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marbles + pipe insulation + tape = a whole lot of fun!

“Fun, ’cause you get to test stuff!”

“Fun!  It was hands-on and gets your imagination and creativity working.”

“Fun! Extremely fun!”

That’s what local fifth graders from Pacific Christian School had to say about the roller coaster science lesson led by Dr. Todd Milford of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction recently in the UVic Science Education classrooms.


The Challenge

The students’ challenge was to create a roller-coaster structure using pipe insulation, tape, marbles and a cup.  The goal being to design a structure that was fun and exciting, but would also allow the marble to travel through the track to the cup at the end of the line.  The science behind the fun was about kinetic energy – but the activity itself had students exploring what worked and what didn’t to improve the kinetic energy of their apparatus.

This lesson was inspired by Andrew Olson’s:  Roller Coaster Marbles: How Much Height to Look the Loop which can be viewed on the Science Buddies Website.


Engagement was High

It was a lot of fun to witness the enthusiasm in the room and really coasters6exciting when teams engaged in collaborative problem solving.  The talk in the room was lively as well as productive. We overheard such statements as:

  • “This one will be fast – let’s tape it to the wall.”
  • “No, wait, we need a sharp bend to get it onto the table.”
  • “We can’t put effort in until we see if it works.”

One group explained the success of the activity:  “When it fails, we try to make it better.  We work together as a team, and keep trying.  It’s a fun competition.”


Another group said that the best part of this activity was that they were the designers of the roller coasters: “It’s fun because it’s your own design and not someone else’s. All the roller coasters we ride have been designed by other people – these are our own.”  Another group stated that they “had to plan it out carefully to make it work.  If someone suggested something, we tried it.”

Students took ownership of their designs – some going so far as to name their structure, such as The Leap of Faith and the Rolling Rampage.


Leading the Learning

Dr. Milford encouraged students throughout the activity, asking questions and encouraging further problem solving:

  • “Are you testing your structure, or just designing it?”
  • “You know it works from here to here – what can you do along here to make it work?”

Students were encouraged to take a look at other structures for inspiration for their own models. They were extremely supportive and encouraging of one another, while at the same time enjoying the competitive spirit of such a challenge.


Demos and Debriefing

The event concluded with each group giving a demonstration of their roller coasters along with a brief statement about the structure they’d built.  Several groups stated that “this wasn’t our first design” – and shared how they had to adapt as they learned what worked and what didn’t.  Dr. Milford pointed out different design elements at each structure, and made statements about the importance of failure in science, how trial and error lead to success.

Classroom teacher, Ms. Kristen Low – a recent graduate from UVic Education – was delighted to see her students so engaged.  She commented that it is nice so see the group interacting and learning beyond the walls of their classroom.


Thanks to Dr. Todd Milford for inviting me in to share this exceptional learning experience.  Thanks to Ms. Low and her wonderful Grade Five students, for letting me observe as their designs took shape, and celebrate in the success of a fun and meaningful activity.

Kudos everyone!

Carol N.

ELL Workshop – Tips and Resources

ell 1.5

April is a busy time of year for all University students.  But, for our Education students who are getting ready for, or are currently completing practicum, it’s a VERY busy time. The students who participated in the ELL (English Language Learning) workshop, hosted by   Kerry Robertson and Dr. Kathy Sanford, made it a priority to come out for some valuable professional learning despite the long nights and exhausting days. We take our hats off to them!

The Heart of Drama with Cam Culham

To get the workshop started, Cam Culham from Continuing Studies, led us through a few highly engaging activities which privileged movement over speech.  This can help to “level the playing field” for non-English speakers. Activities included:

  • Pass the [invisible] Ballell 2[1]
  • Scarf Sculptures
  • Physical Name Game
  • Circle Cross
  • What are You Doing?
  • Group Mirror

Cam has kindly shared these engaging activities in the following handout: Culham Handout DIESL 2010.  For more information on using drama with English Language Learners (ELLs), check out Cam’s article:  Language and Hearts are Important:  Building “Affective Athleticism” in DIESL.


Not teaching ELLs?  No worries! Drama games like these are good for everyone and can be used as ice-breakers or brain-breaks for a variety of grades. Teachers-on-call would especially benefit from having a few of these strategies at the ready for the diverse classroom contexts and learners they encounter.

