There are many new and old faces that make-up the GATE and Science student and teacher population at Louis Riel. Caring relationships within schools convey compassion, understanding and respect. They kicked off the year with a whole school challenge inspired by Wendy Ewald’s Best Part of Me book. The inspiration led to the students showcasing the best parts of themselves, and ultimately the best parts of Louis Riel. Grade 9 GATE student Matthew J. shared that he thought “this was important because it allowed the teachers to see what interests us and how they could use those interests to get a better reading on how to make the learning experience better.”
In Grades 5 – 9, the Best Part of Me project took place in the students’ Career and Technology Foundations (CTF) program. CTF at Louis Riel School encourages students to discover and care for the world in which they live through design-based experiences and explorations. In some schools, CTF takes place in discipline-specific classes like Foods or Construction. At Louis Riel, the CTF program looks different: the teachers design deep inquiry questions for the students to respond to, and students self-select the tools and technologies to use so they can best respond to the challenge, which happens both in core subject classes and scheduled CTF time. For example, students used classical visual arts (painting, drawing and sculpture) to represent their best aspects of themselves. Mark M. in Grade 6 used sculpture and his interest in anatomy to sculpt a muscle, representing his strength in his learning. Matthew J. Grade 9 GATE, used 3D technologies to design and print a cake-knife. This was used to cut a cake he baked. Matthew enjoyed the Best Part of Me “because it allowed the teachers to see what students were interested in and teachers could use these interests to make learning experiences better”.
This approach is student driven and aims to have students connect tasks and challenges to everyday life, which helps them gain an understanding of their world and academics and the interconnectedness of CTF amongst core subject areas. Grade 5/6 teacher Shauna Murphy noted the collaborative relationship between CTF teachers and core subject teachers as key to the success of the Louis Riel approach: “As a classroom teacher, this was a successful task as students were engaged in a meaningful way and I was able to work along with the CTF teachers as they supported students in this endeavor. It was a fantastic start to this year, as it quickly made students become comfortable with focusing on a task in multiple approaches.”
Right at the beginning of the school year, the Best Part of Me project allowed students to share their “internal qualities and not necessarily the external qualities,” as grade 9 student Owen C. put it. In having “a choice to do what you wanted,” Owen articulated that it allowed him to understand more about “what the CTF lab had to offer.” Students had access to a wide variety of materials, tools, and supplies in the CTF lab, giving them an orientation to the tools and technologies available to them. It also allowed teachers to get to know the students, uncovering their students’ passions while create something truly meaningful.
In our primary and middle school Science and GATE programs, students were introduced to the Best Part of Me in the homeroom classrooms. During the process, you could sense that students felt more connected to the school and one another, engaging in the task in a high collaborative manner. The project ended with a whole school celebration of learning where all the best parts of Louis Riel’s K-9 students were on display for parents.