Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Archive for the category “PYP”

May 17 PL Day

Welcome to the final PL day of the 2018-2019 school year! How did we get here so quickly?!

Today is a day of sharing and reflecting, so please come prepared to contribute your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, aspirations and celebrations! You will also need your copy of the IB Enhancements Principles Into Practice: Learning and Teaching

Take care of yourself! When you feel the need to get up and move, grab a coffee, take a bathroom break…take that time throughout the day. This is a working day with plenty of opportunity for self-defined breaks. We would like to work straight through so we can wrap up around 12:30 so you can head out for lunch on your own and enjoy the long weekend to its fullest.

As you enjoy your breakfast, reflect on these questions. Share your responses on sticky notes on the chart paper around the room and then have a conversation to share with those sitting around you:

May 17, 2019 PL Day


Before we get started – let’s take a quiz! Find out which Learner Profile Attribute is reflected in you the most! Once you’ve gotten your results, move to the space in the room that matches with the attribute you aligned with. Appoint a photographer to take a selfie with everyone else on staff who shares the same attribute and Tweet to the hashtag provided at your space!

Click HERE to access the quiz!

We now welcome the group of staff who visited Opal this year to lead us through an edcamp style session to learn about playful inquiry at every level!


IB Policy Review. As per our standards and practices, we are required to revisit, reflect on, review and revise our commonly developed policies on an annual basis. Today you will have the choice of which policy you would like to dig-in to and work with other staff members in dissecting the document and providing your feedback for how we can revise and improve our policies moving forward. A new policy that we are required to develop as per the Enhancements, is an Academic Integrity Policy – this would be an opportunity to begin inquiring into and brainstorming how we might create this policy in the upcoming school year.

Please complete this sign up

to indicate which policy you would like to spend the next portion of the day committing your knowledge and input into.

If you require additional supporting documents/resources for your policy review, please click on this link to access the PYP Interactive Playlist


Share back to group.

  • What changes were made?
  • Do you have questions to bring back to the whole group to address before making changes?
  • Do you have suggestions of areas of the policy we should dedicate more Professional Learning towards moving forward into the next school year?
  • Any additional comments to make?


Deepening our understanding of IB PYP Enhancements. We will spend the remainder of the day in our own quiet spaces reading the next section of the PYP Enhancements. Today’s focus will be on the Transdisciplinary Learning section (p.1-22) of the Learning and Teaching document. REMEMBER! Documenting our learning is an important part of the process, so please choose a way that works for you to document your understanding as you read. Skecthnote, blog, word cloud, good ol’ fashioned note taking, podcast, powerpoint or google slides…the choices are endless. However you choose to document, please know that you will be sharing how you visually documented your takeaways with the group before the end of the day! So come to the reflection time at the end of the day with something tangible.

If you happen to finish the Transdisciplinary Learning section early, you have a couple options to choose from:

  • visit our question channel to write down the questions that come to mind related to our teaching practice when considering Transdisciplinary Learning. We will use these questions you pose to guide some of our final conversations to wrap up the day.

TD Learning Questions

  • Continue reading the next section of the Learning and Teaching document: Approaches to Learning (p.26-40)


Gallery walk of of documentation of your learning from the day’s reading, reflection and final discussions to wrap up the day.

And…as always, before we say our goodbyes… please take a moment to get a sticky and write down your reflection as you:

Remember Your Why.jpg


Grade 1 PYP at PWE Cafe Chat

Next up in our PYP Cafe Chat podcast series is our remarkable Grade 1 team! Mrs. James, Ms. Mrak, Mrs. Schiltz and Mr. Morey sat down to talk about their priorities, passions and pursuits in education (spoiler alert – I think you’d ALL like to be students in their playful classrooms!). Grab your tea, coffee, hot chocolate or whatever your cafe drink of choice may be, curl up and listen to these incredible educators share their insights.

We encourage you to leave comments once you’ve had a chance to listen to the podcast to keep the conversation going! For your reference – the school that Jeff talks about, Opal School, is based in Portland, Oregon, and most of our staff have had the opportunity to travel to it in order to engage in professional learning around playful inquiry.

Happy listening!

