Category Archives: Education

Healthier Kids

I was visiting a school and kids at a table just outside the gym door were selling treats to raise funds for a class outing.  “Will you buy something?” they entreated.  

“What do you have that’s healthy?”  I asked.  They were stymied. They had a wide variety of chocolate bars, chips and baked goods for sale.  They suggested a fruit juice box but a quick check of the label revealed it was packed with sugar.  The only healthy thing I could find were sticks of cheese.  The irony of the sales table being just outside the gym door where the kids take their Physical Well Being classes wasn’t lost on me. 

There were lots of positives to the kids’ sales venture. They were learning how to interact politely with the public, how to handle and count money, the importance of managing costs and profits and they were working together to achieve a goal.  Could they had learned those things just as well if their sales table had featured fruits and vegetables, popcorn, yogurt, sunflower seeds, pistachios and whole grain or rice crackers? I understand those things might have been hard to sell.

It will take some doing to get kids to think healthy treats can be just as delicious and satisfying as unhealthy ones.  But it’s a change of perspective families, schools and governments need to work at seriously if we are going to combat childhood obesity and promote more healthy lifestyles for kids.   Thinking about what kinds of things we sell for fundraisers- cookies, candies and chocolates might be a good place to start. 

Other posts………

Eat Like You Give A Damn

Healthy Environments- Not Gyms or Arenas

Food Rules

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Food

Hopeful Friendships

We had supper last weekend with friends whose daughter teaches at Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School. They told us their daughter’s elementary class was involved in an exchange with the Al-Hijra Islamic School. Classes from both schools have been visiting one another and participating in games and activities together. In CBC interviews the Muslim and Mennonite principals said they were looking for ways to help children implement values of openness, fairness, kindness, compassion and care; values shared by both Muslim and Christian belief systems. By providing opportunities for their students to connect they hoped to prevent stereotypes from breeding and teach the children how important it is to respect those whose faith might differ from their own. The kids interviewed for the CBC story were happy to be making new friends.

street mural canada's children saskatoon

Mural of Canada’s children on Broadway in Saskatoon

I am glad educators are actively seeking opportunities to foster tolerance, respect and friendship between children of different backgrounds. It gives me hope for the future of our country and the world.

Other posts……..

A Classroom Very Different From Mine

Encouragement After the American Election

Thoughts on Hope

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Filed under Education, Religion

Hopeful Diversity- An Elementary School Class So Different From Mine

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

I was guiding a group of students from a school in my hometown through the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently. At one point during the tour I watched the children busy making clay sculptures. Suddenly it struck me how very different this class looked than the classes I’d been part of in that same community as a child. Check out the photo above of my grade three class taken on the steps of Steinbach’s Kornelson School in 1960. All forty students in the photo are white. I can still remember the surnames of almost every child in my class. Virtually ever one was of Mennonite heritage.

The group I was touring at the art gallery fifty years later was incredibly more diverse.  The children came from a wide variety of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds.

I’m glad the community I grew up in has become much less homogenous in some important ways. Children are receiving a more realistic, balanced view of the world right in their own classrooms as they interact with youngsters who come from very different backgrounds than their own. That gives me hope for the future of our country and our world.

Other posts……..

Kornelson School

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Skin Color

 

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Filed under Education, WInnipeg Art Gallery

What Courage

His face just lit up!  I was visiting one of my student teachers at the beginning of the week and met a six-year-old boy originally from Iraq. It was his second day in a Canadian classroom.  He had never been to school before.  His family spent a number of years in Jordan after leaving their home country.  The boy couldn’t speak a word of English and the school hadn’t found anyone who could translate for him, since his family does not speak Arabic, but a minority language.  Apparently the boy had cried for nearly an hour after his father dropped him off at school in the morning.  The little fellow sat at a table by himself looking sad while the rest of his class gathered on the carpet at the front of the room for a lesson.  

I went back yesterday and what a difference. The little guy now sat with his classmates for a lesson on Egyptian hieroglyphics. Each child had a sheet with a simplified hieroglyphic alphabet. It showed the Egyptian symbol for each English alphabet letter.  Together the class was decoding a message written in hieroglyphics on the board.  My student teacher asked for volunteers to come up and write a corresponding English alphabet letter under one of the hieroglyphic letters on the board. After watching two of his classmates do so,  lo and behold the little boy from Iraq put up his hand.  My student teacher beckoned for him to come up and put the marker in his hand.  He looked carefully at the hieroglyphic symbols on the board, looked down at his reference sheet and then painstakingly wrote the English letter A under the correct hieroglyphic symbol.  The teacher and his classmates exclaimed and clapped and his face just lit up!  

I almost cried. Faced with two alphabets he was unfamiliar with and instructions in a language he didn’t understand, this little guy had the courage to get up in front of a roomful of kids and several adults and take a risk he could write the correct symbol on the board.  I thought to myself,  “This kid is going to be okay.  It might take time but he is going to make it.” 

Other posts…….

What’s A Portscape? 

Standing Up For Children

Freedom’s Child

 

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Improving Education in Manitoba-Someone Thinks They Have The Answers

mural of children broadway avenue saskatoon by denyse klette

Michael Zwaagstra in December articles in the Winnipeg Free Press and The Carillon bemoans Manitoba’s results on national and international academic tests that show our students performing poorly. According to Zwaagstra there are three keys to improving education in our province

1)more tests

2)teaching basics

3) direct whole class instruction.

Mr. Zwaagstra’s articles fail to report however on the three areas where our province gets top ranking.

1) Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. I suspect we have more school kids who live in families lacking the basic necessities for healthy living than any other province.

