Three ways to spice up classroom activities

Spring is here, and with the changing seasons come some fresh ideas for your class.

Bringing the Global Community into the Classroom

CLC is about more than connecting your students to the local community. The global community offers a vital learning experience for inspiring young minds. The Centre for Global Education based in Edmonton, Alta., is one way for CLCs to expand their reach.

Each month, TCGE hosts a series of video conferences on everything thing from body systems, to the environment, and global issues. The conferences are opportunity for CLCs to interact with experts around the world without having to step outside their classrooms. What can your class do?

Canada’s History Contest

Visualizing information is a more versatile way to encourage writing and reading in the classroom for students struggling with literacy skills. Canada’s History blog Kayak is inviting students to participate in a contest to illustrate a piece of Canadian history through graphic novel or illustrated story.

Submissions are from 500 to 1200 words and include illustrations or historical photos. The contest is open to students between the ages of seven and 14.

The top two writers in French and English will receive a $1000 RESP and a trip to Ottawa. Twenty-five stories will be selected in English and French for publication as a special digital edition of Kayak and published on their website. The contest deadline is June 14, 2014.

Finding Voices in Education for Change

Even teachers need a little inspiration. Check out these five TED talks on bringing change into the classroom.

Quebec City students teach seniors “Internet 101”

The Internet can be a great tool for learning in more ways than one – and not just for our students. At Quebec High School, the students are the ones doing the teaching: the teens’ technical savvy is being put to good use through a series of workshops offered to local seniors on how to navigate the online world. Throughout February and March, nearly 30 students at the Quebec City school have been teaching seniors how to use an iPad, watch videos on YouTube, use Facebook and shop online. The workshops are held within the framework of a leadership class taught by Fannie Marsh at the school, and are the result of a partnership between QHS, Voice of English-speaking Quebec and the Community Learning Centre at the school. Here’s how they work:

  •  The workshops take place (in English) in the high school’s library.
  • They are student-led: at every workshop, two to three students make a short presentation, then put what they are teaching into use.
  • The seniors (usually numbering between five and 10) practice on the school’s computers and iPads.
  • Heather McRae, from Voice of English-speaking Quebec, supervises the workshops.

Marsh told the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph that the initiative empowered the students, especially since they were teaching to people older than themselves. And, although the workshops initially were only planned for February, they were so well-received by both the students and seniors that they extended the series to March. The last workshop, called “Internet 101,” takes place on March 26. To read the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, click here (subscription required).

Centennial Regional High School creates thrift shop for students in need of clothing

Everyone has that one memory of being in school and dealing with the embarrassment of ruined clothes. Falling in mud, spilling food or ripping a hole in the seat of your pants are all situations no one wants to be put in, especially in a school environment where you’re surrounded by peers all day.

To help students get through unfortunate clothing mishaps, Elaine Roberge, who teaches English, History, and POP (Personal Orientation Project) at Centennial Regional High School in Longueuil, QC, put together a thrift shop for students.

The idea came to Elaine last year: “A student ripped her jeans while at school. She came to me looking for help,” she recalls. “I went over to our front office to ask if we had anything we could lend her and there was nothing. I was redirected to the counselling department, who gave me some old, ill-fitting gym shorts.”

Realizing the options weren’t appealing, Elaine lent the student a pair of workout pants she luckily had in her bag. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great of there was somewhere students could go to get clothing if something of this nature happens?’”

The thrift shop isn’t officially open for business yet, but donations are already pouring in. “We simply put an announcement in our school newsletter and on our school Facebook page,” explains Elaine. “People were donating so much that we temporarily had to put a stop to it because our space isn’t big enough!”

Already, the store has provided students with winter jackets, boots, and clothing items of need. “Everything in the thrift store will be for sale to any student in the building, at a reasonable or low cost. However, a student who is in need, due to an emergency or due to a particular home situation, will be given items for free.”

Elaine received a small grant to purchase equipment such as poles, hangers, and brackets. Also in the thrift shop space is a wall covered with pegboards, so hooks for handbags and shelving for shoes are coming in the near future. There are also plans to build a prom section filled with affordable prom attire, as that time of year quickly approaches.