Kindergarten PYP at PWE Cafe Chat

For the beginning of 2019, we here at Prairie Waters wanted to share a bit of teacher and student perspective on what being involved in teaching and learning of the PYP at PWE means for all of us. This is a follow up to the video we created last year to tell the story of Prairie Waters:

This next monthly series will be a chance for each grade team to sit down for a Cafe Chat podcast and share their passions, curiosities and hope for education here at Prairie Waters. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know our staff just a little bit better, and feel their enthusiasm for and commitment to their work and their learners every single day we are in the school learning community. We hope that this will spark more points of conversation for you to reach out and engage with all of us here at the school and get to know how YOU can be involved in the exciting experiences happening here at Prairie Waters on a daily basis!

First up, is our wonderful Kindergarten team! Ms. Echtner and Ms. Michie sat down to chat a bit about the early years and their thoughts and perspectives of what matters (and who matters) when considering a successful learning journey. Grab a beverage, cozy up and take a listen to what they have to say! Please feel free to leave any comments you may wish to add to the conversation once you have heard their thoughts.

The Results Are In!

After a period of time to review the submissions of our gamified POI review, looking for conceptual balance and alignment. We have a winner!

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 12.48.00 PM

With just 9 modifications (a few removals and several additions/changes), our POI is more balanced, and staff were able to engage in incredibly thoughtful and in-depth conversations about the vertical and horizontal articulation of our Programme of Inquiry. It was a very successful way to engage with our POI. Looking at it from one particular lens helped us consider the constructivism of our units in a way that we hadn’t really given a lot of sustained time to in the past. The highlighted concepts within each unit are the concepts that will be focused on moving forward into next year’s unit planning. We decided to keep the grey (alternative options) concepts in the matrix as a reminder to teams that there are other key concepts that could also work, if, in the future the direction of a unit shifts as teams evolve and develop a better understanding of how to approach curricular connections to the Units of Inquiry.

One interesting note to reflect on, we had a lot of whole-group conversation around the idea of the word “Balance”. ¬†When Balancing the POI, Some teams took that to look more like “Equality” of representation of the concepts across units and grades, while others felt it was more of a loose term with regard to what logically made sense for grade-specific scope and sequence content. We butted up against the struggle of “equality” in that it began to feel like a force-fit of concepts just to ensure that there was equal representation of the concepts. Fitting a square peg into a round hole, as it were. But then, how does that compromise the big ideas of the units? Looking back, we should have come up with a universal agreement and definition of what “Balance” looks like for our school POI before we began – but the conversation in and of itself was a good chance to talk through the varying ideas of what it meant, and we are now more on the same page moving forward.

Regardless of who the winning team was, it was an exercise of patience, critical thinking, perseverance, collaboration, team-work, communication, open-mindedness, flexibility, evaluation, comprehension, and cooperation among many other things. Isn’t that the beauty of the Essential Elements of the PYP? That no matter what age we are, the experiences we engage with help us develop every facet of the human experience: the knowledge we acquire, our level of conceptual understanding, our attitudes, our skills and ultimately, our actions which lead to continuous improvement.

This POI review was a wonderful example of all of those elements in action in order to ultimately build upon and improve the student experience at Prairie Waters for the 2017-2018 school year.


One of the biggest challenges we face each year here at Prairie Waters is family turnout for our PYP Parent Information Evenings. We have tried:

  • Several different session times – one during the school day, one in the evening
  • Early in the school year
  • Connected to the first round of 3 way conferences held in the school early in December
  • Later in the evening
  • Child care for those families that need to bring their kids
  • Constant communication through various sources: School Newsletter, Twitter and Facebook accounts, postings on our school website and on the school sign outside of the building, paper invitations sent home with every student, posts on classroom blogs and Twitter accounts
  • Luring/bribing (however you choose to see it ūüėČ ) with the promise of treats
  • Save the Date cards at the end of the previous year
  • Advertising at our Kindergarten orientation evening and information sessions during staggered entry

The list goes on…each year, we try something new or different in order to boost attendance, and each year, our turnout is less than ideal. This year, I hope, was the turning point for that…

Last year, we put it out to staff to think of creative ways to present our Parent Information evening in order to increase interest and attendance, one of the ideas that was very enthusiastically suggested, was an IGNITE inspired event, where small groups of teachers would talk for 10 minutes on a specific element of the programme, so parents would get a snippet of information, and then hopefully have their curiosity sparked in order to come learn more, or engage in further conversation with our staff either right after the event, or moving forward into the school year. In years previous, it has just been the pedagogical leadership team who would present to the parents, but we all agreed as a staff that in order for parents to see the value of this programme, that it needed to be a united front. Parents need to see that we are ALL invested and care deeply about what we do here as PYP educators. So this year, approximately 95% of our teaching staff signed up to help out in some capacity on the evening of PYP IGNITE; either by leading a session, helping with our student ambassadors who welcomed our guests into the building, assisting with room setup, food prep, or just being another supportive body in the room.

