Revisiting Blogging

When I found out that I would have a class of my own this year I revisited the thought of having my students blog as a showcase of their learning.

This was my vision….


And while we have created our blogs, customized their look and made a few entries I feel that we have not made an effective use of the blog.

So today we reflected on my vision and refocused ourselves. Next setting personal goals for blogging, writing and tweeting out what we share!

Getting them going…

on what you say? Blogging!  Over the summer I had read many articles discussing the successes teachers were having with blogging in their classrooms.  So, I started the year with a plan to have my students keep a blog that would serve as a place to share their learning journey throughout the subjects, a digital portfolio of sorts.  I knew that this would be a challenge much like the shift in learning that they would experience here at Countryside Village.

Looking back at the first severals weeks of the school year, I introduced the idea of blogging, many students had that look of shock.  I guess it may have been the fact that they had never blogged before.  Some showed signs of interest.  We started by exploring the Edublogs dahsboard to get familiar with the interface that we would use for blogging.  Some students explored the App for their device.  Many students were interested in customizing the look of their blog.  With the 100’s of themes, every students had the chance to put their own mark on the blog that they would keep.  From there we began the customization that would help keep our blogs organized.  We set up categories and a menu structure for their main page.  This would serve the purpose of keep entries with common threads connected and in one place. (I will be posting videos to my YouTube channel showing the steps taken to complete this setup).  Once this was done, we were essentially ready to begin writing or so I thought we were.  Where would we start?  Something random?  Something with a purpose?  After a little thought, I had the class start with a Bio page, a place for future blog followers to get to know the author, the learner that would be sharing their window into our classroom.  Within a few days, the Bios began popping up in my dash and on the student sites.  From a few sentences long to paragraphs, the students began sharing a little about themselves.  We had made the leap.  The students were now blogging.  The next step, another post!  Topic, unknown!

To hear more about our adventure in blogging check back for future posts about our progress.

Another School Year

In the days leading up to the new school year there was excitement and nerves in the air.   As the year began this past Tuesday at Countryside Village we were preparing for uncertainty but also for a period of constant change as the neighbourhood we are the hub for continues to be settled into.

My nerves were getting the better of me because I was starting the year with a class unlike last year and I was excited because the staff and I were starting the year with the group of kids that would eventually follow us to the “Countryside” that would be built in their neighbourhood.  These would be the kids that would get the full experience of learning in an inquiry based school from K through 8.

Many have heard of but may not entirely have an understanding of the inquiry based learning model.  It is certainly not a new way of teaching however, at Countryside our vision is to see all students become involved in a process where they formulate questions, investigate to find answers, build new understandings, meanings and knowledge, and then communicate their learnings to others.


From Kindergarten to Grade 8, our students will explore various topics of interest to themselves and their classmates which are connected to curricular expectations.  I myself, was excited to led my group of 7s down the pathway of many inquiries this year as individuals, in small groups and collaboratively amongst other groups within and outside our school.

The Long Awaited…SGTS Imagery and Data

The sorting of many photos that would best show the result of the hard work put forward by the Grade 6 class at Countryside Village is now here.

One short, “Blair Witch-like GoPro video” to start.  WARNING…if you are not a fan of spins this may not be the video to watch.


A wonderfully sunny, clear day for launch (Ground-level view)


Must be getting ready to go, pictures/videos are being taken


Moments after launch, in the background the CARE facility in Egbert, ON


A little sideways…


Much better @ 1500 feet


Farmers Fields for as far as the eye can see!


Nearing 6000 feet…that’s a long way down!


Does anyone recognize the body of water in the background?


The sky is darkening…as we near 10 000 feet!


Things are a little turbulent at ~13 000 feet!


A little closer to that body of water… HINT: 44.18479, -79.71455


There it is again!


We’re NOT in Egbert anymore!


That sun is really bright today!

Moving quickly at this point (125 km/h) ... What could be helping us along so quickly?

Moving quickly at this point (125 km/h) … What could be helping us along so quickly?


Really bright!


Cool sun shot!


