IN THIS ISSUE
Innovative Forums Capture, Analyze Student Voice Top
With one forum per cluster, students arrived for a day of dialogue that was dynamic, fluid and assisted by the latest technology. Malloy opened each day with a greeting, and set the context for the day of conversation. He explained the birth of the idea.
“It was about creating a differentiated classroom, with three groups of about 150-180 students, focused on a question: How would you make our learning spaces and learning experiences more effective, and what are multiple ways to do that?” Malloy said.
Superintendent Pat Rocco, with staff members Margot Burnell-Cimba and Aaron Puley, developed the concept. At the forums, students met in an auditorium at Barton, Ancaster or Glendale, and movedto a discussion station they cared about.
Puley’s introduction touched on the topics available, which had been generated at the school level: bullying, policy impacts, the accommodation reviews, safe schools, ideal learning environments, relevant learning, the environment, and assessment and evaluation of student work. Diverse and challenging ideas emerged from the stations when it was time to report to the whole group. See a slideshow that opened the forums here.
Parents Engage with new Prince of Wales Pilot Top
The school beside Ivor Wynne Stadium was already hosting an After-school Scholars program that was able to support struggling readers with extra, evening help from a tutor who was also a qualified teacher from the school.
But last year, school staff built onto this by adding a component that invited the parents of these supported students to adult-oriented learning sessions with themes that included parenting, safety, health and community.
Parents identified their own learning needs, including how to help their children with homework, tips for home fire safety, understanding ADHD, stress management and more.
The meetings provided childcare, which made participating easier, and the series involved both attendance at a parenting conference and a ‘home-style’ dinner with their children at the end of each session.
Highland Students Deck Marathon with Boughs of Holly Top
Highland secondary students and staff strive to make a difference in their community – and Nov. 6, 2011 was no different.
Highland students gave out water, E-Load and encouragement to the many runners that were participating in the Road2Hope Marathon.
The Road2Hope Marathon supports Hamilton City Kidz and The Joy and Hope of Haiti, and has been ranked Canada’s No. 1 Boston Marathon qualifier race. (Last year’s race raised $100, 000.)
Early in the morning, Kim Couture, head of girls physical education, led her students from the Girls’ Athletic Association in setting up and decorating the water station before the runners came. With the runners in sight, Highland students started giving out water and E-Load. More importantly, as this was the last water station in the 42.2 km race, the students gave much needed encouragement to the exhausted, yet determined, runners.
Couture says, “This is our fourth year doing the station and the most students we’ve ever had out. Best weather, too. It’s important that the students are involved in these kinds of events. Not only are they seeing the runners raise money for charities, but the students see the runners trying to qualify for a world famous race.”
Leisha Dawson, physical education teacher, says, “The students are connecting the curriculum to real life – to life after secondary school. Being physically active does not end after gym class. Physical activity is part of an active social life that includes personal achievement. This is an important message for students.”
With such participation and involvement, it is not surprising that Highland was awarded the water station incentive for its Christmas-themed station.
Plans Underway for 2012 ESL Summer Camp Top
Swimming lessons, a drama workshop, and a printmaking session at a local print studio were among the special features of a two-week summer camp at Dr. Davey for young students learning English.
Thanks to HWDSB’s equity and community and continuing education departments, the camp gave students a daily, healthy snack and opportunities they wouldn’t normally receive. The idea was to promote the oral use of English, as well as literacy, numeracy and social skills – all within a fun, student-focused environment with sports, recreation and field trips. Now, plans are being made for the 2012 version of the ESL camp.
“The camp provided newcomer students who have very limited family incomes an opportunity to spend two weeks in a safe and productive learning environment at no cost to families,” said camp leader James Savelli, a Dr. Davey teacher specializing in English language learners. “As such, the English-as-a-Second-Language summer camp demonstrated a commitment to equity and social justice.”
Eight campers registered, but it was so popular these campers invited their friends. Eventually, 15 campers attended from lower-city schools Dr. Davey, Hess Street, and Cathy Wever. They also received backpacks, and dual-language textbooks.
The camp was able to achieve a few other goals: it aligned with a Ministry focus on supporting students with limited prior schooling, while also ensuring newcomer students’ English skills didn’t decline from lack of use in the summer. Students gave the camp great reviews.
