Seniors and students bond through storytelling project

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
~ Betty Friedan, writer/activist/feminist

It’s true that youth learn from their elders.

Grade 11 students at Innisdale Secondary School are learning with local seniors as part of a school project – and the seniors are learning too.

Eleanor Alexander’s social science class interviews members of the 55+ Club at the Allandale Recreation Centre. The students prepare questions and interview the seniors to learn about changes in social institutions such as the family, schools and the workplace. Four weeks later, the elders visit Innisdale to watch students present their reports. They also have a chance to chat, share stories and socialize.

“It’s heart-warming to see the interaction between youth and seniors – they definitely learn from each other’s stories,” says Eleanor. “There always seem to be bonds that form during this project and the smiles that come from it are priceless.”

This activity, which has been happening for the last six years, is part of the Introduction to Anthropology, Psychology & Sociology course at Innisdale. The course provides students with opportunities to think critically about theories, questions and issues, and develop an understanding of the approaches and research methods used by social scientists.

Students are keeping busy this summer at SCDSB STEAM Camp

From July 31 to August 18, almost 700 students from across the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) have been participating in summer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Camp, which focuses on strengthening students’ literacy and math skills. Programs are taking place in Alliston, Barrie, Collingwood, Innisfil, Midland and Orillia, as well as at the Education Centre in Midhurst.

This year, summer learning programs are available for:

  • Grade 3 and 4 students
  • Grade 7, 8 and 9 students
  • Special Equipment Amount (SEA) – for students with special needs using assistive devices

Each program (other than SEA) consists of a half day focus on math/numeracy and a half day focus on STEAM or mindfulness activities. SEA is a full-day program that includes training for students on how to use special equipment, and academic activities that they can complete using the new equipment.

Principal of Special Education, Stephen McClelland, has been involved in the summer learning programs for seven years and has witnessed the growth of the program as well as the students.

“The STEAM Camp is meant to support those students who may be struggling with math or literacy. We want to make sure that they receive an opportunity to grow and gain confidence in their skills before entering a new grade level at the start of the school year,” he says.

The benefits of the program aren’t just for students, but for the schools and staff as well.

“With the STEAM camps and SEA programs, we are well connected to parents and families, as they come in to the school to bring their child, sign the child in and there is a daily interaction between the parent and teacher. Also, host schools get to keep the equipment that is ordered for summer learning programs for use year-round for all students, which is a huge benefit to them,” he adds.

At the end of the day, students are able to see their successes more clearly and regularly, as they are only focusing on two to three subjects a day, versus five or six throughout the school year. Class sizes are smaller as well, allowing students more interaction with the teacher.

“Our students have a lot of fun in our summer learning programs,” says McClelland. “Everyone is much more relaxed and the teachers get very creative with the programming and activities that students take part in.”

Activities include working with robots, drones, computer programming/coding, field trips and outdoor learning opportunities.

Each school hosting the summer learning programs has a childcare facility on site, so parents are able to enrol their children in care after hours and fees will apply (summer learning programs run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Summer learning programs are free for all families.

Are you interested in enrolling your child in summer STEAM Camp next year? Be sure to contact your child’s teacher or school principal to inquire. Specific programs for grade levels will be available, along with applications in June 2018.

School’s in for summer!

Many high school students use the summer break to spend time with friends, work a part-time job or check out the region’s attractions. It may be a surprise to some, but there are a growing number of students who are using their time to get ahead by taking summer school courses.

The structure of summer school has changed over the years; taking a course over the summer doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in a classroom. There are now a variety of ways that students can spend their time learning. Students can take a course online from the comfort of their home, or in a lab, learning about cosmetology or how to play guitar.

The many benefits of participating in summer school include:

  • learning a new skill and gaining a credit at the same time
  • smaller class sizes and more one-on-one time with the teacher
  • flexible learning options – can also take a selection of courses online
  • focused learning on one subject versus several at one time
  • getting ahead and earning credits before the school year starts
  • opportunities to retake a course and improve a mark
  • meeting students from other schools
  • completing fast-track preparation for college or university in just one month
  • earning missed credits

As well, there are opportunities for students to earn a credit and travel at the same time through the EduTravel program. Currently, there are 60 students in Fiji studying biology, 30 students in New York, Washington and Boston studying English, and 350 students travelling to Ottawa, Montreal and New York City studying Civics and Career Studies.

“We have 2,500 students registered in summer school this year, which is the largest number we’ve ever had,” says Tammy Rodaro, vice principal, Adult & Continuing Education. “I think the variety of courses and options for in-class and online has a lot to do with the growing popularity.”

Check out the recent news clip from CTV Barrie regarding the changing landscape of summer school:

CTV News Barrie – Summer school is in session

Want to learn more about summer school?  Visit

Extreme Classroom Makeover: Collingwood edition

What do marshmallows, string and spaghetti have in common? They are tools to encourage creativity, collaboration and innovation. Mrs. Thomson’s business studies class at Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) embodied this philosophy as a new, state-of-the-art classroom was unveiled on June 2.

