Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness

I came across a book this past week that looks like it will have some great strategies and activities for integrating social-emotional learning and mindfulness into my future classroom and teaching practice. It’s called Everyday SEL In Elementary School: Integrating Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness Into Your Classroom, by Carla Tantillo Philibert. It looks like a great resource, and I have decided to share weekly posts documenting and discussing each chapter and my learning process along the way.

Tantillo Philibert, C.. (2017). Everyday SEL in elementary school: Integrating social-emotional learning and mindfulness into your classroom. London: Routledge.

“If you were to bump into a former student at the grocery store, would you rather she remembered the details of the academic content you delivered, or that she had the social and emotional skills to be a productive, present, compassionate citizen of the world?”

(Tantillo Philibert, C., 2017, p. 1)

Of course teachers want their students to become productive members of society. But some may argue that these skills should be taught at home, that teachers have enough academic content to teach, and that they don’t have the time to dedicate to students’ social and emotional learning. The reality is, many students are not taught these skills at home. Should these students be left at a disadvantage? Of course not.  

As educators, we are in a position where we have the opportunity to teach students these skills that will be hugely beneficial in multiple aspects of their lives. Tantillio Philibert notes that these are not skills that can be glossed over and taught with a quick video – educators need to first develop our own social-emotional skills, emotional intelligences, and self-regulation strategies so that we truly believe in what we are teaching. The other thing to keep in mind are the resources available in this teaching and learning process – the teachers that exist outside of the field of education: pediatricians, trauma therapists, nutritionists, cultural experts, and physical therapists, to name a few. These resources and links provide a wider network and range to integrating social-emotional learning and practices into our own lives and into the classroom so that we can help to shape learners that are self-regulated, and socially and emotionally aware.


Photography: 06 February

For our photography this week we decided to experiment with the outdoor education side of inquiry-based learning. We chose to go down to the beach and build a fort! While this may sound simple, the act of building a fort out of driftwood actually provides a great outlet for hands on learning. While we were building we used problem solving, estimation, prediction, angles, and a little bit of measurement. Playing around with different sized sticks and angles to make the base of our structure was a great test for not only our physical ability to carry the logs, but also for our understanding of how the angle of the logs affects the stability of the structure.

We chose to document the process of building our fort as a form of assessment. By documenting the entirety of the project you are able to not only see the final project but also further comprehend the full learning experience. It gives the viewer a way to see where the learner started with their work and all of the steps they had to take to be able to get to the final product. When only a photo of the final product is shown, the viewer cannot see the journey that the learner took. In the case of our fort, the final product looks like a regular beach fort. However, when you are able to see the entire process and the hard work that we had to do to get there, it puts the final outcome into perspective. Throughout the journey of this project, we were able to learn more about digital photography through the process of documentation, setting up and using a tripod, and using the self-timer.

05 February: PSII Visit

This week, we had the opportunity to visit the Pacific School for Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), which is located in downtown Victoria. PSII was founded in 2013 by Jeff Hopkins, a former Superintendent for School District no. 64 (Gulf Islands). I had listened to Jeff speak about PSII and their alternative approach to education during our Faculty orientation in September, and I was excited to check out the school and get a better understanding of what it is all about.

PSII is a highly personalized, grade 9 – 12 high school where students use inquiry-based learning and work with teachers to discover an emergent curriculum that is based on their passions, interests, and personal learning needs. The inquiry projects at PSII are organized through Trello and documented through e-portfolios (see e-portfolio platform examples here) and personal blogs. Jeff commented that they had switched over from using WordPress as their blogging platform to a new platform that was designed entirely by a student from the PSII graduating class of 2018!

Students have a variety of work spaces, and are free to move about and find the space that works best for them. There is a larger main work area in the front of the building (see photo below), along with various other work spaces, each designed to accommodate different learner needs. They also have a Sensory Room available for all students to use that was designed and set up by a PSII student last year, for which they applied for and received a specific grant. Having worked as an Education Assistant for the past 4 years, I am very familiar with Sensory Rooms, and I really like the idea of having one that is accessible to every student. I have seen the benefit of sensory rooms to act as a safe space for students to self-regulate and de-escalate, and I would be really interested in looking deeper into the benefits of a sensory room that is available for all students.

Part of the main work space at PSII.

The students learn through individual work time, group sessions, one-on-one sessions, and group work time. I was really impressed with the calibre of the projects that students are taking on – there were students designing video games, curating art shows, starting businesses, rebuilding solar panels from broken pieces, and designing fashion lines. I have attached photos of the curriculum model, the competencies, the core values, and inquiry process. These posters were displayed on various walls throughout the school.

Inquiry-based learning process.
PSII Curriculum Model.
PSII Core Values.
PSII Competencies.

It was really interesting to learn more about PSII and inquiry-based learning, and I look forward to continuing to broaden my perspective and understanding of the various ways that learning can occur in a classroom.

Photography: 30 January

We were so excited to get started on learning all about photography and different ways that it can be incorporated into the classroom. For our first week, we chose to sit down and really specify what direction we wanted to take our learning in (as there are endless possibilities). We decided that we wanted to experiment on different projects and assignments that we can do with a class involving photography and see how this can be an aid for inquiry-based learning.

In order to do this, we had to figure out how to use the camera that we had rented out from the Music and Media desk in the library. We chose to walk around downtown and play around with different setting, lighting, and angles for our first adventure in order to be able to make a fair project for future students! If we can’t do it, how can we expect students to be able to?