“I like this summer camp because I learned a lot of new vocabulary words,” said Teh Tay.
“I like when we interview our friends and ask them some questions,” said Nay Tay. “For the next camp maybe we should have a reading and writing competition. Maybe we should have more time, like start at 9 and end at 3.”
“What I like about this summer camp was it was so amazing,” said Kadar. “We had lots of fun together and I’m going to miss it.”
See a video of the student’s giving feedback about the 2011 camp.
Students Recognized at Peace Medal Breakfast Top
At the annual awards breakfast on Tuesday, Nov. 22, a Highland student won a YMCA Peace Medal for outstanding human rights work that has taken her all the way to Kenya.
Jasmin Goldstein was one of three HWDSB students nominated for awards that honour the achievements of individuals and groups who have made significant contributions to fostering a culture of peace in our community.
Jasmin supports organizations such as Amnesty International and Out-of-the-Cold, and has raised funds to travel to Kenya with Free the Children to build a school. She also organizes school assemblies to raise awareness of social justice issues.
Ancaster High students Connor Finlay and Nicki Varkevisser each received a nomination for their volunteer work on behalf of Invisible Children – an organization that raises funds and awareness to help children who are victims of civil war.
Construction Students Build Walls to Reduce Barriers Top
Tucked into scenic Lovers Lane in Ancaster is a classroom like no other. It’s early morning and the air is crisp. Students are arriving at the site marked by a big, yellow construction trailer. By 9 a.m., eager Saltfleet student James Davies is working with a nail gun outside a tidy family bungalow.
“I’ve known since Grade 3 that I wanted to work in the trades,” says the Grade 12 student.
He is among the students who are attending Saltfleet for the Building Careers from the Ground Up program, a a unique, six-credit, all-day, full-semester program that gives students a chance to learn skills and trades in the home-building industry.
Students can earn six credits in Senior Construction Technology through in-class and co-op education, as well as receive several work-specific credentials such as fall protection and WHMIS. They also build a house as they learn.
Lately, Davies’s classroom has been a co-op placement with Anacleto Carpentry, building new homes and working toward a Specialist High Skills Major designation on his diploma. But the Lovers Lane job is different.
“This is different because it’s a renovation, and because we are helping a really nice gentleman make his house more accessible,” James says of today’s job site.
Director’s Blog: Student Voice… continued Top
I learned a lot last week! I had the opportunity to attend three student voice forums in HWDSB. I met with 500 students in our Board. My opening message to them had three components.
My message was: 1) Every student is a leader, 2) Each student needs to experience a sense of belonging and support in our schools, and 3) We need our students’ voices to help us understand the learning spaces, experiences and processes they need.
I asked our students to help us, the educators, listen so that we can respond more effectively. I pledged our commitment to do whatever we can to respond to their insights and perspectives. This commitment does not mean we can fulfill every wish our students spoke about, but we can certainly strengthen our communication so that our decisions as a school system are directly informed by our students.
After this brief introduction our students were invited to offer their insights through small group discussion, individual reflection, podcasts, blogs, and ‘graffiti’ walls. Our students offered insights about safety and bullying, learning environments and experiences, our accommodation and review process, our board and school policies, our assessment and evaluation procedures and other insights meant to help us create safe and caring schools which assist them to achieve.
They spoke about technology and nutrition. They wondered about their role in creating safer schools. They appreciated when they could connect with their teachers in different ways at school and through co-curricular activities. And some students discussed why the accommodation and review process is so challenging for them, even though they sometimes dream about learning in school facilities that are different than some of our existing school facilities.
One student said to me: “Our student body is diverse. We have different strengths and needs. We have different learning styles and interests. And yet some of our classes are taught as if we are all the same.”
This statement is certainly a challenge to educators in HWDSB to ‘know our students,’ one of the foundations of our Annual Operating Plan.
‘All students achieving their full potential’ is our goal. We cannot achieve this goal without listening and responding to our students!
I was inspired by our students and I am grateful for their energy, their commitment and their suggestions. I will post the major themes from these forums shortly.
See part one of the Director’s Blog post on Student Voice here.