Monday, June 18, 2018

Being Joy

I've noticed a trend in the last three of my blog posts - they all deal with these mixed positive and negative feelings related to the hectic schedule I've been keeping and the various events that I'm participating in or involved with this June.

As I mentioned last week, I was busy trying to create my So You Think You Can Dance costume. It's tradition to have "celebrity judges" and Tina Voltsinis, Jennifer Balido-Cadavez and I chose to be three of the characters from the movie "Inside Out". Finding the right clothes and accessories was challenging. I wanted to look as similar to the character as I could, and my thrift store dress purchase was the right shape but wrong colour. I decided, in a last-ditch effort, to go to the fabric store to search for some material that I could use to somehow place on top of the existing dress to make it more realistic.

Let me interrupt this narrative for a reality check. I don't always write about equity issues in my posts, but I should. For instance, as I describe this process, I need to recognize that I am coming from a huge place of economic privilege here. I am able to devote time and money to making something that isn't essential to daily living. Some educators do not have this luxury. Back to the story.

I got a great deal on the fabric - $3.00 a meter. The big question was, would I be able to actually sew a dress, from scratch, in an evening? Other impending deadlines got pushed aside (sorry, pile of Grade 5 science assessments!) and I worked quickly. Here's a photo essay of the steps.

1) I used the dress I bought as a pattern. I measured 1.5 " around and used fabric chalk to mark the distance. Then I cut it out.

Photo by son

I always get nervous cutting cloth - no going back after a snip!

2) I matched up the front and back and pinned the shoulders and sides together. The front and back didn't always match evenly, so I had to get it as close as possible.

Shoulders pinned

Overhead view of the pinned dress (uneven bottom)

Pinned sides
3) I then grabbed my sewing machine. I switched the thread colour and spent an inordinate amount of time threading and re-threading my bobbin. Then I stitched together the shoulders and sides.
Putting pieces together

 4) I borrowed fabric pens from last year's fashion show supplies and my daughter helped me find a close-up of Joy's dress, to examine the detailing. I used both fabric markers and Sharpie markers to create the blue starburst design.

Visual references help!

The toonie acted as a "blank center" for the lines

5) I hemmed the bottom, reinforced the arm holes, and left the neckline alone.

My colleagues were also frantically assembling their outfits. Facebook appeals were sent, party stores were searched and plans had to be modified.

Is it okay if I sneak in another equity observation? Are hair spray paints only made for Caucasian hair? My friend's hair really resisted the blue but my hair changed noticeably. Are others limited to only using wigs? Thankfully my creative colleague added blue glitter to her hair to make it more blue.

It worked! As we dressed in the nurse's office / OSR room, we moaned about how our outfits weren't quite right, until we added some element that changed things around completely. For Tina, it was the long green eyelashes that transformed her into Disgust. For Jen, it was the oversized round glasses that completed the metamorphosis. I was tickled pink with my dress, and knowing that I made it all myself made it that much sweeter.

Emotional selfie

Disgust, Sadness and Joy!

Tina Voltsinis, aka Disgust

Jennifer Cadavez, aka Sadness

Diana Maliszewski, aka Joy
Jen also added this fantastic detail - we carried "memories". These were glass containers filled with glowing LED lights and tinged with tissue paper to match the emotion.

The staff and students seemed to really enjoy the performances, both the dance ones by the students on stage as well as the drama improvisational ones by the staff. 

Thanks Stephanie Paterson for this image of us speaking
(Please alert me if you can see any student faces in this video and I'll take it off the blog.)

