop out card, maybe a line of triangles or two that can be popped up or folded, a pipe cleaner… anything that works for that students!) and when you see that student playing with the coil, remind them to use the fidget instead. OR super glue a bead to each end of the coil, sometimes the texture of the bead is enough of a fidget itself, and it’s much harder to pull through the cardboard.

5. Make it special through ritual “we made our own covers that they felt proud of, and every time we use our journal I have a chime that I sound, and we do a breathing activity before we open them up” – Grade 3 teacher

It takes practice to generate a respectful loving relationship to things. This is part of the museum school in so many ways, so why not start with your journal. Use whatever tools you like, but if you help your students see their own journals as important records of their year, they’ll get more out of them. Records are not mistake proof either, it’s important to record our learning by showing how we improve. This is why we have things like graduations and piano recitals regularly, not just when you’ve gotten to the highest level. It’s important to record and celebrate the journey.

We’d love to hear your ideas about journals, so please feel free to send them along! Have a journal story or bit of knowledge you’re open to sharing? We’d love some guest bloggers!!

 

Summer School Part Two

Well, it’s  October, the snow is already here… and I’m finally getting around to blogging about the summer.  BUT – as a student said to me today “I didn’t get everything in my journal, but that’s okay! I’ll just add more later!!” I’m going to adopt that forgiving and flexible attitude and move on.

So let me share a bit more about my summer… We usually do a lot of intentional learning while we’re not working with students – this year we had two intensive sessions as a team at Glenbow. First we worked with Lana Skauge & Ewa Sniatycka in the museum, to experiment with ways to inject embodied learning into our work, and to accommodate different learning styles. After working with them I’m planning to practice asking students to pair before they share more, to see if it helps the shy ones speak, and I’m going to focus less on asking them to present their work, and more on letting them discuss it together.

We also had an incredible opportunity to work with Blackfoot knowledge keeper Harley Bastien in Castle Wildland Provincial Park. He and a parks staff person led us on a walk, and shared stories about different types of beings in the area, and how they relate to each other. Bastien reminded us that people are part of the landscape, and that our presence in nature is and always has been constant. This gave us all lots to think about.

Marnie and I spent some time with educators passionate about learning though the arts at a gathering of InSEA this summer too. In addition to learning lots of practical ways that arts education can be engaging, we immersed ourselves in some really fun arts projects, which was so rewarding. The art that I made is… well. Not very nice to look at. But making it, in the company of others, was a real highlight of my summer. I think I’ll keep trying to make things (that hopefully look a little nicer) with the techniques I learned, so it was a great reminder that not all projects succeed at first go.

The last part of my summer I spent in Montreal, for a very full week of museum hopping. I was on the look out for a few specific things, especially related to design, so I was able to see a lot of different spaces in a fairly short amount of time. The absolute highlights for me were seeing the Biospehere museum, which gave me so much hope for the climate of the planet and all the cool things folks in different disciplines are doing to respond to it… and the Fondation Phi exhibit about Yoko Ono. Here’s a photo from my summer journal about it.

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Summer School Part One

 

Summer can be a fun time for a museum educator.

Many of our team members go on to interesting projects during the summer months. Some of us use our teaching skills, and go work at places like the Zoo or Spark. Others take up projects in our areas of interest like archeology, anthropology, and local or natural history. Some of us use summer as our time to engage more fully in arts practice, or take classes… one of our educators is working on an MA at Emily Carr in the summers too.

Me? I spent my summer at a small town museum, curating exhibits, writing, text, and exploring the community’s ideas about who they are.

It was an immensely rewarding experience to look at an exhibit in a different way, not as  the deep looking-sketch book holding-class leading-educator. Instead I had to imagine that person, and all the other type of people that could possibly enter that space, and try to create something that would be engaging for them all. A museum is a place for everyone after all.

The most exciting part for me, was getting to know the community. Learning about all the interesting stories, the parts of themselves they hold dear, and the times when their strength of community was tested and needed. It’s these stories that I hope you see when you visit the small town museum too.

But they’re not always obvious. Not all museums in small communities have the opportunity to hire professionals. Many are assembled lovingly by volunteers or local people. These museums often have great stories, but they can be harder to read, because the folks who put them on display know them so well, they forget to give you the details.

