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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 -

Team Teaching: Student Survey Results & Analysis Pt. 2 - Triumphs!

Jaime Groeller & Ivy Waite~ Grade 8 Humanities

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

As discussed in a previous post, on April 30 we conducted a formal survey of our students regarding the team teaching approach we have taken up over the last 9 months. We had conducted informal surveys twice before, and tried to take into account the concerns and suggestions provided to make the experience more positive for the majority of the students. Here is part 2 of an anecdotal analysis of the formal survey. (Part 1 can be found here.)

Overwhelmingly, the positive responses outweighed the negative. Many students clearly understand and appreciate the learning experience we as teachers are trying to provide. They identified and commented on many of the specific items we outlined as goals of our team teaching:

Inquiry in Math: Order of Operations

Candice Shaw~ Grade 7 Math/Science

After reviewing integer addition and subtraction, and order of operations, I gave my Grade 7 students a challenge. This became a competition between many students and myself. The problem is as follows:

Given the following expression, What is the greatest solution you can create? What is the least solution you can create?

You can only manipulate sets of brackets - the order of the numbers and symbols cannot change.
You can use as many sets of brackets as you wish.

Team Teaching: Student Survey Results & Analysis Pt. 1 - Challenges

Jaime Groeller & Ivy Waite

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

On April 30 we conducted a formal survey of our students regarding the team teaching approach we have taken up over the last 9 months. We had conducted informal surveys twice before, and tried to take into account the concerns and suggestions provided to make the experience more positive for the students. Here is part one of an anecdotal analysis of the formal survey. (Part 2 can be found here.)

As is human nature, the less supportive comments often overshadow the supportive. As teachers, we want to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe, supportive environment, while continuing to provide differentiated instruction and authentic learning opportunities. The reality is, and we are learning to accept this and work through it, you can’t please everyone. Not every person in 100 will completely support anything, but we hope to find some compromises for those that are less than thrilled with the team teaching approach.

Using the SmartBoard to Teach Algebra

Kevin Sonico~ Grade 9 Math and Science

Some have referred to them as glorified whiteboards.  SmartBoards have had the unfortunate reputation of digitizing technology that was already in its own way a useful tool.  Some teachers may have even requested for the removal of SmartBoards for the use of that valuable real estate behind it. The challenge is the to rethink of how we can use them differently in our classrooms. So instead of thinking of them as expensive blackboards or overhead screens where we only project content, let us make them more dynamic and interactive.  Perhaps we can start to think of them more as oversized tablets.  

One of the most useful functions of the SmartBoard is the infinite cloner.  I was originally introduced to the idea of using the infinite cloner in modelling integers.  Because this was such an effective way to visualize why we “invert and multiply” in subtracting integers, for example,  I thought it would be great to demonstrate polynomial functions. Using individual manipulatives such as Algebra Tiles have been very helpful in visualizing such an abstract concept.  To use the SmartBoard much in the same way like an iPad:

Community Building in the Middle School

Erin Couillard~ Grade 5 Math/Science, Learning Coach

I have been thinking a lot about community building in the middle school.  I began my teaching career in a very small K-8 school in a rural Alberta town where one didn’t give much thought to community building, as the school WAS the community.  Parents were in the school regularly, siblings saw each other in the hallway all the time and families gathered at community events, soccer practices, swimming pool, skating rink.  In a large middle school (600 students, grades 4-9) which draws its population from all four quarters of a large city, a sense of community isn’t a ‘give-in’.  It must be purposefully orchestrated. 

Grade 6 Wind Tunnel: Air and Aerodynamics

John Cadman & Greg Neil~ Grade 6 Math/ Science Teachers
Calgary Science School

This is a design for an open ended wind tunnel. This means the fan pushes air into the tunnel instead of pulling it out the end. Assembled it is 4ft long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet high. Our hope in building this tunnel as we did was that in future it would require no tools to re-assemble. This design is a larger version of a tunnel original built by Louis Cheng at CSS using an old computer fan.

How it works in the classroom:
The challenge to students is two fold. They will design and build a wing/air foil that will generate the most lift in the wind tunnel and achieve the greatest distance outside the wind tunnel.