Students and teachers alike are getting involved in many ways, from mural painting to advertising campaigns, store management to volunteer staff. “The response has been extremely positive!” says Elaine. “Both teachers and students love the idea, not to mention the students we are helping are pleased and feel more comfortable accepting help from familiar faces in a familiar environment.”

There are plans for the thrift shop’s grand opening event so be sure to check out the blog in the near future to see those pictures!

Reliving the Past: Teaching Tips from “Canada’s History” Magazine

There’s more to learning history than memorization. The February/March edition of Canada’s History has some ideas for engaging students and encouraging critical thinking.

The latest issue features an alternative history to health care in Canada. Writer Christopher Moore wonders what would have happened if, in 1962, Tommy Douglas failed to introduce health care into Saskatchewan because of striking doctors. Students can think about how different events created this outcome and its far-reaching consequences.

Assessment is just as important as instruction. Canada’s History features a series of webinars from history teachers  across Canada. The host, Rachel Collishaw, has implemented a new model in her own class. As a way to assess her students at the end of the year, students research a primary historical document and then take part in an interview about its content and what they have learned.

Enthusiastic history teachers and students unite through the new Government of Canada History Awards. The national essay writing competition asks students to answer one of five questions about Canadian history. Up to 225 prizes of $1,000 will be awarded to the top essays.

Finally, what better way to remember history than by reliving it as a Canadian historical figure? Governor General finalist Dean Stevens has some tips on getting students to re-enact the past .

Teacher Feature: Erin Ross, Metis Beach School

When teacher Erin Ross began her genocide LES, over half of her Secondary 3-4-5 students didn’t know what “genocide” was. “When we were brainstorming at the beginning and I asked them a question about the holocaust, I had 9 out of 14 that had no idea what I was talking about,” she says.

Erin is an ELA/History/ERC teacher at Metis Beach School in Métis-sur-Mer, located on the Gaspé Peninsula. Through her genocide LES, her students have learned about the Holocaust and other major genocides such as Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia.

Erin is working with fellow teacher Stephen Kohner from Baie Comeau High School. One of the projects they are collaborating on is a literary magazine which will feature articles and other literary media created by their students. The magazine is set to be completed March 17, 2014.

“The reason I decided to speak about it [genocide] is that Stephen Kohner, the other teacher working on the project, and I, saw there’s nothing in our curriculum, even on the subject of the Holocaust. It isn’t mandatory in our curriculum,” Erin explained. They have also received assistance from school Principal Brett Mitchell, who recently attended the Freedom Writers Foundation in California.

With fewer survivors every year, Erin saw it as an opportunity to address an important issue that would have her students “sit up and think, and be challenged a little bit.” Her students have watched documentaries and films, read articles and even had a videoconference with Holocaust survivor Renée Firestone. Two additional videoconferences are scheduled: one with a Bosnian/Rwandan Canadian peacekeeper and the second with a survivor of the Bosnian genocide.

The response from students has been incredible. “I think I received the greatest compliment,” says Erin. “I had a student that said she thought it was the most important thing I had taught her. I’ve been teaching her since Sec 1 and she’s now in Sec 4.”

This same student went to Encounters Canada several weeks ago and met the peacekeeper that will be part of the future videoconference with the class. “She came to me and said, ‘I want to book this guy for our class.’ And I said, ‘of course!’”

Before starting the LES, Erin sent emails to parents and received great responses, saying they appreciated her covering genocide and her work with the students. Erin also said students are even teaching their parents a few things about genocide.

As for resources, Erin has been making use of the teacher’s guide materials from The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, movies such as Schindler’s List and The Killing Fields, kid-friendly websites and books from the Scholastic teacher store. “[The students] are a little bit amazed. I had one student say, “Whoa, I didn’t know you could watch a movie and actually learn something.”

