CGS Professional Development Blog

IO STEM Professional Learning Series, November 17, 2016 by Anna Burke

Posted on November 30, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Galileo Educational Network

Science as Modelling

How can we use models to represent our current understanding of the world? Models are created based on ongoing collection of data. Models are actually fictitious, but allow us to understand the way the world works. Must test models as they are created to see if they are good representations. à How do we do this in our classroom? à How can we incorporate more models in the classroom? à What are some ways to “mathematize” the learning being done?

Complex Networks

What are the ways we are intentionally connecting individuals within our learning community? How can I intentionally strengthen the network in my own classroom? In my school?

Learning is held relationally, as we interact with one another.

Teaching with Models and Simulations (ex. butterfly simulation of foraging behaviours)

Representational practices at work in a simulation:

  1. Design à the act of intention and discovery is actually an act of design
  2. Mathematization à taking ‘steps’ gets you thinking about the pattern of movement
  3. Debugging à learning to figure out to solve problems as they come up


Elements of effective mathematical and computational modelling:

  • Variables (had to decide on how many ‘steps’ to take, what a ‘step’ was, flower types- tall vs short, energy available at each flower, proboscis length)
  • Loops (repeating the same action over and over again)
  • Conditionals (getting feedback from partner and then acting on that)
  • Algorithms (trying to improve survival actions over time)
  • Agent-Aggregate relationships (thinking in the moment but also overall survival)


Models are communicative devices:

  • Identify the strengths/weaknesses of a model
  • Generalize models of individual situations to models that work in a variety of situations
  • Compare models to see what can or cannot be represented and what insights can emerge

 Connecting Coding to Simulations

Develop your own models. Create agents and give them rules.

Can be used by teachers to demo & by students to manipulate.

  • Code YYC = simulation of a Bird-Butterfly-Flower Ecosystem

You can play with the simulation and change the variables (ex. number of butterflies, length of proboscis, change colours of butterflies or flowers, camouflage for some, add birds). Can “watch a butterfly and graph its energy”.


When doing coding with students:

  • Act the code out first.
  • Formulize the rules together using symbolic language.
  • Play with/build a simulation to model it à Coding on devices. Option to edit the code and note changes, and even graph it. What patterns do we see? The commands in NetLogo are much more intuitive than traditional coding programs. (rt: right turn, lt: left turn, fd: forward direction, !=: not equal to, etc.)

Effective Design for Intellectual Engagement

  • Worthwhile work is authentic to the discipline.
  • Teachers need to clearly articulate their learning intentions (target).
  • Designs involve gathering information of current understanding to help identify the impact of the learning opportunity that you are providing (Formative Assessments) à when is a good time to check in?
  • Teachers intentionally get access to student’s thinking along the way. (ex. LEGO graphs are a very public and visible way. Also consider more private/independent ways.)
  • Feedback is provided such that students know what their next steps are.





“Soaring With Knowledge” ATA FNMI Council by Zoey Graf, Eva Erfle, Jenelee Jones, Lori Olson, and Kim Larson

Posted on November 21, 2016 at 10:41 am

“Soaring with Knowledge” – ATA – First Nations, Metis and Inuit Education Council

November 17 – 18, 2016


Truth and ReconciliAction

Reconciliation, Inspire, Teach, Grow, Truth


Truth and Reconciliation – Moving Forward

Keynote: Charlene Bearhead

Education Lead at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Charlene has proven her support and loyalty to furthering Aboriginal Education in Canada through her work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Project of Heart. She served as a teacher, principal, Education Director and Superintendent of Education both on and off reserve in Alberta and Manitoba before working with POH and the TRC.


“I don’t know things. I think things.” Charlene invited Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators to join her in exploring not only what to teach in regards to the truth of our shared history with Indigenous people in Canada, but more importantly how to teach it. Utilizing Indigenous methods of teaching, such as growing and honouring each child’s gifts is beneficial for all Canadian children.


Case studies shared during the keynote included Imagine a Canada, a nation-wide contest held where students are invited to imagine their ideal Canada through the lens of reconciliation. One of the recognized contestants from last year was a 16 year old that shared his vision of an Alberta where Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, families and individuals come together yearly to celebrate and renew their historical treaty with each other.


National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – University of Manitoba


Imagine a Canada


Residential Schools Overview


Conference Highlights:


ATA – Walking Together: Education for Reconciliation

Presenters: Hali Heavy Shield and Walking Together Consultants

In June 2016, key stakeholders in Alberta signed the Joint Commitment to Action to ensure that all students learn about the histories, cultures and the world views of First Nations, Metis and the Inuit peoples. The ATA has begun to fulfill its commitment by establishing the Walking Together: Education for Reconciliation Professional Learning Project.


