Two weeks ago I was one of many judges for the entries in the Heritage Fair, Prairie South School Division Regional Finals. The best sentence of the whole day went to a young adolescent who wrote a lengthy paper about Canada’s best inventions. Writing about poutine and making connections to its relevance to Canada’s future, the student stated, “It’s a damn fine mess!”
Last Thursday evening, much of Moose Jaw was without power as the fire department fought a huge fire near Moose Jaw’s downtown. My daughter and I were at soccer when we saw the flames. Upon our return, we wanted to veg-out and thaw-out in front of the TV. Once home, when the power went off a little before nine, we each lit candles, and, at my daughter’s suggestion, powered up our laptops. My growth-spurt experiencing young carnivore wanted to nuke some cheese for notchoes but was forced to settle for yogurt and an orange, commenting, “Wow Mom, people who had to live without power sure had to do things differently.”
So the power came back on but Jess and I turned the lights out, left the candles going, took off our headphones, made mint hot chocolate, stayed up really late, snuggled in tight and watched a movie, together. We tossed what we didn’t need, and kept what we wanted, a little bit of both the past and the present while making the best kind of connections.
I’m currently writing a literature review for two Univeristy of Regina Education instructors, Dr. Carol Fulton and Dr. Marilyn Miller . The review focuses on how schools build communities. Within the literature, three overarching themes are emerging. Though I’ll let the researchers share all the findings at a later date, I’m keenly interested in one finding, the idea that community development must directly focus on a sense of place. Having a sense of place honours a community’s narratives and shows how those stories affect today’s landscape.
Starting with a sense a place is much like starting with belonging which I believe is the foundation for all growth. I want my students to have a global sense of place, yet at the same time, I want my students to have their own local and their own embodied sense of place. How much of a sense of place is defined at a community level? How much of a student’s sense of place is defined by others, and much is defined by the school?
I was sitting at my desk last night listening to Dean lecture from his from porch, Lisa lecture from New Jersey and every so often, a bird chirping. I liked that one of my classmates was at home when her daughter lost a tooth, I liked that I was able, for the most part, to keep up with the lecture.
I was nervous before class. Sherman Alexie, in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, which, by the way, is my new favourite middle-years novel, says as the voice of his own Dad, “Nervous means you want to play. Scared means you don’t want to play.” (p. 181) But like Alexie’s main character, before class I was texting Lindsay, saying I thought I might toss my cookies.
I was not able to keep up when Lisa screen shared, but I watched, and wrote down where she went and went back and found my way this morning. I hope I’ll be fast enough to be a Google jockey. It’s a great goal!
The language is new, makes me shake my head, and makes me smile. Last class we had to do an ‘about me page,’ so I put that in a post, thinking a page and a post are the same things… then I read Lance’s blog. Ok, now to sort out how to move those around. I tucked Jessy Lee into bed last night and told her I learned about widgets. I told my Mom that the entire class gmailed the prof last night, and that no, that’s not an inappropriate action.
Today, I figured out how to hyperlink. So celebrate with me, come on, this is a joyous event!
Here is an interesting little form about a topic that will likely get me back to the university someday… since you’re stopping by why not fill it out?
The class makes me nervous. I’m slow when going from screen to screen. I’m not always certain where I should be.
I came into this class nervous because I do not process quickly. I also came into the class wanting to learn specific skills, specific literacies. I want to know how to set up connections with other classrooms around the world. I want my students to be able to participate in literature circles with kids from all over the world, I want my students who are doing research to chat with other kids from other places, and, with other students who are researching the same ideas and asking the same questions. Not only do I want to know how to set up these connections, I want to know where to find them, how to monitor then, how to maintain them, how to end them, and how to keep me students safe while using them. I also want to know what other questions I should be asking about creating an on-line community of learners.
My classroom in the fall has computers and a smart board. This is just-in-time learning, and more. I want to be able to communicate with my learners in a way that is close to their own everyday discourse. I sat in class Wednesday and listened to Dean lecture and watched the rolling chat happen on the screen. I do not believe one takes way from the other; in fact, I believe that this layering of learning adds to our teaching, and helps, if used well, focuses students. I will never forget the day an instructor introduced a balloon into a lecture… layers. What do I want from this class? I want to learn as many layers as possible so that I can offer as many layers as possible to my students.
A challenge for me will be to find a space between my belief that blogging has an underlying egocentric base and is not necessarily needed as a personal tool for demonstrating, justifying or highlighting who I am. If you really want to know me, sit on a hill in silence with me, curl up on the end of the bed while I read to Jessy Lee or tag-along in a class with me, that’ll do it.
WOW, or “Wings Over Wascana” Nature Festival, went really well this year. We had snow, but we also had Ozzie, a live Great Horned Owl and a live bat!
WOW is a nature festival for both schools and the public. The festival is designed for anyone interested in investigating Wascana Marsh on their own or through guided tours to learn more about the Wascana wetlands and wildlife. For the last two years I’ve facilitated the owl pellet dissection during the school day. During the school day, 200 students from the Regina area explore owl pellets. Owls digest the soft material (like meat) and the harder materials (like bones fur, feather, teeth) are formed into pellets which owls then regurgitate into pellet before their next meal. Investigating a pellet can answer many questions about an owl’s ecosystem.
I was apprehensive about using Burrowing Owl pellets for this major day of dissection because they are a lot smaller than the larger Great Horned Owl pellets usually used for leading pellet dissection. However, I need not have been worried. The student started to find rocks in their pellets. “Cori, what’s this?” Teachable moments. There were greater direct links to the little owl’s environment and the reasons why our Burrowing Owls are endangered in a Burrowing Owl pellet than in the hugely expensive Great Horned Pellets. We still found skulls and jawbones, so the students still had the “oh cook” and “oh, gross” moments. The sessions were wonderful. But the links for the teachers to take back what we explored were greater, and I was pleased. I hope the festival stays with Burrowing Owl pellets. Having students see, in their hands, the problems of loss of habit due to urbanization, was important. “You mean they are eating rocks ‘cause they live next door to a Wall-Mart?” Better teaching and learning in that tinier regurgitated treasure! – good day. And too busy to take pictures.. though… CBC was there… I’ll try to find some!