Friday, May 31, 2013

KRSS Garden Update

Well Prince George has shown signs of summer and our KRSS Garden is one of them! Student`s have been excited to get their plants transplanted into containers in the garden, and also to start some new seeds in the garden itself too. We have planted cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, potatoes, onlins, carrots and strawberries, The students have also constructed an automated watering system.

As the students have dug their hands into science they`ve been forced to think critically at every turn. First, student`s each put together a care plan for their plants. Next, student`s designed an experiment they can run in the garden. They are all responsible for their plants, making their own decisions about watering, containers, location in the garden, soil and fertilizers, and how to measure the plants overall health. In some ways the project has been made even more interesting by the fact that we won`t be able to harvest from each of our plants. Students have been forced to ask themselves what conditions are necessary to first, keep their plants alive, and secondly encourage their growth.

For me the research process has been particularly exciting, as many students have been able to swap stories and ask questions of friends and family as part of their inquiry. I`d love to see the KRSS Garden become a project that really pulls together the school community and local community as well.  Art Knapps, our local garden store, has been very supportive and we`ve enjoyed working with them. We`ve also been in touch with the Enhanced Forestry Lab at UNBC and hope to get there next year to see their work first hand.

In addition to the science experiments students are running the project has also involved a number of products in their Tech class. So far students have build an 8` by 16` greenhouse and gardening tools. Plans are in the works for storage containers, shelves, benches, expansions to the watering system, plant hangers, and planter boxes.

The project its taken us in a few unexpected directions. Some students who did not have successful plants are now experimenting with composting, and gaining a better understanding of how to compost effectively at the school; other students have brought a passion for sustainability to the project, and have enjoyed the upcycling of 5 gallon buckets and packing pallets in the garden. We saw a great community garden underway at Science World, and are excited to see the Alterrus vertical urban garden as well. 

Are you becoming an increasingly effective communicator?

Isn`t that the question we want to be asking ourselves? Isn`t it  a question we want our students to be asking themselves?

I have been given the opportunity to work with a local group of educators to help design a communication competency continuum that will be a part of BCs new curriculum. Sharon Joerski is the consultant hired by the Ministry who`s been bringing us together and bringing together our ideas regarding communication competency .

So far we have brought a few samples of student work and have been pulling out the major themes and shifts from pre-K to grade 12. Our goal over the next few months is to identify the major elements in communication competency, and illustrate each of them with examples of student work. Once we have improved our definition of the elements of communication we can begin to more clearly describe levels of proficiency in each of the elements.

The model that`s been proposed to us is of a continuum presented in a series of concentric circles, with  elements extending from the inner circle toward the outer rings. A tree metaphor has been suggested too as an appropriate one in that additional ``rings`` can always been added as a learner improves their communication skills. This graphic would describe communication with a number of I can statements. The statements would link to examples of student work as well as resources for classroom teachers.  

As I look at the work my students are doing, and engage in professional conversations like these regarding communication, I feel more strongly then ever that our new curriculum needs to be focused on competencies that will allow today's learners to reach their full potential in tomorrow's workplaces. So as we seek to improve communication in the 21st century I am confident we are on the right track!