Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Archive for the category “PYP”

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!

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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!

Exhibition Success!

This is a cross-post from my personal blog, The Perpetual Learner. It’s my reflections on our very first PYP Exhibition at Prairie Waters. Everyone at our school is so proud of our grade 5 students for working so hard on Exhibition. I’d say for our first one, it went off quite successfully! Thank you to those that were able to come out and join us in the celebration last week. If you weren’t able to come take a peek – hopefully this post will shed some light on the value of this experience for our oldest students at Prairie Waters.

How do I even begin to sum up our first Exhibition adequately? It’s difficult to get all of my thoughts, reflections and emotions down in a coherent way. The past 7 weeks has been quite a trip for me. It’s not something that I can say I’ve ever experienced before. I was given advice at The Exhibition workshop I attended in February to soak it all in. To step back and just enjoy the Exhibition as it unfolded. I really tried to take that advice, but, you get so wrapped up in the mechanics of putting the Exhibition together to make is successful, that it’s really hard to do! I took lots of pictures, tried to blog weekly about my experiences with Ex (but that fell apart after week 3!) and tweeted a TON to document our first Exhibition. It’ll be nice to go back to the¬†#pwex14¬†hashtag and revisit the Exhibition from the start, 7 weeks ago.

When I got married, I was given another tidbit of advice – similar to that, which I received at The Exhibition workshop. Your wedding day will be the longest, shortest day of your life – enjoy it as much as you can. I can say, with certainty, that the same could be said for Exhibition. It seems like it was so long ago that we began planning and preparing for Exhibition, and yet, it’s over already. In a flash. Like a blur. It’s over. That 7 weeks flew by like nothing. But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I have learned SO much. As much, or maybe more, as the students did! My mind is absolutely, positively, over-the-brim full of new knowledge from this experience. I can only imagine what the students are feeling!

So what are my thoughts on Exhibition. Now that it’s over?

As a Coordinator –

It’s exhausting:

  • Emotionally: You are rooting for every student to be successful. You empathize with them on the tough days, when they just don’t think they can do it. You celebrate with them on the great days, when the lightbulb goes off or they discover something so fascinating that they vibrate with excitement when they tell you. You be their cheerleader on the lead-up days, when they get nervous about presenting to a large audience. You be their coach¬†on the learning days, when they are trying to put all of the pieces (lines of inquiry, conceptual questions, academic honesty…) together. You be their biggest fan on Exhibition day, when they knock their presentation out of the park.
  • Physically: You are run off your feet. Sore, blistered feet were the norm for me. Sleep in the last couple of weeks has been at a minimum. My dreams were filled with all of the possible scenarios where things go wrong, or I’ve forgotten to address some key aspect of Exhibition. The actual evening and day of Exhibition is something else! Talk about feeling like you’re in a hundred different places at once!
  • Mentally: Exhibition is always on your mind. What can I do to spread the word to a bigger audience for the students? Who can we connect with for students to interview or visit? Do we have enough projectors? Where will we possibly put 57 groups of students in our already overcrowded school? Will we have enough mentors to support our groups? Do the mentors feel supported enough in their role?

It’s all-consuming: Like I said above. You constantly think about it. Sorting out students’ interests and grouping them accordingly. Days spent on mini-lessons in the class with the students to prepare them for the different aspects of the Exhibition process. Organizing mentors and keeping them informed throughout the process. Informing parents through information sessions and keeping them updated via emails and newsletters. Planning the actual exhibition evening (invitations, guest list, promotion, setup/layout). Mentoring groups yourself. Checking in with students at every opportunity you get. Troubleshooting problems with technology (both in the research and the presentation prep). Connecting with other schools who are also in the midst of Exhibition.¬†Meeting with the teaching team to keep on schedule and ensure that they feel supported through it as well. If there’s one thing that I didn’t like about this part, it’s that I felt like the rest of the grades didn’t receive as much of my attention and support as they should have. It felt like all of my energy was focused on the 5’s and Exhibition. For 7 weeks, I felt very absent from the other grade teams. I hope to improve upon this next year.

It’s intense: ¬†Enough said!