ELL Toolbox with Leanne Hart and Henrietta Langran-DesBrisay

Leanne Hart, Head of ELL at St Michaels University School and Henrietta Langran DesBrisay, ELL Coordinator/Intinerant ELL Teacher in SD#63, presented an ELL Toolbox; beginning with an empathy-building exercise.

ell 3[1]

They asked us to write with our non-dominant hand, while they quickly dictated words for us to complete. Following this was a silent graffiti exercise, where we were asked to express how it felt to try to meet this challenge.  Take a look at the expressions of frustration:ell 5

This activity has been shared with practicing teachers  to encourage them to be more mindful of the needs of their ELLs.

Another big take-away for us was the knowledge that conversational competence does not equal academic success, as represented using the Iceberg Theory (see slide below).

Leanne and Henrietta explained that teachers often think their ELLs are fine, based on their social conversations, and don’t see the need for academic language support until it’s too late.  It is important for us to be aware that supporting students’ academic language proficiency is a first step in building confidence and success in our classroom.

ell 6

When Leanne and Henrietta work with ELLs, they encourage students and their families to keep using their native language, explaining that the stronger the first language is, the stronger the second language will become.  As well, they try to locate dual-language books, and books that represent their students’ culture.  Henrietta believes books which reflect cultural diversity are important to use with ALL students.

Further tips from the ELL Toolbox can be found on the blog post following last year’s ELL workshop.  All of Leanne and Henrietta’s resources used in the presentation can be viewed here.

Resource Sharing for the Classroom


Participants at the ELL Workshop had an opportunity to explore a wide variety of resources from the Curriculum Library and Henrietta and Leanne’s personal collection.  These resources are are perfect to share in the classroom and  included:

ell 4.5

The Curriculum Library has many books which reflect cultural diversity and the refugee or immigrant experience include:    Cover Image    Cover Image   Cover Image   Cover Image   Cover Image    One Green Apple    Cover Image    Cover Image    Cover Image    Cover Image    Cover Image   Cover Image    Cover Image

Carol’s Picks of Professional Resources

The following resources offer an excellent starting place to examine teaching strategies that support ELLs:

Cover Image   Cover Image   Cover Image   Cover Image  Cover Image   Cover Image   The Essential Guide for Educating Beginning English Learners   Learning to be Literate : Multilingual Perspectives


Special thanks to:

  • Kerry Robertson and Dr. Kathy Sanford for organizing the ELL event.
  • Leanne Hart and Henrietta Langran DesBrisay, for the ELL Toolbox.
  • Cam Culham, for the Drama activities.
  • UVic pre-service teachers who put their heart into their learning and make workshops like this one a great success!

Hope to see you in the Curriculum Library!

Carol N.

Secondary Ed – Getting Ready for Practicum

Over thirty Secondary Education students attended an optional workshop this week called Planning and Organizing for Practicum. The workshop was created by Kerry Robertson and Dr. Kathy Sanford in response to needs expressed by students in the program.

Sec Planning 4

This time of year can be intense for students as they navigate the varied needs of their coursework, along with the exciting demands of practicum preparation. A workshop like this one, gives them a collective opportunity to step into the middle ground to reflect on what they’ve learned in their courses and to begin to imagine how to apply this knowledge to the experiences ahead of them.

Sec Planning 2

Workshop leaders included recent graduates: Wonjin Kim, Sarah Alpert, David Fletcher, Robyn White, along with teachers and vice-principals: Heather Brown, Dianne Chimich, and Jeff Horncastle.

Sec Planning 3

Practicum tips discussed at today’s session included:


  • Over-planning helps with confidence.
  • Important to know your daily/weekly/monthly timeline – use a pencil in sketching out your short and long-range plans and be prepared to adapt it.
  • Differentiate your plan by including several options for activity & student engagement.
  • Set everything up the night before so you are not scrambling in the morning.
  • Have extra activities with you for when students finish early.
  • Have a Google-drive folder of extras (especially when TOC’ing – then you don’t have to lug things around with you.)
  • Long-term timelines help diminish the scramble at the end of the year.
  • Keep everything you need filed in your planning binder (the Curriculum Library has sample binders for you to see).  Pages in your binder will include class lists, school timetables, school maps, school handbook, unit plans, lesson plans, day plans, assessment pages (checklists, grading pages, space for anecdotal records) and other information that you think will be useful to you during your practicum.

