Monday, December 16, 2013

Helpful Politicians

Today's blog post title does not refer to the way we integrated the Rob Ford saga into our intermediate division discussion on values.

Today celebrates how three politicians (two municipal, one provincial) helped our Grade 4-5 students with our language and social studies inquiry.

Our current TLCP (teaching learning critical pathway) is all about how to help our students research and summarize in their own words. The junior and intermediate division chose to integrate this pathway with the new social studies curriculum and our language expectations. The new social studies curriculum is exciting, but it is sometimes challenging to locate age-appropriate resources for our students to use. I am collaboratively planning and teaching social studies with our Grade 4-5 teacher for this unit, and so I offered to contact our federal, provincial, and municipal representatives to get their opinions. Below is the text of an email I sent.

My name is Diana Maliszewski and I am the teacher-librarian at Agnes Macphail P.S. in the Toronto District School Board. I am writing on behalf of Lisa Daley, a Grade 4-5 classroom teacher, and her students. We are working together on a joint inquiry project for social studies.

The guiding question for the Grade 4s is "How suitable is it for the pandas to be in Toronto and Calgary?"
The guiding question for the Grade 5s is "Why were different levels of government involved in bringing the pandas to Canada?
The guiding question for the teachers is "How do we teach students to synthesize information from a variety of sources without plagiarizing?"

The new Ministry of Education social studies curriculum encourages connections to current events and issues, as well as integrated, cross-curricular learning. This is why we'd like to use you as a resource on this topic. We plan on sharing your email response with our students so that they can quote or paraphrase you when answering their guiding questions. Would you, or someone in your office, be able to answer the following question?

How do you feel about the pandas currently staying at the Toronto Zoo? How was your level of government involved in this event?

Thank you in advance for any response you can offer us. The students will be very excited to hear from you!

I sent this email out on November 29, 2013 and I was amazed at the response I received.

The very same day, November 29, Bas Balkissoon, the M.P.P. from Scarborough Rouge-River, sent a reply!

On December 10, Chin Lee, the Councillor for Ward 41 sent a lengthy answer, providing pros and cons!

On December 13, Raymond Cho, the Councillor for Ward 42 arranged for Heather House, the manager of education for the Toronto Zoo, to give a detailed response to our query!

(I should mention that the MP from the school's area did send us an email on December 2, saying that she and her staff would work on this, but we haven't heard her answer as yet.)

It's easy to poke fingers at politicians and find fault with them, but I'm a firm believer in appreciating help when we receive it. These politicians were under no obligation to answer. Our students aren't even of voting age yet! However, these elected representatives (councillors and MPP) took our request for information seriously and took time out of their busy schedules to answer or arrange answers for us. It takes a village to raise (and educate) a child, and I want to thank Mr. Balkissoon, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Cho for contributing to the education of the students at my school.

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