Our Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) team aims to create a bridge of playful learning between St. George (Gr. 4-6) and Notre Dame (Gr. 7-8) students. The team is reimagining what learning through play can look like when multiple age groups work toward a common cause. For us, learning through play is student-led and involves open-ended Deep Learning opportunities (NPDL). It’s messy, highly engaging, addresses real world issues and promotes global competencies. Using the framework of the OCSB Social Entrepreneur Program, students will engage in authentic learning experiences by unpacking the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Ottawa River serves as a basis for our environmental inquiry. Their explorations in STEM, connected to the unceded land upon which we learn, will drive the direction of the “play.” We’re excited to see the innovation that emerges from networking with other schools in the CPSN across Canada!
Tell us about your team and your school community.
We are a team of educators and students from St. George Elementary (SGE) and Notre Dame Catholic High (NDH) School in Ottawa. Calum Mackenzie, grade 5/6 teacher at SGE, is passionate about coding in the classroom and maker culture. Jacqueline Lawlor, grade 4/5 teacher at SGE, and Michelle O’Toole, grade 7/8 teacher at NDH, are enthusiastic about Project-Based Learning and social entrepreneurialism. Will Volkmer, grade 8 teacher at NDH, teaches through student-led inquiry. Both schools are located in Ottawa’s central west end; there are a diversity of needs at our schools. Providing an education that reflects the lived experiences of our populations has demonstrated that student-led inquiry and action projects are effective engagement tools. We believe in creating equitable access to learning through play. We are intent on building relationships with community partners and raising student voice to drive action.
Tell us about the importance of learning through play for your team and for your students.
Our team is passionate about engaging students in project-based learning endeavors. Applying the Deep Learning framework, we encourage students to work collaboratively through real world issues. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a springboard. Using innovation through STEM, we encourage our students to “play” as they explore how to address these goals and feel empowered to be changemakers. Engaging the hearts and minds of our students, we believe in the importance of connecting our lessons to the traditional teachings of the Anishnaabe people. This project is unique as it will add an element of mentorship whereby intermediate students from Notre Dame are learning beside younger peers at St. George. We strive to create a learning environment that honours all student voices, creating a space where they can confidently take risks, challenge one another and ultimately guide their learning.
Tell us about your interest in joining the Canadian Playful Schools Network.
We are seeking to deepen our knowledge of “play” across many grade levels, as well as collaborating with other teams across Canada. We hope to learn about communities in different geographic locations and how they interpret learning through play. CPSN offers a variety of engagements with experts and peers. This will provide opportunities to improve our current teaching practices and enhance our collective understanding of playful pedagogy. The resources that CPSN provides will allow us to take deep-learning to a higher level than we have previously experienced at our schools. We look forward to adding our voice to the dialogue regarding play-based learning in the junior/intermediate grade levels.