It’s a juggling act: Like I said, I felt like I let the ball drop a little on the juggling act in terms of splitting my time equally amongst all of the grades in the school. But in terms of Exhibition, there are so many aspects to juggle in a day – hence why it’s all-consuming and intense!


To see the students grow into their own with their topics; they became confident, enthusiastic and energized about sharing their learning and inspiring others to take action, just as they did. When we started the unit, we encouraged the students to think creatively about how they could take action. The one stipulation that we put into place was that they couldn’t choose ‘fundraising’ as an action. All too often, it is the default way to make a difference. Sure, it works – but there are so many other ways to create change, or make a difference and we wanted to kids to experience that. It was really hard for some of them, to think past collecting money. But at the end of the unit, it was so neat to see them come to the realization that there is a multitude of ways to spread your message, create change and take action. The pride that our students showed was clearly evident at our parent/community showcase. They knew that everyone was there to hear what they had to say, ¬†and not only that, they VALUED what they had to say.

It was so impressive to see these students step up the to plate and approach people, and encourage them to come to their presentation. Something that most of them had NEVER done before. Taking that risk to initiate conversation with people that they didn’t know was foreign to most of them, but they nailed it! One of the most common feedback comments on our¬†Today’s Meet Back Channel chat¬†from parents was that they were so impressed at how knowledgeable, prepared and approachable the groups were. They didn’t shy away from inviting adults to talk to them. And that’s the key — When it’s something that the students are passionate about and WANT to share with others, because it’s THEIRS and it’s IMPORTANT – all the shyness of presenting and speaking disappears; because they are confident in speaking to the topic and want to speak about it. They invested a lot of time and effort into learning about something that they CARE about and they are proud to show that off. It’s easy to talk about something that you love, or are passionate about. So often, when we do in class presentations, it’s on topics that are chosen by the teacher, or required by the curriculum. Of course the students aren’t going to knock it out of the park, because it’s not theirs. There isn’t the investment. A lot of it is most likely done with the assistance of an adult – be it the teacher, an assistant or a parent – there won’t be buy in or passion if someone else does it for you!

Of course, every group was different in their level of success. But, EVERY group achieved their own personal level of success – and I’m confident that we have prepared these students to move on to middle school and continue to push their success further. ¬†Their experience with Exhibition has strengthened their skills, their attitudes, and their understanding about learning and creating. They see themselves as capable change makers, in whatever capacity that may be.

And that is worth it…every time!

April Antics

So What?


Now What?


These are questions that you will often hear in our classrooms – not in negative terms from our students, rather, in positive terms from our teachers. Part of the Inquiry Cycle in the PYP is for students to have the opportunity to take action. For this, there is a systematic process that we go through; we Choose, Act and Reflect.

The PYP states,

In the PYP it is believed that education must extend beyond the intellectual to include not only socially responsible¬†attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action. An explicit expectation of the PYP is that successful inquiry will lead to the¬†responsible action, initiated by the¬†student as a result of the learning process. This action will extend the¬†student’s learning, or it may have a wider social impact and will clearly look different¬†within each age range. PYP schools can and should meet the challenge of offering all learners the opportunity and the power to choose to act; to decide on their actions; and to reflect on these actions in order to make a difference in and to the world…it is¬†intended that the person taking action will grow from the experience, and that the process of taking action or not will contribute to each student establishing a personal set of values. (Making the PYP Happen p.25 & 27, International Baccalaureate Organization, 2009)

In order for any action to occur, it’s important for students to understand WHY they are learning about something, or WHY it’s important. So you will often hear our teachers asking the question, “So What?” to prompt discussion with students on WHY they may be learning something, or WHY anyone would deem it to be important. Beyond the “So What”, teachers will then probe further with, “Now What?” Once we’ve gained new knowledge, how does it make us feel? WHY would we want to do anything about it? What can you or will you do?