What does it meant to be the physical embodiment of joy? At first I felt it's being positive, happy and delighted with almost everything you see and hear and experience. After studying the movie (by re-watching it), I realized that the character of Joy isn't always joyful. She's driven, bossy, and focused on her own goals (to keep Riley happy, even when Riley needs a wider emotional landscape and realistic reactions to her current situation). We can't always be joyful all the time. We can't always be happy. In fact, I was pretty worried at the end of the week when we learned about a local shooting near our school that sent two young girls to hospital. We used the TDSB guidelines for discussing traumatic events with students and had some sensitive and helpful conversations. It wasn't joyful but it was a way to restore joy and reduce fear - and sometimes that matters more than getting work done or meeting deadlines.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Feeling Stressed, Feeling Loved

I am writing this blog post 90 minutes before Monday, June 11, 2018 ends. This is not like me at all. I usually write my posts on the weekend and it goes public early Monday. However, I can barely catch my breath, despite having the previous Friday off work as a report card writing day. (Boy, was I grateful for that time!)

Here's some of the things that have kept me busy this past week, in no particular order. I finalized my report card grades and comments for all the classes that I'm responsible for. On June 5, my OSLA partner in crime Alanna King and I went to Ontario Library Association headquarters to select which conference workshop applications would be accepted, which was a day full of intense decision making and negotiations. Alanna and I then attended the OSLA Council meeting to give our Super Conference summary and update. This weekend, there were also a lot of tasks to complete related to Maker Festival Toronto - I distributed the promotional material to every secondary school in TDSB and TCDSB and spent four hours on Sunday with Aedan and Nathan rewriting the volunteer role descriptions and calculating the number of bodies we'd need per shift during the festival. Hubby and I spent two hours on the weekend editing the research paper that my research assistant, Terry Soleas, and I hope to have accepted by a peer-reviewed academic journal. I tinkered with Moodle in preparation for my Library Additional Qualification courses that I'll be teaching for York University this July. I can't forget the Volunteer Tea invitations that went out today. My daughter and I spent 3.5 hours on Saturday searching for the costume I need for tomorrow's So You Think You Can Dance celebrity judging, and 2.5 hours tonight sewing parts that will make the outfit look more authentic. (I'll post pictures tomorrow via Twitter and Facebook.)

I don't list these things to make myself look super-human or to brag. It's more of an explanation why it's taking a lot longer for me to process instructions or comments, as my brain madly sorts through the various "tabs open" to determine what's being discussed. It's an apology for the "deer in the headlights" look or the tired gait. When people ask "How does she do it?", I answer "Not particularly well" and that it's possible for me to do many of these things because my teen children don't need me as much as they used to, and my husband runs the household single-handed.

Despite all these jobs and all the stress, I'm feeling very loved. My family made a point of going out to breakfast together on Sunday at our favourite local morning eatery. On June 9, while at the OSLA Council meeting, I was shocked and surprised when Kelly Maggiarias, OSLA President, presented me with a cake with my face on it and a wonderful framed poster created by the talented Lauren Hummel, my OLA staff liaison for The Teaching Librarian magazine. I didn't expect it at all.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in the surprised presentation, to those who took the pictures that I put on today's blog, and also to all those kind people who said such nice things on Twitter in response to those tweets. Your caring fuels me and makes it possible to push along despite the frantic, hectic schedule and demands.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Huge Triumphs and Tiny Regrets

Another whirlwind week has passed and there are so many things to consider! I realized that despite all the excellent things that happened, each event had a micro-moment where I had a "I wish that had gone differently" thought. I know I need to focus on the positive, but as I describe what I learned and experienced, I'll articulate the doubts (in a smaller font).

Radio Trip to Visit 98.1 CHFI, KISS 92.5 and 680 NEWS

On May 30, 2018, 31 students selected from Grades 1-5 had a chance to visit the headquarters of several, Rogers-owned radio stations. In February, a separate group visited the Bell-owned radio stations CHUM and Virgin Radio, and that helped shape our understanding of how radio stations operate. Our May visit really consolidated our learning and I am so grateful to Angela Morra for accommodating us. Radio stations are not meant to host school tours, especially for elementary school students. We were extremely fortunate that they made an exception for us.

