Projects! Projects! Projects!

Over the winter break, I spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and hanging out with my kids doing projects. I also spent a great deal of time speaking with people throughout the world as to what they think a project is. What is a project?

Based on this line of inquiry, I started to comb various media outlets to get a sense of what people were doing in the world in terms of projects that might inspire Maples Met School learners. There is a huge difference between a project and an activity or hobby. Projects come from a place of questioning, of curiosity, and of purpose.

While we all know that great projects begin with a powerful essential question that questions our role within the universe, here are links to potential final products, resources, platforms, and other supports for our inquiry:

Preserving the History of a City

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Why is it important to preserve the history of a city? 

 

Create a Student-run Newspaper

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Newspapers are critical to any democracy, as they hold governments to account. Why not connect with other writers, artists, and thinkers to create your own press!

Create Your own Solar Panel

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Create a Bike Generator!

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Images of Winnipeg

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The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a photo essay of aerial views of the Winnipeg. What parts of the city are missing? Why? What would you include? How could you use GIS to create maps of areas of Winnipeg that are ignored? What are important areas for youth?

 

50 Book Pledge

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The 50 Book Pledge is an amazing way to motivate yourself and also share your research with people throughout the world. No matter what essential question you’re attacking, this is a greta way of creating a digital library.

 

Radical History Poster Project

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The Graphic History Collective has launched a project called the Radical History Poster Project. This is a fantastic way for learners to use their artistic talents to think historically (The Big 6!) about Canada, Treaty 1, and what it means to live in Red River.

 

Manitoba Robot Games 2018

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Take a crack at the Manitoba Robot Games!

 

Northern Hydroponic Project

 

Can Flying Machines Help Save Lives?

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Create Work Benches for your School’s Fabrication Lab

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Hint: We need these at the Met for great projects!

 

Lego Crane (Why not?)

 

Create an interactive Periodic Table!

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CBC Nonfiction Prize

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What a perfect final product for a project! (And you could take home some loot!)

 

Mennonite Central Committee Hygiene Kits

 

Design a New Arlington Bridge

Banning Plastic Bags

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There is some recent support for banning plastic bags in Winnipeg. This might be a really cool, authentic, and impactful project to investigate!

 

Imagine Portage & Main

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What should Portage and Main look like? Design it!

 

Create Your Own Zine!

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Go underground and create a zine that reflects your manifesto!

 

Make your own Wind Turbine!

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Aquaponics System

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Lots of essential questions and tangents with this project!

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MSSTA Diversity Panel 2016

main-qimg-c2776b7fe0b5c2d411ac68569ecde0edThis panel discussion scheduled for Friday, October 21st at 1:00 pm at the Manitoba Social Studies Teacher’s association PD Day will focus on including diverse perspectives in Canadian history classrooms in the 21st century.
Panelists include:

Matt Henderson (Moderator)
Matt will speak to the idea of Radical Experiences & Radical Diversity! Matt will highlight how understanding the unique experience of each learner may lead to a greater cognitive diversity within a learning community and a greater diversity in ideas, passions, and perspectives. Folks at this session will engage in a discussion about learning, power, privilege, and voice. Matt is the principal at the Maples Met School in the Seven Oaks School Division.

Daraius Bharucha
Daraius Bharucha was a Captain in the Merchant Marine before becoming an educator. He is currently the Department Head of History at Bill Crothers Secondary School in Unionville Ontario. Through the course of his academic and teaching career Daraius has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Governor Generals Silver Medal for Academic Excellence, The Governor Generals Award for Excellence in Teaching History, the George Hopton Award for History and has been recognised for his volunteer contributions to the community by the Government of Ontario. Daraius has been invited to speak and present at many local, national and international conventions and conferences and has authored publications and articles including curricula that have been widely used across North America.

Stefano Fornazzari San Martin
Stefano Fornazzari San Martin was the youngest of three brothers when he arrived to Vancouver as a political refugee with his parents who escaped the military dictatorship in Chile. He holds a Master’s in history from the University of Connecticut where he explored indigenous resistance to Spanish conquest. He is currently the Department Head of History at The Dr. GW Williams Secondary School in Aurora, Ontario.  He has two beautiful children he is raising in french with his wife Marie-Soleil, and enjoys vacationing in Quebec City at every opportunity. He has worked as an educational publishing consultant and reviewer, including being a part of the team that produced THE BIG SIX HISTORICAL THINKING CONCEPTS and other textbooks and teacher resources. Stefano and Daraius. M. Bharucha were awarded the Governor General’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2012 for their project entitled: MY PLACE IN CANADIAN HISTORY: DIGITAL STORYTELLING WITH HISTORICAL THINKING CONCEPTS.

Darius and Stefanon Stefano  be talking about identity creation and the way in which young people from diverse backgrounds can locate themselves within the spectrum of Canadian history. The idea being that it is through this location that a critical portion of their Canadian identity is developed and how this generally plays out in terms of the evolving notion of a modern Canadian identity.

Greg Miyanaga
For 27 years, Greg has taught Grades 2-7 in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver.  In 2006, he received the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History from Michaelle Jean. The Big Idea will be what teaching diverse perspectives and controversial issues looks like in an elementary classroom. He will use examples from his previous GG work in teaching about Japanese Canadian internment during the 1940s, and with my new work in a similar project called Landscapes of Injustice.

If you would like to provide feedback on this session, please do so below!

MLTS: Reflection

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Strini Reddy speaks to educators about the Newcomer Youth Education Support Services — the organization supported by the screening of Most Likely to Succeed

On Wednesday, February 3rd, over 200 educators came together at the University of Winnipeg to view the provocative film Most Likely to Succeed. The film challenged whether or not the current educational paradigm meets the needs and challenges of the 21st century.

