Monday, 30 May 2016

The Power of Published Product

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Taylor Elementary's "Meet the Author" gala celebration. Spearheaded by Donna Lee Cooper, one of the school's long time teachers, the day was to celebrate the arrival of the students self published books.  Through hard work and creativity the students, with guidance from their teachers, and with the assistance of a publishing partner, wrote and illustrated their own hard copy books, copies of which the student authors then signed and later had on display at the community library. From preschool right through to grade 6, the students experienced the satisfaction of producing a finished, published product.

Creating and publishing original pieces of writing is a true 21st century learning skill. Producing and polishing unique content is hard enough, but when students do so for an audience and to produce a tangible product visible for display and available for others to see, learning becomes more real and student investment in their product increases.

Micheal Niehoff of USC  identifies many ways that students can authentically publish work for a wider audience. In addition to traditional print media, today's student has online and digital capabilities. They can blog, upload to Youtube  and other social media platforms. They have easy access to a wider audience than ever before. With such access comes both a responsibility to publish responsibly and the potential to reach and interact with their audience in a way not available to writers of earlier generations.

Publishing allows students to find and express their own voice and has been linked to life long literacy skills. By starting early and continuing to develop their publishing skills through to grade 12 graduation, students gain confidence in expressing their own ideas, and a better sense of personal competence and confidence in communicating clearly with others.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

What's In A Name Part 2

" Whats in a name? That which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet"
Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene ii

It was recently announced that our district's new school is to be called the Margaret "Ma" Murray Elementary Community School. The name was selected after lengthy and often spirited discussions by the board of trustees. After all, a name is important, isn't it? Shakespeare's sentiments aside, the concept that a name can really make a difference continues to spark considerable debate.

In selecting Margaret Murray as the name for the new school, the board has elected to use a person's name rather than the geographic location as an identifying label. This decision was driven in part, by the desire to add some gender equity to the names of our district's public schools. Previously, all schools in SD 60 that carried a persons name had been named after men. Selecting a new name for a school seemed an excellent opportunity to change that situation. After all, as pointed out by our new Prime Minister, it is 2016. Equal opportunity, regardless of gender is not only long overdue but entirely consistent with the values our district hopes to instil in all our students.

District naming protocols call for recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions to our community. As the founder of Fort St Johns longest running news paper Mrs Murray certainly fits that bill. Known as a strong personality who was resilient in the face of adversity and not shy about offering her opinion, Ma Murray provides modern day students with an example of how to develop and follow their dreams.

In naming the school's gathering space after Bella Yahey, the board also acknowledges important contributions made by First Nations and aboriginal women in the shaping of our community. Yahey, a long time community member was also daughter of Treaty 8 signatory Chief Attachie, and wife of Charlie Yahey, for whom Charlie Lake is named. She lends her name to the gathering space within the school, an area where all members of the community can come together to meet, share and work for the benefit of our students.

Enshrining the word "community" within a school's name may make for a longer than normal title, but the board feels strongly that the new school needs to represent a new attitude and approach to education. Strongly reflective of the personalized learning ideals expressed in the new BC Ed plan, Margaret Ma Murray Elementary Community School promises to kick off an exciting new learning experience for our district. With site preparation set to begin in June, watching the new school develop its identity will be an ongoing focus for the board and community as they consider "education matters."