Sunday, 31 March 2019

It's the Last Term of the School Year - What Should Parents Expect?

Each school is a unique organism comprised of the collective struggles, history and hopes of the community it serves. There's no sweeping 'fix' for education, just as there is no curriculum that will work for all students. The only 'fix' is getting knee-deep in the humanity of it all!"
Dr. Amy Fast

Following several months writing hiatus (since December/18), I have found my way back to the Principal's Blog, a place where I can share some thoughts about learning and the school in greater detail on particular topics :)  I am happy to be back!

Also happy to be entering the final term of what has certainly been a very busy and productive school year at EHS - our third full year of operation. As we finished with our second set of parent/teacher/student Conferences just before Spring Break began, I was delighted to listen to the stories from the students and parents as they spoke of the tremendous learning experiences they shared, bringing so many of their moments of learning together in projects and exemplars that delighted, baffled and amazed - and occasionally all at the same time! As we enter the final three months of this school year, there are many things on our horizon, so I thought I would take this opportunity to sketch a bit of a road map of what EHS families might expect in the coming 12 weeks.

Calgary Campus/Open Minds Full Week Off Campus Learning for Grades 1/2 students
Beginning April 1/19, all of our Grade 1/2 students will be participating in numerous (8) week-long, off-campus learning experiences, all associated with concepts and ideas associated with the idea of 'play' and explored through multiple curricular lenses. Because of our flexible Pod structure, students have been able to participate in whichever CC/OM experience they are most interested in - the Glenbow Museum, Telus Spark Science Centre, the Calgary Zoo or VIVO across both the Kindness and Joy Pods. Mrs. Ross will be taking the first group to the Glenbow this first week back, and Mrs. Sigurdson will be taking the first group to the Telus Centre. While these groups are away, the remaining students in the Pods will continue with their daily learning endeavours under the guidance of the teachers remaining at the school (in this case, Mrs. Bowles, Mr. Kelly and Ms. Chang in the Joy Pod). The students have been working very hard to prepare for their time at each learning centre and we can't wait to hear all about their adventures and new understandings!

WP Puppeteers
Our final Artist in Residency experience for this school year will take place in early May for 12 days when WP Puppeteers comes to visit and spend time with us bringing our stories, our documentaries and our imaginings to life using puppets! We are in the process of planning for this exciting experience and look forward to seeing the students thrive as they continue to develop their extensive artistic skills and attitudes!

Our 4 Kindergarten classes will bring our swimming lessons for this school year to a close towards the end of April when they participate in their postponed swimming lessons at Shouldice Pool. Swimming is always a delightful experience for the students and the Kindies are very much looking forward to getting wet and learning to swim with style!

Wonder Time, Science Olympics, Peace Assemblies
Wonder Time offers students opportunities to pursue interesting opportunities using design thinking they would not necessarily attain in their classroom learning. It happens Friday mornings - at least, the Friday mornings when we don't have Peace Assemblies or other events scheduled!  Mr. Simmons has taken the lead with the Science Olympics while Ms. Huebner is away on leave and the students will be meeting every Monday & Wednesday over the lunch hours as they prepare for their busy and exciting event in mid-May! Peace Assemblies continue, with our next event planned for Friday, April 12/19, presented by the Hope Pod.

Guest Author Sheree Fitch
Poet and author Sheree Fitch will be the Keynote Speaker at this year's Calgary Young Writers' Conference on April 27/19 and she is visiting our students on April 26th! We are the only school she will be visiting in Calgary this year so we are delighted to be able to welcome her warmth and humour to our school! There are 15 students from grade 4 who will be attending the Conference at Robert Thirst High School - an amazing experience every single year for students!

Grade 4 Students Transitioning to TMC & Farewell
Our Grade 4 students begin their transition to TMC and Grade 5 this month with a morning visit on April 11/19. This will be followed by a few more visits and shared events, including the Grade 4 Farewell Adventure day with Tuscany Grade 4 students - watch for details to come! Parents will be invited to TMC at a later date with their children to become familiar with changes in programming and how to prepare for Grade 5 as well. And our Diversity Team will be meeting with TMC's Resource and Leadership Team to ensure smooth transitions for all our students, including those with complex learning needs. It's going to be a busy three months for sure!

