Category Archives: School

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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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!!

New Forum – Review your Journal

ahhh… the eternal quest… for the perfect journal.

Is it easier to write in your journal if you actually like it? Does it matter if your journal falls apart before it’s full? Soft cover or hard, which do you prefer?

These are the questions we sometimes grapple with, and we know you’re pondering this too. Personally, I’m not very good with these types of details, I’m a bit of a utilitarian in some ways, so I’m more interested in the supply chain than most of the other details.

But generally, we know that there are some benefits and drawbacks (and some fatal flaws) to different journal designs. We recommend that you use something coil bound, with a hard cover so it can be easily carted around and written in while standing or maybe sitting on a carpeted floor.

Lately though, we’ve seen the same white coil bound books. If you look at your Journey into Journalling (I forget why the extra L – it’s on purpose though) book, on page 8 you’ll see the main problem with these… the coil pops out. Magically. ;)

I find them a bit big myself. But I’m not the end user here – your students are. If you think they are “magically” inclined i.e. they are likely to methodically work a coil out of place until they have a dangerous eye poking spring  and a wild collection of loose papers, you might want to consider a different journal.

But which one?

I’m hoping that we can compare notes. If you happen to be a journal writer, or if you’ve found the perfect book (or the imperfect one) in your work with students, please head on over to the forums and post a review. We’d love to know what your journey into Journalling has taught you about… well… the journal.

Making an impact

Did you know that there have been studies of the long term impact of Open Minds sites? (Maybe I already mentioned it)

Gillian Kydd, who pioneered the program made a video recording of students who participated in Zoo school 7 years earlier. Through that experience we learned some interesting (if slightly anecdotal) things, including:

- Students remember tactile and sensory things (like smells and playing with snow)

-Students don’t often recall programs, or activities that they did. They remember the things they saw more than the tasks they completed

- Upon reflection, the students realized that the experience taught them that there were more ways to learn than the “classroom method” and that these other ways were valid and important

- Each participant shared their intended career path, and attributed that path to something they learned at Zoo School (so the learning is deep, and the lessons are sustained although perhaps not immediately recognizable)

And…

- Students totally forget facilitators, but they have strong memories of their teacher and parents (if they participated) from that time.

This idea is well established in research – emotion and learning are closely connected and student teacher bonds are an important part of student success.

 

But don’t worry – we don’t get down on ourselves because we’re ultimately forgotten! Because for the brief period that your students are here, we know we’ve captured their attention.

Thank you Marnie! from Nakoda AV Club on Vimeo.

 

 

Context and how you use it

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Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Education on Planet Earth Conference, hosted by the Alberta Council for Environmental Education, and I thought I’d share some of the lessons of that day with our community.

It was an auspicious day… the first snowfall of the year started just as the opening remarks got underway. “A good day for an outdoor workshop” the presenters murmured as they looked down at their Chelsea Boots and cropped pants. Just kidding! Teachers are so practical! Everyone (except me) had their down jackets in fold away pockets, Arc’teryx toques, and very sensible looking hiking shoes. That’s definitely one of the things that sets me apart from teachers; I think it’s a disservice to attribute it to left/right brain type thinking (which has more or less been disproved for the moment anyways). Rather I’d like to give credit where credit is due and show some mad respect for the thousands of hours of preparedness training that teachers get every year. Because when your students comes to you with (insert weirdest craziest problem that you could imagine involving say…a stick of gum, a smart board, and 37 elastic bands) the last thing you want to worry about it your wardrobe.

Anyways. I opted for indoor sessions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being outdoors, I just also love being warm. I attended the conference with a group of youth that I volunteer with, who also happened to be presenting. Their session was about Indigenous pedagogy and how seeing the world through stories led the learner to a different world view than seeing it through facts. As part of their presentation they incorporated many different instruction techniques (conversation, lecture, watching films, interactive gaming, and hands on learning), and centered most of the action around an installation piece we had made earlier in the week; we moved the chairs into a circle and gathered the participants around our own projected image (and sounds) of a fire.

Okay, full disclosure, this wasn’t our idea. Teaching at the 2012 Cree 8 Success conference in Edmonton, noted Indigenous author Richard Wagamese told his students (including one in Chelsea boots and cropped pants) about the power of the setting for storytelling. He had a little floor light/fan thing with some paper taped to it. He didn’t have to tell us where to sit, he didn’t have to tell us to quiet down, he didn’t have to tell us to listen. We knew. Our experiences sitting around the fire taught us that if we would only patiently wait, good things would come. Setting matters. It impacts how and what we learn.

