Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Five Inquiry Groups

This year Through a Different Lens is pleased to sponsor 5 different inquiry groups.  Each group will be looking at authentic learning and how we can best support our students as we explore the renewed curriculum.  We will continue with the themes of hands-on learning, community building, strength based teaching and learning, choice, and weaving in Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing.  We will also continue to look at teaching to the whole class while watching our students who feel less confident as learners - and we will be slowing down and learning from those students.   It is going to be an exciting year as we work together to explore new ideas and ways of facilitating learning in our classrooms and district.

We are happy to have support from Dr. Leyton Schnellert (UBCO) and Shelley Moore as we learn from each other and from our students.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Aboriginal Book and Video Gathering

Looking forward to our first Aboriginal Book and Video Gathering for this school year.  Everyone is welcome to come and join us for the movie followed by a good discussion.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Engaged in Learning in June

Steve LaPointe teaches grade 4/5 and believes that May and June are the perfect months for kids to do some intense, engaging learning.  “All the scaffolds are in place.  The kids can self regulate, the parents are involved and supportive, there is a feeling of respect among the kids.  It’s important to keep kids thinking about learning during this time of year rather than thinking about the year ending.”  So one of the things  Steve involves the students in is “Genius Hour”.  He first got excited about Genius Hour working with David Hird at KVR Middle school.   He found that it was tremendously engaging and motivating, and so he has continued with his students in grades four and five.

Steve has the kids think of something they would love to pursue… using imagination and personal passions and interests.  He tells them about how Google operates – a company that give company time to its employees to explore their passions that are good for human kind.  “What would you explore if you could?”  “What is your personal interest?”  “What would you say to me if you had the chance to say ‘How come we never get to learn about ____ at school?’”  “What do you want to learn about, or learn to do?”

As part of the 6 weeks project (twice a week beginning in early May), the students write a question “How can I build a skateboard ramp”, “How big of a bubble can I make?”  “What kind of cat house might my cat like?”  “How can I build a car that runs on CO2?”  They research the project, spend time talking with their parents and peers to flesh it out, explore the internet for designs and ideas, and then write up a proposal that indicates their question and the materials or resources they need.  This proposal has to be approved by both the teacher and the parents.

Then the action begins.  The students start gathering information on a topic, or begin their creation. The classroom, hallway, and workspace outside the classroom door becomes a buzz of activity as students are gluing, hammering, and creating.  Though each project is individual you see students helping each other out with their projects, and displaying what they have learned about ‘coaching’ each other.  Engagement is high as all the kids appear to be highly self-motivated.  Steve reports that there are few behavior issues because they are all doing something they love (“sometimes they are just too excited”).   

When the projects are completed, each student does something to report out – a power point, poster, picture display, a movie, or a short write up.

Teacher reflections:  Steve values Genius Hour.  He loves to watch the kids totally engrossed in their projects, excited to learn and share their learning, displaying such respect and cooperation with each other.  “They are at peace with themselves and each other”.  It is a fabulous way to end the year.”  Steve noted that one of the challenges for him is not rescuing the kids… “it is hard sometimes to let go or not step in.  I am repeatedly saying ‘If you get stuck come and see me’ but then staying hands off unless I’m invited in.”  The kids disappointments are also key – “their plans don’t always go the way they think they should but they learn a lot from that, and I am there to support.”  All in it is “just so worth it.  You just have to watch them to know that”.

Comments from the kids:
“I learned that it is not always easy… there are always difficulties.  For example, you have to be careful with the length of screws you use cause some of them went right through the boards”

“What I loved is that you get to build something that inspires you – and might inspire you to do something in the future”.

“I liked working on something that I want to learn.  I got to explore ways that work and ways that don’t work.  It was all about something we wanted to learn.”

“It was really FUN for the kids”

If you want more information contact Steve at


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Teacher Inquiry

This year TADL sponsored four inquiry groups; indigenous perspectives, inclusive practices, assessment, and literacy and the renewed curriculum.  This video clip includes some of the teacher inquiry questions, and some of the learnings from being involved in an inquiry group.  Thanks to all the teachers involved this year.

Submitted by Jeff Fitton

Monday, 16 May 2016

Learning Outside the School

This fall I had a contract at KVR Middle School teaching grade 6, 7 and 8. I have a passion for service learning, community based learning, and letting students experience learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.  So during my time at KVR I focused on building empathy through having my students make connections to their school and greater community.

I started by having the students brainstorm problems within their school, city, and global communities, which they felt passionate about. The class narrowed down their ideas and came up with three ways to help their communities: garbage pickup around the school, collecting new and gently used warm clothing and toys, and going to a senior centre to keep them company.

Garbage pickup:
The grade 7 class organized themselves, went outside and picked up all of the garbage on the school grounds. The students had a blast and in just under an hour they collected 12 full bags of garbage. This might have seemed like a one time thing, separate from their day-to-day lives to the students, but it did make a lasting impact on some of the students. Some were clearly more aware of the garbage that surrounded them, upset at how quickly the grounds were once again covered in garbage. This helped them take ownership of their school grounds, and feel their connection the space that they spend so much of their time in.