Team Teaching: The Reality

Ivy Waite & Jaime Groeller

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


Jaime's "Work Room" (Left) & Ivy's "Collaborative" Room (Right)

When we set up our classrooms in early August 2012, we were both so excited to begin this adventure. We spent time thinking about how we could provide the best physical learning environments, and even searched the internet for affordable options for students who like working while sitting on the floor. (We eventually settled on those foam-like floor tiles from Canadian tire.) Because of the lack of “alternative” seating for the “tabletop-free room”, we reevaluated our plan and ended up setting Ivy’s room up as the “conversation room” and my room as the “work room.” We put all the tables into Ivy’s room, and set desks up in my room, trying to ensure we had room for 50 students in each room. We envisioned one room as the place where class discussions would happen while the other would act as the place for mini-lectures, etc. We soon abandoned this plan. Here’s a few reasons why:

ConnectED Canada 2013

The Calgary Science School is pleased to be hosting the ConnectED Canada Conference for a second time. This is a unique education conference where the first day of the event is held at our school during an operational school day with students. Student tour guides will host groups of educators as they visit classrooms, view student work and speak with the teachers and students.

This conference is the physical meeting of a digital community that meets throughout the year online through hashtags, hangouts, blog posts, MOOCs, and more. Emphasis is given to discussions and meeting time throughout the 3-days at Calgary Science School. The online community is a collaborative one, where all voices are equal in the discussion. The sessions at ConnectED honour this and are facilitated discussions rather than stand and deliver presentations. Everyone in the room is a contributor.

Our welcome reception on Friday May 24 will be held at the University of Calgary in the Alberta Room. Bussing has been organized for the 116 conference participants who are staying in the Mount Royal University residence. The schedule of speakers for the reception is available on the ConnectED website.

The session schedule for the following two days has been posted on

Our staff steering committee is working hard on the logistics for the event, which has seen almost double the registration from the first ConnectED. Our students are beginning to get excited to share their work and experiences at CSS.

CSS Reads- Grade 9

 Jason Publack & Abby Saadeh~ Grade 9 Humanities

The Grade 9 teaching team, which included two student teachers this term, constructed a reading competition based on the CBC’s Canada Reads program. Scott Bailey, one of our University of Calgary student teachers, created a CSS Reads website to share and track the process of competition. The site is an excellent exemplar for schools wishing to host their own ______ Reads unit. Please let us know if you are hosting a similar competition. We would love to connect.

Calgary Science School Animation

One of our talented grade 7 students recently created this animation about learning at the Calgary Science School in his animation elective.

Student Insights into the Educational Potential of the Flipped Classroom

David Scott and Jason Publack ~ Grade 9 Humanities

Over the last few years there has been increasing talk within educational circles around the potential of the flipped classroom to enhance learning. Historically, and this is confirmed by a great deal of research, classrooms have been places where students spend a great deal of their time listening to teachers talk. Whether teachers are lecturing or explaining a particular concept, this has meant students have relatively limited class time to apply the concepts or ideas they learn from the lecture and must therefore do this at home for homework. This has meant that during the most difficult part of the learning process when they might need aid and support, they are left to their own resources when they are having difficulties or need extra help.

Cross Authority Teacher Planning Institutes

We started the school year looking for new ways to collaborate beyond the walls of our building. We investigated the opportunity with the Rocky View School DivisionAcknowledging that collaboration is more than linking people through curriculum, Darrell Lonsberry, and Dan McWilliam met with Josh Hill from RVSD and identified 3 stages or levels of collaboration for a Cross Authority AISI project.  As described by Ivy Waite, "Collaboration is more than just sharing ideas, but the process of working together to achieve a common goal. True collaboration is a process in which two or more people co-conceive, design, execute and reflect upon teaching and learning. It is this process that ensures our students are engaged in meaningful, authentic, engaging, inquiry based learning."

Inquiry in PE

Student Teachers Josh Stanley and Matthew Maccagno with Tammy Berry and Dean Schmeichel ~Physical Education grade 4-9

What could an inquiry unit in PE look like? At CSS, we challenged all 600 students from grade 4 to grade 9 to explore the question, “To what extent does training affect performance?” Each student was given the opportunity to choose a sport or activity that they were interested in, and then create a plan to improve a specific skill in that sport or activity. How the students chose to use their time over the course of the unit was entirely up to them. They had access to all the resources that CSS has for physical activity.

The rubric was created collaboratively between teachers and all the students in the school over the first two days of the unit.

Here’s what it looked like daily while students were working on their individual project:

On Light, Shadows and Experience

Deirdre Bailey and Jenna Callaghan

We began a recent investigation into Light and Shadows in Grade 4 by posing the question “What is Light?” to our students. Before beginning the conversation, we reminded students that the world is not nearly as concrete or easily-understood as over-simplified statements of "fact" might often imply. We talked about how scientists are by nature inquisitive, always open to possibility and a reinvention of old ideas. We suggested that throughout our inquiry, they too might have the potential to share a completely new perspective, contribute to making new discoveries and either support or disprove current thoughts. With two of us in the classroom, we were able to capture some of our students’ opening ideas about 'Light' and have embedded them below.