The broadcast facilities at Rogers are incredible. We were treated so well, especially by Jax, the DJ at KISS 92.5. The students were thrilled to actually get to be on the radio. The news station was very informative and it was a technological wonder to see how seamlessly the reporters shared despite being in separate spaces. We took many photos! Big thanks to Ms. Bicos and Ms. Landra for helping to supervise the students with me. Watching students try to enter a revolving door was quite entertaining!

The tiny regret: One of my students has a visual impairment. I had hoped that on this trip, she would be able to touch some of the equipment that she had only heard us describe in the school setting. I mentioned the importance of having a tactile experience to the adult leading the tour but for whatever reason, the student didn't get the opportunity. In addition, there was a promo photo moment that I had to make a quick decision about and I could have included another student whose parent would have allowed it.

Media Additional Qualification Course Reunion

On May 31, 2018, students from the fall and winter sessions of the TDSB-sponsored Media AQ courses gathered at Northern Secondary School for a reunion of sorts. This was a deliberate effort to continue the learning and build capacity. We had very intellectually stimulating conversations about gaming, heard about a great resource from Michelle Solomon - Michelle, what's it called again? Some of us taped short comments for Charles C Chan to compile into a promotional video for the course. Thanks so much to Neil, Carol, Michelle, Tracey, Charles, Doris, Hong Rong, and others for adding so much to the discussions.

The tiny regret: The agenda was co-created by all the participants and one of the topics we decided to cover somewhat last-minute was the Maker movement. I name-dropped Melanie Mulcaster and attempted to channel her expertise in my answers but I felt like I forgot to mention some key people (like Laura Fleming, Diana Rendina, and Andy Plemmons). I will need to follow up with Melanie on some of the questions that I fielded that I'm unsure I did justice to - sadly, this will only show up in the meeting notes and not be part of the original talk, which is more memorable for people.

ETFO ICT Conference for Women

I love this conference! This year it was held June 1-2, 2018 in downtown Toronto. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll notice I posted a lot of my thoughts there. At the risk of repeating myself, here's my traditional "conference breakdown" reflection.

Friday, June 1, 2018 (10:30 am) - Opening Keynote by Dr. Camille Rutherford [Tech Trends Sweeping the Globe: Will They Be Coming To Your Classrooms?]

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. Don't use technology as a one-trick pony or a hook; use tech that helps students grow from consumers to creators.
  2. Information is power only if you know what to do with it.
  3. Educators should be aware of some of the upcoming technology trends (i.e. VR,  AR, mixed reality, 360 video, block chain, bit coins, AI, predictive analytics, etc.)

So What? Now What?

I love listening to Camille. The questions she posted after providing a few examples were questions that we should ask ourselves frequently. I won't tune out just because I might not understand the concepts at first. Camille did a great job of scaffolding the information for the crowd and keeping us engaged. I even received a Lego female mini-figure as a gift.

Friday, June 1, 2018 (1:00 pm) - Amplifying Student Voice through TED-Ed Talks by Elke Baumgartner and Meghan Lowe

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. TED-Ed Clubs are more about the process than the product and are meant to channel students' passions.
  2. Resources are available if you register and the 13 sessions are geared towards students in Grades 3-12 (and it usually takes about 6 weeks to go through)
  3. Skills like presentation literacy, primary source data collection, developing copyright friendly images, etc. are all developed through the TED-Ed framework

So What? Now What?

My teen has complained about the overuse of TED talks shown in her high school class, but Elke and Meghan really showed how being creators instead of consumers might change her opinion. I'd like to take their advice and invest in a good lapel microphone so audio projects can be better and not reliant on a standard microphone that might inhibit gestures. We can even use it for storytelling!

Friday, June 1, 2018 (2:15 pm) - Games-Based Learning: Playing to Learn by Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. Games-based learning and gamification are two separate things.
  2. Some games aren't appropriate for the classroom but by being aware of the games your students play, you can leverage that in other ways in the classroom.
  3. Be aware of who has created a game, what their purpose might be, and the intended audience. (Not all games are created equal.)

