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Inquiry at CSS

An Introduction to Inquiry complete with a rubric to assess your practice.

Showcasing Student Work using QR Codes

QR codes are a basic form of augmented reality - the layering of digital information onto the real world. You have probably seen QR codes as they are becoming more popular in advertising and product design. Basically a QR code is like a UPC code - except it provides a shortcut to information that lives online somewhere.

Posts on School Leadership by Dr. Garry McKinnon

Posts from our school superintendent.

Illustrative Examples of Inquiry

Here at the Calgary Science School we build our understanding of inquiry-based learning around the Inquiry Rubric developed in conjunction with the Galileo Educational Network.

Providing Instructional Leadership

What are the essential conditions and practices in a school culture that support and promote exemplary teaching, student learning, and instructional leadership?

Grade 7 Recycling Centre Geometry

How to build a recycling centre?

Our grade 7 students were tasked with designing a recycling centre for each of the 4 homerooms in their hallway. To begin the process they deconstructed a box and plotted the lengths, angles and shapes into Geometer's Sketchpad. The result was a net that they printed onto a regular sheet of paper. Students then recreated the boxes from the printout to become scaled versions of the original.

Magic Spots and Earth Walks

Here is a blog post that highlights some simple activities you can do with your students to get outside in the beautiful spring weather and have them investigating the natural world.  These activities can be done in your school yard or in a nearby natural area.

Since our early days the Calgary Science School has provided outdoor and environmental education experiences at Camp Sweet which is near Olds, Alberta. The camp, developed by former Calgary Science School principal Ron Sweet, has been used for the past 10 years to provide highly successful learning experiences for all CSS students in grades 4 to 9.

Each grade has two overnight camps per year where at least one of them is held at Camp Sweet. Our grade 7 students attended the 3-day and 2-night camp on their second week of school this year!

Science Communication Opportunity

Our Science Communication Club are looking for opportunities to share their knowledge and demonstrations this spring. We would like to support their hard work in helping to find schools, centres, malls or other venues where they can safely demonstrate some of what they have been working on this year. 
If you are interested in hosting our club or have questions about the project, please email

Student Learning Plans: Choosing a Platform

The Quest for the “Perfect” Platform at Connect

Through formal and informal conversations with colleagues, students, parents, and administrators over the past two years we have determined the characteristics necessary in a platform for our student learning plans (SLP's). Although recognizing some classes at Connect house their SLP’s in binders and duotangs (as a paper format), we realized early on in our process that a digital platform was critical in ensuring information is easily transferable between and amongst all stakeholders. Asking questions such as: What are the different platforms available? And, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each? were important in our process to find a platform that would meet the majority of student, parent, and teacher needs. The specific characteristics we felt were most important to our school were the following:

  • Security
  • Access - ipad/laptop & home/parents/teachers
  • User friendliness
  • Transferability between grades & years
  • Clear visual/clean...easy to view
  • Good “fit” with our Exemplary Learning Framework (ELF) … re: its set-up (Please see our previous blog post discussing our ELF and SLP’s)
  • Individuality/Personalization
  • Cost
  • Options
  • Multimedia options
  • Living/easy to edit or change
  • Age appropriate features

Energy Diet- A student post

Our grade 4 and 7 classes are collaborating this year in the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge. The students have been assembled into small combined teams where each takes up the different challenges. Our grade 7 students have taken up these leadership roles, and below is a blog post written by a grade 4 and 7 pair. They could earn up to 15 points for their team!

Energy Diet (Letter to the editor)
By: T and P

What are different types of energy sources? And which one is best for our environment?


Solar panels generate electricity from the sun. The old solar panels were made of silicon and now solar panels are made from cheaper crystals but do not work as well as silicon. Solar power is made when the suns light hits the solar panel, the electrons in the silicon get up and move instead of just jiggling in place to make heat.

An Inquiry into Words and Spelling

-by Abby Saadeh

In an Inquiry based environment, we get excited and enveloped in our questions and ideas. At Connect Charter we want to take these opportunities to incorporate Spelling into our explorations and develop skills into our practice. Together with the Grade 4 Humanities team, we identified a need to develop some ideas on how to approach Spelling. I gave the students a Spelling Questionnaire that would give me more information about how they felt about Spelling and what they thought about themselves as Spellers. From the information gathered, I came up with the first discussion question, “What is Spelling?” And, “If we made Spelling important, what would it look like?” This is what the students came up with.