So my recommendation? Visit a small town museum near you. Make a day of it. Go get lunch in some small hamlet, explore their sights, and check out their small museum. Bring your sketchbook… take some time to really connect with an artifact or two. Try out a thinking routine, maybe even ask your family to try one along with you too. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret the journey.

 

Going it alone…

We love being part of your year… but we know that it’s not feasible for a class to come over and over. We know there are barriers to coming here both within your school, and built in to our application process (Sorry! We try to give new applicants, and applicants who bring new teachers a chance, just because we’re over subscribed, not because we don’t love you! We do!! We adore teachers who see such value here that they want to come back!!)

So I wanted to share what it looked like when one teacher, dismayed that they couldn’t come, decided to “go it alone”

- firstly, they weren’t alone. We’re happy to help support teachers who want to emulate an Open Minds experience without a week at a site. This can look different depending on your needs. Unfortunately we can’t offer financial help, but we’re happy to point you to resources, and walk with you if you come across challenges.

- journals were still a huge part of the year. As if this teacher was planning for a week at a site, they made journaling a huge part of their year. Using the Journey into Journalling resource, they took  time to explore techniques and returned to ones that were successful for their students. They looked closely at objects and art, as jump off points into new units, ideas, and concepts.

- they spent time in new places. They used what was available to them in new ways, field trips became field studies, and any time off school grounds was something to explore with journals, (even trips to the pool! This teacher had students journal before and after the swim… picking up on emotional experiences, concepts of buoyancy, and uses of energy). They also explored places in their school that are less used for study. (How exciting is it for students to go into places they’re not normally allowed… even if it’s just the gym equipment room!)

- the engaged community. This teacher brought in experts that were within their sphere of connection, either physically, or through Skype. Students planned for these visits by examining what they knew about this person or their expertise, and what they wondered, then generated questions.

- finally, they came back! We love seeing teachers re-apply after a few years trying Open Minds concepts on their own, because we know that we’ll learn from you as much as you’ll learn in this place!

Best of luck with your year without us! We’ll miss you, but we can’t wait to hear what happens for you next, so apply again soon!!

Learning Gender

Last year, one of the very thoughtful Museum School parent volunteers let us know that some of our ways of speaking about gender were a bit… *historic* (sorry!) We really took that message to heart, and started exploring some of the ways that we talk about people and the roles we assign them, both today (in our teaching practice) and historically (in our teaching content).

As part of this learning journey we asked for some help – the Calgary Centre for Sexuality offers workshops for professional communities to understand gender and sexuality, and some of the ways that these topics are unknowingly (or knowingly) integrated into our work with story. The whole educator team at Glenbow joined in to learn more, and we also had some of the other Campus Calgary & Open Minds sites and team with us as well.

We’re all going to have to keep working on and thinking about gender until we create safer spaces for all students to learn in (there are just mountains of evidence to suggest that safety is integral to productive learning environments). This will require strategic large scale change, as well as personal choices. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have the power to really do some of the things that are necessary for change, (in our life, in our work, maybe in the world at large…I’ll try to come back to this idea in an upcoming blog post) but there are a few small things that each of us can do… Here’s some ideas for first steps…

  1. The Centre for Sexuality folks suggested that children become aware of gender around ages 3-4. This reminds us that when we’re working with students, they’re already aware of gender and interacting with it as a concept in many ways. We don’t need to be afraid that they’re too young for us to talk about gender, because children are already aware that they are living in a gendered world.
  2. Although we constantly make assumptions all day long (it’s a human survival tool, related to our beliefs and experiences), we can be thoughtful about the times we make assumptions, and the times we take a minute to ask for information instead. Creating a climate where asking is welcomed can begin with you. As an educator, sometimes I only have a minute to get students all the “housekeeping” info they need, but I always make time to introduce myself and tell the students what I want them to call me. It only takes a minute to let students know what pronouns I prefer to be called, and to let them know I’m interested to know their name and pronouns too.
  3. Another housekeeping thing that I always make time for is to share the location of our bathrooms. Our site doesn’t have any gender neutral bathrooms but I can let students know that it’s okay to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in, or the one that matches their identity. This may go over a lot of students’ heads, but for students who are transgendered, it identifies me as an understanding adult, and our space as a safer one.
  4. Creating a safer space is about a lot more than just bathrooms though. We’ve started talking to other folks who work on the floor of our organization about all of us learning to be part of creating a safer space. We’ve also initiated some plans for signs (letting visitors know we’re working to be safer), and some discussions about other things we could do in our respective departments.
  5. When we talk about gender, we often do it kind of… sideways. Like, we’re not sitting down and saying “okay class, now we’re going to talk about gender!” rather, we’re talking about important content, and gender is part of that.  It comes up when I talk about cultural performance in West Africa, when I speak about Warrior history, and when I’m telling stories about our Mavericks. It comes up all the time, but I don’t think of it all the time. So that’s another thing to work on, just being thoughtful about the gendered expectations that exist in our stories and discussions. I believe that awareness will lead to better things.

