Calgary Public Teachers 38
Contacts: Wayne Tuft and Genevieve Balogun
Terry Fox Junior High School has been a nationally accredited UNESCO ASPnet school since June 2006. The school has been engaged in activities that fit the UNESCO four pillars of learning since its opening in 1995. Terry Fox Junior High School, which serves five communities, is situated in the very diverse Falconridge community, in the northeast quadrant of Calgary.
Terry Fox Junior High School has more than 750 students in three grade levels (Grades 7 to 9). During the 2006/07 school year, Grade 9 had the most students and Grade 7 the fewest.
The students are representative of the diverse northeast Calgary communities. A one-day snapshot on United Nations Day revealed the presence of more than 35 heritages and more than 40 mother tongues. Many of the students are English language learners (ELL) or English as a second language (ESL) learners.
A well established ELL (also commonly referred to as ESL) program is a key component of the strong academic and complementary programs offered by the school. Technology and CAPES (Calgary Arts Partnership Education Society) are infused throughout the academic and complementary areas. An important element is block scheduling, which allows for teaching partners/pods, where one teacher teaches the humanities (combined language arts and social studies) while the partner teacher teaches math and science.
A diverse staff (at least ten different ethnicities, including visible minorities) of more than 45 provides students with many engaging learning opportunities—opportunities that would be there even if Terry Fox Junior High School did not have a UNESCO ASPnet designation. The award is truly the icing on the cake, but the great programming is always there, as you will see in the following highlights.
Under each theme is the highlight of a particularly successful school project. Following the highlight is a list of other projects completed under that theme. Most projects had curriculum links or were unique extensions or enrichments of curricular units.
1.Peace and Human Rights
Education for Peace: The Ngapagok Project
The community-based Ngapagok Committee “Education for Peace” project has named Terry Fox Junior High School as the sister school for a school to be built in Ngapagok, in southern Sudan. Sudanese Canadians and other social activists contributing to the community provided highlights of the Sudanese situation and spoke of the need for peace and education in that area of the world.
While learning and fundraising took place throughout the school year, we gave major, schoolwide emphasis to the project during the celebration of Black History Month in February. The BIG-M Club orchestrated a penny drive, branding it with the slogan “Your Change for a Change in the Sudan.” CTV interviewed students for a news report that generated a great deal of community interest and support, both moral and financial.
During that time, Falconridge Elementary School also supported this project, particularly the school’s Zebra fundraising campaign. Together, the two schools raised and presented sizeable monetary contributions to the Ngapagok fund, which now sits at more than $50,000.
A few of the other peace and human rights projects undertaken by students and staff were
- mini presentations focusing on the Millennium Development Goals,
- displays to inform staff and students of the Millennium Development Goals and
- current events discussions about global issues (eg, human rights, the environment, diversity and so on).
Multiculturalism—Our Foods Tell Our Stories; They Also Connect Us
The above title is actually one student’s insight about food in our multicultural community. According to this student, there is a wide diversity of food now being eaten in Calgary and, most important, “... the various dishes are being eaten by a diversity of individuals, many of whom never knew of such foods before.” According to the student, such dishes were not part of their heritages; rather, people are being introduced to these culinary delights because we are living in a multicultural, ever-growing society. Students thoroughly enjoyed this project in their Foods class; the project was truly food for the body and soul.
During this project, students were encouraged to select dishes that they enjoy and wanted to share with others. The selections could be from personal ancestries or from different ethnocultural groups. The next step was for students to research their selections focusing on the country of origin of the recipe, the ingredients and their sources, the way of life of those in the country of origin, and other related subjects. A multicultural luncheon was the culminating activity; students prepared the various recipes and fed the staff while educating them about the dishes and the countries of origin. Hungry minds and bodies went away satisfied.
CHILDSPEAK: A Canadian-Ghanaian Intercultural Connection
Two Grade 7 classes and a Grade 9 class participated in CHILDSPEAK, a collaborative program between educators and students in Canada and Ghana. Students learned about each other’s cultures, especially the educational systems in their home countries. Students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to host and speak with some of the Ghanaian teachers who visited Terry Fox Junior High School.