Class Brainstorm
Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.35.50 AM.png

Next, we discussed words that they found interesting or were curious about because of the way they sounded or simply by the way they looked or how they sounded. I encouraged them to talk to each other about words that they found difficult, words that they continuously spelled wrong, or words that they spelled wrong in their previous assignments. We decided that we could get the words from anywhere, as long as they give reasons why they chose them, it could be from their writing, reading, signs, television...anywhere. We came up with a list of words that answered these questions and began to explore them.

Inquiry and Assessment in Inquiry: Views from an Internationally Trained Teacher

By Joanne Eloho~ Werklund School of Education Bridge to Teaching Program

It was quite the experience partnering with Ms. Pereverzoff at the Connect Charter School, (formerly Calgary Charter School) to teach her seventh grade class in my first practicum as a Bridge to Teaching student from the Werklund School of Education. As an internationally trained teacher, I expected to find significant differences in Alberta classrooms and there was no surprise there, however, I have found that learning through inquiry is such an extreme deviation from my more traditional practice of teaching. For the first time in my practice, I was actively encouraging students to assume more responsibility for their learning and they were working to meet that expectation. I was stepping back and allowing them the opportunity to expand their knowledge by exploring the curriculum through their interests. Inquiry, from what I have experienced in five short weeks, is indeed an innovation in how we want our students to learn; ultimately as teachers our aim is to help students develop as independent, critical thinking citizens of society, inquiry not only initiates the process, it affords every student the opportunity to be independent and think critically by stressing the importance of the “Why” in whatever it is students are learning.

Underwater ROV Elective

This term we offered students in grade 6 and 7 an Underwater ROV elective. In this elective students design, build and test an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle, or ROV. ROVs are used for a variety of reasons, including marine biology research, military applications, underwater archeological exploration and more.

Students used PVC pipe, wires, 12 volt DC motors, batteries and other supplies to construct their ROV. Propellers were designed in Google Sketch Up and printed on our MakerBot 3D printer. In the end we found a propeller design online and printed several to provide students the best chance for success on testing day in the Mount Royal University pool.

Property of Air Demonstrations, Grade 6

-by Erin Couillard, Lisa Nelson, Carolyn Armstrong and Carly DeBoice

For our Aerodynamics and Flight unit this year, we decided to begin with students gaining an understanding of the properties of air, as outlined by the Alberta Program of Studies. To do this, students would be paired with a peer and assigned a property of air to investigate. They would then choose a demonstration that best explains/proves that specific property of air.

To begin with, we chose a small demonstration to do for them. This had two purposes. First, to construct a criteria around what an effective science demonstration looks like and second, to start digging into the properties of air. The demonstration we chose was to prove the existence of oxygen in the air by lighting two candles and then placing a jar over one of them. Students predicted what would happen and then attempted to explain why it happened and to indicate the property of air that it proved.

After observation and discussion, students co-constructed the following criteria around “What makes an effective Science demonstration”:
• Facing Audience
• Speaking loudly with enthusiasm and inflection
• Knowing your information
• Proving something with visual evidence
• Explaining each step
• Asking audience to make a prediction, giving them time to think
• Asking audience “Why”?
• Asking audience for observations

 Next, students will practice their demonstration to gain feedback from peers, teacher and parents (at student-led conferences) prior to creating a video of their demonstration for final assessment and sharing. Throughout this process each group will gain an understanding of all of the properties of air through learning how to write observations and conclusions. We will also be co-constructing criteria around observations and conclusions to ensure that each student has an understanding of the expectations. Stay tuned for more blog posts as we work our way through the unit(s).

Up next!
• Wind tunnel engineering project (see blog posts from previous years here and here)
• Parachute Design
• Paper Glider experiments

What are you doing for your Aerodynamics and Flight units? We would love to know! 

Master Chef Electricity Challenge, Grade 9

-by Louis Cheng and Cindy Nilsson

Today the grade 9 students were given a series of instructions to complete a Master Chef Electricity Challenge.

In teams of four, they were provided a box of electrical supplies and had 10 minutes to begin researching how to build some circuits.  After their research time, they had to put away their laptops and textbooks to attempt to build the following:

Profiling SLP’s - Student Learner Profiles at Connect!

Tanya Stogre and Abby Saadeh

Students and teachers at Connect Charter School have focused on creating Student Learner Profiles (SLP) for the past few years. More recently, at Connect, these SLP’s have become a more significant focus. In the spirit of Personalized Learning from the Inspiring Action on Education, SLP’s are gaining momentum in Alberta. See for more information on this provincial initiative.