Tips for classroom management:

  • Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Knowing the names of your students is important – this will help with classroom management, learn names as quickly as you can.
  • Try to get into the class before observation week and learn as much as you can about the culture of the school, classroom, etc.
  • Share your passion, if there is something you’re great at, share with students.
  • Have a sense of humour about yourself.
  • Look at each day and interaction as a possible job interview – look and be professional.
  • Classroom rituals can be helpful such as beginning of class free-writes or end of class exit tickets.
  • Share a detailed plan on the board so learning intentions are clear for students.  This can help you stay on track as well.  Check off as you get things done.

Self-reflective practices:

  • Write reflections on the back of lessons (what worked well, what didn’t, how far you got with the lesson).
  • Keep your lesson plan with you while you are teaching, take jot notes as you are helping students of what needs to be retaught, who you need to follow up with, etc.
  • Make the most of debriefing sessions with your mentor/supervisor.  Ask for feedback.  If something doesn’t work well, ask them what they would do differently.
  • Make transitions work for you; give students a talking point while you are handing out materials or getting the technology set up; it’s a chance for you to prepare for the next segment of the lesson.
  • Incorporate a mechanism for anonymous student feedback, ask students “what’s working for you?”  Their feedback might surprise you (such as not being able to read your writing on the board, or loving when you share anecdotes of your own experiences).

Communication tips – with students and parents:

  • Let parents know that you’ve heard them.
  • Be comfortable with your knowledge – share it with your students and parents.
  • Be diplomatic and explain why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Emotions can be high – you want to diffuse the intensity as much as you can.  Listening is the best way to diffuse a volatile conversation.
  • Let the parent/student talk first and don’t jump in.  Let them fully explain their viewpoint and actively listen before you share your view.
  • Keep students’ dignity intact.  Discussions should be private, but not isolated. School office environment is good; room with a window on the door; can ask a counselor or an administrator to sit in with you if you feel you need support.
  • Including administrators in e-mails can help you feel less alone in dealing with a difficult parent and help you recognize that you don’t have anything to hide.
  • Keep documentation of meetings and dates when events happened.  In rare cases, you might need to look back quite far (a year or more) to see what happened around a certain event.
  • Openers: “Can we touch base. . . “, “I am worried about. . . .”

Sec Planning 5


Many thanks to Kerry Robertson and Dr. Kathy Sanford for inviting me to attend this event. It was wonderful to see our graduates sharing their expertise, and it was encouraging to see how excited our future teachers are to be heading out into the field in the near future.

This workshop is followed up by another next week that focuses on strategies, ideas, lesson and unit plans that can be shared and adapted on practicum.

Resources in the Curriculum Library

We have a number of resources in the Curriculum Library which can help you with your planning.  Use the Subject Guide for K-12 Lesson Plans to help get you started.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 9.59.58 AMYou might also find the following guides helpful:

Planning templates are included on the  Lesson and Unit Planning page, which include templates created by faculty members, as well as a link to templates shared via the new BC Curriculum website.

We have sample planning binders from recent graduates if you need a model for planning.  planning binderThese are located in the Workroom just past the Circulation Desk.

If you would like some support finding resources or want to discuss lesson ideas or teaching strategies, drop by the Help Desk:  Monday-Friday 11:00 – 3:00 (subject to change) or e-mail me to make an appointment.

Hope to see you in the Curriculum Library!

Carol N.

Spotlight on Upcoming Professional Development Events

This post has been written by two dedicated Education students in the Most Likely to Succeed screeningUVic Faculty of Education.  Thank you to the coordinators:  Rebecca Benner and Melissa Rickson who are helping Dr. Valerie Irvine plan the EdCampWest event.

Please share widely (and don’t feel guilty about it – people will thank you for letting them know!)

Very Exciting Things Ahead in the World of Ed!