2) Manitoba has the highest rate of adult incarceration in Canada. This leads one to believe we have more school kids with a parent in jail than in any other province.

3) Manitoba’s percentage of children in foster care is one of the highest in the world. It follows that we would have more school kids who are separated from their families than in any other province.

Could those three things impact children’s ability to learn and do well on standardized tests? If we focused on eradicating child poverty, on finding alternatives to such massive incarceration and looked for ways to improve foster care might that affect test scores more than the three remedies Mr. Zwaagstra suggests?


child-wearing-glasses- free photo pixabayAs a university education supervisor I have spent a fair bit of time in the last five years in inner city Winnipeg schools. Just before Christmas children in one school got free eye- exams courtesy of some caring Manitoba optometrists who volunteered to come and test children suspected of having vision issues. They discovered forty kids who should have been wearing glasses and provided them all with prescription lenses. One wonders though how those kids’ inability to see properly might have impacted their education and subsequently their scores on standardized tests in the past.

The six core area schools I know well devote time and money to providing breakfasts for children, setting up and staffing parent rooms where families can come for counseling and support, providing after school programs to keep kids out of gangs and off the street, arranging for kids to have dental work done at school by volunteer dentists, obtaining a stock pile of winter outerwear for children who come to school dressed improperly and the list goes on and on. These shouldn’t necessarily be the things teachers and administrators focus on but they know they are vital to their students’ ability to learn so they make them a priority. Could finding ways to relieve educators of those responsibilities allow schools to spend more time, energy and money on actual teaching?

hoop dancer hugh john mcdonald school winnipegThat being said I am curious about the statistics behind Mr. Zwaagstra’s contention that regular assessment, teaching basics and direct class instruction is lacking in Manitoba schools. In the six weeks before Mr. Zwaagstra’s article was published I made nearly forty visits to Winnipeg classrooms. The education students I supervise must include a plan for assessment in every lesson and they do. During almost all lessons I observed, teachers were doing some whole class instruction and they were teaching the basics as best they could even though they had students whose reading and numeracy competencies were spread over as many as six different grade levels and every class had newcomers to Canada just learning English.

It is indeed troubling that Manitoba’s students have a low standard of academic achievement. Many of the reasons for that stem from long standing societal issues and addressing them will be much more costly and complicated than doing more tests or telling teachers they aren’t using the right instructional methods.

Other posts………

What I Saw in a Classroom Yesterday

Rap, Reimagining Winnipeg and Designing Fishnets

A Pen or a Wing?

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Lesson Not Required

stone-soupShould a children’s book teach a lesson?  Yesterday I noticed a call on Facebook from a former student of mine who is now a teacher. She was asking people to share names of good children’s picture books that teach a lesson.  

not-afraid-of-anythingThis caught my attention because I write stories for children. When I am preparing a manuscript for submission I always carefully read the instructions from the book publisher or magazine editor about what they are looking for from perspective authors. Many clearly state they are NOT looking for children’s stories that teach a lesson. one-dog-canoeThey are most concerned about whether a story is written in a way that will capture the reader’s interest  and not whether it will indoctrinate children with some moral truth or teach them a life lesson in an overt way. 

andy-and-the-lion I think the very best picture books motivate each reader, whether that is the child listening to the picture book, or the adult reading it to them, to think about something new or consider something familiar in a new way.  And that something  can be different for every reader. going-on-a-bear-hunt

This post features a few of the many picture books my grandson and I have enjoyed together in the last four years.  These six are examples of books he has asked me to read to him over and over again and because of that I assume he thinks they are good books.   He and I have never discussed whether they teach a lesson, but I looked each one up online and apparently every one of them teaches children many lessons.  I’m glad my grandson and I didn’t know what they were.sylvester-and-the-magic-pebble

Other posts………

Picture Books Have Changed

Perfect for Pre-Schoolers

Remembering Maurice Sendak

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Education

Cool Stuff

I just finished another round of supervising student teachers in inner city Winnipeg schools. I get to see and hear about some cool stuff on my visits. Like …………………
snowmen

  • grade sixes designing habitats for imaginary animals
  • grade sevens decorating ancient Greek vases with mythological characters
  • grade eights using graham crackers and Kool Whip to demonstrate all the different ways the earth’s tectonic plates move
  •  grade ones smelling lots of different containers and trying to figure out what’s inside
  • grade fives touching and feeling real animal furs and deciding what they may have been traded for at a Hudsons Bay Trading Postfriendship-poster
  • a teacher reading a bunch of modern fairy tales that encourage children not to blindly accept stereotypical gender roles but to be respectful of individual expression.
  • a physed teacher who collects used and new skates in his office so every kid in the school gets to go the rink
  •  grade twos designing and building houses for the three little pigs that the wolf can’t blow down
  • grade threes measuring objects with the footprints of a giantbe-what-bulleting-board
  • kids writing and illustrating their own fairy tales
  • kids who didn’t get breakfast at home being fed at school
  • a whole class making puppets, writing puppet plays and performing puppet plays
  • physed classes playing aboriginal gamesnarwhale-bulleting-board
  • a teacher making hot chocolate for the school patrols on a really cold day
  • small groups of students learning math games with playing cards
  • forty one kids in a school getting free glasses after optometrists volunteered to test the eyes of students the teachers were worried might have vision problems
  • junior highs playing this absolutely cool electronic learning game called Plinkers

I will miss my school visits and look forward to the the next round in spring. 

Other posts…….

Visiting a A Quaker School in Costa Rica

Visiting a School in Jamaica

Visiting Hopi Mission School

 

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Filed under Education