With greater time and attention being placed on SLP’s, it is important for us to have discussions regarding the ways they might inform and impact learning at our school. Over the course of the past few years, each grade has explored a variety of platforms to house these profiles. In our second blog post, we will further discuss the strengths and limitations of some of the platforms available, but first we would like to discuss what a Student Learner Profile (SLP) is and why they are important.

Connect Board Retreat

It's never just an ordinary day: Directors cut
Ashley Nixon- Connect Charter School Board Member.

Tessellation shown in this pavement
 mosaic from Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
 It was a privilege to spend my afternoon visiting classrooms and interacting with students and teachers at the Connect Charter School, Calgary on Friday. Two students, Will and Oman, guided myself and other Board Directors in and out of various learning places, the "field survey" part of the review of the school's strategic plan "Lead, Share, Transform" conducted annually.

The tour began with an iPad training session in the library led by some young experts from Grade 6. I came away knowing more about how to pull similar apps together and grab images from the web. Geometry was under exploration in Grade 5, where I saw students shaping their own learning through turning, translating, even tessellating objects.

Grade 7 Canadian History: Post 2

Jody Pereverzoff and Chris Dittman - Grade 7 Humanities

In our last blog post, we described the genesis of our Grade 7 Humanities project focusing on early Canadian (pre-confederation) history. We left off with students having just determined the most historically significant event in their debate group, each of which consisted of 4-5 students, each seeking to prove the historical significance of their specific event.  

We were left around 5 events in each of the 4 classes. Our focus now was to return to our original inquiry question; Why do so many Canadians know and care so little about our nation’s history?  We returned to our original class brainstorm around the importance (or lack of) of knowing Canadian history.  Specifically, we drew students’ attention to the reasons they gave for a lack of interest.  These included:

  • History is boring
  • People have studied events in history, but often forget
  • Events are not relevant

A Principal's Perspective: Back to Basics

Darrell Lonsberry - Connect Charter School Principal

It seems as though the pendulum is swinging once again, this time motivated by some people who are espousing a back to basics approach to mathematics education, in large part as a response to the most recent PISA results. I don't want to remain mute on this, as mathematics education is near and dear to my heart. One of the difficulties in using results from standardized tests such as PISA, TIMSS or PIRLS to compare nations on the quality of their educational systems, and even in determining change over time within a single system, is that these tests often do not measure those things that teachers would say are most important. While some may purport to measure these things, I haven't yet run into a standardized tests that adequately and appropriately measures a student’s ability to think creatively, to persevere in a challenging task (these international tests are all timed), to collaborate through a problem, to use research strategies to find missing information, to share their learning in novel and effective ways, to access expertise when it is required, etc. I don't want to come across as trying to justify lower results by blaming the test, but in considering the results we must also look at what students are actually being asked to do.

Grade 7 Canadian History

Jody Pereverzoff and Chris Dittmann- Grade 7 Humanities

We invited David Scott, a former CSS teacher, to collaborate on a unit to engage students in early Canadian history and provide students an opportunity to wrestle with why we learn history and whether history is important to understand. We asked ourselves what most Canadians think of history in general, and Canadian history specifically. We came upon the government’s Heritage Minister lamenting the fact that Canadians do not know our own history. He went so far as to call this current situation a future threat to Canada as a country. We read this article as a class and students offered their reactions to it:

Professional Networking Day for Outdoor Education teachers

Deirdre Bailey (Connect Charter), Jason Lindsay (Calgary Arts Academy) and David Manning (Westmount Charter)

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” 
Richard Louv -  Last Child in the Woods
In collaboration with Outdoor Education specialists from the Calgary Arts Academy and Westmount Charter, Connect Charter School (formerly the Calgary Science School) is hosting a Professional Networking Day for Outdoor Education teachers on Monday, February 3, 2014. The intent to provide an opportunity and location for Calgary and area based Outdoor Educators to connect, share their unique approach to OE programming, and extend their professional community of practice. The primary purpose of the day is to allow attendees to share elements of their practice and in return, leave the day with new resources and contacts. Our goal is to allow for collaboration and feedback from a wide range of colleagues and mentors and to allow OE teachers to broaden their professional network in order to improve practice and advance the learning of colleagues.

