*sob* I promised I wouldn’t cry

So it has come to this, we must go. It has been a blast and we have to say there are some things that leave us wondering but we suppose that’s a sign of a good presentation. We’re sorry to go but we hope we have satisfied all our online readers with an honest and diverse taste of what we saw. But the geek squad still exists. Be sure to be on the look out for our next assigment, the national conference for early childhood education which will be held in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Before we completely leave, we would like to say thank you. Thank you to all those who gave us this opportunity and we hope that we have been the team that you had hoped for. Thank you to every speaker who presented us with questions that we hope to find the answers to. Thank you for all those who answered our questions, and to those who weren’t afraid to ask their own. Thank you to all those who participated in making this years congress something that we will remember and have stories to tell far past our normal bedtime.

Effective environmental education- Session E

  For session E, we went to the presetation “Partnerships As Tools for Effective Environmental Education.” This presentation focused on how the outdoors can be your classroom. The Prairie Learning Centre encourages schools to use national parks as their classrooms. They find that when students are out in the wilderness they are more creative and make personal connections to themselves.

Even though it may not seem like it, outdoor field trips cover most criteria for every class. For example, the land has historic stories that the kids would learn about in a textbook. They can visualize the land and see the history right underneath them. Even with just having conversation the kids can have hands on experiences by going to the nation parks in Saskatchewan.

Christie talked about the energy with the children she has worked with. With her students she would ask them to go off on their own for a few minutes and “the energy” they had after they came from their alone time. They were relaxed and calm. It helped the students focus more and feel more connected to the land when their “energy” was tranqual.

The Prairie Learning Centre wants to give children the oppertunity to be apart of something that is out of the norm in their life. Last year, the 9/10 outdoor ed. class had the chance to explore the Grasslands Park.  We learned about the Rattle Snakes environment and about the lands history. To be able to geat out of the classroom and learn in the outdoors was an excitment and refreshing to be learning outdoors. In my opinion students should have the chance to do hands on experiences.

Amy Orth’s Due Date Dilemma ~ Session E ~

I started off day three at Amy Orth’s The Due Date Dilemma.  This was by far the best presentation I have attended this congress.  It made sense, it had a valued point, it discussed the positives and negatives of a Homework Support Center.

This entire program that Outlook High School has been working on for the last three years is amazing. The school and community has come together to support the Thomas Guskey and Jane Bailey theory that low grades more often cause students to withdraw than push further. 

Doug Reeve said in a video we watched that if you ask a student what they learned from an incomplete, they would reply with, “There goes honor role.”  What does that teach you? How to make a sarcastic answer? 

Amy explained what her school was doing in order to help them succeed.  Her school has an assigned location where you can get homework help at noons.  But it is an open and loving space where other students who know they won’t be able to get their work done can come and work.  The teachers are there for support as grades 6 – 12 sit around and get what they need done.

Amy says that students who were assigned to the group but didn’t show up declined by 15%.  Students, who were assigned, showed up, worked but didn’t get finished increases by 10%.  Today, Outlook High School has 4 students out of 350 who don’t show up. 

This is a remarkable step toward a new way of getting students to develop belief in themselves. What Amy’s school has started is a new beginning that schools all over, not just Prairie South, but in all of Saskatchewan should look into.

Writen by:  Jessy Lee Saas

Session F: Effective Learning Environment – Melissa Gogolinski

“The school is the heart of the community.”

As I walked into the crowded room for this session, I stood awkwardly as there were no seats left. This of course was a very uncomfortable situation until a woman came over and gave me a chair. This automatically calmed me down, and I felt at ease because I knew I was in a welcoming environment. Melissa’s presentation successfully discussed the importance of an effective learning environment.

Melissa explained that daylight increases performance in students; however, we should vary the lighting for specific tasks. Each room should have appropriate acoustics so students can hear properly without being distracted.  Comfort is also an important key to learning; how can you focus on the task at hand when you’re sitting in a chair that’s as hard as a rock? Melissa told us that seating should be varied for comfort and that students should get the choice to sit where they want. Personally, I prefer sitting on the floor and in the dark; Melissa’s presentation confirmed that I will indeed get my work done much more effectively when I’m comfortable.