 

Our facilitator for the workshop asked us how we feel about the word “guys” to refer to groups, and some folks said it was fine, but others felt that it could be interpreted as offensive. As an experiment, I counted the number of times I was referred to a part of a “guys” last week. In one day alone, it was 17 times. That really surprised me…(maybe give it a try yourself and see if it leads to any interesting thoughts or feelings?)

In that vein, one challenge that comes up a lot for us, is how to refer to a group of students without calling them “boys and girls” so here’s a list of ones we came up with:

  • Friends
  • Students
  •  Learners
  • Explorers
  •  Scholars
  • Empathizers
  • Scientists
  • Creative minds
  • Mathematicians
  • Artists
  • Problem Solvers
  • Creative Thinkers

Hopefully this is heading in a more helpful, kind, and considerate direction. Let us know your thoughts.

Strategies for bringing your ELL student to Museum School

One thing some of you asked for this year, was help supporting your ELL students document their learning, and be successful at Glenbow. We’ve been working with a few concepts for a while, testing some new ones out, and asking our colleagues, and here’s what we’ve learned…

Keep us in the loop

If you are working with ELL students, give us a heads up. We can work together to come up with some goals for that student, and some tools we can use throughout the week. We have incredible access to visuals that we can use with a bit of extra planning.

Practice thinking routines

Everyone should have a thinking routine or two that they’re comfortable with before they come. You may make some accommodations to the primary ones you use for your ELL students. Having a rubric or visual guide for your thinking routine definitely helps uptake for ELL learners (make your own, or download one).

 Bring your regular routines here

If you have regular routines around things like starting your day, changing focus, lunch and snacks, or going outside, use them here too. You may not be able to bring all your routines, but if you use a special chime, or chart, or tool – feel free to bring them here.  If you have a particular way of getting students attention, let us know and we’ll use yours. We have ways we do things at Museum School, but we’re always willing to adapt and use ways that best suit your class.

 “Teach Hub” recommends learning to Stop & Think… (the following is from their website)

Teach the “Stop and Think” strategy to help students evaluate their own learning. If you observe a student having difficulty in class, ask them to stop their work and think about the following questions: What am I struggling with? What can I do differently? What questions do I have? Who can help me answer those questions?

I think the crux here is, making an environment in your classroom where students know they can and should ask for help if they’re struggling. This is a tough one for sure (isn’t it “neat” how kids deflect when they’re struggling?), so if anyone has strategies for making this work in their classroom, I’d love to learn more.

 Do some practice sketching

Have students work with object sketching before you come. Your object doesn’t have to be something exotic (although exotic is easier to find that we think sometimes -  my young folks have asked more than once how those “big CD thingies” work, and I dust off the record player for their amazement). It’s just helpful if everyone knows that when you ask them to sketch, you’re asking them to notice detail, take time, and capture the object.

 Prepare everyone to use labels

Adding simple labels might also be a good beginning step for ELL learners, and it’s worthwhile for everyone to start something like a “word bank” in your classroom. Before a word goes up on the wall, make sure everyone knows what it means (“rough” is accompanied by feeling several rough objects etc.) If the gap between the ELL student and the other students is really big, have everyone make presentations for each word. Ask them to imagine teaching their word to someone who doesn’t know what it means. This activity can also be a reminder that part of your year long inquiry is “slow learning” – really taking the time to explore ideas and concepts.