Grade 9 Identity Poetry Anthology

WHO AM I?: Identity Poetry Anthology Version 2.0 
Jaime Groeller and Ivy Waite- Grade 9 Humanities

Ivy and I are very excited to once again be team teaching grade 9 Humanities this year. We taught this curriculum in our first year together, went back down to grade 8 for our second, then looped back into grade 9 with the same students for the 2013-2014 school year. We went back to our year plan from our first time through grade 9, looked through the projects we created and adapted, and in doing so decided to begin the year once again with a poetry unit on “identity”, an important guiding concept in the grade 9 social studies curriculum. We love this project because it also allows us to meet some ELA objectives and have the students interact with poetry beyond merely “analyzing.” Armed with our detailed reflections from last time, we worked to adapt the activities and projects we used before to meet the needs of our current group of students, and also to improve upon certain aspects of the inquiry. The assignment sheet and graphic organizer look very similar to last time, but we did make some significant changes to how we approached this study, as well as the organization of the anthology itself.

Evolution of Inclusive Practices at Connect Charter School

Abby Saadeh ~ Inclusive Practices Coach

When starting the position of the Inclusive Practices Coach at Connect Charter School in 2012, I was
asked time and time again, “What does Inclusive Practices mean exactly?” And to be honest, at first
there was a struggle to give it a definition. After months of work in this position I have realized that this is a field that is constantly evolving and adapting to respond to the needs of our school.

Some of the things that I learned over the past few years are that it is not only about making sure that every student has an opportunity to learn, it is a proactive process with the intention of valuing and motivating learners while fostering and advocating for their independence in an environment where everyone can feel safe and accepted. How we do this, starts with understanding who our students are. We do this through Learner Profiles, relationship building, Student Resource Group Meetings, past history, student and parent interviews, STAR reading assessments etc. Then, partnered with students and parents, we mutually agree on goals, and come up with an implementation plan that is tailored to the individual student’s learning style.

Grade 5 Genius Hour

Calgary Science School
Grade 5 Team

Framework for Student Learning Graphic
The Grade 5s are excited to be starting Genius Hour this year! Every day 3 we will be dedicating 80 minutes to Genius Hour work, providing students with a voice in what they want to learn, promoting their passions and encouraging creativity. Students will be expected to be prepared and to use this time effectively.

Genius Hour is tightly linked with objectives outlined by Alberta Education in their document Framework for Student Learning:

Genius Hour will help develop life skills such as planning, teamwork, meeting timelines, and following through on commitments. This experience will inspire self-direction, pride and responsibility in each student.

Celebrating Connect Charter School

Dr. Garry McKinnon - Connect Charter School Superintendent

New Year's Day 2014 will have special significance as Connect Charter School officially replaces Calgary Science School as the name of our school. This will be the third time the name of the school has been changed and the name change reflects its ongoing evolution. Originally when the charter school received approval in 1999, through an application by the Science Alberta Foundation, the school was known as the Science Alberta School. The belief by the founding members was that there was a need for a charter school which fostered cross-curricular learning with an emphasis on the scientific method, research, inquiry and the enhancement of learning and teaching through the use of technology.

Girl Rising Documentary - Monday, December 16th, 7:00pm

On December 16th, Calgary Science School is please to host a screening of the film Girl Rising. Girl Rising is a groundbreaking feature film about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to transform societies. The film presents the remarkable stories of nine girls around the world, told by celebrated writers and voiced by renowned actors.

Girl Rising is a grassroots global action campaign for girls’ education, powered by girls, women, boys and men around the world who stand for equality. Millions have seen the film and are spreading its message across campuses and communities of all kinds - raising both awareness and funds. Girl Rising partners with established nonprofit organizations that drive donations to programs that help girls get in school and stay in school.

After the film there will be a Q&A/Panel Discussion with Donna Kennedy-Glans (MLA for Calgary Varsity, Founder of Bridges Social Development, first female VP of Nexen, advocates for female eduction in Arab and African countries), Shirley Steinberg (Chair and Director, The Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education, Professor, Youth Studies) Karen Cuthbertson (founder of HANDS: Helping Across Nepal Development Society) and Calgary Science School students.

The screening will take place on December 16th at 7pm at the Calgary Science School. Along with the screening there will be a Craft Market with proceeds going to the Calgary Drop-In Centre and Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society. Doors open at 6pm.

Spatial Reasoning

Heather Melville- Grade 4 Math and Science

In July 2013, I had the privilege to work with students, teachers, Galileo Network experts and researchers at the University of Calgary. (Brent Davis – Professor and chair of mathematics education, Krista Francis Poscente – IOSTEM Director). We met in May to discuss the research portion of the spatial reasoning project. In that one day in May I discovered the importance of spatial reasoning as I went through my own testing and problem solving activities. I learned very quickly that this is a skill that needs to be taught and explored throughout our education. We cannot assume that everyone will be in an environment that allows for this particular skill to be enhanced. I am a believer in providing students with every opportunity to reach for goals that may potentially transpire into future careers. In discussion with the researchers and their knowledge, it was apparent that the careers people choose are based in part by what their spatial reasoning capabilities are.