It all begins on Wednesday, March 30th at 6:30pm at UVic in the David Lam Auditorium with a film screening of Most Likely to Succeed, a powerful educational documentary hailing from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival.

Watch the trailer:

Most Likely to Succeed screening

This event is extra special because not only is it a great film, it is also a fundraiser for education and health supplies for Kenya (8 students in their second year of the BEd Elementary Curriculum program will be completing their practicum in 2 villages in Kenya in May)!  So please, come to see the film, support the cause and participate in the (optional) post-film discussion! Tickets are only $5 and can be purchased online here.

Next on the list of amazing, upcoming events is EdCampWest, an edcampwesteducational “un-conference” happening on April 3rd starting at 9:30 at UVic! EdCampWest is a refreshing take on professional development where YOU pick the topics YOU want to discuss. It’s a fantastic opportunity for networking of ideas and individuals, and there is even a free lunch! Register at to secure your spot!

Please help us spread the word! If you have any questions about either of these events, don’t hesitate to email us at or tweet us to @edcampwest or @missrickson.


Thank you to Rebecca Benner and Melissa Rickson for co-authoring this post, and for their good work to provide professional development opportunities to our Education community.  These events are not just for students!  Come enjoy the film, and participate in the EdCampWest discussions.  It is always interesting to see how the day at an “unconference” will evolve!

Hope to see you in the Curriculum Library!

Carol N.

PechaKucha: Glimpsing Research

It went quickly and it was great fun. But, it was also very important.

This week’s PechaKucha presentations, hosted by Dr. Wanda Hurren, were part of the University of Victoria’s IDEAFest event.  The fast-paced presentations  gave us an opportunity to “see” and hear from six varied faculty members about the diverse educational research being conducted in this Faculty of Education.


PechaKucha as Knowledge Mobilization

Why are such events so important? Along with engaging a broader audience of Alumni regarding the important work occurring here, as colleagues we also get insights into what is at the heart of each others research. And although we might ask each other, “how is it going?” while we stand in line for a coffee or tea, a PechaKucha allows us to get a fuller “picture”.

This PechaKucha event – with each presenter showing 20 slides and having 20 seconds to speak to each one – offered us a fast-paced visual representation of their work.2124593170_84936eb224_z

Because of the limited time factor, presenters chose impactful images and distilled their conversation to share only the most important details.  The outcome was a highly engaging presentation, taking the “elevator pitch” to a whole new level.

Through these presentations, I gained a much better understanding of the diverse projects that many of our colleagues are engaged in, and appreciate the passion that goes into their research work. In the end, it’s really the speakers’ passion and new knowledge that whets our appetite for more. Thus hooked, we may be inspired to view/read/listen and connect further through their articles, textbooks, websites and courses.

Weren’t able to make it to the event?  Take a look:

Dr. Michael Emme: Envisioning: Collaboration-Art-Research.  We learned about the Pandora Arts Collective, and the studio space that allows individuals with mental health issues to practice art for their wellbeing.  Michael spoke of this practice as self-determined, self-meditation, and self-medicating.


Dr. Onowa McIvor: NETOLNEW ‘One Mind, One People’: Exploring Indigenous Adult Learners’ Contributions to Reviving Indigenous Languages.  Dr. McIvor shared the master- apprentice model used to immerse adult language learners in the spoken-language environment.  The teaching is 100% learner driven and 100% oral.  The goal is to get the mentor and learner speaking together right away. See the language learning assessment tool Dr. McIvor has been developing.


Dr. Nick Claxton:  To Fish as Formerly.  Dr. Claxton shared his research project to reinstate the reef-net fishing practice which had been banned in 1914.  We learned that the reef-net practice is spiritual and ceremonial as well as practical.  “Reef-net fishing really embodies what what it means to be a W̱SÁNEĆ person.”  You can read an article about Nick’s research, here.


Dr. Todd Milford, Dr. G.L. Harrison, B.C. Lawrence: An Ecological Mixed Methods Study of Youth with Learning Disabilities and Anxiety: Personal and Family Factors and Perceptions.  Dr. Milford spoke about research into the correlations between family functioning, anxiety, and learning disabilities.  Here’s the Statistics Canada link to the Youth in Transition Survey.