We¬†had¬†been promoting this event since the end of last school year, and this year, when the RSVP’s were rolling in, we were JACKED! We had about 80 people RSVP to attend the evening!

Unfortunately, on the evening of IGNITE, only about 20-25 parents out of that group of 80 RSVP’s attended. While disappointing, we still count it as a success. Why, you ask? Because so far, it has been our best attended parent information session to date! The parents that were here with us RAVED about the experience, and said how glad they were that they attended. They told us they¬†would definitely be spreading the word to other parents that they need to come to the next session. Another reason we counted it as a success; we had a few faces in the audience from our Rocky View Schools family who wanted to learn more about the programme, and consider how it benefits students. We’re always happy when we can build awareness and understanding about the PYP and its impacts on student learning.

We’re hopeful that the buzz generated from this event carries forward into our next parent information session, and that we’ll begin to see our attendance increase with each new event!

Because who doesn’t love a surprise awesome dance party?¬†(Click that link to check it out!)


Self Study Year Has Begun

With September winding to a close (1 month down already?!) we are thinking ahead to our year here at Prairie Waters as we engage in our Self Study process. In our first PL days of the year, we spent some time re-acquainting ourselves to the various documents we will rely on throughout the course of the year:

IB Standards and Practices

Self Study Questionnaire

Guide to Programme Evaluation

We also spent some time reviewing the IB report from their previous authorization visit and our current action plan to make note of objectives we have made progress on, as well as adding new items to our plan moving forward, based on our review during our Self Study. This enables us to collaboratively build our action plan, so everyone is on the same page with regard to where we are at in implementation of the programme and where we desire to go moving forward.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-47-04-am

Moving along in our Self Study timeline, we spent some time at our last staff meeting doing some classroom walkabouts. This was an opportunity for staff to get into classrooms they may not otherwise see very often, ask questions about room setup or practices, and just get a glimpse at how PYP is living in each room in the school. This will help when thinking about evidence of how we are addressing the specific IB Standards and Practices when it comes to teaching and learning.

Sharing your space can be quite intimidating and uncomfortable. Teachers are their harshest critics. So having an entire staff walk into your room and listen to you speak about why you have done things the way you have, or are trying new things that you aren’t sure are going to be successful requires you to be very courageous. Part of our staff essential agreement to start the year was that we establish a safe environment where there are no feelings of judgement, and have a common understanding that everyone is coming into our staff learning opportunities with an open-mind and good intentions. We are here to support each other, and learn from each other, not compete or ¬†judge.

We’re looking forward to our next PL day together so we can carry on with our collaborative work on making the PYP the best it can be at PWE!

Looking Back to Move Forward

John Dewey Quote

Reflection. We do it all the time, without even knowing it. We innately think about things we’ve done or the experiences we’ve had (thinking about our thinking), but we have a more difficult time being intentional with our reflection. Thinking about thinking about our thinking. This doesn’t make it any less important, it just means we have to habituate ourselves to become more aware of when we are reflecting, how we document it and how we learn from it.

We’ve been focusing on our reflective practice over the past couple months via several avenues.

** Assessment Policy

As per our staff essential agreement, we review our assessment policy annually in order to refresh ourselves to the idea of assessment and what our beliefs at Prairie Waters are around it. This year we spent time questioning the value of some of our current practices, staff suggested new practices we are incorporating into our assessment repertoire, specifically using social media (class blogs and Twitter) as a way to capture student voice and understanding and to include these anecdotes as feedback on the report card. As well, we reflected on the clarity of the document. If the intended audience is teachers, parents and the greater community, is it written in a way and with language that is easily understandable for all? We also discussed the replacement of Parent/Teacher conferences with Three Way Conferencing. This allows student voice and reflection to be included in the dialogue, as well as drive the goal setting for everyone involved in the child’s learning. It brings the idea of reflection and goal setting into a triangulated environment, with the student at the centre, surrounded by the people that will support them in achieving their self-defined goals.