Innovate West Update

We are thrilled to be announcing the first annual Innovate West conference to be held at Connect Charter School, May 23-25, 2014. This conference will be a gathering of forward thinking educators in western Canada and will be an opportunity to share, collaborate and reflect. We are looking forward to reconnecting and learning with our own professional learning network which consists of many schools and school boards in Alberta and British Columbia with whom we have worked with over the past decade.

If you have attended ConnectED Canada here in 2012 or 2013, the format will be familiar. Friday is an instructional day where conference attendees have the opportunity to visit classrooms and talk to students and teachers about their learning. Tour guides consist of grade 4 to 9 students who have a lot to say and will tell you all about learning in an inquiry setting and what that means to them.

Inspiring Change Through Teacher Development

The Spirit of Inquiry: Inspiring Change Through Teacher Development

Maikala Harris~ University of Calgary Student Teacher

As a pre-service teacher at the Werklund School of Education I realize how fortunate I have been to take a glimpse into the Calgary Science School (CSS) for my first field practicum. With a capped student wait list, this charter school is rooted in inquiry and clearly on course with establishing an ecological model of education. Instead of starting with the curriculum, teaching the subject matter, and allowing time only at the end of class for inquiry, at CSS teachers start with and build upon inquiry relevant to student interests and the curriculum.

Alberta Education’s new Student Act signed in May 2013 has initiated curricular redesign that emphasizes inquiry-based, student centered, and collaborative environments. There has been a large debate on how to best incorporate these aspects into an already busy school schedule. Although my time at the CSS has been brief, I have observed an administration that invests in teacher inquiry and collaboration, a procedure that promotes these activities throughout the entire school.

Inquiry, Assessment and Term 1 Video Report Cards in Physical Education

Deirdre Bailey ~ Physical Education

This important information bulletin provides details on our new term 1 report card assessments in physical education at CSS. As we hope many parents are aware, this year has provided us with the opportunity to re-think our approach to inquiry-based physical education (see Connect! blog post) as well as our approach to end of semester assessments in PE. 

Earlier this term we shared our proposal for physical education assessment reform with our CSS parent council. The council were in support of this new approach to reporting with the suggestion that we share both our rationale and process with parents via the PE website.

We've put together some information about our program, changes in assessment, and a how to access your child's video on Edmodo video, all of which are included below. We are both very happy to meet with parents during first term interviews next week in order to discuss our program and assessment practices further. We would also welcome any questions via email at or

Professional Development with Buffalo Trail Public Schools

A focus of our external collaboration strategy this year is to not only track and maintain our social capital metrics, but to promote deeper collaborations with the school boards, post secondary institutions and educators in our evolving network. After a school tour with teachers and administrators from Buffalo Trail Public Schools in the 2012/2013 school year we reflected with Assistant Superintendent Lisa Blackstock about the visit and how we could broaden the experience. We hosted a group of teachers and administrators again this school year for a school tour and a full day of facilitated planning with Learning Coaches and teachers from Calgary Science School.

Re-thinking Inquiry-Based Practice in Physical Education

Deirdre Bailey ~ Physical Education

While conventional education is often criticized for either segmenting learning into smaller pieces without ever giving kids the whole picture, or for letting kids read all about something without ever having an opportunity to engage in the process or "play the whole game" as Harvard School of Education Professor writes in his book Making Learning Whole, physical education does not often suffer the same criticisms.  Kids play the whole game all the time - PE teachers might argue, whether it be basketball, volleyball, baseball, badminton or floor hockey.

My challenge to "traditional" PE programs however, would be that the games they are playing are the wrong ones. If the purpose of "playing the whole game" is that students are able to engage in real work

Plant Growth and Changes

Flower Pounding in Grade 4
Marla Paxton~ Grade 4 Math and Science

Prep Time - A weekend (with breaks) to treat and prepare fabric
Lesson - Approximately 4-5 classes.

My partner teacher Heather Melville and I wanted to look at the way we took up Plant Growth & Change this year so the grade 4‘s made a lot of noise exploring the parts of a flower.  It all started with a picture book by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, A Seed is Sleepy.  Students looked at how seeds were sleepy, secretive, fruitful, adventurous, inventive, generous, ancient, thirsty, hungry, clever, and even sometimes naked!

