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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