CGS Professional Development Blog

Girl Meets World by Alora Popow and Sarrah Johnstone

Posted on April 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Girl Meets World

Girls’ Leadership Institute Conference

Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA

February 27-March 1st, 2017

By: Sarrah Johnstone and Alora Popow


Girl Meets World is a conference offered by the Girls’ Leadership Institute in the west and east coast of the United States twice annually. The Girls Leadership Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose research is headed by Rachel Simmons, the woman who wrote Odd Girl Out and Curse of the Good Girl (with another book on the horizon that will most likely be available in March 2018). Rachel is co-founder of the institute with her colleague, Simone Marean, who developed the curriculum that is based off of Simmons’ research. Their curriculum is designed to support and educate teachers, coaches, those in health care-related fields, and other professionals who work with middle-school-aged girls in building their capacity and understanding of relationships.


We traveled to Stanford University to immerse ourselves in “girl world”, and were in awe of the presenters from the first moment. Not only are they both professional, and extremely knowledgeable on the topic, they are also genuine, approachable and engaging. The delivery was direct, interesting and focused on multiple modes as we took notes, had lectures, were part of role plays (sometimes in front of an audience), played games (this sounds much easier than it is, at times) and even taught our own lessons to a group of twenty other participants.  The approach is to immerse us in the material in the same way that they encourage middle school girls to do. In this way the learning was hands-on, messy, engaging, real. It was a method that asked you to use personal experiences as a foundation for your understanding of relationship, and as such the conference itself was personal.


Content was primarily focused on much of what Simmons shares in her book, Curse of the Good Girl. The curriculum was designed around much of this content and also asks the participants to exercise their “relationship” muscle in a way that we exercise all of our muscles. A key element of this training is recognizing that girls do not just inherently KNOW how to be in relationships and that they must practice, especially in times of conflict or when there are challenges in their relationships.


Effortless perfection, a theory and practice that many humans exhibit in their daily lives was a particular concept that had us thinking. Reference was made towards a “stress olympics” where there is a social competition, especially among females, to do more without making it look as though you are putting effort into doing more. As a large factor affecting the mental, emotional, and social health of girls, specifically being that of rumination; having a thought that you have not expressed to another person, or a feeling that you have kept inside, is a trigger for anxiety and further stress. By using a method of “I statements” we can say how we feel, when we feel it, to create a script through communicating effectively, in hopes of curtailing the rumination, competition, and cultivating acceptance of self and others.


The curriculum is designed to “…equip adolescent girls […] to meet the world with integrity, self-awareness, and personal authority. The program teaches a set of communication and conflict resolution skills that girls can put to effective, immediate use in all of their relationships (Simmons & Marean, 2010)”. Specifically, Marean led us in a number of scenarios where we role played with other conference members on our own scripts where we have had conflict in our lives, and challenged us to work through the material (much of which was challenging work, as well as often hilarious).


Some of the resources that Rachel and Simone noted or promoted during the conference are:


Peggy Orenstein: many of us have already delved into the world of Orenstein’s commentary in her books Girls and Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter. A resource about this author, her most recent book, and talking to girls about pleasure can be found here:






Teaching Mindset Mathematics by Shauna Pascoe

Posted on March 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

In January I took a trip to the San Francisco area to attend the Teaching Mindset Mathematics workshop with Jo Boaler and YouCubed at Stanford University.  The big ideas behind Jo Boaler’s work center on the importance of fostering a growth mindset in students, and empowering all students to engage in challenging, open mathematical thinking that values struggle, depth and creative representations of ideas. Her work is rooted in neuroscience and the understanding that making mistakes, and struggling, create stronger synapses in the brain. Research was presented to support the belief that mindsets change learning, “what you believe and how you feel changes how you learn”.  High achieving girls, in particular, who embrace a growth mindset are one of the demographic groups that benefits the most from the idea that everyone is a math person and everyone can grow in their ability to think and visualize and solve mathematical problems.  We also learned that ideas of giftedness hurt learning, especially the learning of the typical high-achievers, and that parents’ anxiety about math affects their children’s growth in that area. The focus of Mindset Mathematics values visual, creative approaches to problem solving and number fluency in addition to symbolic representations.  I was encouraged while attending this workshop because CGS students already understand the value of a growth mindset, and are learning in an environment that values collaboration, risk taking, and struggle in learning.