Grade 5 Classroom Chemistry

Igniting Curiosity through the power of observation.
Jocelyn Monteith ~ Grade 5 Math/Science

Last week students spent time in the science lab testing a variety of materials (salt, sand, oil, and an Alka-Seltzer tablet) to see what happens when they are mixed with water: what dissolves, what reacts and what remains unaffected.

Students hypothesized what they thought would happen based on what they already knew about each of the materials. While conducting each test, students captured their observations in words, images and videos. As you could imagine, the lab was buzzing with excitement, students eagerly calling their teacher over, wanting to share what they had observed, attempting to explain the science behind what happened.

Co-Constructing Criteria in Mathematics

Erin Couillard and Carolyn Armstrong
Grade 6 Math/Science

Not two weeks into this school year, my math teaching partner, Carolyn Armstrong, and I were lamenting the disarray and disorganization of student math journals. We commented to each other that the work that some of the students were producing was very disorganized, diagrams were drawn without rulers, answers were buried deep within the work and we were finding it hard to get a good sense of the student’s overall understanding of the problem.

I had the good fortune of attending a two-day Anne Davies workshop in Canmore last week and she reinforced the importance of co-constructing criteria with students. I came back very excited to do this with Carolyn and our students around “what counts in an organized math notebook”.

Grade 5 Math Problem

Valerie Barnes and Jocelyn Monteith
Grade 5 Math/Science

Grade 5 students were recently given the following math problem. The assignment, feedback, submission and assessment steps are taking place in Edmodo. It has been great to see the comments on the assignment page where students are offering feedback, asking questions, and assisting with technical support. Assignments are due this week may the force be with them.

Science Mentorship with Telus Spark and RVSD

Our grade 8 students and teachers are very fortunate to be working with Telus Spark and schools from the Rocky View School Division in the Science Communication Mentorship Program. Our students will be working with Telus Spark Exhibit Developers, members of APEGA, and Telus Spark Facilitators in creating exhibits for a public celebration of learning at Telus Spark on December 4, 2013.
Our RIG "You be the Wires" 

Teachers from the two divisions met at Telus Spark on August 30, 2013 to discuss the project and participate in a RIG process (Random Idea Generator) in their prototype lab. The Calgary Science School grade 8's will be visiting Spark on October 1, 2013 to work with exhibit developers to begin the process of creating their own Spark exhibits. We are looking into the possibility of creating our own prototype lab at the school with the support of Telus Spark to support the planning phase of the project. 

PE Teacher Networking Day

The Calgary Science School is hosting a free PD event for Physical Education teachers on Monday, September 23, 2013.

We feel that much of our work as PE teachers is in isolated and unique situations - whether it is the physical building, the location of our school, the mandate/philosophy of our respective schools and so on. We also feel that each of us possesses experience and teaching resources that might be of benefit to other PE teachers. 

With that in mind, we are inviting any interested PE teachers to join us on September 23th for a day of professional development. We are viewing this day as a way for our PE teachers to share what they do in their PE programs and how they do it, as well as a way for our teachers to create a professional network. The Calgary Science School will host this event; however the purpose is to allow for presentations from any attendees.

Making Sustainable Food Choices

Originally Posted February 6, 2011

Our grade 9 team recently completed a cross-disciplinary 'challenge-based learning' project as part of an Apple/New Media Consortium international research study.

Challenge Based Learning is an approach to designing classroom work with many similarities to inquiry-based learning. CBL involves students engaging in real-world issues, conducting data-collection and analysis, and then designing and implementing a solution to an issue.

The Blue Wood Project

-by Carolyn Armstrong, Grade 6 Math/Science
*originally posted in February 2012

Objective: Students work as true scientists through rigorous scientific exploration and experimentation.

The Project in a Nutshell: Test and compare the water absorbency of yellow (healthy) pine and blue (fungus-stained) pine wood.

How it came to be: One our parents approached me about taking on a special project that was brought to her attention through a fellow member of ABEC: Alberta Building Envelope Council. The Council focuses on the building envelope, which basically means keeping the outside out and the inside in. The idea is not necessarily to look for energy alternatives, but to reduce energy consumption in the heating and cooling of buildings.

Measuring our Network

Dan McWilliam

The Calgary Science School is a node in a large network of incredible schools, educators, businesses, parents, students and other stakeholders. Collaboration is one of our 6 Charter Goals as accepted by the Alberta Government in July 2013 (our complete Charter Document is available here.)