So What? Now What?

I love presenting with Denise! She and I work well together. She kept us from going over time and the participants were interested and interesting! I just need to keep finding opportunities for Denise and I to work together.

Friday, June 1, 2018 (3:30 pm) - Closing Keynote by Leigh Cassell [What if?]

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. When we depersonalize the learning experience, there is no experience of learning.
  2. Behind every image is a person with a story.
  3. In the absence of an authentic audience, and without a meaningful purpose, literacy instruction is just read, write, repeat.
So What? Now What?

Well, Leigh made us laugh and cry. Her words challenged and moved the audience. Rethink how relationships impact learning - and act on those thoughts!

Saturday, June 2, 2018 (8:45 am) - Game-Based Learning: Time to Play by Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski 

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. The smartest thing in a room full of teachers is the room - thanks Laura for sharing a new online game with the group!
  2. Don't play Cards Against Humanity with students unless you want to be in the blue pages! - The more serious point is that you can use old tech (like the Nintendo Wii vs the Nintendo Switch) in your classes.
  3. There are many curriculum tie-ins to different games and online versions of board games that help students learn the rules without cheating.

So What? Now What?

We had so much fun in this session! Despite the fact that it was the first session of the day, teachers that attended were active and engaged. I loved it when a teacher saw a creeper and asked if it was friendly; her follow-up question was "How can you tell who are the good guys and the bad guys?" and I love that for a general inquiry question! We used a "choose your own adventure" centers model and at one point we had some playing Ticket to Ride on an iPad, some playing Outdoor Challenge on the Wii, and some playing Minecraft. My next step is to play Little Alchemy with my Grade 5s as part of their science unit on Properties of and Changes in Matter!

Saturday, June 2, 2018 (10:45 am) - The Best Online Tools for Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration by Trish Morgan

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. Peek back at your list of great online tools to keep them current (some change, some update, some stay the same, some alter their policies).
  2. Using some of these online tools in the classroom provide a safe place to teach digital citizenship, chat rooms, and redirecting off-topic discussions (like with Today's Meet)
  3. Consider different ways about using some of these tools and put new spins on old ideas (e.g. instead of saying "What would you do with a million dollars?", ask "What would you and your family do with a million dollars?" so you can get different perspectives and family involvement.

So What? Now What?

I got a lot out of this session. Some of the tools I've heard about a long time ago, like with Voki. Some of the tools I just learned about recently at ECOO Camp Owen Sound, like Geo Guesser. Some were new to me, like Jigsaw Palace. I will definitely use these tools in June so that there's still purpose to our time together with students, even if we've "covered it all". Trish is an excellent presenter and some of the things I learned don't get filed under "good tech"; they get filed under "good teaching".

Saturday, June 2, 2018 (1:30 pm) - Bring Creations to Life with the Makey Makey by Susan Lee and Louise Vaillancourt

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. For an object to act as a conductor, it needs to have salt and water. Note, a Veggie Straw will not work unless it is completely soaked in spit.
  2. There are certain ways to handle your Makey Makey so that it doesn't break or fall apart.
  3. There are many curriculum connections you can use with Makey Makey, especially when combined with Scratch.

So What? Now What?

Connecting circuits takes brain power! I always had to remind myself to complete the chain and I like how Louise and Susan demonstrated this by having the group hold hands. It takes perseverance and I think I may want to get a single Makey Makey for myself to use next year.

I completed the feedback form for ETFO that asked us to describe the top 3 things we learned at this conference. I copied and pasted my answer because I thought it was worthwhile to share.

1) I have a wonderful network of old (and now new) contacts that I can turn to for help and support - e.g. thanks Julie for offering to help me with Moodle! Thanks Laura for showing me Little Alchemy!

