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#peel21st March Blog Hop: Collaborating Near and Far

#peel21st March Blog Hop: Collaborating Near & Far

The ministry recently released 21st Century Competencies: Foundation Document for Discussion where they discuss 21st Century skills and competencies. We thought the competencies could be a great way to explore the conversation as a community.



The Prompt: Share a moment of Collaboration and/or Global Citizenship in your practice

Check the snapshots from the chart on page 56.

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What does collaboration and/or global citizenship mean to you?  Have you had a moment that made you think this is collaboration, this is global citizenship? How did technology support and assist in the learning experience? Any reflection on the prompt is welcome.

When I saw the tweets going out about the #peel21st Blog Hop on the topic of Collaboration and Global Citizenship I immediately thought of an experience that my students and I had earlier this year.  An opportunity to be a part of a global exchange with students near and far.

Back in June of 2014 I saw this Tweet go out with details about a Global Adventure connections classrooms, their teachers and students.

I immediately signed myself up.  I was moving to a new school and what better way to get my students familiar with making connections beyond our schools 4 walls that to participate in digital exchanges with students from all over the world using Skype or Google Hangouts.  Months passed, and more schools signed up….The updates were frequent.  Almost year later and….

Another 10 months would pass and several emails later…

We would also attempt to connected with schools in New Zealand and South America only to find that time differences and technology can provide great challenges when connecting halfway across the globe.  We did connected with a school in northern Spain and with one from just outside of Chicago.  My students were excited for the opportunity to make some virtual friends but also to see what life is like elsewhere in the world for students roughly the same age as them.  They were also able to share what life is like here in Brampton.  The exchanges were interesting, my students had expectations that,

  • the other students would not be able to speak english
  • the other students would have the same likes and dislikes when it came to music
  • the other students would have the same interests
  • school life and classes would be very similar to what we have here in Canada

They quickly came to understand that this was not the situation especially for the students we spoke to in Spain.  Our exchanges continued with both groups until the Christmas Break with both groups as we further our relationships with these new friends.  Unfortunately since then our schedules have been very difficult to align.

I look forward to participating in this global exchange in 2016, this time having an opportunity to be a part of some amazing virtual tours of Warwick Castle and the Museum of Arts and Science in Daytona Beach Florida.  Check out their site

And don’t forget to check out the other amazing an on time blogs from my fantastic @peelschools colleagues.

Our #10in10 Challenge

A little less than two weeks ago I challenged students in my class to attempt a #10in10 blog challenge, that is 10 blog posts in 10 days.  While not every student chose to participate a significant number of students did elect to.  I even had a few student who thought they would jump the gun and write 10 entries in one day and then post them out 1 per day over then 10 days.  Most who participated wrote their one entry a day and successfully completed the challenge.  I on the other hand failed to date at completing the challenge myself.  I have written 5 entries on the 10 day period, this if we could count it would be my sixth.  I must remember that blogging requires time and that time must be set aside if I am to be successful at maintaining an up to date and current blog.

So here are a few of the entries my students wrote over their #10in10.

Day #4 Challenge: Deforestation

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 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.

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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.

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

T-minus less than a week

With less than a week to our launch of Countryside’s first HAB (High Altitude Balloon) and everything ready to go there is only one thing to do, run predictions for the flight of our balloon.  Some may ask why we might do this but the answer is quite simple, weather forecasts which include forecasted wind strength and direction change daily if not more frequently and in Southern Ontario where there are many unfavourable landing sites knowing where our payload would land is key to the success of our project.

Predictions in the days leading up to our launch, shown below were prediction landfall to be a little wet which given that our payload consisted mostly of electronics was NOT in our favour.

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With 24 hours notice needed to cancel our buses, Thursday the 21st at around 9am would be the last time we would run a prediction for our launch.  This prediction would dictate whether we would launch on our first planned date.

Unfortunately, this was what we saw with that prediction.

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Calls were made, buses were cancelled, those in Egbert were notified of our postponed launch and a new date was set.  Launch day #2 was set, Thursday the 28th of 2015 would be our new 1st attempt at launching a high altitude weather balloon.

Predictions for the 28th…looking good!

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