Dufferin-Peel’s anti-gang film takes top honours
Mouse, a 23-minute narrative film directed by James Flaherty, a communications technology teacher at Ascension of Our Lord SS in Malton, captured the Outstanding Canadian Short Film Award at the 9th Annual ReelWorld Film Festival in Toronto in April.
Mouse was one of 18 Canadian films selected for an international program of 28 shorts, which included narrative, documentary and experimental work. The film, which was produced as part of an effort to educate young people, parents and the local community about the lures and dangers of gang involvement, convincingly delivers its anti-gang message.
Flaherty began work on the project in the fall of 2007.
“We had made an eight-minute, anti-bullying film earlier at the school, but it was geared to secondary school students, and I was thinking of doing something for younger students,” says Flaherty. “Then, when visiting one of our feeder schools, I was shocked to learn that there was a real concern about gang recruitment and the vulnerability of isolated students.”
It seemed to Flaherty that there was an important story to tell. After drafting a script, he consulted with Dirk Niles, then a constable in Peel’s anti-gang unit. Students who were cast to play gang members helped to craft the realistic dialogue through improvisation. Shooting began in spring 2008 and continued into the summer. Students participated on a volunteer basis but received some class credit, and the activity counted toward their community-service hours.
“I’m really proud of the talent and the work they did,” says Flaherty. “I hope the DVD will help them to pursue acting after high school.”
Flaherty held auditions at Holy Cross and Saint Raphael elementary schools, local feeder schools where he found the actors who play the title character and the bullies. The project was a full community collaboration featuring the talents of students, teachers and local police officers, who appear in the film, and the support of the Peel Regional Police.
Mouse was shot on location in the community and schools of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB. It had the support of the parents and schools and financial support through an anti-bullying grant from the Educational Services Corporation of the Ontario Ministry of Education.
“We have digital camera equipment and a studio at the school,” says Flaherty, “which makes this possible. Pretty much everything was done on a volunteer basis or out of my pocket. But the grant allowed for some original music and a professional sound mix, which made a big difference.”
The film was made with an audience of Grades 7 to 10 and above in mind, says Flaherty. “But, depending on the students and their situation, it could be used in earlier grades.”
A DVD of Mouse, with curriculum guide, is available for $21 including GST. To order, visit www.dpcdsb.org.
Delegations regularly visit the College, meeting with the Council Chair, Don Cattani, and members of the College staff to share and gather information on a range of education issues, including accreditation, qualifications and standards of practice.
How to produce a Nobel Prize winner
Larisa Shavinina, a gifted-education expert at the Université de Québec en Outaouais, firmly believes that teachers are the most important influence on a child’s academic performance, at least when it comes to forming future Nobel Prize winners in science.
Shavinina spent two decades studying what it takes to produce a Nobel science winner. “In my research of winners’ early childhoods, there was always a teacher who did something extraordinary, something inspirational.”
Some of her past work, such as Understanding Scientific Innovation: The Case of Nobel Laureates, is among 10 of her articles included in the just-published 1,200-page International Handbook on Giftedness. Shavinina is the book’s editor.
In a current research project, Shavinina is examining the early childhood and adolescent education of the some 600 Nobelists in science since 1901, when the first prize was awarded. In her research, she combines personal interviews with the study of autobiographies and other public documents.
Another of her findings: many of these prizewinners were not considered gifted as children. “They were seen as normal or as underachievers,” says Shavinina, a trained psychologist. She calls them “gifted learning-disabled.”
Does this mean that parents did not play a critical role in the academic development of these future Nobelists?
Not at all, says Shavinina. She explains: “Parents do what they are supposed to do – create an educational environment. But that’s not enough to make a Nobel prizewinner. The winners all had at least one exceptional teacher who acted as a role model and pushed them into a science career.”
Shavinina hopes her findings will provide insights for teachers today and for those developing science curricula tomorrow.
French literacy webcast
The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat recently launched a series of videos via its web site that presents strategies for teaching literacy in the Primary division. This initiative gives educators the opportunity to explore methods of teaching reading and writing to Primary students.