Financial capital is an ongoing concern in education. The Calgary Science School has made an investment in social capital to grow and improve our program. As a node on a large network we have been hosting tours, visitors, volunteers, experts and students teachers. We began tracking these metrics over the 2012-2013 school year in order to celebrate what we had achieved, but also to set a benchmark for the following year. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the different kinds of collaboration and outreach we are participating in, and reflecting on how to deepen these relationships.

Highlights of the Annual Superintendent Interviews of Calgary Science School Parents, Students and Staff

Garry McKinnon~ Calgary Science School Superintendent 
June 25, 2013

The fourth annual superintendent interviews of parents, students and staff members were conducted over several weeks in the spring of 2013 as a component of the ongoing school evaluation process. On March 7 and 8 during student-led conferences, 50 parents were interviewed. In May and June, grade 4 to 9 students as class groups (24 classes - approximately 600 students) were interviewed. As well, teaching and support staff members (42 participants) were interviewed. The feedback generated through the two questions (without any prompting) 
"What causes you to believe that the Calgary Science School is a very good school and what suggestions for improvement would you like to offer?", has been organized as commendations or recommendations for further consideration, on the basis of common themes, which were identified through a thematic analysis process. The frequency of common themes is indicated in parentheses.

Developing Social Capital Through Collaboration

Dan McWilliam

I was introduced to the idea of Social Capital when I served as a research assistant on a project conducted by Dr. Abdie Kazemipur while at the University of Lethbridge. It was my job to input the collected data from recent immigrants to Calgary to determine whether they were finding and accessing different sources of Social Capital. My basic understanding of the concept did provide me a new perspective on a host of issues.

Social capital is about the value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people, with norms of reciprocity (Dekker and Uslaner 2001). One of the best descriptions of our school and value we place on social capital came from a blogger who attended the ConnectED Conference in May of 2013. He shared that he expected to be blown away by our building, technology and the latest greatest “stuff”, but what he found was, “The sense of community, caring and support for one another had little to do with technology and tools and everything to do with relationships – the free stuff!” (Dale Cotter, Teacher at Beach Grove

CSS Podcasts: Assessing Website Credibility

Grades: 6-9
Subject: All

As part of our Collaboration and Outreach Program, the Calgary Science School is creating and sharing podcasts and PDF handouts of inquiry-based lessons designed by our teachers. We encourage feedback, comments and dialogue on the materials we publish.

This podcast contains one approach to assessing website credibility by introducing three criteria for students to use when conducting internet research projects.

These materials on website credibility were designed by The Critical Thinking Consortium, and are shared here with their permission.

Aligning the Flipped Classroom Approach With Inquiry-Based Learning

A Collaborative Action Research Project
Dave Scott & Jason Publack~ Grade 9 Humanities

Over the past year, Jason and I have been looking at the potential of the flipped classroom to enhance first installment we explored the nature of the flipped classroom and outlined, with example videos, how we were trying to integrate this approach into our Humanities program. In our second and third posts, through surveys and focus group interviews with our students, we examined both the strengths and weaknesses of using the flipped classroom model.
the learning environment of our grade 9 Humanities students. In our last three blog posts we have been documenting our research findings and reflecting on this process. In our

Writers’ Guild

Aimee Trudel~ Grade 5 Humanities

CSS’s Writers’ Guild talking to author Dwayne Hauck 
about self publishing on line.
Writers’ Guild; an opportunity for students of all ages to get together and share their passion for writing!

In response to a student’s request to have more time to write about ‘anything I want’, she and I spearheaded the Writers’ Guild. So, for the past few months, a handful of students from grades five to nine have gathered together on a weekly basis to share their passion for writing.

The Writers’ Guild has since created an Edmodo group to share ideas, resources and stories (see some of the links below) and shared in author Dwayne Hauck’s brainstorming session on “How to Publish a Book On-line for Free” (

This small and very talented group of students has excelled in sharing a great deal of support toward each other. For some, it has provided an opportunity to find the motivation they needed to focus on what they love to do.
Chelsea, Lea, Harley and Rowan sharing ideas during one
 of our weekly Writers’ Guild lunch meetings

Team Teaching: Our Adventures & Advice to Future Collaborators

Ivy Waite and Jaime Groeller~ Grade 8 Humanities

This post is part of a series. Read the previous posts here, here, here, and here.

After 10 months of experimentation, the question remains: will we continue to approach teaching in such a manner? Have the benefits to all stakeholders outweighed the challenges?

We believe the answer is yes! As mentioned in previous posts, team teaching in this manner does not “fix” all problems: in fact, it comes with its own set of challenges, but we truly believe that with a few small changes, many of which we have already instituted, our choice to team teach was, and is, the right one.