Currently, you can see this happening in our Grade 2 Classrooms – their inquiry is about their local community of Chestermere, why things are placed where they are, how decisions are made, and how planning affects the future. They’ve been tuning in and finding out about their community. They invited the Town of Chestermere planners in to talk about what is involved in their job, and how they make decisions. The Grade 2 classes were then given their own map of Chestermere to make their own decisions about where things should be placed. This prompted some great discussion on Twitter about the differences between the classes, and the questions that it generated

The opportunity has now been provided to the students to choose, act and then reflect on their actions – will this lead to different choices in the future? Will they then in turn act differently? And then reflect again – and the cycle continues on.

Action has also been a primary focus as our Grade 5’s continue on with their Exhibition Unit of Inquiry. Currently, students are researching their chosen issue or passion, all the while, they are being encouraged to think critically about what action they could possibly take as a result of their new learning. Want to find out all of the different forms of action our students will be taking? Make sure you follow along on their Exhibition blog¬†¬†and plan to attend our Exhibition Showcase, coming up in just over one short month: Wednesday May 21 from 6:00-7:30pm and Thursday May 22 from 8:30-10:30am. Our students are excited to share their discoveries and the actions they will take to make a difference!

March Madness!

March has seen a flurry of activity at Prairie Waters!

  1. We are about to embark on our first PYP Exhibition at the end of the Month. We’ve held Parent information sessions, we’ve begun talking with the students about what Exhibition is, and what their roles are within it, as well as what are the roles of everyone else around them. We’re tuning them in to issues (local and global) that they are passionate about, that they could potentially take on in their Unit of Inquiry. Through our discussions, we’ve had the students reflect on their initial thinking about the Exhibition. You can read all about what’s going on in the grade 5 classrooms, see pictures documenting their progress leading up to, and throughout the unit, as well as the students’ reflections on our Prairie Waters PYP Exhibition blog. The Transdisciplinary Theme that the Exhibition falls under this year is How We Express Ourselves, and the central idea that the students will be focusing on is¬†Passions and beliefs inspire people to action.¬†If you’d ¬†like to come out and spend some time with our grade 5’s over the course of their Exhibition, to see what learning they are engaged in – the invitation is always open! The students are excited about sharing their passions and beliefs with a wider audience than their classroom.
  2. Our school based Professional Learning day last Friday saw our staff looking more deeply at Conceptual Based Teaching and Learning (check out the previous post in this blog, to see the learning that we were engaged in). It was a highly engaging day, with lots of ‘Ah-ha’ moments and great enthusiasm about the possibilities moving forward in our understanding and application of concept based instruction. My reflections on the day can be found on my personal blog. We also began looking at our whole-school Programme of Inquiry and started conversations about recognizing vertical alignment and construction of concepts, rather than repetition and recycling of the same ideas. A major practice of the PYP is that we provide ample time for our teachers to reflect on, and refine our Programme of Inquiry, to ensure that we are constantly building on students’ conceptual understanding as they move up in the grades, rather than re-doing and revisiting the same thing. While we acknowledge that revisiting concepts in crucial in a students deeper development of understanding, it’s important that we are also building and moving forward, rather than hearing the students say, “we did this already”. The process of fine-tuning our Programme of Inquiry will take some time, but the conversation has started, and we’ll continue working on it as we move forward into the next school year.
  3. We have been brainstorming the transformation of our library into a learning commons to shift the heart of our school to be more student-centered and flexible. Our committee has met several times to discuss the possibilities, and we’ve invited school staff and students to share their ideas with us as well, by drawing up a blueprint of what they think our learning commons could look like.
  4. Our final Community of Practice Professional Learning day on Monday saw the majority of our staff engaged in student digital portfolios. The day was an opportunity for teachers to put themselves in the shoes of the students, and try out some of the different web tools and apps available to our students to demonstrate their learning. We understand that reflection and metacognition is an important aspect of a student’s learning journey, and our digital portfolios will be the space where that learning can be captured, documented and reflected upon. It is a key piece in the Communication of Student Learning.
  5. Solar panels, from the action taken from some of our previous students at Prairie Waters have finally been installed! It is so fantastic to see the action that some of our former students took on, finally coming to fruition and making a difference in the energy use at our school.

Always exciting times at Prairie Waters! Wonder what April holds in store?

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