Do you have some strategies for supporting ELL students that have worked well for you? We’d love to hear about your work in this area too!

Rolling back on a concept: Thinking Routines

I wanted to write a bit about Thinking Routines. As a person who is pretty new to them myself, I often wonder how much “common knowledge” there is around these funny little things we do. When I first heard of them, they were definitely spoken of as though a “thinking routine” was like an apple: something that obviously everyone understood what is was, why it was, and what it did. This absolutely wasn’t true for me, and I had to spend some time working with them, using them, researching and understanding them. I thought I would share what I learned, just in case it triggers any interesting thoughts for any of you. If not, my apologies and please carry on to more interesting areas of the internet!

Here’s my first epiphany: “Thinking Routines” isn’t a name for some special tool, it’s just literally a “routine” that you carry out to help you “think.” That’s the most important part. Every day we train our brains to do things, it’s like a muscle so if we work with specific parts of it, those are the parts that get stronger (biology friends please don’t be mad, I mean this as a metaphor). If we train small brains to “think” then they will. The routine helps learners access the process of deeper thinking easily, by strengthen the learning muscle/pathway, and by providing a framework through which to understand new things.

Okay, but some “Thinking Routines” are specific. There are all kinds! At Museum School we use the ones that Harvard developed to promote artful and creative thinking, but anyone can make up a thinking routine for use with learners. There might even be some cases when your made up routines work much better, because you know the needs and interests of your students. So don’t be shy about developing your own.

There’s lots of different ways we can use those routines. Some promote creative thought, others analytical thought, others visual thought… the list goes on. A class that is totally ready when they walk in the museum doors, has been using a few different routines, and is comfortable with 3-4 different ones that serve different ends. We can adapt a lot of our plans to whatever routines you’ve been working on, and you can suggest them when we partner-teach at the museum.

The best routines are adaptable; they can be quick data gathering exercises, or they can be drawn out with detail. We’ll have a variety of time constraints here, so ideally thinking routines also help us be flexible.

There’s a world of literature on how routines help learners, but the most impactful things to my practice has been learning how routines build confidence (learners know what is expected of them so they are able to build independence and self-assurance), and how they establish healthy patterns so that there’s less conflict (less opportunity for rebellion if everyone knows and is comfortable with routines).

We’re always eager to learn about thinking routines, so if you’ve tried some or made up your own, we’d love to hear about it!

8 Websites to Start Your Year…

Hello!

I thought I would share some links that could help you get your year situated for big picture learning. These are resources that Marnie and I use often, and that we hope are useful – but as always, we’re open to feedback.

The connection between all these sites it that we hope you’ll check them out at the beginning of the year, and if they’re useful, maybe you’ll integrate them into your practice and preparation for the museum.

 Thinking Routines

The purpose of these is just to make it easy for your students to enter into a dialogue with an idea, piece of writing, object, or concept. There’s two enormous sites that have all kinds of thinking routines we like, the Artful Thinking Project from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and an extension of that, the Project Zero webpage.

Museum Culture

Museum News from the Global Museum has all the most interesting world museum news listed regularly.

This website keeps tabs on museums across the globe. It’s new, so there’s still some bugs, but it’s a rabbit hole waiting to happen for sure.

Canada

World renowned for its impact on Indigenous people, and it’s origin story (the network started because peoples of the north took a stand and asked for  programming that reflected their culture and communities), Aboriginal Peoples Television Network has a great website. Contrasting their news section with other stations is always especially interesting. Like everything else in the world.. this channel is not universally liked.

The Virtual Museum of Canada is a great way to understand an exhibit without ever having to leave the classroom. If your students arrive with the understanding that an exhibit is like an overarching idea or story, and the pieces all fit together in some way, and by looking at them together you can learn so much more about each individual artifact… well you won’t even need us.

Glenbow

There are a few Glenbow sites that you might find useful over in the section for teachers. We also really encourage you to have a look at our main website to see our exhibit schedule and stay up to date on the interesting things happening here. If you regularly communicate with parents, you might remind them about our Free First Thursday program if their young folks are itching for another visit after their week.

