Monday, June 28, 2010

A Transformation

Over the weekend, I participated in a very powerful community celebration.  Approximately 250 people of all ages pitched in to transform a school's playground in one day.  This transformation will have a tremendously positive impact on the students who attend Brooklands School in Winnipeg, and the reach goes so far beyond the school itself - their re-designed school grounds will prove to be a focal point in the broader community for years to come.

The process of re-designing the Brooklands School playground has been months in the making.  The school principal, Rex Ferguson-Baird, worked tirelessly to secure grants, line up resources & assemble a dedicated team of volunteers to turn his concept into a reality.  Rex secured a grant through Let Them Be Kids, an organization that is dedicated to building one hundred new play structures a year in communities across Canada.  The $75,000 that Rex raised toward this project was matched by Let Them Be Kids, which meant that the school had the opportunity to spend $150,000 on this project.

Throughout the day, volunteers worked tirelessly to bring about a complete transformation of the school yard, including:
  • two new play structures
  • a butterfly garden
  • removal of brush
  • repair of existing baseball diamond
  • beautification of gardens and planters
The school grounds were abuzz with activity, with teams of people turning Rex's vision into a reality. From the students and staff to the parents, grandparents and alumni, everyone played a role in bringing about this radical transformation.  Everyone had a part to play and they all did it with gusto.  The following images will provide some insight into what transpired throughout the day:

Not only did Let Them Be Kids support this project financially, they also promoted the redevelopment  of the Brooklands school grounds on their website.  Harnessing the power of technology, they featured live streaming video of the day's festivities on their website.  We had dozens of viewers from around the globe watching the action on uStream as it was unfolding in real time.  Not only could people participate at a distance, but we've also archived a great deal of content that was recorded throughout the day.  We conducted interviews with students, teachers, parents, administration, former principals and city councilors.  Highlights of the day can be accessed by scrolling down the LTBK uStream page.

In addition to snapping photos and assisting with the live video feed, I thought it would be interesting to create a time lapse video of a play structure being assembled throughout the day.  I set up a camera on the roof of the school and captured a photo every 30 seconds.  As you can see in the video clip below, there was a lot happening throughout the day - and it was only through the dedication and commitment of our tireless volunteers that we were able to pull it of.

The transformation that took place at Brooklands School on Monday is significant for a lot of reasons.
  • It's a positive change that benefits everyone and will continue to do so for years to come
  • It started with a vision and it could only be pulled off through hard work and dedication
  • It's an attempt to rethink how we make the most use out of our spaces within schools
  • Everybody got on board to turn this dream into a reality...
One of the things I've been mulling over since driving away from the school late Saturday afternoon is that this transformation is symbolic of a larger transformation that still needs to take place within our schooling system.  We know that there are many things that can be done to ensure that our schools are effective in creating learning environments that motivate and engage our students emotionally and intellectually.  We know that we must all work together to help bring about this change.  And we also know that everyone must be on board to turn this dream into a reality.

We pulled together over 200 people to transform a school's playground in one day.  That's radical.

How many people will we have to pull together to transform our schools so that they more suitably meet the needs of today's students?  And how long is this process going to take?

That's an even bigger challenge...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bringing History To Life

Do yourself a favour and drop everything you're doing for the next eight minutes.  A friend and colleague just shared the following story that aired on CBC Radio this morning.

Matt Henderson is a Grade 5 teacher in Winnipeg, and he's engaging his kids in some amazing learning experiences.  He brings the curriculum to life in his classroom in very meaningful ways and, by doing so, he is developing a genuine love of learning within each and every one of his students.

I've watched Matt teach and seen the way the kids hang on his every word.  He puts tools in the hands of his students and encourages them to use these tools in interesting and innovative ways.  He challenges his students to really think about issues that affect them and he guides them toward answers to their questions...

The other day, Matt invited a guest speaker into his classroom to share stories with his students.  Mary Courchene visited his classroom to share her experiences from attending residential school.  This proved to be an opportunity that the students will never forget.

Sit back and have a quick listen to the lessons that were shared.

You can't find this in a textbook.