Students were the lucky recipient of a brand new classroom, thanks to the Extreme Classroom Makeover Contest by Staples Business Advantage. The business studies class entered the contest, describing their school’s need to fill a bare bones classroom with furniture and accessories with the hopes of having it made into a collaborative learning environment to inspire creativity for continuous learning.

Staples Business Advantage, along with their vendor partners, made this vision a reality. They filled the classroom with everything from new desks and chairs, to school supplies and the latest learning accessories, amounting to $20,000 in new equipment and furniture.

“This room will be well used by thousands of students over the years to come,” said CCI Principal Charlene Scime in her welcome speech to students. “We intend this space to belong to all classes here at our school to facilitate student curiosity, dialogue, exploration of ideas and deep learning.”

“Physical spaces inspire how we learn and this room embodies 21st century learning,” said Donna Thomson, CCI Teacher. “Students had a vision for this room, and Staples Business Advantage made this happen. This room will facilitate inspiration and passion while developing cooperation, interaction and problem-solving skills in our students.”

It was truly magical to see the students’ reactions as they saw their new classroom for the first time. They were eagerly checking out the dry erase writing surfaces, adjustable furniture, emoji Post-It notepads, homemade ‘goop’ and more.

The students have dubbed this room “The Think Tank.” It will be used by various classes at CCI and also local Grade 8 elementary school classes for years to come as a place for students to create, think, innovate and collaborate.

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A big thank you the following people involved in the project:

  • Staples Business Advantage: Amanda Wedgewood, Marketing Specialist; Margaret Blake, Vice President of Merchandising and Purchasing; Scott D’Cunha, Vice President of Marketing, eCommerce & Communications; Mike Morris, Account Manager; and the entire Staples Business Advantage Team who selected CCI among the contest entries
  • Staples Business Advantage vendors, including Post-it, Scotch Brand, Safco, Ergotron, and Newell Office Products and their representatives for providing products and supplies
  • Chad Gilchrist and Garry Pattenden of Missed a Spot Painting, who donated the materials, time and expertise to put a fresh coat of paint on the classroom walls
  • Mr. Will Vancise, Art Teacher at CCI, who worked with Donna’s students to prepare the artwork for the new classroom
  • CCI Custodian Caron Giles, who helped prepare the room, and to Regional Operations Supervisor Jason Clatsoff who helped install the student art
  • Tim Newton of the Small Business Enterprise Centre and Brandon Houston, CEO of Switch Video, for sharing their time and entrepreneurial talent to mentor Thomson’s students throughout the semester
  • Mrs. Thomson and her students, who put in the heart and hard work to enter their school in the contest
Craft reconciliation photo

Students work together to build a shared vision of reconciliation

Contributed by: Jaclyn Calder, Technology Enabled Learning Teacher, Simcoe County District School Board

This year students across Simcoe County collaborated with others across Ontario around the theme of reconciliation. Wab Kinew challenged all Canadian students to work together (Indigenous and non-indigenous) to learn about each others’ communities and cultures before working together to build a representation of their vision of reconciliation in Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual world where students can design and build together.

Since February participating classes have;

  • joined in 12 Google Hangouts on Air 
  • participated in a Google Hangout on Air with Waubgeshig Rice
  • wrote, read and responded to over 700 posts in our D2L online discussion forum
  • created video, images and audio to introduce themselves and share
  • defended what they felt to be ‘the most important’ Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • challenged each other to learn new language and understand what terms like ‘unceded’ mean
  • read books along the theme of reconciliation and shared reviews online
  • worked together in two separate Minecraft worlds to build their collective vision of reconciliation
  • posted a reflection on their learning
  • posted thought and ideas on social media using the tag #craftreconciliation
  • created images to help break down stereotypes
  • annotated reading material online using collaborative annotation tools
  • created murals combining both Indigenous and non-indigenous artistic styles
  • designed and built dioramas to show the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous in the past, present and future
  • wrote letters to youth in Attiwapiskat
  • wrote news reports and put them together to create an ebook

The following images were submitted by participants with the intent of breaking down stereotypes.

One thing for sure can be said about our work together – the students owned their learning. To support a collaboration like this also required the teachers of every class to learn new strategies and technologies together. Every teacher contributed to our learning. Thank you to the participating classes from the schools and boards listed below. This was an amazing opportunity for students and teachers in Simcoe County and beyond. You can learn more about the project by visiting the project blog.

Chippewas of Rama First Nation
Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School

Wikwemikong Board of Education
Wikwemikong High School
Wasse Abin Pontiac School

Simcoe County District School Board
Codrington Public School
Midland Secondary School
Nantyr Shores Secondary School
Orillia Secondary School
Penetanguishene Secondary School
Twin Lakes Secondary School

Rainy River District School Board
Mine Centre Elementary School

Upper Grand District School Board
Orangeville District Secondary School

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Peel Catholic District School Board
Peel District School Board
York Catholic District School Board