Grade 5 Electricity Collaboration

Kathryn Desrochers ~ Grade 5 Math/Science Student Teacher University of Lethbridge

Just before spring break, our grade 5 students (and teachers) had an opportunity to learn from an expert. Emily Marasco is a University of Calgary student working on her Graduate Degree in Electrical

Engineering. As part of her Master’s research, Emily has gone around to various schools conducting a set of electricity modules for project based learning. This turned out to be a wonderful partnership, in which Emily could conduct her research with 100 willing students and our school community benefited from her expertise, enthusiasm and hands on approach.

 All of the modules were well thought out and aimed at building understanding of concepts related to electricity through hands on exploration. Emily used STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with a focus on helping students understand what Engineers really do. Students were engaged in various learning experiences with curricular links extending beyond science and into technology, art and social studies and language arts.

Family Artifact Inquiry- Grade 7

Rick Fawcett and Jared McKenzie~ Grade 7 Humanities.

This project was designed as a way to share the personal connection the students have to Canadian history and to engage them in the process of curating a historical narrative of their own family's history.

Student Teaching: Mentorship and Collaboration - A Video Reflection

Jenna Callaghan and Deirdre Bailey

Working with a student teacher these past few months has been an exciting and rewarding experience. From our first meeting, it was evident that Jenna and I shared a similar pedagogical philosophy; with a strong focus on reflection and discipline-based inquiry. Jenna’s early ideas and questions were guided by an honest vulnerability that allowed for a number of frank conversations around assessment, engagement and lesson design in an inquiry based classroom. My understanding of collaboration - developed and deepened through a powerful team-teaching relationship with Amy Park - had led to a familiarity with how professional collaborative relationships might evolve and I was excited to incorporate my prior understanding and experiences.

Grade 5 Wild Weather Inquiry

Erin Couillard- Grade 5 Math/Science

 Big Question:  Are we seeing a dangerous shift in climate? Or just a natural stretch of bad luck?

This question was inspired through question brainstorming with students at the beginning of the Grade 5 weather unit as well as a National Geographic article I read in the fall.

Supporting Questions (student generated)
A. Has your "event" gotten worse over the years?
B. Why does this "event" happen? (Consider the weather science)
C. Where does this "event" happen? Only in one place in the world or in multiple places?
D. What time of year does your event usually happen? Has this changed over time?
How as this event affected the people/animals that live there?
E. Has your "event" impacted the economy?
F. How have humans adapted to changes in this "event".

Pi Discoveries with Grade 4

Heather Melville ~Grade 4 Math/Science

What is Pi? Why are we celebrating Pi Day? Didn’t you spell Pi wrong Mrs. Melville?

March 14th turned into deep mathematical discussions for the 4.3 and 4.4 students. Rather than thinking the concept of Pi was too difficult for the students to comprehend, we explored what knowledge we already had and applied it to a new idea. Our math class began with a read aloud book titled; “Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi” by Cindy Neuschwander. We discussed the character names and what they were mathematically (radius, diameter, circumference, geometry and symmetry). The students loved to interact providing the sound effects for the story. 

Crowd Sourcing Fourth Graders

by Deirdre Bailey

Cross-posted on Savouring the Ish

I've got a novel on iPads in the grade four classroom waiting to be written. Lots of discoveries, ideas, struggles and triumphs. I just need to find the time to document it all properly. This brief gem, however, is too awesome not to share.

Earlier this year, our teaching team's excited discovery of the Edmodo app as an excellent resource for collecting and organizing student work digitally and providing an avenue for ongoing feedback was stinted by the limitation of only being able to upload images or links from the iPads. Our optimism was recently renewed by updates to the iWork apps which made it possible to upload pagesnumbers and keynote documents directly to Edmodo. The latest struggle has been with how we might be able to have students download iWork templates we post to Edmodo and open them using the associated app. It seemed that the only way to open a doc from Edmodo was as a preview and frankly, I was beginning to think it wasn't possible any other way.

Nevertheless, while driving home from the mountains yesterday I posted a sample template for students to track their mousetrap car results to Edmodo via the numbers app with the comment "let me know if any of you figure out how to open this document as a numbers template!" Honestly, I didn't expect much. This morning I woke up to 17 replies...

Team Teaching - Our Vision

Jaime Groeller & Ivy Waite

In August 2012, at the beginning of our second year teaching together, Ivy and I took the plunge and started “team teaching.” We had seen a successful example just down the stairs from us (Park/Bailey) and modeled much of our initial approach on those ideas. Furthermore, we had been doing a lot of co-planning and co-implementing already during our first year together, 2011-2012, and wanted to fully integrate our practices and our classrooms for the 2012-2013 school year.

