The Last Straw: Student Personal ?· Curriculum Connections . The Last Straw: Student Personal Narratives…

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Curriculum Connections The Last Straw: Student Personal Narratives Narrative excerpts from The Last Straw It took me a few years to come back to reality, but I finally made it. My life is still a puzzle I am trying to put back together. I know that it will work out fine eventually. Until then, I have to keep my head up, and move up, not down any more. I now know that there are second chances and hope for everyone. I definitely hope that others can get something out of my story. Life is better once you try harder. About the program The Last Straw is a collection of personal narratives of young women students in a Womens Studies, Health and Fitness Class. The book chronicles the struggles and circumstances that led the students to seek an alternative school setting in which they could build relationships and make connections with each other and their teachers. Prior to disclosure of the narratives, a trusting classroom environment was built through trust exercises, writing activities and physical fitness classes. The collection of stories was published through an on-line publishing company. Each student writer received her own personal copy of the book. Impact on student learning and school culture As a safe and supportive learning environment was established, the students felt increasingly respected, accepted and willing to share their stories; they clearly valued the processes of writing and publishing. Using the power of story, the students connected with others who had experienced similar challenges and learned that their personal stories were valued. Daily physical fitness and journal writing were integral to the students success. The importance of these kinds of activities is also articulated in the ministrys Health and Physical Education curriculum document. Fitness classes were held at a nearby gym. The gym instructors developed positive, empathetic relationships with the students, contributed to a shoe drive and collected workout clothing for the young women. Through these relationships, the students experienced first hand the value and power of community partnerships. Participants in the program commented that the bonding and acceptance that took place during class transferred to other situations during breaks and outside of school. More excerpts from The Last Straw Every step you take you are either changing or creating your future. I used to be full of hatred But now I am full of love, I used to be a bad influence But now I am a role model. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contacts: Sue Pidlubny and Mary Beamer (Teachers) Durham Alternative Secondary School Phone: (905) 579-1990 421 Pine Ave Emails: Oshawa, ON L1J 2H9 School website: Action Culture, Dreams, Character: Creating Diversity Shields About the program The purpose of creating diversity shields was to show students how their past and present affect their future. Students designed and created shields representative of their heritage and culture in the shape of the universal peace sign. One section represented their cultural backgrounds, the second illustrated their dreams about how they want to make a difference in the world and the third articulated what they need in terms of character to achieve their dreams. Members of the Students Against Racism (STAR)/Kids for Change Club were involved in promoting the diversity shields and encouraged every child in the school to make one. Students shared their ideas with parents and families as they completed the three sections of their shields at home. Impact on student learning and school culture Students reflected on how their diverse backgrounds shaped their present and future, as well as how their character could make a difference in their present and future. The home component of the project allowed parents and families to reflect on how they could also help the students achieve their dreams. The diversity shields were displayed in hallways throughout the school and demonstrated the diversity of the school community. Some students extended the shields by creating a large one with contributions from a group of students, to show unity and community pride. This activitys celebration of diversity and acceptance complements the goals of the Ministry of Educations Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact #1: Elaine Young (Club facilitator/teacher) Dr. Roberta Bondar Public School Phone: (416) 271-6730 25 Sullivan Drive Email: Ajax, ON L1T 3L3 Contact #2: Travis Belrose (Club facilitator/teacher) Phone: (905) 686-1080 Email: School website: Partnerships The Refuge: A Lesson in Teen Homelessness About the program Students visited The Refuge, a centre for homeless teens, to participate in a tour of areas frequented by homeless teens and to listen to a multimedia presentation about their regions homelessness issues. Students wrote about the impact of the trip in their journals and related classroom issues to what they learned at The Refuge. The visit inspired the students to run a winter coat and food drive to support the centre. They applied for and were awarded funds to make their charitable efforts for The Refuge a permanent endeavour within both the school and the community. Impact on student learning and school culture Staff connected the project to the curriculum by studying books on teen homelessness in English class. Many students shared their experiences of their visit to The Refuge and applied their first-hand knowledge to relate to the experiences of the fictional characters they were studying. Students realized how fortunate they were and that homelessness is a real issue for teens in their region. They demonstrated their commitment by continuing with the project the next year. Many also began volunteering on their own time. Students realized that the needs of homeless youth do not revolve around holidays and neither should their giving. They were humbled by the difference their involvement in the community had made and now organize drives throughout the year, instead of just each winter. Students also encouraged the community to become involved. Some students went door-to-door looking for coats while others announced the coat drive in their churches. This raised awareness of teen homelessness throughout the community and benefited The Refuge. Parents talked about the impact the visit had on their children. Many joined staff in the coat and food drive donations and delivery. Comments from students [The visit] made me realize how lucky I am, and I am not far from being one of those kids and they arent far from being me. I found it interesting that they dont use paper plates to feed the homeless to show that they care. I never thought of the respect that regular glass plates have. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact: Beth Mah (Teacher) Donald A. Wilson Secondary School Phone: (905) 665-5057 681 Rossland Road West Email: Whitby, ON L1P 1Y1 School website: Reality High School: Passport to Success I never knew that I could lead people like that. After that day, seeing that everybody liked what I was doing for a change, just made me want to do it more. So I didnt quit school, and Im graduating this fall. Student Leader About the program Using a reality show format similar to that of the television show, The Amazing Race, 50 senior students with limited co-curricular involvement at Sinclair Secondary School became student leaders by planning and leading a day of activities in June for incoming September Grade 9 students. Planning was based on research suggesting that when students are involved in extra-curricular activities, they are more likely to attend classes regularly and to be more successful academically. The planning team identified a target group of Grade 8 students who had little or no prior extra-curricular involvement. They developed a marketing plan to attract them to the event with catchy statements such as Would you like to run an obstacle course? Play bungee sports? Sumo wrestle? Well you can! Five activity-based workshops were developed that focused on extra-curricular involvement. Student passports tracked completed activities for over 100 student participants. Post-event surveys indicated that the majority planned to get involved and engaged in their Grade 9 year as they began their secondary education. The senior planning team received funding for the day from the ministrys Student Voice initiative and plans to make the schools Amazing Race an annual event with this years participants as next years leaders. Impact on student learning and school culture Student leaders were organized, engaged and proud of the jobs that they were doing, while student participants felt special, had fun and understood the importance of getting involved in school. Staff were involved with students in both planning and supervision for the day. Parent volunteers helped throughout the day and the student participants clearly demonstrated their appreciation for their help. Some of the student leaders re-engaged in school themselves and increased their commitment to their own education. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact: Susan Jones (Vice Principal) Sinclair Secondary School Phone: (905) 666-5400 380 Taunton Road East Email: Whitby, ON L1R 2K5 School website: Grade 8 Transitions: Carousel for Character About the program Pickering High Schools Peace Group and Drama Club developed and presented the Carousel for Character, a half-day event featuring workshops, activities, and a keynote speaker. This proactive, student-made project was created by current Grade 9 students for in-coming September 2010 Grade 9 students. The topics addressed at the event include bullying, making good choices and getting involved. The goal for the project was to involve current students in creating a peaceful, safe school environment through drama and social activism. The project received funding from the ministrys Student Voice initiative. To explain the project, the students created a PowerPoint presentation and video explaining how this student success initiative combined Grade 8 to 9 transitions, character development and inclusive education. Impact on student learning and school culture The program assisted Grade 8 students in their transition to high school, encouraged leadership development and allowed students to have a voice and make a difference in the development of the school culture. The Drama Club established itself as the group in the school that could respond to challenges and create an interesting and informative dramatic presentation on any topic/issue identified by students as a concern. Role-playing characters that reflected their own lives allowed students to analyse the actions and decisions that they and their friends were making. The work helped to create a safe forum for students to discuss their feelings and concerns about issues that concern them, contributing to a more positive school culture. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact: Michelle Crawford-Eade (Vice-Principal) Pickering High School Phone: (905) 683-4760 180 Church St. N Email: Ajax, ON L1T 2W7 School website: Creating Caring Classroom Communities Grove Street Character Development Survey Questions (6 examples of the 26 questions on the full survey) always sometimes never I treat others with respect. I keep my word when I make a promise. I set goals for myself. I keep trying when things are difficult. I learn from my mistakes. I know what I would be good at doing. About the program Grove School serves the educational needs of students who are unable to attend a community school because of placement in a Care, Treatment, Custody or Correctional facility. Its primary purpose is to provide students with effective individual instruction that leads to their re-integration into community schools, post-secondary institutions or employment. Grove School has undertaken an action research project to measure the effectiveness of an integrated character development program. The project focuses on establishing a professional learning community that understands, creates and implements effective character development strategies for a transient student population. By measuring the impact of these strategies in relation to changes in individual student attitudes, the project