The folks over at the Devonian Botanical Garden in Edmonton understand this point well. Emma Ausford, who coordinates their school education program led a fantastic session on how they transformed the Garden’s educational offerings from a didactic lecture based model to one based on play. She realized that traditional models of “outdoor education” sometimes just literally take the instruction outside without changing anything else. The value of the outdoor environment for education is in its opportunities for discovery, and the chance to take a risk. We found out how this functions in programming when all of the sudden a room full of conference goers were hopping, prancing, and strutting around the room. To be honest we looked more like a crew of awkward children at a Christmas pageant than a vignette from Hinterland Who’s Who… but who ever forgets what character they were assigned (ubiquitous Christmas Sheep!) and which one everyone always wanted (attention getting angel!) and all those other little details from that one childhood night? Play is part of that process of creating indelible memories.

Setting matters, but what you do with that setting does too.

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Three Weeks/One School

We have been working with some new formats the last couple of years.  Originally, Museum School was unofficially limited to no more that two classes from one school within one school year.  This had practical reasoning behind it – reach as many schools, teachers and students as possible within the available 28 week year.  Open Minds serves two purposes, student learning and teacher professional development and in the early days, the shotgun approach spread this through the community.   Well, 20 years later, schools have changed, the methodology in the classroom now mirrors (for the most part) what we are trying to accomplish in the museum – student driven, inquiry based learning, and most schools have a teacher in their population who has participated in Open Minds.  So, is it time for us to change? – probably! 

We have had more schools apply with three or more classes all part of the same learning team – partly due to demographics, our city is growing,  and partly due to school organization.  I find working with a team of teachers fantastic!  It gives teachers with more experience with Open Minds the opportunity to mentor new teachers and entire grades in schools the opportunity to share their Museum experience.  More opportunities means more connections within their entire year. 

Our final three weeks were with three grade six classes.  The teachers planned their weeks together and shared their resources.  For us, it was eye opening to see three different approaches used within one framework.  Each week, even though the programs were identical, was completely unique but maintained a common thread to carry back to the school.  I think this approach, shared experiences molded to the individual student community and teaching style, worked brilliantly.

 The weeks all started with an object based looking activity that challenged the students to look deeply.  A “Welcome to Your Week” type of program!

The following day, building on looking deeply, the students participated in a writing workshop with writer and curator, Dennis Slater.  Now, they were asked to not only look deeply but to write a piece of fiction based on the object they chose.

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Building on this theme of story within object/art, the next day was an immersion into our gallery of arctic themed art to do some poetry writing and art making.

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 A trip behind the scenes into our collections to look at and hear the stories of a few artifacts continues to reinforce the importance of object as story holder on the second to last day of the week.  Students worked individually in the afternoon, seeking out artifacts that interested them and finding their stories.

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The last day, using all of the skills from the week ahead, the students used clues from objects to create an imaginary culture and debate the impact to their culture when they are contacted by a different culture.  The conversation that this initiated was an excellent kicking off point for their year’s big Idea, “What makes a global citizen?”  I think the stories these students found in objects and the importance of preserving the artifacts will affect their view on global citizenship.  Cool weeks!

The final word goes to a grade six student,

“Museum school was awesome. We got to put on a Knight’s helmet and gauntlet. We got to spend a whole morning in the Warriors’ gallery, where we had to find any weapon in the gallery that wasn’t a fire-arm and write a story about it.  On Thursday, we went into storage, we had to take a special staff elevator up to the 7th floor. Once we got there, Marnie took our group to Patty the dog. Patty was a World War I dog who went with soldiers in Canada all the way to France and helped out the soldiers.  Patty was most likely killed by gases, was stuffed, and sent back to Canada where he wound up at the Glenbow.  Then we went to hold a one handed 30 pound cavalry mace. In the afternoon we went to Mavericks, where we had to write a story on one of the vehicles.  I chose the Curtiss Jenny 4 airplane and wrote an awesome story.  In museum school, I learned about Canada’s history, about the pioneers, about European history with weapons, ancient Japan’s history and the First Nations.  I learned all about the hardships of life in the olden days, and what it took to be a knight. I would go back because there’s so much stuff that I didn’t get a chance to see, and I want to see it all.”