The Team!

Alternative Methods of Multiplication

Candice Shaw- Grade 7 Math and Science

In Grade 7, simple mathematical operations are not often a focus of instruction. If they are, it is in relation to operations with decimal numbers. Extending addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division processes to decimal numbers does not seem like a difficult task to the math savvy person, but we came upon some roadblocks when covering this topic.

Grade 5 Weather Wise With a Storm Chaser

Kathryn Desrochers~ Grade 5 Math and Science Student Teacher 
University of Lethbridge

On Friday February 8, 2013 all four grade 5 classes had the opportunity to Skype with George Kourounis. George is a storm chaser, most well known for his TV Series “Angry Planet” in which he chronicles his adventures chasing storms and exploring the globe. He has also done extensive work with The Weather Network, most recently filming controlled avalanches in the Kootenay Pass.

Unfortunately we experienced some technical difficulties with the call, but George quickly shifted gears from his planned presentation to an interactive, engaging question and answer session. The students were brimming with questions and asked things such as “What is the most severe weather you have ever been caught in?”, “Were you on the East Coast for Hurricane Sandy?”, “Have you ever experienced a tsunami?” and many, many more. 

Grade 6 Dragon's Den Style Elective

What Can U-Create?
Chris Dittman

Ms. Pereverzoff’s grade 6/7 U-Create elective is all about students taking an idea and creating a product, service or app that can be taken to the marketplace. This term, students were presented with the Re-Useable Material Challenge. Essentially, students were asked to think outside the box and create and represent a product idea using specific, recycled materials. Taking recycled cardboard, string, glue, tape, paint and recycled paper, students had the opportunity to create a product or a representation or model of a product idea. The final product idea didn’t have to necessarily include the aforementioned materials.

Grade 8 Litspiration Blog Project

Ivy Waite & Jaime Groeller

The Challenge:

Student Created Book Spine Poetry

Inspire our grade eight students to connect with literature using novels that they have chosen, and hold them accountable for this free-reading, while creating a community of readers.

The Plan: The Litspiration Blog Project
Trimester One Overview - Jump into Literature!

A. 3 Novels Read
B. 3 Reviews w/ 3 Peer Revision Forms completed
C. 1 Litspiration Challenge - free choice
D. Project Reflection

Grade 9 Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Rick Mercer Rant Assignment
David Scott- Grade 9 Humanities

To gain a better appreciation of how The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is relevant to the lives of our grade 9 students, we asked our students to explore a court case where a Charter right or freedom was violated. The specific learning outcomes we sought to target in the Alberta Grade 9 Social Studies Program were as follows:

9.1.6 assess, critically, the impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the legislative process in Canada by exploring and reflecting upon the following questions and issues:
  • In what ways has the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms fostered recognition of individual rights in Canada? (PADM, I) 
  • How does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms support individuals in exercising their rights? (PADM, C, I)
Inquiry Task: Based on a recent court case involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, create a Rick Mercer style rant video outlining whether you think the outcome fostered recognition of individual rights in Canada.

Click here for an example of a Rick Mercer rant

Leave it to Beavers Project Update

Stakeholders in the Leave it to Beavers project met recently to reflect on fall visits and to plan ahead for spring and beyond.Rachelle Haddock from the Miistakis Institute summarized the fall program including the great news that a few 'nuisance' beaver were located and trapped to be introduced to the reservoir.
New Resident to Goodwin Pond by Rachelle Haddock

Recently volunteers at the site have seen evidence that the beaver are indeed still present and are busy logging the nearby forest. A blind has been built near the reservoir with a webcam focused on the beavers' dam, but we haven't been able to see the images yet. A new website for the project, which will include the scientific data produced by the grade 7 and 8 students, will hopefully host the webcam images.

Science Fair Judges Needed!

CSS will be holding our annual Science Fair on Wednesday, February 6, 2013, and we are looking for volunteers to help judge this event.

There is no experience necessary and it is a lot of fun. This is an important CSS event as it provides a forum for students to showcase their understanding and passion for science. In addition, volunteers are inspired and amazed by the quality of work and the interest that students have in their selected topics. 

Registration begins at 8 am on February 6th and judges will be finished around 12:30. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

If interested, please email Kevin Sonico at Thank you in advance for your continued support of this event.

Grade 7 Math Fair

Candice Shaw and Carolyn Armstrong~ Grade 7 Math/Science

On December 19 our grade 7 students hosted their Math Fair. Students were given the task of finding a challenging math problem that isn't easily solved at first glance and has possible extension activities. Students created their trifolds and activities to share with the rest of the school.

CSS Grade 7 Math Fair from Calgary Science School on Vimeo.