How does a literacy block work in the classroom? How do you develop classroom management strategies that help students improve their skills and that reflect on their learning? How do you integrate oral communication, the cornerstone of literacy? These are some of the topics the webcast deals with, offering educators ways of providing varied learning experiences.
The videos present effective teaching practices, helping educators target instructional activities that enable students to develop literacy skills by exploring subjects in depth, getting involved in research projects, asking questions and applying what they’ve learned to new contexts.
As well as offering advice for planning school and class schedules, the webcast shows a Grade 1 teacher and her students in action during a literacy block. It also illustrates a number of learning activities, including shared reading, modelled writing and independent writing.
You can view the webcast of literacy blocks for the Primary division at www.curriculum.org.
Oakville school tops Canadian entries
When the physician mother learned about her daughter’s proposed medical project for ExploraVision, one of the world’s largest science competitions, she dismissed it as “a horrible idea.” But the Oakville eighth-grader and three of her friends entered anyway – and got the last laugh.
The entry from W.H. Morden PS won the Grade 7 to Grade 9 category in a region that comprises all of Canada and nine states, including Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Morden is the only Canadian regional winner in any of the four categories: K–3, Grades 4–6, 7–9 and 10–12.
“The kids came up with the winning idea on their own, did the research and worked on it for six weeks, three days a week,” says the group’s coach, Ingrid Munson, who teaches Grade 8 in a gifted program. “They are very independent.”
The annual ExploraVision contest, sponsored by the US National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba, asks students to submit ideas for technologies that could exist in 20 years. The two boys and two girls from Morden developed a concept to prevent internal hemorrhaging by injecting a self-implanting organ that produces platelets. They called it a Self-Implanting, Hemostatis-Inducing Nano System. It is designed to help accident victims or people with a pre-existing condition. The submission included a written summary and a simulated web-page graphic.
“The competition allows students to use their imaginations and embodies all that we are trying to teach in science and technology: skills for problem solving, research and technology,” says Munson. “It’s also great for thinking outside the box.”ps
For information on entering projects next year, visit www.exploravision.org.
Technological education consultation
MusiCounts adds $5,000 grant to program
The national music-education charity MusiCounts is adding another grant level to its schools program. Applications are now being accepted for its new $5,000 as well as its ongoing $10,000 grant for school music programs.
Since the initiative began in 1997, MusiCounts has distributed more than $3 million to some 270 schools, covering all grade levels. Last year there were 60 successful applicants, including 21 schools in Ontario. Mostly, the money is used to buy new instruments.
MusiCounts, associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Artists and Sciences, is dedicated to the value of music education and its power to transform young lives.
“Our grants provide access to a greater breadth of musical instruction and have a far-reaching impact on students’ cognitive and social development,” says MusiCounts executive director Srinka Wallia.
To apply for either the $10,000 or $5,000 grant, visit www.musicounts.ca.
Aurora teacher wins a $3,000 wireless package
A Grade 5 Aurora teacher has won $3,000 worth of computer equipment for his school, Northern Lights ES, in the first annual Teaching with Technology competition.
Jay Major won second prize in the national K–12 contest sponsored by CDW Canada. First prize went to Carolyn Logan-Estey of Surrey, BC for her description of how technology helps elementary students with learning difficulties.
Entrants must describe an innovative way in which they are using technology in the classroom.
Major’s students incorporated original poems, music, messages and photos in the making of Mother’s and Father’s Day movies. He knew the project was a success when he received thank-you voice mails from 10 mums on the Monday following Mother’s Day.
Three Ontario teachers were among the eight honourable mentions. They are: Erin Carey of Don Mills Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Joanna Principle of St. Mark Catholic Elementary School in Stouffville and Stephen Wilson of Geraldton Composite High School.
For a complete list of winning entries, honourable mentions and sweepstakes winners, visit www.teachingwithtechnology.ca. Look for information regarding the 2010 contest in September.