A few of the other intercultural learning projects undertaken by students and staff were
- the BIG-M Club, a social justice club for girls. It is based on the Aboriginal principles outlined in the Circle of Courage program: Belonging, Independence, Generosity—Mastery;
- the Teacher Advisory program, for classes of 20 or fewer students and a teacher; they stay together for the students’ three years in junior high school and take time to discuss issues, especially those affecting healthy, prosocial development;
- the Heroes program, a character-development program offered by iMPACTsociety, Calgary; and
- a celebration of National Aboriginal Awareness Week.
3.Education for Sustainable Development
Ecosystems, Interactions, Citizenship, and YOU!
While there were many curricular links with the UNESCO ideals within the science program, this Grade 7 multidisciplinary (humanities, math and science) project stood out from the others. The two key guiding questions for this project were
- what impact do we have on our environment? and
- what role do we/can we play in helping to sustain our environment?
Technology, CAPES, inquiry-based learning, and field trips to the Bonnybrook Water Treatment Facility, the BFI Paper Recycling Facility, and the northeast landfill/waste management site were among the key components of this project.
Students interacted with a number of guest speakers from various nongovernment organizations and produced a variety of end products including advertisements, commercials, debates, newspapers, PowerPoint presentations, posters, short films, skits, speeches and websites. Each student contributed a one-page article to the class issues booklet.
Renewable Energy—What Are Our Choices?
As they do with many of the program of studies’ curriculum-based units, teachers of this inquiry-based science project integrated a variety of teaching strategies. Having a wide range of guest speakers/presentations, including the solar-powered car built by University of Calgary students for a US competition, was one such strategy.
At the end of their research, students organized and presented a one-day energy fair that was visited by most of the other classes in the building as well as parents and community members.
A few of the other projects on education for sustainable development undertaken by students and staff were
- guest speakers on a variety of environmental issues such as biodiversity, conservation, gardening, pollution, recycling programs, rainforest issues, renewable energy and water management;
- community clean-up days—Grade 7 science classes;
- recycling initiatives by the leadership class; and
- field trips to the zoo, dinosaur park and other environmental sites.
4.World Concerns and the Role of the United Nations
Several soldiers who have been in past and recent wars have visited classes to describe their experiences. In addition, knowledgeable individuals provided information about the United Nations and its role in international development, particularly its role in making and keeping peace. Students went on field trips to the Museum of the Regiments and wrote to peacekeeping soldiers stationed at overseas locations.
A few of the other projects on world concerns and the role of the United Nations undertaken by students and staff were
- our annual Terry Fox Run, this one a special celebration attended by the chief superintendent of the Calgary Board of Education and other dignitaries in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run;
- presentations by members of the United Nations Association, Calgary Branch, prior to United Nations Day (October 24);
- participation in the annual Vaisakhi (Sikh) parade;
- a symposium for Grade 9 students that focused on poverty and homelessness issues;
- youth action projects, designed and implemented by various groups of students from the leadership option classes and facilitated by Karen Hobbs, from Safe and Caring Schools, in Edmonton; and
- Adopt-a-Family—we adopted 17 families, comprising 94 people, for the 2006 Christmas season.
Over the years, Terry Fox Junior High School has established great working relationships with a number of community agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Most of these agencies and organizations share their knowledge and expertise with staff and students by providing resources and information. Many presented inservices and workshops for students and/or staff.
Some of the key community connections for the 2006/07 school year were the CCIS (Calgary Catholic Immigrant Society); Calgary Family Services; the Calgary Foundations; CHILDSPEAK; CIWA (Calgary Immigrant Women Association); Engineers without Borders; Heart of the Northeast Resource Centre; iMPACTsociety of Calgary; the Ngapagok Committee/Education for Peace; North of McKnight Resource Centre; Safe and Caring Schools; UNICEF; and the United Nations Association of Canada, Calgary Branch.
6.Conclusion/Recommendation for Action
Terry Fox Junior High School will continue to strengthen its UNESCO ASPnet culture. Most of the original members of the committee are moving on to new deployments in other schools, so there will be a need to rebuild the committee and to spread the word among new students.
During the 2004/05 school year, the staff and students of Terry Fox Junior High School in Calgary, Alberta, continued their great work applying teaching and learning strategies that— even without purposefully planning them as such—fit the four pillars of learning adopted at the UNESCO International Commission on Education in the Twenty First Century: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together.
An Eye Opening Experience
Early in the school year, staff spent a professional development day reflecting on the teaching and learning practices that are common in our environment. The following summary is taken from the December 2004 issue of a newsletter published by the Alberta Association for Multicultural Education.