The relevant draft change to the Teacher Qualifications Standards:

Applying Foundational Knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit

(5) A teacher develops and applies foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit for the benefit of all students, and supports the process of reconciliation, by:

(a)  understanding the historical, social, economic and political implications of:

  • treaties and agreements with First Nations;
  • agreements with Métis;
  • the legacy of residential schools; and
  • the impacts of intergenerational trauma on learner development;

(b)  using the programs of study to provide opportunities for all students to develop a knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit; and

(c)  supporting the learning experiences of all students by using resources that accurately reflect and demonstrate the strength and diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.


Completing a needs assessment in this session, educators, parents, community members, administrators and other members of the public shared their varied celebrations, experiences, wonders and concerns with each other and the Walking Together leaders.


Shared Resources:


The Secret Path: Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire


A Knock on the Door: An Essential History of Residential Schools


They Came for the Children: Canada, Aboriginal Peoples and Residential Schools


Building Relationships in the Classroom Using Visual Showcase for Digital Art and Photography

Presenter: Chantel Nicolet

Chantel is a teacher raised in Falher, Alberta. After teaching all over the world, she has returned to raise her young family in rural northern Alberta. She realized, while teaching at the school, that there was a massive division between Francophone students, local farm kids and Indigenous students. Over the past three years the local school has been consciously making an effort to bridge the gap between these diverse backgrounds through education, cultural celebrations and art.  It is a community that is forever changed!  Chantel took attendees through a digital photography journey on what those changes looked like and why Falher is a small example of what urgently needs to happen in more communities.


The Blanket Exercise

Presenters: Etienna Moostoos-Lafferty and Cheryl Devin

The Blanket Exercise covers over 500 years of history in a one and a half hour participatory workshop. Blanket Exercise participants take on the roles of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Standing on blankets that represent the land, they walk through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. They are directed by facilitators representing a narrator and the European colonizers. By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy. The exercise is followed by a talking circle to discuss the experience as a group.


The Way We Say

Presenter: Aaron Paquette

Artist and author, Aaron Paquette engaged attendees in an interactive workshop designed to investigate stories, storytelling and how we look at each other. Exploring alternative methods of building story and structure, Aaron’s workshop was inspiring and relevant to working with students of all ages. His own creativity, hope and resilience were on full display. Lightfinder, a novel he wrote, was written over 45 days, and used as an example for divergent thinking and practices.


Aaron Paquette



Additional Recommended Resources:


In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation


I Am Not a Number



Structured Word Inquiry – Week Long Professional Development by Jenelee Jones Laura Cox

Posted on November 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

For the week of June 20 – June 24, we were very fortunate to be able to attend a week of professional development, led by Peter Bowers, in San Mateo, California. We participated in a week long intensive program focused on helping teachers build their capacity in the area of Structured Word Inquiry. Over the week we came to understand that Structured Word Inquiry takes much of what we have historically been taught about the understanding of the English language, the teaching of vocabulary and spelling, and turns all of that on its head.

We started our week by discussing some misconceptions of the English language, a major one being that spelling is only representative of sound. One thing we found so valuable from this learning was the understanding we formed of how and why spelling is representative of meaning. The activities we participated in, and will be able to apply in our classrooms, were based in making meaning, understanding the etymology and morphology of the English language and finding connections between words. The idea of what a word wall or independent dictionary will look like for our students has been drastically changed by all of this learning.

The ‘Big Ideas’ that guide Structured Word Inquiry are:
1. English spelling is a highly ordered system for representing meaning that can be investigated and understood through scientific inquiry.
2. Scientific inquiry seeks the most elegant solution – the deepest structure that accounts for the greatest number of cases.
3. Analysis of word structure for meaning cues can be used to deepen understanding of concepts and terms in any subject area.

We also learned about the importance of scientifically inquiring into words as we come to understand what they mean and how they can be used. Just as in any process of inquiry, it is important to have questions about what we believe to be true and dedicate time to finding answers to our questions, revising our understanding based on what we learn and then asking more questions. The openness of SWI and the authenticity of the discussions of words and language that happened during this week of learning made it evident to us that the practice of inquiring into language is something that will truly will create meaningful and deep understanding of language for our students.

The Structured Word Inquiry Process is as follows:
1. Catch kids with an interesting spelling question. E.g., Why is t in sign? Are rabbits known for or and how do you know?
2. Present a set of words that make the relevant pattern more salient.
3. Help kids hypothesize a solution from carefully presented evidence.
4. Guide testing of students’ hypotheses and identify the precise pattern.
5. Practice the identified pattern with appropriate tools.

Something we love about SWI is how seamlessly it will integrate into all discipline areas. The process that is used to inquire into content words (or any words that learners feel excited about) will allow students to dive even deeper into an inquiry, as they will have a stronger understanding as a result of their knowledge of important terminology.

We are very excited that Peter Bowers will be coming to work with our students and staff in October of the 2016-2017 school year. We are looking forward to sharing our learning with the staff and having Peter here to help us in setting off on the journey of helping learners at the Calgary Girls School find meaning in language.

If you are interested in learning more about Structured Word Inquiry, please feel free to browse Peter’s website:

Compassion • Integrity • Collaboration • Courage • Curiosity • Democracy • Diversity