Many interesting ideas were introduced including white board paint. This paint can be applied to all walls in a classroom to make writing space available all around us. To continue further with this idea, Melissa suggested having white board tables so we can express our ideas right in front of us without the use of paper.  It was also suggested that we add wheels to things in the classroom to allow flexibility in spaces. Also, why are we always learning in a classroom? Melissa suggested that we take advantage of the great outdoors and use it as a learning space. We should also pay attention to what teachers want. We should have well equipped lunch rooms, a comfortable staff room, and collaborative administration space.

Her session was interactive and relevant to all people because of the various group discussions. This session motivated me to go and change my school to make it an overall more comfortable place.

Written by Justine Hall

Session F – “Resiliency”

There are youth at risk in every school, in every community.  There are many factors that marginalize the at risk youth including single parent families, poverty, substance abuse, alcoholism, physical and sexual abuse.  So the question remains how do we help these children?  How do we find the solution for a problem that has been called simple deviance or disorder where it may be better understood as pain-based behaviour? 

John MacCormack introduced us to the circle of courage; the circle holds components such as belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.  “I implement the circle of courage into young people’s lives to show them that they need balance in their lives,” said John MacCormack.  There are six main components to resiliency, these are caring and support, high expectations, opportunities for meaningful participation, positive bonds, clear and consistent boundaries, and life skills.  “Students need to know that they are important.”

Mentoring a Gifted Autistic Student

Autism is tricky, especially in the educational world. Because it is a disability that is not always outwardly visible, autistic students face a great deal of difficulty in both the learning, and the social aspect of schools. In Brian Buyden’s presentation during Session E on Tuesday morning we learned from the story of a specific high school student named Shawn who had the opportunity to be a part of an IT company in rural Weyburn through a work experience program at his school. In Shawn’s case, with an outstanding I.Q. of 128 which puts him within the top ranking 5%, he is extremely gifted in technology but lacking in social skills.  Fortunately, Shawn was placed in an environment that allowed him to excel in his areas of interest while being able to learn and grow socially thanks to a small community of people who were patient to get to know him and understand his needs. It is important to remember that people with autism often see the world in profoundly different ways than the majority of us do, because of this it is beneficial if we choose to be understanding of their views and try to fit in with them than it is for us to attempt to have them fit in with us. Autistic students can also be easily distracted from work, yet incredibly focused on one subject, they can be slow to mature and opposed to change, however if you take the time and consideration to work alongside them, mentoring an autistic student can be a very rewarding experience. As Buyden closed with the reflections from himself and his colleagues regarding their four months with Shawn in the work place they all agreed that they were able to learn and grow from the experience just as Shawn was able to learn and grow. In summary, this presentation provided terrific insight on the ways we should relate and work with autistic students and a great message to take away for helping their education in the future.

 

Written by: Amanda Geradts

Session E – Diversity through Indigenous and Multicultural Literature

By Daniel J. Odendaal

 “We are using literature to build empathy, to entertain children, to inform them and so much more.”  So began Dr. Barbara McNeil and Mary Chipanshi began their presentation to show how children need to learn about cultural socialization, and emotional socialization, a process where children and adults learn from one another.

The best way to do this is through deconstruction and by highlighting the reading and visual codes. “We need to spend more time looking at the pictures.” Dr. McNeil said as we began analyzing the story, “Fiddle Dancer,” by Anne Patton and Wilfred Burton.  The story was written in two languages to better highlight the linguistic diversity present in current Saskatchewan.  Noticing a practice in the story we saw an important part of First Nation tradition come alive, storytelling. 

Multicultural literature is important, it creates empowerment for youth as well as being enjoyable.  With both singing and storytelling this presentation came alive to show the audience how wonderful the world of something new can be.