provides a model for action research that can be replicated in alternative school settings throughout Ontario. Impact on student learning and school culture The implementation of an action research approach promotes self-reflection and professional discussion. Character development strategies are embedded in core curriculum areas so that students learn about character development while earning credits. The classroom is an emotionally safe space for students as the school places emphasis on both character development and safety. Staff and educational workers learn about effective practices and are provided with classroom-ready resources. Student engagement reinforces the building of positive relationships, which is one of the essential learnings necessary to improving interpersonal relationships both in and beyond the classroom. The Voices of the Teachers As educators in segregated classrooms, we teach very vulnerable and challenging students who work concurrently with outside agencies and support workers. Research shows that classroom emphasis on character development is linked with improved academic performance. However, given widely variant classroom settings, we werent sure how to institute a school-wide character development initiative, especially in collaboration with such a range of support workers. Together we developed an innovative plan; we formed a professional learning community and launched an action research project seeking ways to implement character development. To find out more, contact Grove School, Durham District School Board Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences Contact: Anne Arthur (Lead Teacher) Phone: (905) 668-5881 x6280 Profession Learning Community members include: Ann Barker Allan Mountford Vas Aivaliotis Craig Knight Kyle Revill Anne Baker Joanna Longworth Jeff Stewart School website: Action Social Change through the Arts About the program The Diaspora Collective Leadership Initiatives are a series of student-run team building and leadership activities which focus on developing secondary students ability to express their ideas through original theatrical productions. Recently the Diaspora students produced Crossroads, a play focused on local issues, that was shared with the wider school community including elementary feeder schools. The production promoted social change skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, resource development and networking. Another area of focus was relationship building among volunteers, peers, staff and parents. A series of arts-based workshops focusing on positive identity, social change and student mentorship are also being developed for further sharing. Impact on student learning and school culture Students developed their critical thinking and literacy skills with expanded prospects for leadership. Student engagement increased as they were inspired by interaction with hip hop musicians and artists from the community. Parent and staff engagement was enhanced through several community outreach initiatives, including an appreciation ceremony that celebrated student success. Through working together, students increased their understanding and acceptance of the many cultures within the school and individual perspectives were expanded as cultural experiences were shared. School culture also improved as a sense of unity developed among the students. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact: Cheryl Rock (Teacher) J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate Phone: (905) 619-9571 x439 1355 Harwood Ave N Email: Ajax, ON L1T 4G8 School website: Action The Heart of Ajax: Equity, Diversity and Character About the program The Heart of Ajax 2009 event celebrated and recognized diversity, equity and character education practices in Ajax schools. All schools were invited to send four student representatives from Grades 4-10 and one teacher to speak about the special initiatives in their schools. Information was displayed on backboards and each school created diversity dolls or character kids reflecting the heritage of their students. These were a focal point of the event and are prominently displayed in schools across Ajax. Students and teachers were able to see a wide variety of initiatives in place which support character education, diversity and equity. Participants left the event with a greater understanding of initiatives which could be put in place at their schools and a greater appreciation and understanding of each other. Impact on student learning and school culture Students were provided with leadership opportunities during the initial sharing of the initiatives and the carousel portion of the event. Students and teachers brought diversity and character initiatives they had heard at the event back to their schools, discussed them with their leadership groups and implemented them to reflect the needs and perspectives of their individual school communities. Some schools participated in collaborative fundraising efforts for both local and international causes that they learned about at the event. Each school submitted a follow-up write-up of their initiatives, which were then compiled as a full resource, formatted on a disc and shared with all Ajax elementary and secondary schools. Each school could then easily access the initiative ideas and readily implement similar initiatives. Participating Ajax Elementary Schools Alexander G. Bell P.S. Applecroft P.S. Bolton C. Falby P.S. Cadarakque P.S. Carruthers Creek P.S. Dr. Roberta Bondar P.S. Duffins Bay P.S. Eagle Ridge P.S. Lakeside P.S. Lester B. Pearson P.S. Lincoln Alexander P.S. Lincoln Avenue P.S. Lord Elgin P.S. Nottingham P.S. Roland Michener P.S. Romeo Dallaire P.S. Southwood Park P.S. Terry Fox P.S. Vimy Ridge P.S. Westney Heights P.S. Central Maintenance Participating Ajax Secondary Schools Ajax H.S. J.Clarke Richardson Collegiate Pickering H.S. To find out more, contact Durham District School Board 400 Taunton Rd East Whitby, ON L1R 2K6 Contact # 1: Martine Robinson (Chair/event coordinator) Phone: (905) 683-4941 Email: Contact #2: Adrienne Goundry (Chair/event coordinator) Phone: (905) 427-4658 Email: Board website:


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