Welcome to Kindergarten Open House May 2, 2019
Information has been sent to families with children entering Kindergarten in the fall regarding our Welcome to Kindergarten Open House for parents on May 4/19. Children are not invited to this event since it is definitely adult-oriented, but there will be a day in June for all the new Kindergarten students to attend school briefly and begin to become aware of the realities of their new world of learning!

Student-Led Learning Walk, May/19
Our final Student-Led Learning Walk will take place in May - we are finalizing the date very soon and will let families know ASAP.  All our SLLW events are intended to invite parents to see the progression of learning across the Kindergarten - Grade 4 span of learning and students are always so excited to share their understandings and projects with each other as well as their families!

Celebration Of Learning - the Year in Video!
Students have been building skills in their Learners' Toolkits of reading, writing, mathematical reasoning and applying critical thinking skills all through the school year. Included in this learning has been developing skills with videotaping, script writing, framing photos, etc. under the expert tutelage of Mr. Kelly as well as our enormously talented teaching staff. On June 20/19 we will be hosting our Video Celebration of Learning and look forward to welcoming you to the school to celebrate your child's amazing abilities to pull everything together into an outstanding representation of their skills and knowledge - and this includes all students from Kindergarten to Grade 4!

Summer Sports Day & Steve Harmer, Peaceful Magician
Our Summer Sports Day is scheduled for June 25th and we are hoping for a gorgeous, sunshine-filled day where we can try out all our summer sports equipment (including, perhaps, our new Big Blue Blocks!). On the last day of school, Wednesday, June 26/19, we have a half day and, as always, will welcome Magician Steve Harmer to send us on our way with messages of kindness, peace and summer joy!

Anticipated School Changes to Watch For...
Over the next three months, we will be working to make more effective use of Power School within our elementary school to better inform parents about what students are studying, learning about and trying to develop skills around as the school year unfolds. This is in anticipation of significant changes to how we assess and report using Power School in the fall, the long-anticipated changes to curriculum and the resultant changes that will come about to the report card in 2020-21. 

For the remainder of this school year, we are very happy to announce Mrs. Chrissy McLean has returned from maternity leave to teach Gr. 3/4 in the Hope Pod, and that Mrs. Kate Shepherd will continue to teach in the Kindness Pod through to the end of the school year, replacing Mrs. Blenkhorn who is on an extended leave. Ms. Asra Khan, we are happy to report, will be staying on through to the end of the school year in Kindergarten as well, since Mrs. Mask's maternity leave has been extended through to the end of June. We are sad to say farewell to Mr. Kai (Beaudette-Hodsman) and want to say a huge THANK YOU! to him for all the amazing work he accomplished with the students in the Hope Pod while Mrs. McLean was home with her family. We wish him well and hope we will continue to see him often at EHS!

As we move into the planning stages for the next school year, there are many, many unknowns. No budgets or timelines have been finalized yet, having been placed on hold once the election was called. Once we have a budget and timeline, we will hopefully begin planning in earnest for next school year. As families know, this year we introduced the Pod system to support students and are very pleased to report that our individual student achievement indicators show significant improvement in student learning in reading and math as a result of this structure. However, there have been some glitches and concerns that we are hoping to address as we begin to plan for fall. Class lists are started to be created until mid-June when many variables have been sorted through, and families will not know whose class a student has been assigned to until Friday, August 30/19 after 1:00 pm so we are best able to accommodate all incoming and outgoing students accurately and fairly. We do not know yet which teachers will be staying and which will make moves to different schools or teaching assignments, but we do know we will be welcoming back Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Day and Mrs. Mask from maternity leaves for September, and Mrs. Coulson and Mrs. Kallie Campbell sometime later in the school year.  That's about the best we can do at this point, to make guesses for the fall :)

It is going to be a busy and productive three months and I now those months will fly by as quickly as the winter months did! We hope to see our families volunteering in the school and at our many events over the coming months.  Wishing everyone a lovely spring!

Lorraine Kinsman