On November 12, 2004, our school was able to participate in a wonderful professional development opportunity. The experience held many possibilities for exploring and building awareness among our staff. We explored the theme of cultural literacy and how our school meets the needs of students from various cultural backgrounds. We learned about the cultural heritages of some of our students and why they may participate in the teaching and learning process in diverse ways. During our day, we were presented with information about four of the many cultural/heritage groups in our school: Aboriginal, Afghani, Punjabi, and Sudanese.
Our morning started with a panel discussion featuring guest speakers who spoke to these cultures through direct experience. Shane Cunningham and Karen Acuna, both of Aboriginal heritage, spoke about our Aboriginal students. Shane Cunningham is an Aboriginal liaison counselor for the Calgary Board of Education (CBE); Karen Acuna, an Aboriginal outreach family counselor, is a social worker with Calgary Family Services. Naila Kareem had direct experience through working in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan. Surinder Kaur, a multicultural liaison counselor for the CBE, spoke about the Punjabi culture. Our Sudanese speaker was Wek Kuol, a community social worker with the City of Calgary.
In exploring these cultural groups, we found many similarities between people from the Aboriginal community and those from some countries in the Indian subcontinent. For example, many of our students, out of admiration, do not look adults—especially teachers—in the eyes. Teachers are revered as people of knowledge who, therefore, command respect. As well, we learned how many of our cultural groups began their settlements around water, and how living near the water played an important role in the development of their cultures. We also learned about the six potential causes of problems among our Aboriginal students: poverty, mistrust, disconnection from curriculum content, stereotyping, culture shock, and the fall-out from residential schools.
Furthermore, our staff participated in cultural activities that demonstrated how exchanging cultural information benefits the classroom. We eagerly participated in an Aboriginal Friendship Dance and were entertained by Ariellah, a Belly Dancer, who succeeded in getting a few of us to try some “moves.” We also enjoyed a cultural lunch consisting of Caesar salad, butter chicken and naan, white rice, moose stew, bannock, Thai tea, and a mango punch. Various East Indian sweets, prepared for Dawali, and fruit trays complemented our luncheon.
We closed by reflecting on an article and responding to some questions for inquiry. Our staff read the article “Respecting Students’ Cultural Literacies” by Elite Ben-Yosef, and discussed how our school could create a respectful space for students within the classroom literacy dynamics we already have. We also documented some of the many ways our school consistently celebrates cultural diversity, ways that may be categorized or conceptualized as ways of learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together.
Here’s how staff responded to the key questions for inquiry:
1.How do we make a respectful space for our students within our classroom literacy dynamics?
- Developing an understanding of the strengths of individual students.
- Developing an environment where students understand that different students have different needs.
- Addressing the need for confidence, trust, extra help and safety for each student.
- Developing relationships to enhance self-esteem.
- Creating and allowing opportunities for success.
- Providing choices/differentiating our curricula.
- Showing we are interested in learning about various cultures, especially theirs.
- Getting personal—understanding who they are—by one-on-one conferencing.
- Presenting lessons in different ways.
- Developing a respectful space.
- Being flexible about our expectations and rules.
- Creating a “neutral space” where we can all share and learn from each other.
- Taking risks in sharing our own cultures.
- Allowing students to bring artifacts from home to help with understanding.
- Providing opportunities for cultural sharing.
2.How can we create teaching/learning environments inclusive of all our students, echoing the multitude of voices of the different communities from which they come?
- Having a space/place (not necessarily a physical one) for them to share their experiences.
- Recognizing cultural activities/events and infusing these events into our curriculum so as to enrich content learning.
- Bringing aspects of students’ cultures into our classrooms by, for example, holding potlucks during teacher advisory sessions, defining terms, encouraging students to express their feelings in their first language, showing empathy, and encouraging students to gradually move past their areas of comfort.
- Asking for volunteers to educate us.
- Engaging community members in our learning.
- Using students’ personal experiences and their cultural background to make their learning personally relevant.
- Using different teaching and learning strategies, especially those that tap into multiple intelligences.
- Offering choices.
- Creating opportunities for students to give input and to take ownership of their learning.
3.What do we already do in our classrooms that speaks to cultural literacies?
- Asking students about various celebrations and festivals that occur in their diverse lives: Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter, Hanukah, Idd/Diwali, Kwanzaa, Posada, St. Patrick’s Day, and others.