You may also want to explore our collections. We’ve got a lot of interesting belongings and art here that can certainly supplement your work all year long.

Working to know truth

Some of you folks requested support connecting with resources to teach some of the harder parts of Canadian history in grade appropriate ways. There is just a ton of stuff online at the moment, so please consider this a jumping off point, but I’ve gone hunting of some really stellar resources to get you started..

1. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society’s Spirit Bear

This national organization based on the Squamish First Nation worked towards the betterment of families through research and best practice sharing. They recently developed the Spirit Bear Campaign (a book and a bear with teaching materials), and also have some classroom curriculum guides on their website (I feel they’re a bit dense, and sometimes seem off grade level, but there is so much in each one, and many ideas can be adapted).

2. This Beautiful Map of Indigenous territories worldwide 

This map is still in development, but it’s a great tool to just pull up whenever you’re talking about a place. It helps add history to conversations about place, and reminds us of the layers on the land that stretch back in time.

3. The provincially developed lessons plans 

These have been through several iterations, and much consultation. Some Glenbow folks have helped with this process too. We’d love to know if any of you are using these, or what you think of them.

4. This Book List from CBC

There are a lot of Reading to Reconciliation lists, but many of them don’t have age listings with each book. This list does, bu it’s otherwise a bit sparse. Please add a comment if you know if a better one.

5. Canadian Museum of Human Rights Toolkit

This page has a whole directory of lesson plans that can be searched by grade, subject, province, and language. It’s an excellent resource for all kinds of difficult topics, not just Indigenous subjects.

P.S. – If you’re looking for sources of adult education… Marine recently took a MOOC and I am a near constant reader – we’d be be happy to make recommendations or exchange resources etc.

Museum Advocate

Recently I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Museums Advocacy Day in Washington DC. Admittedly, it was an academic exercise and I did very little advocacy for Glenbow with American politicians. What I did do was learn how the American Alliance for Museums  (AAM) advocates for museums, and what museums without patrons are doing to ensure their sustainability. I also spent as much time as possible in actual museums.

Advocacy Day was so interesting! The premise is that arts and culture organizations are perhaps lacking lobby skills, so the AAM gathers everyone up and tells them how to make a good case for their museum. Some of this year’s key points were the contributions museums make to employment, taxes, and community, and how they are most often endorsed and enjoyed across political lines. The take away for me in terms of advocating for the Canadian museum industry, is that relationships with politicians are key to actually getting things done. The AAM suggested building those relationship with stories to help them understand why your cause matters, and show them how to relate to your museum personally. I definitely felt empowered leaving the meetings, and encouraged that even small folks like me can help impact the minds and decisions of politicians.

And after the meetings… did I ever have fun! For those that haven’t been to DC, it’s basically a museum mecca. The National Mall is a giant park full of museums, monuments, parliament buildings, and of course, the White House. The mall is lined with a ring of Smithsonians, which are the national repositories for many collections. The newest of these is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s so new in fact, that they use timed entry to let folks in. I had to be up and fighting for my ticket at 6:00 AM (lucky it’s an online thing). I’m still sorting through all my feelings about that museum, it was so impactful, but it didn’t help me feel any better at all about the current issues black folks in America are dealing with, so… complicated! My usual go to when I’m feeling muddled is the academic literature, so maybe I’ll write some more when I get there.

Another museum I made it to was the Newseum – which came super highly reviewed. It’s not in the Smithsonian family, so it was quite expensive. But, they know you’ll never get through everything in one day so your ticket is good for two. What I really enjoyed about that museum is how relatable everything was; they did an amazing job of connecting the past and today. Everything felt really personal, and the concepts from the history of news publishing were always connected forward to events from the public memory. The one omission for me was the future of news… which I think is a pretty pressing issue. I’d love to see what the team at Newseum does with that issue.

I also made time for some Historic Houses. I just love the feeling you get when you walk into an artifact. I love the tension between the real history and the restoration – the space between authentic and imagined and how that interacts with your visceral experience (this is also why I love haunted houses).

I dragged my journal everywhere with me, but didn’t really make time to work in it. If anyone has tips about how to get your head out of that “in the moment” and into the “reflection IS in the moment” space, I’d love some help.

Okay – Guess I’m headed back to work!