School Name: Lakewood Elementary School
School District: SD#62 Sooke
Inquiry Team Members: Cherise Bouvier: email@example.com
Christy Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyndsay Katz: email@example.com
Ceilidh Deichmann: 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, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics / Numeracy, Science
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Social and emotional learning, STEM / STEAM
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Exploring Student Passion Projects
Scanning: The inquiry team has created a survey for students, asking questions that include: Do learners have the opportunity to express themselves in a variety of ways? Do learners, regardless of their age, have the chance to teach someone else, and to make a contribution to the community as a whole? Can learners answer the question: “Where are you going with your learning?” Can they describe in their own words what they are learning – and why this important? Do learners feel their teachers know their individual strengths and interests and/or understand what they find difficult or challenging? Are all learners stretched through demanding, engaging and challenging work? Is the prior knowledge that learners bring to the setting respected and valued?
Focus: Last year, several teachers tried passion projects and wanted to explore this teaching method more. Critical thinking is an important skill, and passion projects are a great way for students to be able to develop and practice these skills. How students respond to a challenge is key to their future success. This project was able to shed some light on how each individual student deals with challenges and created an opportunity for self-reflection regarding how to move through and past challenges.
Hunch: We felt that teachers tend to have a discomfort with turning over learning to the students. This project has allowed us to explore letting students take the lead in their learning, by allowing them to choose topics that are of interest to them. These projects also helped push teachers and parents to let students make/try something new, while allowing mistake making to be a normal part of the process. We feel that this type of teaching is well supported by the new curriculum and current trend toward Project-Based Learning, and was worth exploring as a group as it felt too overwhelming to tackle as individual teachers. It also felt worthwhile to tackle as a group, as these Project-Based type learning experiences can be hard to make time for when placed beside all of the different curriculum that needs to be covered in a year; because of all of the differentiation, they can feel daunting in terms assessment.
New Professional Learning:
-We explored the book “The Power of Inquiry” by Kath Murdoch.
-Points of Inquiry (BCTLA)
-Release Time (we were supported by our District with three afternoons of release time)
-Support Person — We were grateful to have the support and leadership of our Curriculum Support person to help guide us through the teacher inquiry process
-Created resources and strategies for getting students to develop and track their projects (we developed a handout that students filled out as they progressed through their projects)
-Developed a weekly check-in process for teachers and explored some digital tools including a Google Classroom and Drive, specifically for passion projects
-Implemented a parent volunteer sign up process using “Sign up Genius” — a new tool for us as a teaching team
-Required students to present at the end of each of their projects (allowed the space to collect learning evidence so that the projects can effectively be used for assessment)
-Hands-off strategy (we were careful to watch ourselves and coach parent volunteers to let students steer the process and allow students to make reasonable mistakes)
-Use of space: We used 4 different spaces (2 classrooms, the library, and a kitchen area) for students to spread out and work in), and students sometimes worked outside as well
-Use of library schedule: Library time was scheduled in a way that allowed for a large chunk of time to be available, essentially combining or scheduling all of the grade 4 classes back to back
-Use of technology: We were able to schedule the use of technology so that we had an almost 1:3 ratio of tech (iPad and ChromeBooks) to students
-Use of Teacher Librarian as resource (hub of organization/space/resources, extra person to space out students, extra person expertise/interest wise)
-Collaboration (working together makes these projects doable, otherwise students are going in too many directions at one time for one teacher to manage)
-Specific lessons were taught when a general need was identified (Google Slides, Google Drive organization, project idea formation…)
-Students are stating this project as a highlight of their year (This has come unprompted from teachers when they are asking students about the best part of the year. This makes us feel that students are emotionally attached to their projects and that they have enjoyed this type of learning process. Our students were always engaged!)
-Students feel like they were able to take charge of their own learning for a portion of each week
-Students were able to form relationships with teachers other than their own
-Students were able to connect with and expand their peer groups (option was available for them to work with other students)
-Students inspired other students when presenting their final projects
-Teaching team feels like our efforts to put in place organizational/accountability elements for students improved over time — templates, reporting out, and tracking (what did I do today, what is my plan for tomorrow). We were able to achieve this through the release time that we got by participating in this inquiry team and by having weekly accountability meetings as a teaching team.
-Start teaching the points of inquiry to the students at the beginning of the year, as well as Google apps that students use for presenting and organizing their learning
-Be cautious to balance student written requirements and reflections, in order to not quash creativity and joy for their projects
-Plan for teachers to have joint prep times so that Passion Project planning can take place more easily
-Have students present to the entire student group to help spark inspiration and creativity in others
-With Covid-19 restrictions in mind, move Passion Projects into digital environment (Google Classroom, lessons on Google Meet), as these projects are worth keeping in the school program for students
-Continue to develop planning and accountability tools for students
-Get together as a team of educators to make this happen — it is too hard to do on your own as there are too many different interests and types of projects that students want to do (the more teachers, the more variety of expertise offered to students)
-Parent volunteers are great, but our hunch about letting go of the learning is true for them too. Remember to coach parents about the goals of letting students explore on their own, and that most mistakes are good for the learning process — we encouraged parents to think of themselves as safety coaches
-Just give it a try. It can feel too big to start sometimes but it is a memorable experience for students and it is worthwhile. It won’t necessarily be perfect at the beginning, but it will evolve and grow. Teachers need to explore and experiment too, in order to hone in to what works best for them.
-Plan gradually to increase resources based on student interest such as 3D pens, microbits, technology, baking supplies, sewing machines and plan for the space to store these resources
-Develop ways to track student projects to help make sure that they are on track and are following a plan (balance ability to drop a project and start a new one with the need to learn to stick with things even if they are hard), tracking tools need to work for each individual teacher (shared Google document?)
-Develop a list of interests and passions at the beginning of the year, so students have something to guide them when they are ready for their next project