** Unit of Inquiry Planners

In the hustle and bustle of a school day, teachers find it challenging to find the time to sit down and engage in an in-depth, authentic and meaningful reflection of their inquiries and how they can improve them in future iterations. While they recognize the importance of doing so, it remains a challenge to find a way to do it that doesn’t make it feel ‘force fed’. One of our grade 5 teachers, after reading a Tweet that linked to a blog, which talked about involving the kids in the reflection process of the PYP planner, he decided to give it a go. He wrote the reflection questions that are in the planner to guide teachers’ thinking in somewhat simplified language and gave them to the kids to brainstorm¬†their reflections. What a simplistic way to gauge exactly how the students understood the elements of the unit, and rather than trying to write that in our ‘teacher speak’ in the reflection section, he took it straight from the most reliable source. The students! You can check out his reflective blog post on the process with the kids as well.

** Digital Portfolios

All of our teachers are now working in the digital portfolio domain with their kids, and our students are becoming extremely competent in uploading content to their portfolios. However, in most classrooms, we’re still uploading the same content for every student. Be it a summative assessment, a writing assignment, etc. Teachers are beginning to feel comfortable enough with their students’ abilities at uploading content, that they are now shifting to thinking about kid-selection in what they want on their own portfolio. Along with those selections, it’s vital that the students are reflecting on those pieces. Using an Edutopia document (40 Reflection Questions¬†)¬†that was created to deepen kids’ reflection¬†about their learning through 4 different domains of thinking, teachers will choose several of the questions each time a student is uploading their work to answer, along with their sample piece.

** Fellowships

Currently, we have 2 fellowships happening at our school. A Teacher Fellowship, taken on by a grade 2 teacher, Ms. Mrak, called Awakening Passions (follow her Blog, and Twitter to keep up to date!), and a Leadership Fellowship, taken on by Mr. Siemens, Ms. Rentz and Mrs. Friske. Both of these fellowships aim to improve the quality of experience that our learners receive while at Prairie Waters. Along with the fellowships comes significant opportunity to reflect on improving practice and shifting pedagogical approaches to ensure a student-centred environment; where our kids know they are in the driver seat, that the school is theirs and can be adapted to meet their learning needs however they may see fit.

We all reflect on a consistent basis, it’s a reflexive action, like breathing – but when we bring the intentionality to it, that’s when powerful learning and improvement will soar to heights we have never seen before.

A New Year and New Energy!

Our first month of school is almost behind us! We’ve spent time as a staff revisiting RVS’ 4 year plan, the priorities that we mapped out from the 4YP as well as our School Ed. Plan. Some of the main components to be surfacing for the learning community at Prairie Waters are:

  1. The learning environments that we establish for our students: being more mindful about the layout, spaces and contents of our classrooms
  2. Community involvement and engagement: finding ways to not only connect with the community to “get” from them, but also how we will “give back”
  3. Providing authentic learning experiences for students: Using provocations, questions and experiences to spark thinking curiosity and action in our units of inquiry
  4. Becoming global citizens and increasing our Personal Learning Networks: Utilizing social media platforms to connect and share with other learners around world

Grade teams have been reviewing their grade level Programme of Inquiry. Modifying, re-structuring and discussing how to best integrate curricular concepts within the units of inquiry in ways that make sense and allow for deeper exploration and discovery. There is excitement around the idea of completely changing a unit where there used to be hesitation. There is a stronger desire to be transdisciplinary in our planning when it comes to curriculum integration where there used to be confusion about how to do so. There is more of a disposition of inquiry where it used to be just an add-on on the daily schedule.

Almost 90% of our classrooms have an active class Twitter account where they are sharing photos, student quotes and reaching out to other classes and groups around the world. All of our classrooms have an active class blog where learning is shared and information is communicated (this can be shared either by teachers, or students who are guest posters). All students have their digital portfolios up and running to document their learning journey. We would love for you to give our classrooms a follow on Twitter, check out their class blogs and come visit their classrooms to see how students are at the centre of the classroom design, learning opportunities, action initiatives and overall making Prairie Waters the best place to be!

We hope you come visit us soon!

Provoking thought

One of our goals as a PYP school, when planning our units of inquiry is to plan for provocations. We want to elicit a reaction from our learners to enable them to begin to think about a situation. We want them to experience. We want them to come to their own conclusions and express their thoughts and feelings. As we improve our practice in inquiry based learning, we are aiming to incorporate more provocations into our units, and then allow the learning to come from those provocations, rather than planning all of the activities ahead of time. That’s what student-centered learning is all about.

In kindergarten, this provocation involves weekly nature walks. The teachers are listening to the comments the kids make along the way, incorporating their questions, comments, thoughts, feelings into the learning engagements that are then used back in the classroom – all of this is to provoke an appreciation for the similarities of how the animals in our community live their lives compared to ours, and how they, too, rely on the natural world to have a good quality of life.