2) Teaching about copyright and ownership shouldn't be boring or a one-off - embed it in different things you do, like Leigh's suggestion to Creative Commons license your slide decks, or Trish's example of using a Word Cloud you make for an online jigsaw, to value what you made.

3) Gender and tech do impact each other, like Camille mentioned about design that ignores female realities (like no pockets).

The tiny regret: The sessions went smoothly, but during our Friday workshop, I ran out of time to share the two anecdotes about gender expression in gaming environments. These examples were quite pertinent to a tech conference solely for women. I probably should have made the time to share it, as they were powerful stories to share and as Leigh said in her keynote, "behind every image is a person with a story".

Thank you to everyone who contributed in some way to those learning triumphs I got to experience (especially those who organized the events: Angie at Rogers, Neil and Carol for the Media AQ reunion, and Ruth, Kelly, Erika and others for the ETFO ICT conference). My tiny regrets are just that - tiny, and in the grand scheme of things, quite insignificant. I just don't want anyone to feel like things go "Instagram perfect" every time.

P.S. I nearly forgot to mention the site where I bought my dress that I wore on Friday!
As I tweeted Because isn't just about tech, but about women supporting each other in different ways (including flattering, comfy clothes with pockets!), I share the site-

Monday, May 28, 2018

Innovation Exists Here - 4 Examples

Warning: this is a lengthy blog post. I could have broken it up, but I think it would do a disservice to the overall theme of the thought, which came to me as I slept and was scribbled on a used envelope during the night so I wouldn't forget.

I looked up the word innovation to ensure I was using it correctly. said it was the introduction of something new, or a new method, idea, or device. I think my four examples fit quite well.

1) Grade 5 Science Inquiry with Ms. Daley's Class

While other school districts are closing for the summer, we have a month of school left and we still have so much to do! Ms. Daley, our Grade 5-6 teacher, booked some partner time with me for May and June. We chatted and planned and decided that we'd incorporate some green screen technology use into what we'd do together. After realizing how very little time we had left, we chose to keep the green screen work but refocus on a science topic instead of the language arts one we originally planned. The Grade 6s are studying space and the 5s have properties of and changes in states of matter. Since there were two of us educators, we also felt like it would be effective if we uncovered some of the content separately by grade. This is what led me to the staff room kitchen, and to some odd kitchen science experiments.

We talked about the connections between changing states of matter and food. Students came up with plenty of examples. Our first challenge was to make popsicles. Easy, right? Well, not when you have to design the mold for it. How would the teams ensure that the liquid that turns into a solid adheres to the holder/stick but not to the container? How would the stick stay upright in the liquid? I loved that each group designed a different solution. One group used binder clips; one group used aluminum foil; one made Ts out of their sticks to balance on the cup lid and another used plastic wrap with an ice cube tray. There was some great innovating thinking happening!

Some groups finished early so we had a bonus challenge that went completely awry but in good ways. We were simply going to melt chocolate chips so we could examine the difference between it in its solid and liquid states. However, I burned the chocolate. We had to take the smoky mess outside. Fact - the students still ate it. Surprising fact - some of them said the scorched monstrosity tasted good!

Burnt chocolate!

We'll post our theories about why the chocolate burned instead of melted on their Google Classroom.

2) The Silver Birch Quiz Bowl and new Buzzer System

On Thursday, May 24, we held our annual Silver Birch Quiz Bowl event at C.D. Farqharson Junior Public School. What made this event extra innovative this year was the work of one of the wonderful parents from Percy Williams Junior Public School. 

Our Quiz Bowl is so popular now that the original commercial buzzer system we had was insufficient. It was impossible for all the schools to compete directly against each other so in the past we'd have to split up and that meant teams only had the chance to answer 5 instead of all 10 questions. This amazing parent attended past Quiz Bowls and decided to address the issue by building a buzzer system that would work for large numbers. 

