School Name: James Kennedy Elementary School
School District: SD#35 Langley
Inquiry Team Members:Ann Pimentel: firstname.lastname@example.org; Jake Main: email@example.com; Andrea Liske: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Language Arts – Literacy, Physical & Health Education
Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Differentiated instruction, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, STEM / STEAM, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Collaborative innovation with children with special needs can develop a richer sense of inclusion for all.
Scanning: The scanning phase, we inquired with the targeted JK Kids Company group (a small group of Special Needs students who are a part of a Life Skills group) what we as a community can do to explore and inquire. Many of the students were excited about the ideas of cooking and making things for themselves and others. I noticed throughout the year a development of a thoughtful and reflective spirit for all the children. It was amazing. Children that had sensory aversions to certain foods were taking risk and eating new food together! It was evident that through problem solving and critical thinking they sparked each other’s curiosities and built community in the process. The Principles of Learning continue to be integrated into our inquiry. We have two First Nations’ children within our group and there has been times were our Aboriginal Worker has join us during our gatherings. The principle that was richly embedded into our program was that learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational. The hands on experience our students engaged with made a rich learning experience for them and us!
Focus: Exploring the students’ curiosities was important for us. We believe that through this all we actually came out of the experience with more questions like: How can we collaboratively all our children to innovate to solve problems (ie accessibility issues, etc)? How can a child’s voice about shaping their learning promote their interest and intrigue for learning?
Hunch: Our hunch was that when the exploration and inquiry were integrated into a learning program that problem solving and critical thinking skills would flourish. As well, the thought that through collaborative innovation would allow these vulnerable students to flourish within a richer sense of community. We believe that when educators see the long-term benefits of providing children platforms for collaborative innovation there will be an opportunity for others in our community to celebrate and also explore their own creativity.
New Professional Learning: The learning was great this year. This year there was a lot of exploration on food sharing, social building opportunities and innovation. I really enjoyed focusing on taking time to listen to others. I learned that social games were a powerful tool for building social skills. At the beginning of the year, I asked the group how many played board games at home with their families, only 2 out 12 said they did. I realised that we needed to provide for these vulnerable pupils a place where they could develop their social skills and feel cared for… which I believed we did. As colleagues, we collaborated a lot on how to support our vulnerable students. Our collaboration highlighted the importance being reflective together.
Taking Action: “Genuine inquiry needs space to take risks, make mistakes, and try again- and again.” We made a lot of mistakes and we took a lot of risks. Overall it was a powerful learning experience. One strategy that was powerful was asking the students on how they would like to shape their learning, which was exciting. There were times were that strategy of trying to implement ‘everything’ made it very difficult. There was a student who wanted to lead our group on how to make a ‘Sushi Bowl’, he has given me the list of ingredients. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I had made an error on a couple of ingredients. Yet, the young boy had a great mindset and was open to accommodating the error. His mother speaks about it in her blog: http://innovativelearningdesigns.ca/wordpress/?p=2136
Checking: Have we done enough to make a difference? I realise that throughout this year the most valuable reflection I had have on our experience is connection. Our vulnerable children struggle with connection and many of them come from homes that are disconnected. Our group allows for connection. One tangible way that is evident of our inquiry is the attendance of one boy in particular. This boy had terrible attendance. He would miss a lot of school. When he joined our group we realised that his attendance increased… especially on the days we would run our group! This is powerful evidence of the ‘difference’ our inquiry made.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that connection through inclusion and innovation is powerful. When we allowed the students to innovate and take on leadership opportunities within a group this facilitates a stronger depth of belief in oneself and allowed us all to strengthens community with each other. We would like to explore how we can integrate more opportunities to explore nature as well as literally ‘dig in’ to our school garden more. Our advice to other schools is that allowing students to connect with each other through allowing for them to innovate and inquiry can deeply enrich any school community!