District Education Centre SD#36 Surrey

I. General Information

School Name: District Education Centre

School District: SD#36 Surrey

Inquiry Team Members: Allison Hottie hotti_a@surreyschools.ca
Cheryl Corrick corrick_c@surreyschools.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: kyle_j@surreyschools.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

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

Curricular Areas Addressed: Mathematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Exploring connections to place through Indigenous Storywork

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We used observation, student journals and conversations/interviews with students as they engaged with the Sto:lo and Semiahmoo Mats and stories. We also paid attention to how they described themselves and their learning. For example, our focus student, from our perspective, is emerging in their writing skills, while he sees himself as “knowing everything about reading.” Although this did not become our focus for this year, as we were just experimenting with the potential of the mats, it is guiding our thinking about what to focus on for next year. Our scanning particularly reflected the First Peoples and OECD principles of learning in that it was very student centered. We were interested in their interactions with the places and how their background knowledge affect those interactions. The student’s questions and experiences were what we used to build the learning and we used the opportunities created by the activities to engage in the conversations with the students that informed our decisions about where to go next.

Focus: We were really hoping to see their connections to numeracy grow through connections to place. We also wanted to see how using the Indigenous Storywork framework would affect students’ connection to their learning and their ability to express their own understandings through their stories. Since this was the first spiral of this inquiry, we really just wanted to introduce the mats and stories, build some learning activities around them and encourage the students to think and express their thinking through those connections. We tried several things with the mats/stories this year, and this numeracy focus was on the branches.

Essentially, we wanted to see if the children would have a richer, more meaningful connection to math, when it was connected to story and place.

Hunch: The biggest one was that we believe that one of the biggest obstacles for students in math is the emphasis in schools on abstract forms and the discreet way different concepts are taught (units). We thought that better understanding could be achieved if we allowed children to develop their mathematical identities through connections. These connections were multifaceted: to each other (social), to familiar places (concretely grounded), to stories (emotional) and to broader communities (social).

New Professional Learning:

  • Indigenous Storywork by Jo Ann Archibald – We all read the book and discussed the principles in developing our ongoing plans.
  • We also used Reggio-inspired structures (provocations, place-based connections).
  • It was really important how we also honoured and implemented the identities of each of the adults involved in the project. Each helping teacher and classroom teacher brought a unique perspective and we allowed those perspectives to shape the project and the activities, which led to much richer learning overall. Classroom teachers know their students best, so it was really important that they were able to adapt lessons within the broader plan to best accommodate their individual learners.
  • While we had the curriculum in mind during the project, our actions were driven more by the students than the curriculum. The interesting thing was that there was no problem with meeting the curricular needs, by focusing on what the students were interested in exploring.

Taking Action: This process is best described in the attached Learning Story. Here is an outline of the steps we did for the part of the project that this report is focused on:

Day 1: Introduced the Sto:Lo Sitel story The Mountain Goat People of Cheam and the Sto:Lo map mat. Asked the students about what questions they could ask. Our focus student was very interested and participatory throughout this process: asking questions about the story and the map.

Day 2-5: Math reread of the story and introduced the Semiahmoo mat as well as having the Sto:Lo. Our focus student was sick that day, but jumped right into the activity the following day with mapping and measuring a route on the school property. *This activity was adapted by the classroom teacher from Jess’s original assignment, to meet the students where they were with their understanding of mapping and measurement. Students worked on their own to chart and measure their routes. Our focus student completed his recording of his map route. He was excited about the work and was engaged the entire time.

Day 6: Whole class math conversation connecting the “measuring a route” activity to estimating their park walk. Our focus student contributed many important mathematical ideas to the conversation, including how halves, doubling and multiplication are connected and how that knowledge could be used to estimate the distance. This conversation was incredibly important in bridging between the lesson that the classroom teacher led and the one that Jess was leading. We then went on our park walk, which led to more great conversations about the strategies they had used and why there were differences in their final measurements. Students completed the day by recording their math story of how they had measured their journey. During this time we were able to circulate to ask questions and nudge student thinking. This reflection time was where the most learning and assessment occurred as we had those mini-conversations.

Days 7&8: Students needle felted their own “micro-mats” of their favourite place and wrote their story of that place.

It’s important to note that we (the adults) were also having continuous “check-in” conversations. These were frequent, informal and related to our observations of what was happening with the learners. These conversations guided how the activities progressed, as well as helped us set some longer term goals for next year and beyond.

Checking: We all wished we had more time. As this was the first spiral, and we didn’t get started until late in the year, nothing felt finished. As such, we feel at this point that our “data” is very light. What we feel excited about is the potential we feel we have uncovered with this type of learning. We have so many questions now around culturally responsive curriculum and assessment. We have a new Katzie mat to add to the collection for next year, and hope to start gathering more Semiahmoo and Katzie stories that can be publicly used. We see great potential for developing wholistic learning experiences around place. Now that we have seen what can happen, even with very little time and planning, we are excited to explore a year that is structured around the framework that can unfold more naturally than this year did with the time constraints. We would also like to be able to look at more data, both academic and socio-emotional than we had the chance to collect this year.

Reflections/Advice: Some of this is already articulated in the sections above and it is best shown in the attached Learning Story.

Key points:
– Integrate place-based learning and Indigenous storywork year-long and wholistically
– Explore strategies for Culturally Responsive assessment

Our best advice is to not be intimidated by student-guided learning. Students come to us with so many gifts and knowledge that they can share. The teacher doesn’t have to bear the burden of all knowledge. When we are part of the learning, the learning is richer. There needs to be space for everyone to express their identities. When we allow for that and when we allow for moments of discussion and reflection, the learning is richer AND more effective. When we give everyone something interesting to connect to and talk about, these things will happen more frequently and organically.