The darkness of space from 45 000 feet!


Yup that’s the curvature of the Earth! Just passing by Newmarket!


~50 000 feet and climbing…


Things are a little hazy at ~65 800 feet, moments before burst! May have added a tad too much helium to this balloon ride!  We are just NE of Vivian, ON right now!


You can see the trees that we would land in just a couple thousand feet below

Our payloads final resting place until its recovery 2 days later! 40+ feet up in a cedar tree just North of Whitby!

Our payloads final resting place until its recovery 2 days later! 40+ feet up in a cedar tree just North of Whitby!

A look at the data acquired from the Eagle Flight Computer courtesy of Sahil, Arthika and Gurleen for their analysis.


The Anticipation…

On Saturday morning Chuck the Tree Guy, climbed the tree that was home to our payload, parachute, and Lacey.  After a drive out to Whitby to collect our experiment I must say that the anticipation is building. what will our experiment tell us?  Did the cameras work?  How about the video?  What will the Eagle Flight Computer tell us about our #csvpsHAB’s journey into near-space? So many questions to have answered.

Stayed tuned…tomorrow we will see!  Time for some sleep, maybe I shouldn’t have had that coffee!

The Recovery Attempt #2

Late on Friday we had concluded that we would likely not recover our payload until early next week but that all change when Chuck gave me a call on my way home.  He said that he would be able to go out to the site on Saturday morning where our payload was and see if he would be able to recover it for us.  I shared with him our coordinates and anxiously awaited that morning.

On Saturday morning just before 8 I thought that he might benefit from having a picture of what he was looking for so I sent along the following.


The coordinates marked while standing under the tree and a picture looking up at the payload.


Shortly after 8:30 I received a text, he had located the payload and was headed back out of the forest to get his gear to climb.  At this point I was excited and relieved.  I waited for further communication and about an hour later I received a text saying “Got it”.  I know that I didn’t out loud but I think an internal yell of WooHoo rang out.

His text was followed with these pictures.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 10.09.13 AM

The payload hanging in the tree!

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 10.08.50 AM

Chuck himself who came out to the rescue.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 10.09.01 AM

The look down for a top the tree.


And the payload safely sitting on the tailgate of his tree.

This followed with a few tweets…


The Chase and Recovery

Like any great adventure, there needs to be a chase and it all starts here just a couple minutes east of the launch site.


Navigating our way closer and closer we could see that our payload had landed in a forest.

IMG_0753 IMG_0757

IMG_0758 IMG_0759

As we neared the GPS coordinates we could see the forest.IMG_0760

We arrived on site to this! Hmmm…the tweets said it all!




You can see our payload in the tree that looks like its growing out of the top right hand corner of the picture.  At some point while starring up into the trees, there was the idea of cutting down the tree to retrieve our package.

A visit to a local farmer/homeowner asking if we could borrow a chainsaw failed and we then returned to the house of the person whom we felt owned the forest land to tell them who we were and the situation that we were in with our HAB science project.  I did asked if they would be ok with cutting down the tree however, the farm and the trees had been in the family since they settled in the area nearly a century ago.

An alternate plan was considered, we needed to find someone who could climb the tree for us.  Many phone calls to local arborists and tree service companies were made.  I think Julie had a good laugh at our own expense because each call had me asking “Do you climb trees?”  Sometimes she could hear a laugh or odd comment come from the person on the other line.  One would assume that arborists/tree service companies would climb trees but not all do.  A few of those we spoke to about “climbing a tree” said that they would get back to us, one was Chuck Guy who said he would get back to us at some point on Friday.  It was the end of the business day so we were forced to call off the recovery of our payload.

We made a quick stop for a cold drink and a snack!  I recognized the gas station from one of my favourite TV shows “Suits”.  No selfie, but I had to make mention of this stop.


After a short drive back to the school, I made one more call to a family member who works for the fire department in the Whitby area, the thought “firefighters climb trees sometimes” or at the very least know someone who could.  He ended up connecting us with Chuck “The Tree” Guy whom we had already spoken to.  Maybe this would be the key to our recovery.  Our other option was our office managers son, who climbs poles as a part of his job.