Sara making introductory remarks - note the buzzer and banner!

The contraption is a structural wonder. The parent designed it so that the first to buzz in locks out all the rest, but unlike other versions, if the person guessing gives the wrong answer, you can continue to allow the others to buzz in and the system prevents the mistaken competitor from trying again. (We used to have a small issue with "sorry, you can't try to answer that question twice".) The students were nervous about the new buzzers and during the Q&A before the match, asked many variations of "What if I push it and my buzzer doesn't work?" but it worked perfectly.

Congratulations to Percy Williams Junior Public School for winning both the fiction and non-fiction competition (the fiction runner-up was C. D. Farqharson Jr. P.S. and the non-fiction runner-up was Berner Trail Jr. P.S.). Big thanks go to all the teachers who prepared the questions for the Quiz Bowl and Kathy Kacer, our visiting author.

3) The #tdsbEd Twitter chat at the TDSB Excellence Awards

The TDSB Excellence Awards were held that same afternoon (May 24, 2018) at TDSB headquarters. I was allowed to attend because I nominated one of the winners. Thankfully, the board was flexible and forward-thinking enough to consider (and choose) a "virtual entity" - the #tdsbEd Twitter chat. The two flesh-and-blood founders of the #tdsbEd Twitter chat, Arianna Lambert and Larissa Aradj, received the award and I was the lucky individual to give the speech that introduced them. I was limited to a few minutes, and I used the opportunity to share some of the words of praise from a letter we weren't able to use as part of our submission (from Peter Singh, the Executive Officer for Information Technology Services at TDSB). The nomination package from Lynn Strangway (a superintendent), Chris Sands (a secondary teacher), and me (an elementary teacher-librarian) demonstrates the impact that this innovative idea has had - uniting educators of all stripes, from different areas of the board and different sectors. Congratulations again Larissa and Arianna!

Larissa, Arianna, and Diana after the award ceremony

All the 2018 TDSB Excellence Award winners with the chair & director

4) Red Maple Marketing Campaign Ideas

According to my notes, the former NE4 area of TDSB (now a combination of Learning Centres, mostly in the east) first started holding our Red Maple Marketing Campaign in 2012. Every year for the past six years, I'm always impressed with the quality of the campaign ideas presented. I'm doubly impressed considering I have first hand knowledge of how quickly some of these campaigns are pulled together. I put a thread on Twitter highlighting each of the ten campaigns.

I know that at my own school, I can tell how passionate the students are for STEAM because of what and how the student teams compiled their artefacts and strategies (and I also heard how they stayed late and started early in their classroom teachers' rooms putting things together - so thank you to the uber-supportive Farah Wadia and Dean Roberts!). My principal was equally amazed at what the students had created, so much so that he asked that we put some of their items on display in the school for the month of June. (The students did a draw for the 100 paper cranes and Ms Dixon, the teacher-librarian at Emily Carr P.S. won but kindly let us delay presenting her with the prize.)

Katana, Peace Monument, and paper cranes
Plan from Agnes Macphail PS for promoting this book

Fake blood made Summer's End spooky!

All the TLs, teachers, TPL staff involved with Allan Stratton, author

Our judges were also impressed with our young entrepreneurs. These are actual advertising executives from Manifest Communications Inc. and they took their job examining the projects seriously. Holly and Sarah took copious notes and actually asked if they could have time to type up the feedback forms before giving them to the teams. Below is their overall feedback to all the groups (as well as the announcement of the winning campaigns).

So what inspires innovation, and helps it grow? I'm sure some answers can be found in the book The Innovator's Minset by George Couros, but I haven't read that yet. And I'll be honest - I'm exhausted right now and so the analyzing portion of this blog post is going to have to wait. I just want to thank all the people who made these enjoyable events possible.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hands-On Fun! Festival of Trees and STEAM Family Night

Thank you Doug Peterson for mentioning last week's blog post about the STEAM Family Night preparations in his post from his regular column, "This Week in Ontario Edublogs". His last sentence made it almost a prerequisite to center today's blog post on the results of STEAM Family Night.

