Program helps students learn in new ways

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Students in Andrew Doyle’s Grade 4 class at Ralph McCall School are getting a chance to learn in a new way, thanks to his innovative Connections Program. Doyle and some of his students from the last school year came to the Nov. 30 meeting of the Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees to talk about the impact of the program.

The program’s goal is to “inspire students to make social, emotional, physical and intellectual connections with their learning,” Superintendent of Schools Greg Lauterbach said in introducing Doyle and students Abby Cannon, Kaylee Brunelle-Folker, Toban Fortier and Blake Miazga.

Doyle said the idea came to him approximately three years ago and stemmed from conversations he was having with parents who were looking for ways to make school more fun for their children.

He said he looked for ways to help the students “find interest in certain topics and to find something that they can take home and talk about. The purpose of the class was to find meaningful learning opportunities for the kids that they would remember.”

One of the hallmarks of the program is providing a flexible environment in which students are encouraged to learn in more active ways. Doyle has partnered with a number of agencies and programs to provide hands-on learning opportunities, including the City of Airdrie’s Waste Management department, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Green Calgary. Each year, Doyle tailors the focus of the learning opportunities to the learning styles and interests of his students.

“Last year, I really enjoyed learning about sustainability and what it means,” Cannon said. “I enjoyed building our own creations out of recycled materials that can help stop the causes (of waste pollution). I really liked how we got to go to the recycling centre and learn what they did there and how important it is to recycle.”

Fortier’s father, Daniel, said he was thrilled with how well his son did in the class.

“As a parent, it’s interesting because trying to get something out of your kid about what their day was like is usually like pulling teeth,” he said. “The idea of a hands-on, inquiry-based exploring – that’s the kind of learning that (my son) really enjoys, he really thrives on. Instead of just being a part of the class, he became a teacher outside of the class, which I thought was really exciting.”

Ward 3 Trustee Jim Forrest said the kids “should be very proud of the work that (they’d) done with sustainability and for the environment.”

“It really is important to have that connection and that community,” he said. “It really does make a difference in the learning of our students.”

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