We are now in the middle of figuring out how to upload all our photos onto our computers. Looking through them quickly, some are not great, but there are a few that we are very proud of!

29 January: Video Conferencing with Ian Landy

We started our class today with a video-conferencing session with Ian Landy, the principal at Edgehill Elementary School in Powell River. The experience of a class-wide video conferencing session was a new one for me, and I was completely unaware that entire rooms for these sessions even existed at UVIC.

The session with Ian was incredibly informative and engaging. He discussed formative assessment, and the issues that exist with using traditional forms of assessment to assess key competencies. He discussed the importance appreciating the process of learning, rather than just the final product, which is something that has come up in various courses throughout these past few months. Traditional grading methods fail to take the entirety of the learning process into account, which is not compatible with BC’s new curriculum and the shift to student-centred, inquiry-based learning.

To assess learning, Ian uses e-portfolios, and has not used traditional letter grades for the past thirteen years. The personalization of these portfolios means that students are able to showcase their learning in a way where they have ownership, making them a part of the ‘learning journey’. Each student’s portfolio can look different, and the assignments that may be included in one e-portfolio do not have to match the assignments included in the next student’s. This puts an emphasis on students’ personal growth, and allows them to see their journey and where they are going next. Due to the digital nature of the portfolio, there are various ways to show student learning, through photos of their work, but also through videos and audio-clips of speaking, learning, and creating.

There are various e-portfolio platforms that can make this type of formative assessment possible. While working back at home as an Education Assistant, I have seen FreshGrade being used in many of the classrooms. FreshGrade is the most commonly used platform in BC schools, but there are various options, all with their own benefits. I have linked a few of the ones mentioned by Ian below:

I found this session with Ian to be very enlightening. I am really excited about the changes to BC’s curriculum, and I enjoy learning about different methods of assessment that will be beneficial to both educators and students. I look forward to looking more into these platforms, and I really appreciate the connection that we were able to make with Ian today! I have attached links to his Twitter and to his blog, both of which are filled with great resources!

Knitting: 26 January

This week, I realized how much I needed to learn about knitting before I was able to even pick up my yarn and needles. There are many options for types, sizes, and material for needles and yarn, which is definitely intimidating for a (very) beginner knitter! I started off my knitting journey by looking through various knitting websites and blogs, and I decided on:

  • bamboo needles: the wood creates a bit of a drag on the stitches, and are much less slippery than metal needles
  • double-pointed needles: these are more of a personal preference – I like the idea of using very ‘traditional’ needles
  • size 7 needles: an ‘in-the-middle’ size that is popular with beginner knitters and seasoned pros alike
  • medium-weight yarn: another good in-between

I came across a few websites and blogs that were espeically great resources in helping me out with these decisions, and I have linked them below:

22 January: EdCamp & Professional Learning

We began our Technology Innovation class today by looking at EdCamp and the benefits that this format has, both as a method of professional learning for teachers and as a form of learning within the classroom. This format allows educators to create personalized discussion sessions that are engaging and learner-driven, and allow participants to share their own experiences and expertise.

To experience the EdCamp model ourselves, we were given time during class to choose education-related topics that we felt were relevant. We each then ‘voted’ on our top three topics of interest, and the top four topics were each given a different location in the MacLaurin building. The topic that I chose to attend was Outdoor Environments, which lead to some great conversations about the varied experiences that we each had during our elementary and secondary years across BC, as well as the experiences that we wanted to eventually change or recreate in our own classrooms.

I think that this is a great way to share learning as educators, and I also like that it can be adapted to utilize within the elementary and middle school classroom. Sharing personal expertise and experiences is a great way to learn, and students always love when they can feel like the ‘expert’ in something!

15 January: Most Likely to Succeed

Project-based learning in the 21st century.

Grade 9 students combined Physics and History by learning how to construct gears to make a working model that illustrated the rise and fall of various civilizations throughout time.

During our class on January 15th, we spent the first 90 minutes watching the film Most Likely to Succeed, which looks into the increasing issues with conventional education systems in the 21st century. The film focuses on High Tech High, a system of charter schools located in San Diego, California. High Tech High uses an innovative design that focuses on project-based learning and critical skills that will allow graduates to succeed in an constantly changing world.

High Tech High focuses on intergrated, project-based learning that encourages collaboration and student voice.  While watching the film, I found several connections between the format used in the High Tech High schools and BC’s new curriculum. Both programs have been modernized to create a new system which will help students to succeed in the 21st century. There are also similarities in the focus of the programs: hands-on experiences, collaboration, critical thinking skills and communication. I think that the modernization of these curriculum will have huge benefits for students – the world is changing constantly, and education systems have the power to provide students with the skills necessary to succeed.

Although there will never be one system of education that fits the needs of each and every student, I do think that it is important that we are shifting the focus to skills that will have real-world benefits, such as collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. I am excited to continue to explore this side of education, and I look forward to seeing the impacts that it will have.

Open Inquiry: Knitting

For my EDCI 336 Technology Innovation Open Inquiry project, I have chosen to document my process as I learn how to knit.

Growing up, I have distinct memories of my mom’s knitting basket, full of skeins of yarn, knitting needles, and projects at various stages of completion. I was always impressed with the whole creation process, watching a ball of yarn become a sweater, or a pair of socks, or mittens, but I didn’t ever take the time to learn how to do it myself. I am excited to be able give myself the time to learn this new skill, and I look forward to what I will eventually be able to create.

Stay tuned for blog updates as I work through and experience this learning process!