It’s onto year two planning for Beyond the Classroom. I remain convinced that this is the way Education should go, and in the utopian world of education, my goal would be to find a way to make the whole year one big Beyond the Classroom experience. Unfortunately, until I purchase a school bus, and get my bus driver licence, I’m likely out of luck for that plan! Note to would be entrepreneurs, while I’m not sure of the costs to run a bus company, I will say that 90% of our Beyond the Classroom Budget goes to those yellow buses!
In lieu of starting my own bus company, here are some plans for the year ahead.
- Each Beyond the Classroom experience will have a final artifact PLUS a one or two page essay type summary – this will allow us to continually work on the main areas we feel are important for students to learn. essay rubric for final artifact
- At the end of the essay, or on a separate piece of paper – students include – My WOW moment from this experience was…. And here’s why. This will allow us to see what the highlight was for them, and encourage them to reflect on ways they are engaged in their learning. Better for it to NOT be on padlet because this will allow for more individual ideas.
- Right from September, we want to do mini lessons on the main learning strategies/skills we want students to develop. We’ll likely do one a week – eg. Day 1 is intro of the skill through an exemplar from one of us, as well as identifying what makes the writing good. Day 2 is working on a sample demonstrating the skill together Day 3 is having students try on their own (writing on demand) Day 4 – moderated mark with the students Day 5 – Discussion on how to continue to develop the skill.
The different mini lessons are
a. Fact vs Fact/Analysis – e.g Something as simple as The Provincial Government spends 39 % of its budget (or 51.4 billion) on health care
Vs. The Provincial Government spends 39% of its budget (or 51.4 billion) on health care. For those who complain that not enough money goes into health care, this stat would seem to put that into question. The largest part of the Provincial Budget goes to healthcare. If we spend more on health care, then we need to take money away from somewhere else. It’s a tricky balancing game.
We could write a mini paragraph on the two sides.
c. Political cartoons – show some cartoons but have an analytical point by way of explanation.
d. Engagement in learning – find wonders that interest them. The whole point of life long learning is to identify where your interests lie, and then to learn more about them. Unfortunately, many students have trouble identifying these interests, or to quote them … “Meh.”
e. How to properly research – we found last year that if students were researching how free ttc could improve traffic congestion, they would type that topic into google and if they weren’t able to find an article specifically about that, they would give up. Rigor and perseverance in researching are essential.
f. How to find primary sources – we made a real point of focusing on primary sources last year but again, too often, students would give up if they didn’t find a primary source right away. Many of the primary sources also didn’t reply back but that’s a whole other issue.
The goal this year is to expand to two classes having the Beyond the Classroom Experience (our Gr. 6/7 and 7/8 class). With that in mind, we are going to try to do the initial mini lessons with both classes together. Tricky thing is that we’re literally looking at a solid month of this for an hour each day. I think it’s worthwhile but we’re going to figure out with the two teachers involved if we can devote the time to it. And it could definitely be done separately. I just think it’s easier if we combine classes.
Other thing to decide on is the schedule of experiences
At this point, it looks as follows
September (3rd week) Zoo – both classes final artifact to likely be photo essay
October – Government – both classes? One day Queen’s Park and one day Nathan Phillips Square – one day meeting with local MPP and City Councillor, one or two days at library for research
November – Mansfield
Other months dependent on which organizations commit.
Globe and Mail is in process for our Gr. 7/8 class– either Oct or Jan. Focus on writing process around idea development and editing; deadline pressure, ethics of advertising, changes in the newspaper industry over the years. Final artifact to hopefully be creation of a school newspaper including advertising budget and circulation.
Pan Am Sports Centre in process – focus on the legacy of the Pan Am games; budgeting of sport; government involvement in sport and physical fitness
Urban planning with Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmat in process – focus on steps necessary to plan a successful city and community with the final artifact hopefully being a 3d city creation.
Home Depot, Canadian Forces, MLSE, Apple/Google – waiting for next steps
We also have been fortunate to link up with the Deputy Minister of Education – Bruce Rodrigues. After seeing our Beyond the Classroom play in May that documented year one’s experiences, Mr. Rodrigues promised to take a more in depth look at our work. True to his word, he has just done that. At a meeting in July, Mr. Rodrigues let us know he is working on setting up three different Beyond the Classroom opportunities for us. Research Assistants to help us with our work, and a possible twining with a Reserve school are also in the works from his side.
While we can never be sure which direction our program will take us (part of the beauty and unknown of inquiry based learning), we continue to be confident that it is making a difference in the education and development of our students. All experiences are based in curriculum with an emphasis on the language and math curriculum. In addition, the Catholic Graduate Expectations are being met through explicit work and discussion in helping our students become more Responsible Citizens; Effective Communicators; Creative, Reflective, and Holistic thinkers; and Life Long Learners.
To say that we’re excited with the potential is an understatement. Stay tuned in the months ahead, and welcome to August.