For more information about Jo Boaler’s work, visit:


Adrian Wolfleg – Glenbow Facilitator and Elder by Zoey Graff (Additional notes from Allan Gallant)

Posted on February 22, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Glenbow Museum- Indigenous Studies

On January 27, Calgary Girls’ School faculty attended a powerful session at the Glenbow Museum, led by facilitator Adrian Wolfleg. This session included a blanket ceremony that walked participants through the complex history of Indigenous people in Canada. Through the facilitation, Adrian shared stories about growing up as an Indigenous person in Canada that revealed uncomfortable truths and universal struggles.  A guided gallery walk concluded the professional development at the Glenbow and included curriculum connections, personal stories and further exploration of history. The histories shared were both the commonly told and understood history of Canada and the Americas, and the darker history of Canada’s Indigenous people and their relationship with explorers and settlers.

“I really connected with the idea that all across the world, and across history, we have looked at the same stars. We just connect the dots differently. We see them in different ways. This revealed something about worldview that I feel would also resonate with our students.”

“The symbolism of the butterfly and the tadpole was powerful. I like the idea of using this symbolism in our classrooms to introduce or deepen understandings around metaphor and visual literacy.”

“Adrian Wolfleg provided an authentic and candid storytelling of this life and the First Nations experience.”

“The things that stood out were the things they don’t report, or talk about. It made me think about how much I don’t know. And that I will have to teach it.”

“Really seeing how closely related our own student work was to the work of Kelly Mellings and the partnership with USAY [see exhibit description below] was fascinating.”

Adrian Wolfleg – Glenbow Facilitator and Elder

Adrian has been a First Nations Educator at the Glenbow Museum for the past three years but his history with Glenbow goes all the way back to his time as a volunteer docent in 1989. His background as a History Major as well as service with the military and a strong link to arts organizations means he is the perfect fit for sharing stories in almost every area of the Glenbow!  His work as an educator in the Niitsitapiisini Gallery is layered with family connections.  His mother, grandmother, and aunts are all pictured in the gallery as well as objects and plants that he has used throughout his life.  For Adrian, this makes the space more like “home” than a gallery in a museum.


Glenbow Museum

Glenbow’s collection contains Indigenous artifacts from around the world, with a particular and unique focus on material from Treaty 7 territory and Blackfoot culture.

From teaching about traditional ways of life to examining the issues around reconciliation, Glenbow’s programs are designed to ensure that authentic and factual knowledge is being transferred. Blackfoot programs are delivered by Elders and traditional knowledge keepers.

Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life

The Blackfoot Gallery

Journey through the Blackfoot Gallery: Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life. Uncover the traditions, values, and history of these people, who have lived for thousands of years in the northwestern plains of Alberta and Montana. The Blackfoot share their story through interactive displays and artifacts and through a circular narrative path that guides visitors through Nitsitapii history. This innovative permanent gallery, the culmination of 10 years of collaboration and friendship, showcases artifacts from Glenbow’s world-renowned Blackfoot collections.


Power in Pictures: The Outside Circle and the Impact of the Graphic Novel

June 18, 2016 – Spring 2017

Organized by Glenbow; curated by Joanne Schmidt

The Power in Pictures exhibition is the culmination of a series of workshops hosted at Glenbow that connected young people from USAY (Urban Society of Aboriginal Youth) with artist Kelly Mellings, illustrator of the graphic novel The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson. Participants were encouraged to tap into their own creativity to create comics and masks that drew on their own experiences to tell a story. A shared and collaborative space, the gallery features the art created by the USAY participants hung alongside that of the artist who taught them, creating a space where complex feelings and experiences are explored through art.


The Calgary Girls’ School continues to explore and reflect on Indigenous studies, the legacies of residential schools and the idea that we are all Treaty people. Following are some questions that were introduced during the professional development for consideration.


  • In the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls for Action, it is noted that, “every Canadian child must understand this dark history.” How do you understand the legacy of residential schools? Why does the report recommend this action? How do you feel about addressing this action through education?
  • What are your thoughts about land claims and treaties? Does it matter to our teaching that a successful land claim by a First Nation may have negative effects on our material well-being?
  • What does it mean that, “We are all Treaty people?” How do you embody this in your professional and personal lives?
  • What do we all need to move forward confidently in the spirit of reconciliation?
  • This morning we spent time learning about Canada’s complex history. What do you love to share with students about Canada’s history? What are you uncomfortable sharing about Canada’s history?
  • What celebrations do you see, as a result of the session this morning? There has been significant focus on residential schools and the difficult legacy of cultural genocide. What else do you want to bring into your classroom (or have brought into your classroom) that brings light and hope to this story?


From Allan:

Hey teams,

I was struck by the simple yet powerful way Adrian Wolfleg used geometric shapes to represent the issues stemming from residential schools. I have attached a crude facsimile of those shapes for you to use at your discretion with your students. If you need a quick refresher just drop me a line and I will help you out.  Sorry it is in three files; blame it on me being a luddite.


FNMI Shapes 1[1] FNMI Shapes 2[2] FNMI Shapes 3[2]

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