I’m looking forward to reading her post next week when she reflects and sums up the activities.
The thing is, STEAM Family Night was only one of many activities from the past week! On Monday, we had our school's Track and Field qualifying day. On Tuesday, it was the Red Maple Festival of Trees. On Wednesday, it was the Silver Birch Festival of Trees. On Thursday, we had the STEAM Family Night. Friday was a "quiet day" as it was *only* Pizza Lunch.

What commonality did all these events have? How can I tie them together in one blog post? I think the answer is involvement or being hands-on. I'll summarize and reflect in reverse order. In the tradition of the "star and wish" method of reflection, I'll put a star ⭐near the things that went well, and a wish ⛅near the things that can be improved.

STEAM Family Night Organization Team

STEAM Family Night

Everyone was absolutely delighted with how this inaugural event unfolded! There were a few little uncertain moments leading up to the launch - some of the teachers who were not on the core team but volunteering on the actual night weren't really instructed on the nitty-gritty of the station they'd be monitoring ⛅, and we were worried that one of our key vendors would not show up. ⛅ However, everything worked out extremely well.

We had a short introduction in the gym, with brief but lively performances ⭐by the junior and senior band. Our vendors were in the gym where everything began and that was good for people to browse and shop around before the mini-performance. ⭐ Another clever move was to have the spoken remarks kept to a minimum and translated immediately after. ⭐ The crowd quieted down a bit when the explanation of the night was spoken in Chinese. Thank you Elmwood Electronics, Ellaminnow, and Logics Academy for being in our vendor hall, and especially to our two student-led pop-up stores, Coco Bombs and Caffinedles Candles. We also had student work displays in the gym and accessible via QR Codes. ⭐I was sorry that the crowds weren't as intense in the gym post-introduction, as everyone hurried to participate at the stations, ⛅but we'll figure this out in the future. Next time, we'll also arrange for some dual language books to be available ⛅ (thanks Ellaminnow for trying to accommodate us.)

The stations were located in different areas around the school ⭐ and supported with volunteer staff members and intermediate students. ⭐ The signage explained the station. ⭐

Last week's blog post elaborated on the straws and connectors task. This was in the library and the teachers stationed there loved how involved the adults were with the task. ⭐We loved taking pictures of the parents getting down on the ground, helping to measure and build these various structures.

I was located at the Squishy Circuit area in the lunchroom and it was also a big hit. I was concerned about how well this would work, because it took me three days of trying ⛅to make the bulbs light up. Melanie Mulcaster from Peel provided long-distance aid, but it was Mr. Tong who solved the problem - the wires hadn't been stripped enough. Once again, my heart just burst with joy when I saw how, with just a tiny bit of encouragement, the adults were working alongside their children and grandchildren to make things work. ⭐ It was so rewarding to hear the gasps and shouts of glee when the light illuminated. We had challenge cards and I like how some students invented their own challenges! ⭐

Also in the lunchroom, at the other end, was the "make your own birdhouse / bird feeder" station. This was very popular ⭐and we'll have to brainstorm how to distribute the crowds a bit more ⛅ if we do this again in the future.

Upstairs in the computer lab, there was "unplugged coding" as well as traditional coding with Scratch. The Pokemon theme really enticed participants. ⭐ I really admire how the supervisors at this station, both students and staff, ensured that older family members got involved. ⭐All these tasks were accessible to learners and explorers of all ages, so families could go from station to station as a group instead of splitting up. ⭐

Also upstairs, in the staff room, was the green screen station. Big thanks to our principal for allowing us to purchase a small photo printer so families could have a tangible souvenir of the event. ⭐The line up extended out the hall ⛅ but the people managing this station worked quickly and made e-mail delivery of the photos an option. ⭐

Downstairs in the primary hallway, Dash robots were being manipulated. Big thanks to Remy from Logics Academy for supporting this station with his presence. ⭐

We had some fantastic prizes and we did the draw the next day at school.