In grade 1, the provocation was simple – provide the learners with a variety of materials and ask them to express their creativity in a unique way. The intention was for the kids to see that everybody has their own unique way of perceiving what the idea of ‘beauty’ is, and that even though one person may find something to be not beautiful, doesn’t mean that everybody shares that same idea.

Students had an opportunity to walk around and look at the different pieces that other learners made and then discuss their thoughts and feelings.

In grade 2, the learners were exploring how we organize ourselves, and that systems are in place to create order and understanding. In one class, students were given a simple, no-bake cookie recipe. However, unbeknownst to them, the recipes were all different. Some were missing ingredients, some had added ingredients, some had incorrect measurements or directions. The learners were then invited to look at each others end results of their cookies, taste test them and then discuss their thoughts on why they all looked and tasted different. Rather than telling them that recipes follow a structure for a certain reason, the teacher allowed them to experience it for themselves. The resulting discussions and questions were rich, deep and meaningful to the learners.

In grade 3, the classes were investigating how the world works – that in order to make sense of our world, people classify and categorize things, that we make sense of how the natural world works through research and exploration. Their provocation was a full day trip to Frank Slide, where they discussed the natural forces which caused Turtle mountain to come crashing down, as well as go into the Bellvue mines to take a closer look at the rocks and minerals that comprise our Earth.

The learning, as they were immersed in the experience was much more engaging and authentic than just reading about the slide on a website or in a book. The kids could touch the rocks (and each got to bring a piece of coal home to further explore!) and ask experts their questions.

We are working hard to try to incorporate more provocations into our units of inquiry, and allowing those experiences to drive further planning. We know that it’s impossible to plan a unit in its entirety before we even begin working through it with our learners. If we are wanting a true, learner-centered, inquiry based environment, we need to value the students’ questions, thoughts and ideas. That is what should drive our planning, and provocations are the vehicle to get us there.

Rolling on through October

While it’s been a hectic couple months here at Prairie Waters, we can’t ignore the fact that there is certainly a different ‘feel’ and ‘pace’ in our school this year compared to last. Saying goodbye to over 300 of our students as they moved to East Lake School, as well as a good handful of staff was quite difficult. Our school seems so much more quiet now, it’s odd! Though with the reduction in numbers, we do now have all of our students back into classrooms, and our learning commons space is now available for us to begin bringing to life as we add furniture, technology and resources in order to make it a collaborative, open, inviting and functional space that our learners can make their own, whenever they need it. We’re very excited for the possibilities that our space holds in store for us.

One of our goals this year at Prairie Waters is to continue to develop our understanding of, and create Universal Learning Environments for our learners. More and more research that we have looked into has indicated that children thrive in an environment when they have had the opportunity to engage in some moderate to intensive aerobic activity. It increases focus, and alters brain function to enable more successful learning time during the school day. We have partnered with our school psychologist, Michelle Deen to trial her SPARK for Learning program¬†with many of our classrooms. We’re also trying to be more cognizant of providing brief ‘brain breaks’ for our learners during their class time.

We are also beginning the process as a staff of reviewing our school Programme of Inquiry. We are looking for alignment of concepts across the grades that will help to scaffold our students’ learning, rather that repeat¬†it.¬†If we have overlap of concepts that are explored in different grades, we will begin to negotiate and brainstorm alternative concepts which¬†connect to curriculum that grade teams can build upon. The process takes time, however it is a valuable exercise for us to regularly go through, in order to have a ‘bigger picture’ understanding of our students’ learning all throughout the school. Our next steps in our Programme of Inquiry review will be to take a critical look at our programme of inquiry document, and use an IB created rubric to assess how well our Units of Inquiry meet the essential elements of the PYP.

Finally, we have a committee that has been formed in order to look deeper at our¬†physical education, health and well being curriculum and begin to conceptualize it. Ultimately, we would like to create a scope and sequence document for our staff to use when implementing and inquiry-based approach to teaching PE, health and well being. Too often, we fall into the trap of topic based PE (focusing on specific sports for a sustained period of time). At Prairie Waters, we would like to focus more on the concepts that are flushed out in the front matter of the curriculum as our base, and then explore those concepts through a variety of sports, games and activities to develop and understanding of the WHY and HOW we play these sports, games and activities successfully. We believe understanding the mechanics behind organized sport and fitness is just as important as being able to participate in the game. Stay tuned for the product of our committee’s hard work later on this year!

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