The film addressed several major themes in terms of learning, teaching, and the purpose of education. From the brief discussion that followed the screening, it is clear that everyone in the room reacted differently to this experience.

Please feel free to reflect on what you thought about the film below. As we do with our more formal learning communities, please ensure that our comments are precise, respectful and not anonymous.

On behalf of St. John’s-Ravenscourt School and the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg, thank you for sharing time and space with us.

Experimental Lakes Area 2016

The 2016 Experimental Lakes Area Student Experience (ELSE) applications are now open. If you are a high school student entering Grade 11 or 12 this fall, check out the application form here. The dates for this year’s experience are July 18th-29th, 2016.

ELSE is a joint project between the IISD and St. John’s-Ravenscourt School. Students from all schools in Manitoba are invited to apply.

Check out this slide show to see what happens at ELSE!

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For more information, contact me at hendem at learners dot sjr dot mb dot ca

What is Experience?

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Pock-filled battlefields of Vimy Ridge at sunrise.

As I sit on a plane hurtling across western Europe with 40 students following an eight-day whirlwind Victory in Europe tour, I am forced to contemplate some critical questions from the perspective of an educator beyond the ecological trail of mayhem we leave behind in our jet stream.

Our group traveled to Western Netherlands and Normandy, primarily, in an effort to “experience” what it might have been like to be occupied by Nazis during the second world war, what it felt like to be liberated, and how a burgeoning country with a foreign policy in its infancy contributed to this emancipatory effort. (We also made a dip into France and Belgium to immerse ourselves in WWI.)

At Holten Commonwealth Cemetery on May 4th in the Netherlands

At Holten Commonwealth Cemetery on May 4th in the Netherlands

As an educator paranoid and most likely overly-obsessed with conceptualizations of learning, transformation, growth, and experience, I am confronted with the reality that the experience created for these learners might very well be reduced to simply an experience of traveling, versus an educative experience where the outcomes are met, where brain chemistry and physiology are changed, where the learner has grown, and where new questions and pathways for curiosity are established. Put simply, how do we distinguish between generic and educative experience?

My first assumption that I will offer is that everything is an experience. Having your wisdom teeth removed, learning to smoke, writing a multiple choice test, and sitting in a white-walled room with no furniture and with no stimulation are all experiences. I would also suggest that an experience is not dependant on place, and could arguably be metaphysical and as we are ever more aware, digital.

But educative experiences are those which produce moments of cognitive dissonance, or disequilibrium, and which are bridged by scaffolding and dialogue with peers and elders. This is what I presume to be educative experiences, where neurons are stimulated, where neural connections become more complex, and as my wife tells me (who is a brain-based learning expert, for sure), where dendrites, or the sheath around the neurons, become thicker and more robust.

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Given this understanding of experience and those which might lead to positive growth and transformation, how can I be sure that the outcomes of this past experience in Europe have been educative without being able to look into the brains of the learners? The day of the pocket MRI I suspect are well in the distant future.

For me, the answer rests in the dialogic relationship that is fostered within a learning community. The conversations between individual learners, between learner and elder, and as a community become the barometer for transformative and educative experiences. 

It was fascinating to compare the experiences of the students through our informal chats in buses, at lunch, and on beaches. They remarked how our visit to the Netherlands, with various diplomatic events and crowded activities, had little impact in terms of their understanding of the occupation. They expressed frustration of being shuffled from one place to another, with little time to breath let alone reflect. On my watch, the students experienced the Groesbeek Liberation Museum in twelve minutes. For letting this type of experience occur, I am truly ashamed and should have my teaching certificate torn up in front of me.

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Inspecting a German mini-sub at the Liberation Museum.

On the other hand they had powerful questions about WWI after our deliberate and slow visits to Ypres and Vimy. The pock-filled battlefields left them in awe of the destructive power of humans and the futility of war. As we descended into the depths of the Wellington Quarries, learners asked questions as to the war aims of the Central Powers and the Triple Entente. What was WWI all about? Was it about liberation from fascists or something else? The table was set for incredible conversations and debate.

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Standing at Vimy beside my great uncle’s name, Private M.J. Parsons, April 9th, 1917.

Similarly, our visit to Normandy allowed the learners to take what knowledge we had front loaded in our year of lunchtime meetings and actually make sense of it by stepping onto the beaches, seeing the mulberries, and pulling out maps on the boardwalks when we had questions about time and space.

The educative experiences were not universal as well. Individual learners, including adults, often shared contrasting stories about how they changed or what they learned. But the lesson for me is that transformation and growth are fundamentally based on curiosity, confusion, meaningful dialogue and reflection, and the physical and chemical change of the brain. While many of us can make sense of an idea or event, this can only be equated to thinking. Making meaning and applying this information is learning. The latter process is deliberate, purposeful, rigorous, and often long and frustrating.

Back home in Winnipeg in my generic classroom, and to extend this idea past field trips, how can I foster educative experiences designed to change attitudes and behaviour? In a world that is in crisis, due to attacks on the planet itself and given the current geo-political realities, how can I make time and space for students to ask meaningful questions which affect their relationships with other humans, species, and systems? How do we create educative experiences whereby the learner is awakened to the idea that every human deserves the basic necessities for a decent life?

These questions speak to the purpose of education and move beyond discussions of common assessment, common report cards, standardized tests, and new and baseless conceptualizations of 21st century learning, whatever that might be. These questions challenge me, knock me down, and spur me on my futile quest to come within a lightyear of excellence in teaching.