How To Build an Awesome Car (Engineering Thinking in Grade 4)

Deirdre Bailey

Traditionally, Grade 4 "Wheels, Levers and Devices that Move" units involve hands on investigations in which students have the opportunity to build something. Often however, these building opportunities are heavily regulated and have students follow a specific set of instructions, put pieces together sequentially and then showcase a collection of virtually identical products.

While I can't pretend to know a whole lot about engineering, I am pretty confident that if the discipline were focused on building from instruction booklets, Chris Hadfield wouldn't have spent the last 6 months in space. As Dr. David Perkins' mentions in Making Learning Whole, kids don't learn to play the game if all they ever get are the pieces...

The Potential of the Flipped Classroom: Post Number 3

A Collaborative Action Research Project
Dave Scott & Jason Publack Grade 9 Humanities

As outlined in our last post found here, we have been looking at the potential of the flipped classroom within the context of a grade 9 Humanities class. In case you haven’t encountered this model of learning, within the flipped classroom students watch classroom instruction for homework as part of a video or ‘vodcast’. Class time is then spent on inquiry-based learning where students apply what they learned at home and are also given the chance to ask questions and receive feedback.

Whereas last time we had students watch a series of videos on how to write a business letter, this time Mr. Publack’s videos focused on how to write an essay. Here is an example of one of the videos:

Grade 4/7 Plants Collaborative Project

Candice Shaw

The Grade 4 and 7 Math and Science teams were fortunate enough to attend the Calgary Science School/Rocky View Schools Cross Authority  STEM planning days in April. During these days, we were able to brainstorm, collaborate, and "flush out" a cross-grade collaborative unit. Both Grade 4 and 7 Science have units on Plants - Plant Growth and Changes (Grade 4) and Plants for Food and Fibre (Grade 7).

The initial vision for the unit was created by Carolyn Armstrong and Deirdre Bailey, when they attended the Cross Authority Environmental Stewardship planning days. When Heather Melville and I jumped on board, Carolyn and Deirdre had initial ideas for the cross-grade project, including the "spark" for the unit, essential questions, the focus on wellness, and initial thoughts for several activities (as discussed later).

Grade 6 Government Novel Study

Jody Pereverzoff~ Grade 6 Humanities
One of the most meaningful experiences I had this year was when a student came up to me to discuss a quote he found in his novel, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. He was curious to find out more about the Burqa and whether or not wearing it took away ones equality and freedom of choice. He took it upon himself to dig further and seek multiple perspectives on this topic so that he could communicate these perspectives on his blog. Seeing this level of engagement and curiosity in my students made me excited to share our grade 6 Novel Study on the ConnectBlog.

CSS/RVSD Collaborative Planning

Greg Neil ~ Grade 6 Math/Science

I signed up for the Environmental Planning Institute in order to have the opportunity to collaborate with teachers from other schools.  After five years of teaching at the Calgary Science School, I craved the opportunity to see what was happening in other classrooms and how other teachers approached inquiry-based learning. 

During the tours of RVSD schools, I was immediately impressed with the way teachers approached student learning through rich questions that connected to numerous areas of the curriculum.  The inquiry questions I develop with my own students are often more directly connected to a specific discipline and do not always make strong connections between the Humanities and Math/Science curriculums.

My Flip Classroom

A Collaborative Action Research Project
Jason Publack & Dave Scott Grade 9 Humanities

The flip classroom is a fascinating addition to a teacher's tool box. But it is not a final answer, or a complete one. Below are my thoughts on some of the strengths and weaknesses of the flip classroom as I've experienced it this year in my grade 9 Humanities classroom. To see an example of one of our videos click here. 

 "A lecture is an occasion when you numb one end to benefit the other." 
John Gould

"It's about changing instructional models so the students can receive more instructional support in the classroom." 
 - Bruce Umpstead, Michigan Office of Technology and Date Coordination 

Peer Tutoring at CSS

Marla Paxton ~ Student Services and Counselling

“Peer tutoring is partnering a younger student who may be struggling in one or more subjects with an older student who is willing to take on a leadership opportunity, be a greater part of our school community and may have a strength in a certain subject area. Parents, teachers or students themselves can fill out a Peer Tutor form and Ms. Paxton, the head of the program will match a struggling student with a tutor. This program has allowed me to connect with other students in different grades and review past subjects. The best way get a deeper understanding of something is to teach it to someone else. I think that this program can benefit everyone in our school including tutors, students, as well as teachers.” 
 - Maddy, grade 9 tutor -