- Being aware that students may not understand certain terms (such as nickel) and starting with what they do know (such as $0.05).
- Seeing through the persona that kids portray.
- Developing cultural units or infusing cultural elements into established content areas:
- many connections in the humanities curriculum
- cultural dances in the PE program
- scientific discoveries and achievement beyond the industrialized world and from various cultural groups (environmental/ecological studies in science)
- different fine and performing art forms through the Calgary Arts Partnership in Education Society (CAPES) program
- the ESL program
- Hosting cultural potluck lunches during teacher advisory sessions and organizing a cultural buffet in the foods room.
- Celebrating multicultural events (festivals, religious holidays, and such).
- Trying different ways to have students express opinions.
- Asking students, “How do you solve problems at home?”
- Understanding gender differences.
- Knowing family situations.
- Understanding how the school environment differs from the students’ homeland or country of birth.
- Discussing current events (daily, weekly, monthly), including global events and their local implications.
- Using the public announcement system to inform our learning communities about various important world/global and cultural events.
- Having teaching walls that reflect our various cultural heritages and practices.
- Facilitating the presence of various clubs:
- Being an Armchair Traveller (traveling the world through its literature)
- BIG—M Club (focusing on the values of belonging, independence, generosity, and mastery)
- Bridge Foundation for Youth (providing support to our ESL students)
- Girls’ Culture Club (CIWA providing opportunities for girls, especially immigrant girls, to discuss issues of importance to them)
- Salsa Club (learning the culture, especially the music and dance of a specific cultural group such as Spanish).
The fit with the pillars of learning referred to earlier will become even more evident as students and staff work more purposefully within an ASPnet framework. Increased knowledge and understanding of the pillars can be used to enhance teaching and learning within Terry Fox Junior High, thereby facilitating the development of each student as a global citizen whose personal development and character lead to academic success.
In addition to the activities listed above, various staff members organized the following distinctive activities and events during the 2004/05 school year:
October 23, 2004: Students from the BIG—M Club read a poem they had written for United Nations Day at the United Nations Day celebration at the Devonian Gardens in Calgary.
February 2005: Students participated in “Oh, Africa,” a mini-unit on the topic of Black History Month.
May 6, 2005: Students held a conference in celebration of Youth Week, which included the following sessions:
- Are we so different? Breaking down cultural stereotypes using the East Indian culture.
- Bridging the differences that separate us (girls only).
- …But words do hurt: stories from GBLT youth.
- Children helping children in Honduras.
- “Hopes and dreams: stories from young refugees” (video and discussion).
- It’s cool to be multilingual.
- Multiculturalism and you: making your mark in Calgary’s diversity.
- Planting the future: Little Green Thumbs.
- Raising your understanding about gay issues.
- Seeds of Change: the Earth Charter and Human Potential.
- Students4Change: making change happen.
May 27, 2005: Multicultural Sports Day (an early celebration of Multiculturalism Day
June 23, 2005: Aboriginal Family Gathering, 3:30–8:00 p.m.
The following are some of the objectives for the upcoming school year:
- Establishing an ASPnet Committee to facilitate development and promotion of the ASPnet ideals.
- Continuing to maintain a record of our teaching strategies and projects.
- Improving our record keeping by categorizing the assignments and projects using the pillars of learning.
- Including students more purposefully in the design and execution of projects.
Here are a few of the projects that we are considering:
Return to ASPnet Schools Home Page
- Organizing a family evening in the fall featuring cultural events, games and other activities for getting to know one another and ensuring that we learn harmoniously.
- Holding more structured, focused and purposeful teacher advisory sessions, perhaps by choosing a monthly theme such as “inclusion.”
- Organizing National Aboriginal Awareness Week events.
- Participating in activities and events organized by the Aboriginal Family Outreach Counsellor.
- Using the public address system to share information about cultural, religious and civic events and celebrations.
- Participating in clubs facilitated by such community organizations as the Bridge Foundation for Youth and the Calgary Immigrant Women Association.
- Organizing workshops and in-services for parents to build community capacity or resiliency.
- Holding an “Anti-racism Fair,” which is being organized by two Grade 9 classes in celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 23.
- Arranging current event sessions and classes.
- Inviting guest speakers.
- Participating in the Nagapok School Project, a community project designed to raise funds for building a school in the Sudan.