The organization team hasn't met yet to debrief, but I think we were very pleased with the results. The language barrier is a big obstacle for holding school-wide events at our school, but due to the excellent translations for signs, ⭐ spoken directions, ⭐ and roaming student translators  ⭐(thank you Ms. Lung, Ms. Shi, and students!) as well as the hands-on aspect of the night, we overcame it. Families love taking photos, which can become almost oppressive in a concert-like scenario as parents rush the stage like paparazzi, but with these activities, it was welcomed and encouraged. ⭐ We even had a Twitter / Instagram hashtag contest for the most shares. One little misstep at the end of the night was that our flyers said #amsteam18 and our t-shirts and program said #amsteam2018. ⛅Thankfully, people used both hashtags. The best part for me was seeing the family members working together, as a team, on tasks. ⭐

Festival of Trees

Last year, I didn't go to the Festival of Trees - I arranged the trip and sent others in my place. This year, I made it a point to go, although I didn't see that much of the Festival. ⛅Why? I was working at the Forest of Reading Research station. I'm collecting data for a study of the Impact of Readers Choice Award programs. I needed to be there to supervise the station. Did I regret it? Not at all. Being directly involved with this important project meant that I had a vital part to play. ⭐Here are a few of the photos I took of students filling out surveys (and getting lollipops as a thank-you) and posing with some awesome volunteers.

I noticed that those students who also were more heavily involved with the mechanics of the Festival enjoyed it more, despite the demands on their time. I had seven students who were on stage either as sign carriers, speech presenters, or results announcers. They were excited to be part of the action. Driving the students that were scheduled to present at the non-fiction Silver Birch ceremony in my car saved me a lot of headaches ⭐ - by not relying on the bus, we made it on time. (The buses are better for us than TTC but can take a long time to travel.) I saw some teachers and students from my school throughout the two days, and they seemed to have fun. This trip can be stressful to adult supervisors who have to keep an eye on their charges but for whatever reasons (well-behaved students? decent adult-student ratios? solid organization and pre-planning?) even the staff members and parents with primary-aged children from my school did not seem frantic. ⭐ The junior and intermediate teachers in attendance from my school were pleased that their students (mostly) demonstrated responsibility by arriving at check-in points on time. ⭐ More than half of my intermediate students skipped the Red Maple awards ceremony to purchase snacks, ⛅but that was their choice and it did not negatively impact the day.

Track and Field

Thank you Ms. Daley, Mrs. Commisso, and Ms. Keberer for organizing a wonderful Track and Field Day at our school. 

I could write an entire blog post just on track and field. For some students, this is the best day of the year. This is a chance for them to shine, for their abilities to be prioritized and celebrated. For other students, this is a day they dread. Some actually even skip school to avoid participating. Then there are the tears and meltdowns as students struggle with competition and not getting what they want. Thank you to all the staff members, especially Mrs. Paterson, for being there for the students and patiently helping those who were dis-regulated to try and calm down. 

Even though I didn't have fond memories of track and field from when I was a child (as I wasn't very athletic at all), I think it is a hands-on (or feet-on?) method of getting active. Maybe next year, I can get more involved with mentally preparing students for the possible disappointments this day might bring and re-framing their thoughts to focus on personal bests instead of ribbons (although everyone gets a ribbon of some sort at the end). Maybe we can talk with students who were unhappy with the day to let them offer choices (that don't necessarily involve them completely opting out) so that it can be a good day for even more students.

What's Next?

Stay tuned for the Silver Birch Quiz Bowl, Red Maple Marketing Campaign, CHFI/KISS.FM radio trip, Media AQ Reunion, and ETFO ICT for Women Conference, all in the next two weeks!