Collecting new and gently used clothing and toys:
In December, the class organized a clothing and toy drive. Students throughout the school brought in new and gently used toys and warm clothing for all ages. In just over two weeks we collected 717 items, with our class bringing in over 1/3 of the total items.  Many of my students stayed in at lunches to help sort all the clothing and toys. 

I knew the students had started to feel empathy for each other when they were walking to a local elementary school to deliver the clothing and toys and one of the boxes’ bottom broke.  Scarfs, mittens and tuques flew everywhere. Almost everyone in the class stopped to help them pick up the articles and carry them the rest of the way.  The students were so proud as they recognized how they could directly effect lives around them in a positive way.

Senior Centre:
The grade 7 class chose to go to Haven Hill and bring holiday cheer and baked goods to the residents.  The students shared the goodies and helped the seniors make Christmas cards for their families.  One student played  the violin and a few others took turns on the piano, playing Christmas carols while the rest of the group sang along. Talking with the residents was eye opening for many of the students; they enjoyed learning from them and hearing some old stories.  

These actions were powerful for the students because they choose and organized them.  The students found things they wanted to do to positively impact the communities around them. It helped them see how much they can achieve on their own and the power they have to make change in the world around them.

Submitted by Alannah Stewart, a recent graduate from UBCO and first year teacher in SD67

Monday, 7 March 2016

SD67 Maker Day

So many things about Maker Day connect with Through a Different Lens – hands on learning, creativity, group work or individual work if you so choose, expression of your thinking, no right answer, problem solving, … fun.

Thirty adults took on a challenge for the afternoon.  An hour and a half went by and none of us were ready to stop.  No one had left early.  There were no behavior issues!  ☺ Everyone was on task and it was a sunny, Friday afternoon.  

There was conversation, problem solving, taping, cutting, inventing, spilling, dropping, encouraging, frustration, sighing, laughing, and really every conversation I heard was on the task at hand.  Even the two of us that thought we would just observe were drawn in to working with a team – suggesting and then eventually making too.

Time, slope, friction, a problem with multiple solutions, group work, communication, critical and creative thinking, social responsibility all woven into one activity.  So many ways to LEARN.  

Content is the vehicle; the competencies are the destination.

Watch Trevor Knowlton's video for a better look:

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Aboriginal Book and Video Gathering

We have continued with our Aboriginal Book and Video Gatherings this year.  In October we met to discuss the book "April Raintree".  We were so fortunate to have one of our staff talk about her life and relate it to the novel.  In February, thirty of us gathered at Theos to discuss Wab Kinew's Book "The Reason You Walk" and Wab Rice's book "Legacy".  We watched a CBC interview with Wab Rice and a youtube video of Wab Kinew talking about growing up with his father "Surviving the Survivor".  

Our next book is "Birdie" which is one of the 2016 Canada Reads Books.  It is being defended by Bruce Poon Tip.  We would love to have you read the book and join us on April 6.

One of the goals of our Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement is "to raise awareness and understanding of Aboriginal history, traditions, and culture for all students and staff in the Okanagan Skaha School District".

The Aboriginal Book and Video Gatherings help us with this goal.  We gather to talk about history and culture that many of us are unfamiliar with.  The book club is a safe place for important conversations.

Everyone is welcome to attend.
You can order a book through Hooked on Books to support a local small bookstore, or pick up a copy at Coles.

Saturday, 27 February 2016


Two full days of professional development .  What incredible learning opportunities were offered.  Leyton Schnellert and Shelley Moore talked about inclusion – but it’s always much more than inclusion as we might traditionally think about it.  They wove in:
- The new curriculum 
- How to teach SEL within the context of a series of lessons
- How to teach with all kids in mind
- The First People's Principles of Learning
- Story – your story, each child’s story, and how to collect multiple stories

The idea of STORY is a powerful thing.  We can learn so much from hearing stories. Shelley shared about ‘snapshots’ – how we need to collect more than the ‘snapshot’ we get of our students to see what is really happening; Leyton told us stories of two boys and what happens when you teach to their strengths, adapt things slightly to empower them.  We heard about the ‘wind’ – how we can’t control it but we can channel it to do wonderful things.

In addition to Shelley and Leyton, Naryn Searcy shared about seeing our students who challenge us the most as ‘trickster students’; these are the students who teach us, change us; we become better teachers because of them; and Myron Dueck told a story about using the 2 x 10 strategy as a vice principal, not a classroom teacher, with a student in the hallways, the discomfort and the changes he saw.

We can not connect with some students without the story, or at least some of the story, or at least showing we are open to the story; the connection with our students – especially those who may not be connected with any other adult in the building, is the most important factor in keeping kids in school and engaged in a meaningful way.