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!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh! You never cease to amaze me. Talk about a busy week. I'd have been happy to manage one of those activities in a week. I couldn't help but notice how many stars there were - things seem to have gone really well. The full-building cooperation that goes into something like your STEAM night leaves me in awe - what a huge undertaking. The understanding of your community demonstrated in having translation be an integral part of your planning and not just an add-on really struck me!

    As for the two-sided sword that is track and field, at one of the schools I taught at, the expectation is that everyone will do 1 field and 1 track event. Beyond that, it is your choice - enjoy the day outside with your friends, run/do as many events as you can - whatever works for you. I like to make sure, ahead of time, that my grade 4's know what to wear, and what to expect. If I could, I'd have homeroom teachers call parents to explain what's happening, and that water, a hat, sunscreen, shorts and running shoes are kind if key (weather dependent). Crowd sourcing decent shoes is also a good idea. I have seen fast kids, who could have won races, fall behind because they're running in skinny jeans and flipflops, either due to forgetting, or not having the right equipment. When I've taught in a have/have not dichotomy, it's really important to level the athletic playing field as much as possible.