Education news round-up: February

Recognizing outstanding principals

Being a principal can be tricky: it’s a balancing act of instructional leadership, administrative functions and human resources. In recognition of this tough job that fewer people want, the Globe and Mail profiled five principals from public-funded schools in Canada. The five were among those honoured by The Learning Partnership yesterday. Although the problems they face are particular to their school areas, some challenges are universal. For example: Sheldon Barry of Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s says he has to motivate students just to stay in school. The high demand for skilled labour in Newfoundland means students see unfilled, well-paying jobs in their area that don’t require higher education.  Meanwhile, Andrea McAuley of R.H. Cornish Public School, Port Perry, Ont. explained that her school must now prepare students for a workforce they are unfamiliar with.

The newspaper is soliciting comments on what makes a good principal. We want to know your thoughts on the matter. What qualities do you see in great principals? How have they made a difference in your life?

First Nations to get more control over education

Under the retooled First Nations control of First Nations education act, to be tabled in the coming months, First Nations would have “control of their education system and enables the incorporation of language and culture programming in the curriculum,” the CBC reported this month.

Computer science ed in Canada

To mark the occasion of the second annual Canadian Computing Education Day, CanCompEd created a crowd-sourced video project which showed how schools and students across Canada are using computer science to innovative ends.

Intergenerational project celebrates Heart Month and Valentine’s Day


The month of February lent itself to an opportunity to connect Valentine’s Day with Heart Month, the fundraising campaign organized by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

To celebrate these two events, the Grosse-Ile and Entry Island CLC organized workshops where students crafted valentines and put messages inside promoting healthy hearts. The valentines were then delivered to local seniors, along with a heart-friendly cookie or muffin baked by the students. Each student-made valentine promoted the Heart and Stroke Foundation website, where seniors could find more healthy heart tips and recipes.

Grosse-Ile and Entry Island CLC coordinator Nancy Clark said someone approached her about hosting a card-making activity.

“I noticed the mini-grants–Heart Month in February and Valentine’s Day–so it was an idea to do the card making and healthy heart combined,” she said.

Participants included 15 students, plus their parents or grandparents. On Entry Island, the activity was a full day event. In Grosse-Ile, two sessions were held, along with a baking session. Participants also were involved in delivering the valentines and treats to seniors.

“Here, we are still a very traditional community,” said Nancy Clark. “We’re kind of stuck in the middle of modern and traditional life. For students to have a sense of belonging and understanding of who they are and their community, they have to have that connection with the elderly folk.”




CLC Teachers on Edmodo

edmodoFacebook turns 10!  But we are aware that facebook, the social network revolution and schools don’t really mix easily.

An alternative for teachers has been created called Edmodo.  It’s a free and safe way for students and teachers to connect and collaborate.250px-Edmodo_logo.svg

I’ve created a CLC Teacher Institute space that I hope will allow us to share resources and tips.  Teachers can join the group by clicking


CLC Teacher Institute- Framing Films

Reflecting on the way I learn, it becomes evident that I am an auditory and visual learner.  This probably explains why I love using movies to explain Community Learning Centres (CLC) and Community Based Learning projects.

At the CLC Teacher Institute I used 3 short films to frame the 2 days.  Interested in an encore presentation?

Short Introduction to CLCs

Project Based Learning: Explained

Collective Impact: A New Model For Social Change

Funding Community Based or Service Learning Projects

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that finding funding to support community based learning projects is not a priority role of the teacher.   Part of sharing roles and responsibilities is collaborating with your CLC coordinator or community partners to pull together financial and human resources to meet the needs of the school and community.

Often a big question to ask is, what is the goal of the project?  Often, school boards and community partners share those goals and CBSL projects can contribute to achieving them.  Is it student perseverance?  Is it a safe and healthy community?

Over the last few years, we have observed a niche role of some CLC coordinator is sitting on local and regional Table de Concertation.  The efforts of the coordinator ensures the school is literally at the table when discussions take place about how funds supporting healthy communities (Québec en Forme) or student perseverance (Réunir Réussir (R2) should be used.   In the spirit of collective impact, speak to your CLC coordinator about the type of services available and what criteria must be met.  Services could dovetail with community based learning or service learning projects.

All that being said.  Below are some examples of grants that a school can easily apply for;