Byrne Creek Community SD#41 Burnaby

I. General Information

School Name: Byrne Creek Community

School District: SD#41 Burnaby

Inquiry Team Members: Lisa Parsonson:
Jennifer Delvecchio:
Jolene Carlsen:
Brenda Papapanagiotou:
Jennifer Araujo:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Not applicable

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, STEM / STEAM, Transitions

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can the school library focus on being a responsive, welcoming, nurturing and kind space for all while enticing learning?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Inquiry Project Summary

Scanning: “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” (bel hooks)

During the pandemic we have all been feeling quite disconnected, yet still many students – especially our newest ones – seek out the library; why this place? How can the school library focus on being a responsive, welcoming, nurturing and kind space for all while enticing learning?

After interviewing and observing students in the library, we are curious about this evolving role. We wonder if weaving aspects of a Reggio inspired early childhood program – one that encourages purposeful play – will offer an interactive and provocative environment(s) that can be thoughtfully woven into a secondary library setting. Would these seemingly random playful engagements strengthen our connections and perhaps even encourage a more holistic understanding of learning and the library learning commons?

Focus: Byrne Creek Community School is a secondary school with one of the most linguistically diverse populations in Canada. During the pandemic, we have felt quite disconnected and often anxious. How can a high school library help students feel safe and more connected to each other and their community?

As a former elementary teacher, I wondered if some of the approaches used in many early childhood classrooms, such as play-based learning and learning provocations, could be adapted for a high school library setting. These approaches align with many of the OECD principles and the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning, where learning is social, experiential and connected deeply to our emotions.

My hope for this inquiry is to create opportunities for all our students to feel welcome, connected and safe. I also wish to nudge our perceptions about what happens in a library – its purpose and role in a community school.

Hunch: Interesting aesthetically pleasing materials and tools engage us, make us ask questions, and invite interactions. During the pandemic, there were less opportunities for students to connect and collaborate with each other and learn in natural and communal ways. Often students were using social media to connect with the world. I believe that offering some provocations and play-based activities, such as board games & puzzles help, students engage and connect more in in person.

New Professional Learning: Although familiar with the concepts used in the Reggio Emilia approach, I was uncertain about how to bring this into a communal high school setting as a new experience. To help, I reached out to colleagues – both in and out of the district – to find ideas and tips to inspire and engage our students. I also used interviewed students both as a way to inform my practice and to find ideas that could work for them. I also read In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia (Ann Pelo, 2005) and Story Workshop: New Possibilities for Young Writers by Susan Harris MacKay, and participated in the Kath Murdoch sessions offered by NOIIE and the district’s TRC series featuring Jo Chrona, Dr. Sara Davidson & Dr. Dustin Louie.

Taking Action: We set up and introduced a variety of collaborative provocations around the library space and changed them regularly based on the response from students. Some provocations, such as the VR glasses, Buddha Board and the open books, were located at the check out desk. These items inspired conversations and questions between me and the students. I often got to know students through discussing and sharing these materials and tools. It also offered a safe entry for students – many of whom are recent immigrants and refugees – to connect with us. Other provocations are scattered throughout the space on community tables and vertical wall spaces. These activities often seemed to attract students who wanted to play a quick game or perhaps colour quietly. As the year progressed, students began requesting different materials and activities. We noticed more and more that many new ELL leaners and students from our protected classrooms spend regular amounts of time here with friends, playing with the games and materials. They are laughing, playing and connecting with friends.

Besides materials, we also wanted to invite local community members into the library. Welcoming outside community members into our library, could be an important way for all of us to feel connected. In May, we were able to invite our local kindergarten students into the library. They wanted to understand what happens in a high school library. We set up a variety of centres similar to what the high school students enjoy. Their presence in the school created an instant response amongst the high school students. They stopped and smiled. They asked questions. They reached out. Teachers also noticed and asked how they could be involved. The kindergarten students were able to visit twice before year end. We are planning regular meetings next year.

Checking: When I scan the library, I see students playing chess, working on a puzzle, teaching each other quicker ways to solve a Rubik’s puzzle or working on a podcast. Since introducing provocations into the library, students have an expanded view of what happens in a school library. Classrooms are now asking to come in and spend time playing board games. More teachers are requesting different materials (sound equipment, knitting/crochet materials, Cricut…) in our collaborations. Students are teaching each other new games and sharing tips.

At the end of the year, I asked students to describe our library and asked them why they chose to come here. All students could identify 2 adults who believed that they would be successful. They also expressed gratitude for being in the library. I also asked the kindergarten students about how their understanding of a library had changed. Their answers were very different. They all wanted to return and had some strong ideas on what they would like to learn next.

Reflections/Advice: Bringing in early childhood provocations and play-based activities into our learning commons has been a wonderful experience.
What worked well:

  • Having a variety of materials located throughout the space allowed different options for students.
  • Bringing in young student visitors into the library.
  • Challenges:
    • The pandemic limited our ability to bring in outside visitors into the space.
    • Creating provocations that are both engaging and yet approachable can be challenging.
  •  Next Steps:
    • Kindergarten students will be back in the fall for regular visits.
    • We hope to begin working with some high school teachers and students who are interested in more formal collaborations.
    • I hope that the Kindergarten see high schools as a safe and welcoming space, where they feel welcome.
    • We hope to expand some of our making and games activities, and perhaps bring in community members to help teach some more complex games.