SGTS Launch – #csvpsHAB

Through and through it was a day full of hands-on learning, excitement and adventure, the culmination of months of work.  Today we launched our high altitude balloon with parachute and payload attached from (44 13’ 55”N 79 46’ 50” W) just to the west of Egbert, ON at the Meteorological Service of Canada Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments. (That’s a mouthful!)



It is hard to reflect on the day in words so the majority of my look back at our day will be visual with a selection of photos and videos taken by the students in the group responsible for the visual documentation of the event.



We are ready to go, can we board the bus already?


On the road to Egbert, what a great day to launch a balloon!


The gateway to our launch site, inside those doors is where it all happens…wait we didn’t kaunch a balloon indoors!


A flat, open area, facing south, unobstructed by anything that would have interfered with our launch.IMG_4892

Lacey was getting use to hanging out upside down.


Preparations of the launch area.  Getting everything organized and ready was key to a successful, efficient launch.


The helium needed to be brought down to the launch site from the garage within the CARE facility.  The was a question asked of us whether or not we wanted to inflate the balloon indoors out of the wind.  A the students had watched int he many youtube video on HABing most launches occur outside.  So we proceeded to setup to inflate outside the building.


Lloyd resident meteorologist working for NAVCAN was checking out the contents of our payload.  I must say he was quite impressed with what we decided to send up with our balloon.  Well done team!  The research paid off.



Getting all of the technology up and running was challenging when looking for LED indicators to show in full sun.


The final additional of Lacey and her wooden plank.


Our friends Lloyd, Bernard and Liisa discussing how nice it was to get out of the offices/labs and outside to join in on the fun of our balloon launch.


Test launch of a party balloon to gather an idea of which way the wind would blow our balloon on launch.


The payload and parachute all strung out read to be attached to the balloon once it was ready and inflated.

The videos below cover the efforts of the students, ourselves and the experts for the CARE facility as we near launch.  At this point we are T-minus under an hour.

Recorded by Ryan N.

Periscope feed by Mrs. Simons

Following our successful launch of our high altitude balloon, we headed inside the office/lab building to grab a quick snack and had a great discussion about all things science that occur at the launch site with our experts Lloyd, Bernard and Liisa.  Students then had the opportunity to have a tour around the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments.

The tour of of the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments featuring Liisa Jantunen, Bernard Franski, Lloyd Barnaby, Nick Spayda (IMPROVE Network) and Kulbir Banwait.

Meanwhile, Julie (Miss Harper) and I headed off on the chase of our balloon.

The SGTS High Altitude Balloon takes flight today…

I must admit that I should have checked off the list, “sleep” but knowing that today was our launch sleep was not happening as it should have.  That being said I am here at school, knowing that we are ready to roll out shortly after the kids arrive at school, attendance is taken and the bus is reloaded.

This mornings prediction for the flight path…NOT what was seen last night…landing further south and east.  It is obvious that forecasted winds have picked up.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 9.10.49 PM


The kids should be here momentarily…We a T-minus 2 hours!

Tomorrow is “Launch Day”

That’s correct tomorrow IS the day we have been working towards since the end of January, four months effort all wrapped together into a span of a few hours to gauge our success in being able to send George “Lacey” to space “near-space”.  After running the predictor just a few minutes ago and importing that data into Google Earth you can see that our predicted landing location (PBL (27-940)) is a favourable one so it looks like we are a “GO”.  Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.54.24 PM 

The T-minus 24 hour checklist,

  • confirm buses
  • notify Egbert (Liisa) that we are a go
  • load Julie’s car
  • submit NOTAM (Notice to Airmen)
  • get sleep
  • ignore the changes in the predictor (Yeah right!)

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 6.05.03 PM

From the morning prediction (Red), to the afternoon (Yellow) to the 12 hours to launch (blue), our landing site moved further south and west.  Lets keep our fingers crossed that no further changes occur in the forecast overnight!

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