Archive: August, 2011

Ward F Back to School Pool Party & Ward F Gathering Sept. 21st

Many of you know I’m passionate about swimming and saving Scona Pool and I’m passionate about parties! This ward gathering will bring together our schools and communities– but with a fun twist for the whole family!

You can grab a hot dog and your kids can party in the pool while you meet and mingle with other passionate education supporters, community leagues, elected resources and much more.  I hope this makes it just a little bit easier for busy families to attend as there will be plenty of things to do for the whole family!

Download the PDF and send it to your communities: 2011Ward F Public School Trustee Michael Janz invites you to

Stop in for a visit, or come for the full two hours! And if you can’t make it, there are great Scona Pool activities happening all week!

Event: Sept 14th Ward Gathering Discussion: the New Education Act

I am pleased to announce that Trustee Ripley and I are co-hosting a discussion on the New Education Act on Wednesday September 14th from 7-9PM with special guest, The Honourable Dave Hancock.

The School Act is the master document that sets all direction for education in Alberta. From the age that students graduate to the regulations surrounding bullying, this document lays out the guiding principles for all school districts around the province, Public Francophone, and Separate.

I would encourage you to RSVP 780-887-1002 and come and partake in the discussion. It is a great opportunity for all citizens to come and give their feedback about education in Alberta. It is also a great time for us to talk a little bit more specifically about some of the implications of the act on our neighbourhoods and on our schools.

If you have questions or comments please don’t hesitate to call me:

** Once you RSVP you will receive a backgrounder with more information about the act, the event, and a brief summary of the discussions so far**

***Trustee Ripley has posted a few links and thoughts to her blog: Check it out!***

Outdoor Education and Edmonton Public Schools

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Recently I had a chance to sit down with a very passionate Outdoor Education teacher at an EPSB Junior High. We had a great chat about our board’s 2010-2013 district priorities, how a robust outdoor education strategy could support these objectives, especially Priority #1, increasing our high school completion rate, and the formative role that outdoor education played in our own orienting stories.

Through Elementary school I was always more of a book worm than a jock, and was more often drawn to our computers (the brand new PowerMac in the basement replacing our old IIVX for those mac users out there) than the great oudoors.

Rocky Mountain YMCA Camp Chief Hector

Rocky Mountain YMCA Camp Chief Hector

Come Junior High, I had the opportunity to go with my class to Rocky Mountain YMCA, for a week-long school trip dedicated to outdoor pursuits. That week in the woods was an incredibly formative experience for me, gave me a can-do attitude about the outdoors, and in turn life, and further ignited a love of canoeing, camping, the outdoors, nature, and wildlife. Supported by a wonderful teacher, the late Mr. Richard Barbeau, I had the chance to share my particular outdoor transformation with the town paper, and present to my own school board about the value of the program. I was changed, and Mountain Equipment Co-op Catalogues soon became well-thumbed treasures as I worked with my family to plot out my next adventure. If it wasn’t for that outdoor education experience, I know my life would have taken a much different trajectory.

The outdoors are a place of wonder, reflection, and inquiry. They foster creativity, health, and a realization of our shared humanity in a fragile and intertwined biosphere. How can we teach students about the dangers of pollution when they lack understanding of the ecosystems at risk? How can we teach conservation when a generation grows up unfamiliar with why we must conserve?

Mill Creek Ravine

Mill Creek Ravine

In our increasingly litigious and fear-governed society, some districts have had to back away from outdoor education due to increased red-tape and costs that make certain programs prohibitive. I don’t want to see this be the case for Edmonton Public Schools. Reading this book made me so thankful for the preservation of our River Valley and the fact that in 20 minutes, any of us can be hidden in a secluded tree canopy, and apart from the occasional plane, we could forget that we are in the city at all!

I had the chance to read an amazing book this summer, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder” by Richard Louv. While this book is written predominantly in an American context, many of the lessons and ideas transcend the 49th parallel and are just as important to consider for Canadian educators and families today.

The book does a great job of giving an overview into why outdoor education is important, co-ciricular opportunities for integrating nature into all subjects, and a comprehensive list of 100 actions we can all take to bring the nature back into our own lives.

“When we take nature away from people, we take away their ability to be full human beings.”

Here is a project a few Educational Psychology students did on “Last Child in the woods”

If you have a chance, pick up the book. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Aging School Buildings and Infrastructure Deficit

New Report “Opportunity Rich Schools and Sustainable Communities”

The good folks at the Cities and Schools Centre at UC Berkeley have published a report with seven recommendations for alignment between different levels of government and decision makers. I had a chance to hear from them when they were in Edmonton and I think their research is valuable in our journey to strengthen our community schools and the educational opportunities in our neighbourhoods.

I especially appreciate their cross-silo approach. It acknowledges that trustees, MLAs, City Councillors, bureaucrats, non-profits, community leagues– all members and interest groups contribute to the strength and health of our public education system and the success of our students depends on more than just their school trustees. As the saying goes, “it takes a village…”

To Download the report please click here:

Deborah L. McKoy, Jeffrey M. Vincent, and Ariel H. Bierbaum.
In 2010 the What Works Collaborative invited CC&S to examine the ways in which sustainable community planning could work with school leaders to foster positive educational outcomes.

The report illustrates policies and strategies at all levels of government are increasingly associating educational outcomes with community planning and housing. Challenges remain for local officials and practitioners trying to align these policy areas, including persistent spatial inequity and rigid institutional silos. Through the research, we developed seven steps to link education and planning policy at the local level.

We draw from a national scan of model activities, interviews with key experts and agency staff members, and the authors’ experience working with local governing bodies. The report identifies practical solutions that encompass assessing the current educational environment, engaging the community, strategic planning and implementation of investment, and institutionalizing successful innovations.