Sunday, 26 February 2012

I am Out of the Box

It has been a fascinating 8 months since I officially retired from Edmonton Public School Board. I never intended to stop being an educator, but I certainly did not know what the next territory on the journey would be. Besides the awesome experience of Grandma-hood and full time childcare for our lovely Anisha, I have managed to facilitate the transition of Diane Gurnham from outstanding experienced, classroom teacher to marvelous program coordinator of the Edmonton Oilers ICE School program, provide program coordination for 1,000 Division 1 students at Farmfair International and attempt to round up winter themed art for electronic display at the new Metropolis Winter Festival. Some things I did better than others. That’s life when you endeavor to live out of the box, I guess.
The Inquiring Minds sites of Edmonton are preparing for another round of applications for next year (the last official piece of no-need-to-reinvent-the-wheel learning for Diane) and are also working on hosting another conference to follow the very successful Beyond the Classroom 2010. Several little projects are in the air for me and it is finally time to decide just how to keep myself current and out there. I have been enjoying reading some inquiry-based learning blogs that have filled up my brain with thousands of ideas.
To say that I am passionate about the process we here in Alberta (and a few other places) call site-based learning is an understatement. The magic and power I witnessed week in and week out during 9 years of running the ICE School program filled me with a missionary zeal that has not waned.
It has been my privilege to work with many excellent educators over my career and I want to keep that contact alive. But I also want to grow the circle of those who see the pure learning potential of getting kids out of the box for a walk around the block, a visit to a seniors’ centre, a day at the waste management facility or a week at a museum, city hall, provincial legislature, zoo, botanical garden, auditorium, fort, university or NHL hockey facility. I want them to be determined to milk each concrete experience for every cup of constructivist style teachable moment and connection they can imagine. I want them to know they are not alone and the work and planning they put in are worth every minute because the hope of our collective future is in the minds they are empowering for a life of inquiry.  
This sermon is now ended and I promise future posts will not come from such a soap box place. Besides interesting links to like-minded websites, I hope to post great out-of-the-box opportunities and tips on the basics of observation, interview, sketching and journaling.  
I close with one of my all time favorite Anotole France (really interesting guy!!) quotes: “The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”