Bear Valley School SD#82 Coast Mountains

I. General Information

School Name: Bear Valley School

School District: SD#82 Coast Mountains

Inquiry Team Members: Cari Hopkins:, Alissa Korberg:, Terri Scott:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? This inquiry investigates the merits of using cross-grade storytelling projects to help students make gains in many areas of the curriculum.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: Our school had noticed some students in all grades in our school were absent a large number of days due to illness and other reasons. This was impacting their learning and sometimes even the learning of their classmates. A survey of students revealed that most did connect with at least two people in the school, however their relationships were strained when friends were often absent.

Focus: The staff was hoping to find fun, engaging ways to achieve curricular and social goals in an efficient way so we could, in essence, make up for lost learning opportunities. We wanted to provide academic support for those students who had been absent, while also providing social connections throughout the school.

Hunch: We had tried cross-grade, multi-class groupings in the past and had positive results, especially socially. We wondered if we could use storytelling as a way for students to work together to demonstrate their learning in a variety of content areas. We also were curious about the possibilities of linking our oldest and youngest learners together with a joint project. Was there a way for learners at both ends of the learning spectrum to come together and learn from one another?

New Professional Learning: We focused our new learning on studies of inclusive practice. We were interested in work by Faye Brownlie and Leyton Schnellert. They stressed the importance of collaboration by staff to set the stage for inclusive practices in schools. We also liked the work by Jennifer Katz on the Four Block Model of UDL. It stressed the need to work on social-emotional learning as a foundational piece when creating inclusive classrooms.

Taking Action: We decided to create two distinct video storytelling projects. One involved students from Kindergarten to Grade 4. They were tasked with creating a story about salmon in our environment near our school. They had been learning about salmon during the year and this was an opportunity to do some intensive research with cross-grade peers into salmon’s role in our environment and our lives. The group decided to create a Claymation video titled “Salmon, Our Keystone Species.” Students worked as a whole group to plan the scenes and the main storyline. They worked in small, multi-age groups to research and write scripts for specific scenes. They created their own background, models, and shot their own scenes. The completed movie was shared with Department of Fisheries and Oceans staff at a year end celebration of learning. Click here to view our completed claymation video:

Photo description: Bear Valley students from grades Kindergarten to 4 working collaboratively on a Claymation video (photo credit: Terri Scott and Alissa Korberg)

The second project had a focus on local history and involved the Kindergarten/Grade 1 class and the Grade 10/11/12 class. They worked together to learn three stories from our town’s past. The Kindergarten/Grade 1 students practiced the stories with their older peers until they were ready to tell it on their own. The Grade 10/11/12 students recorded those stories and then listened carefully to the way the stories were interpreted by the younger students. The Grade 10/11/12 students then recreated their younger peers’ words in the form of a video acted out in locations around the town of Stewart. These videos were shared with the Kindergarten/Grade 1 students who were delighted to see their words come to life.

Photo description: Bear Valley students from grades Kindergarten to 12 working collaboratively on a history project (photo credit: Terri Scott and Alissa Korberg)

Checking: Students in both video storytelling projects enjoyed the process of making their videos. Students were fully engaged and worked incredibly hard to ensure that their video told their story the way they wanted it. They supported each other and looked forward to their time together each day. This closeness was true even for students with a large age gap (up to 13 years with the history project). Few children missed days of school while we worked on these projects. They didn’t want to let their group down.

The projects were student led, with teachers playing a supporting role. Students had to make decisions together and this necessitated students really listening to each other. Students had an equal voice, even when one was 13 years younger than another. Learning to compromise and collaborate was wonderful for their learning process and for establishing stronger friendships.

The quality of learning demonstrated across several subject areas was impressive for both projects. These projects allowed teachers to evaluate learning across the curriculum, meet with individual students while they worked, observe interactions, and collaborate with other teachers. We were able to achieve more with less instructional time, less stress, and with less trouble motivating learners.

Reflections/Advice: This inquiry highlighted the need for us, as teachers, to collaborate more. Working together helped us to design projects that capitalized on our strengths as a school. We were able to achieve more with less time and effort by sharing the load. The students benefitted from being able to work together in cross-grade groups, sharing their strengths and celebrating their differences. The K/1 & Grade 10/11/12 grouping was very surprising because they had more in common than we had suspected. The older students also made some surprising discoveries about how younger children learn new concepts. These discoveries gave older students insights into their own learning processes. In the future, we would like to explore ways that we could do multi-grade groupings (especially high school-elementary) in more subject areas.