School Name: Pineridge Elementary School
School District: SD#52 Prince Rupert
Inquiry Team Members:Danette Russell firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Carter email@example.com
Debra Fabbi firstname.lastname@example.org
Mackenzie Hubbell email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, STEM / STEAM
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? The Kindergarten and Grade 4 class are looking to work together as buddies to focus on how they can build a greater sense of resiliency, empathy and school community through STEM activities.
Scanning: The students were initially very shy to participate in many of the school wide activities. By working on more social activities with their buddies overtime, we hoped it would build on their confidence and increase overall participation in activities both on their own and with their buddies. This involves not just teacher led activities, but also less-structured activities such as break times and after school events. In doing this, students have made numerous comments about seeing their buddies out in the community and tend to spend time with one another outside of the scheduled buddy time during the school day (recess and lunch on the playground).
Focus: We selected this area of focus because we have done buddy reading before, however this activity was somewhat limiting for our students. We wanted to be able to incorporate STEM activities, that would lead to more opportunity to explore and develop healthy social interactions. This was also an opportunity for the younger buddies to learn from the older buddies in terms of seeing other students making mistakes, understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process, and that school is a safe place to learn from them. The older students seem to be more empathetic towards their younger buddies, ensuring that they were active participants in the planned activities. Ex. Gingerbread traps- both buddies designed a plan and then were able to combine their plans, taking ideas from both partners to create one project.
Hunch: The previously mentioned, the experiences with buddy work involved the older students reading with the younger buddies. The older students enjoyed the leadership piece, however some students seemed bored after a period of time as this activity did not seem to cultivate as much social interaction as the STEM activities. The students seemed to get to know one another on a much more personal level. The STEM activities support the social -emotional learning piece, which lends itself to exploring leadership and problem solving skills through hands on learning. Students gain a better understanding of what meaningful contributions look like through their actions, and recognize they can have a positive impact on others.
New Professional Learning: We were able to explore parts of the new curriculum- communication, critical thinking and social responsibility, as well as using the ADST. We would consider using the “I statements” from the competency profiles as a student self assessment. We researched STEM activities and developed ideas, that would work well with both grades, examples of some activities included: hex bug mazes, boat making- sink or float, gingerbread traps, parachutes, skeleton piece scavenger hunt, buddy centers (watching them interact with each other, where there was not a planned outcome).
Taking Action: The team worked strategically to determine the placement of buddies (i.e. not to putting two shy students together or a shy student with a super strong personality).Another consideration was placing students with exceptionalities with another older buddy for extra support and modeling leadership. Thoughtful considerations were made about the types of activities that students would participate in such as high interest, engaging activities, open ended tasks geared to student interests/abilities and activities that could be differentiated.
Checking: Overall, the students were far more engaged and demonstrated growth and understanding with regards to their critical thinking abilities. The STEM activities worked better for the students who needed a lot more movement, as well as those students who struggled with social skills. Students who struggled making connections to their own age peers, really benefited from the leadership roles and buddy activities with students much younger, displaying empathy and compassion towards their buddies (something that may not have been as noticeable in their own classes with their same age peers).
We wonder about the creation of projects, the majority of the time the finished projects went to the younger students. We think that we would alternate which students would get the final product. Both groups of students would learn from this process (not always getting the project to take home). Learning about give and take was a huge part, everyone participated and contributed their ideas to the projects. The older buddies were not able to overshadow the younger buddies, and were encouraged to have the younger buddies share ideas so that everyone contributed equally.
Reflections/Advice: We would look to support and encourage the students to take on more of a leadership role and encourage a more self directed approach in the future.We would also look to use collaboration time, to map out activities and meet as a collective to reflect on the process more regularly.
Advice to offer other schools interested in a similar topic, would be to think carefully about your students participating, consider pairing compatibility, be willing to be flexible, not to overthink the STEM activities and allow students to have more of a voice in terms of activity choices.