Dr. Marc Klimstra, Dr. Sandra Hundza: The Risky Business of Getting Older – Changes in Walking, Thinking and Fall RiskDr. Klimstra spoke of the research examining mobility in aging populations.  Using a number of clinical tools and rigorous lab investigations, the research team is examining the “neuromechanics of the aging gait – or more simply put, the changes that are occurring in the brain and body that affect the way we walk as we get older.”  For more information, take a look at their research profile.


Dr. Lara Lauzon, Chaplain C.H. Lock, Reverend S. McMurchy Integrating Spirituality and Meditation into a 1st Year University Health and Wellness Course.  Dr. Lauzon shared student reflections which were written following a class with guest speakers, Chaplain Lock and Reverend McMurchy.  These guest speakers discussed spirituality and led students in Dr. Lauzon’s class through a practice of meditation.


Celebration and Opportunity for more Engagement

Following the PechaKucha event, the presenters and alumni were invited back to the Curriculum Library for a celebratory wine and cheese event, generously sponsored by Alumni Relations.  This gathering provided an opportunity for alumni to chat further with the speakers about their research projects.


Kudos everyone, and hope to see you in the Curriculum Library.

Carol N.

Man with a Bundle – David Bouchard speaks/raps/sings/plays to Grade 10 students

He set up his books first, then opened his bundle, spreading his collection of native flutes across the cloth.


While he was making these preparations for his talk to the Grade 10 students at Spectrum Community School, a small group of dedicated music students practiced in the orchestra pit for the musical production of Mary Poppins.  It was lunch hour, and their precision and commitment were extremely admirable.  The man with the bundle and books applauded them.

I whispered to him, “they don’t realize they’ve been applauded by an internationally acclaimed writer!”

He whispered back, “and, even if they did, they might not care.”

As the young musicians packed up their gear and got ready to head back to class, the writer selected one of his flutes and began to play.  The teens stopped in their tracks, smiled wide, and watched him with awe.


Then, the theatre filled up with Grade 10 students, and I had the privilege of watching David Bouchard tell stories, rap, recite poetry, play his flute, speak from the heart, and make this generation of students laugh their heads off.  It was a little like listening to a motivational speaker at a Yuk-Yuks club.

David Bouchard spoke about his ancestry, how he wears his Métis sash with the pride his grandfather never had the privilege to feel.   He spoke about his children – how one is dyslexic like him. How this son never learned to read well and how it closed so many doors to him. How he worked hard, even before his daughter was born, to instill a love of reading.

He spoke of love, and how of all the seven teachings, love is the most important one.  He played a love song like his grandfather might have played for his grandmother.  He told us about writing his wife a love poem 52 pages long that he shared with her on their first date.


He shared the secret to becoming a reader.  “You start with one book, and you read it.  Then you read another and another and another.”

He listed off a number of “awesome” series novels from Harry Potter and Twilight to Divergent, and said, “there’s no excuse why you aren’t reading.”

He held up his ear buds, and told us how he listens to a lot of audiobooks  now – how this is reading too.

In the end, he told the teens, “you can – and nobody can take it away from you – you can become a voracious reader! It will always open doors for you.”

When the theatre cleared out, I had the opportunity to chat with him.

He exclaimed, “what a great group! Don’t I have the best gig  in the world?”

Yes, Mr. Bouchard, you’re pretty lucky.

But I am too, because I got to watch and listen – with gratitude.

Watch and Listen to David Bouchard

David Bouchard presented to pre-service teachers and faculty as part of the Indigenous Education Speaker Series.  Thanks to Carmen Rodriguez de France and Cody Dawson for recording the event, you can hear his message to educators about Indigenous readers:

Find books by David Bouchard in Curric

     Cover Image     Cover Image     Cover Image     Cover Image

Cover Image     Cover Image     Front Cover     Cover Image    


Thanks to Vice Principal Tina Pierek for inviting me to Spectrum Community School to attend the event.

Thanks to David Bouchard for giving me permission to take and share photos and knowledge from his talk.

Thanks to Dr. Carmen Rodriguez de France and Cody Dawson for sharing the recording of the Indigenous Education Speaker Series.

Thanks to you for taking the time to read this post.

Hope to see you in the Curriculum Library!

Carol N.