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The 1st #csvpsHAB launch is set…

That’s right months of work has come down to these final days as we prepare for the launch of the 1st #csvpsHAB (Countryside Village Public School High Altitude Balloon).  With approximately 7 days until our first set launch day (Friday the 22nd of May) there are a few things yet to do like confirm the bus and pack the supplies.  This seems to be a simple enough task to complete over the next 7 days but I am sure like everything with a deadline, the hours and days will pass and the launch will be upon us.  The only thing that could change that is an unfavourable landing location (lake, major city centre, or somewhere potentially inaccessible like Darlington Nuclear or the middle of Algonquin Park).

Current predictions see us landing just southeast of Peterborough, ON and Rice Lake and approximately 10Km north of Coburg.  All considering the obstacles that south central Ontario poses this seems to be a favourable landing site for our payload.  At this point nothing will need to be rescheduled.

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Site Identified and Requests for Permission to Launch Initiated

The site @ (44 13’ 55”N 79 46’ 50” W) just to the west of Egbert, ON.


A few emails written to York University and the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering put us in contact with Regina Lee, Arthur Lin and Robert McLaren.  Follow up emails went out to Robert and Andrew Sheppard, Stewart Cober and Liisa Jantunen of Environment Canada at the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments and within a few hours of emails bouncing around we had approval to launch from Egbert and helium to fill our balloon.


The Search for a Launch Site

The denial of our request left us searching for a new site to launch from.  So, what would make a suitable site?  Most of the students shared that we needed a space that was;

  • free from obstructions (buildings, power-lines, trees or anything that our balloon and payload system could get caught up in),
  • would leave us landing in a favourable location (preferably land based)
  • was located outside the 26NM (Nautical Mile) zone around Pearson International Airport which is the first map below is the outer most ring around Pearson.  The second map shows the major flight corridors in and out of Pearson.

image001 (1)image004

Armed with Canadian Atlases the students scoured maps of Southern Ontario for sites approximately 1 hours distance away from our school and YYZ.  Numerous sites we identified by the students (our Crew) most falling north and west of our school and well outside the 26NM zone.  Those that I recall the students suggesting were; a community centre in Palmerston, ON., Minto, ON., and Walkerton, ON.

While the students were hard at work, Ms. Harper and I followed up on the previous launch site request that had be denied where it had been suggested by NAVCAN’s AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT team that we consider a launch location often used by a group from York University located at a place called Egbert just outside of Barrie.

Not knowing all of the details about this launch site in Barrie we asked for further information from those at NAVCAN about the site, and those who had previously used it to launch HAB’s. After an email circulated amongst several members at NAVCAN offices we had the location of the York University launches (44 13’ 55”N 79 46’ 50” W)

Next up, gaining permission to launch from this site.  Time to send a few emails to York University and the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering to see who we would need to speak with in regards to gaining permission to launch from this site in Egbert, ON because from the looks of the image below, it’s not exactly a field we can just show up at, setup and launch our balloon from.

Countryside Launch Pad

We have filed with NAVCAN our launch details and plan to use the back field of Countryside Village Public School as the site for our #spaceinquiry high altitude balloon launch.

Details in summary,

We plan to launch a HAB (high altitude balloon) between the dates of May 12th and May 15th.  The 800gram balloon will be 150 cm at release from Countryside Village Public School at 43.776667N / -79.785W and consist of a payload system length ~20 ft on ascent and a payload weight of ~1.4kg that will rise at a rate of 950fpm (feet per minute).  The expected burst altitude is above 90, 000 ft and the balloon is expected to be near 22 feet in diameter upon burst.  The payload will descend below a neon orange/green 3ft parachute about about 60km Northwest of the Launch site.

Say What?

That’s correct, time is counting down.  You would never know it but there are fewer than 10 weeks remaining in the school year which means that there are far fewer weeks left until “Launch Day” and lots to do.  Now you would think that I was concerned that we will run short on time but that is certainly not the situation.  I am confident that will launch our balloon with in the given timeframe we (that is Julie and I) have discussed.

So to recap what has been accomplished to date,

  • students gathered information in a general sense that would help us understand what we would face if we proceeded with the challenge of sending George to “space”
  • students began learning about various aspects of the project itself including space and related topics (e.g., how a GPS works, how a parachute works, the various layers of the atmosphere, etc.)
  • students assessed the information they gathered and decided if any further information would be required
  • students confirmed many of their findings as they relate to the challenge after having a “Hangout” with Laura Dawkins, a PhD student from the University of Exeter who completed a similar launch at the beginning of March

  •  students have looked back at previous lists of the materials required to complete this challenge and sought out suppliers while keeping a mindful eye on our budget (which isn’t really a budget given that as we need more money we push for further fundraising)
  • with our help the students have narrowed down the suppliers for
  • balloon txballoon lg_parachute
  • we have cameras and there is some special teaching to go with these
  • we have bought an Eagle Flight Computer from Jason in Georgia

Image Courtesy of


What needs to be done,

  • buying everything we have not purchased,
  • more fundraising
  • predicting flight path and landing location
  • contacting the appropriate authorities to notify about our launch

I am sure that there are things that I have missed but there is much to be done over the next several weeks that will have us prepared for “launch day”.  Follow @SGTS_CSVPS and for updates from the students as they tweet and blog about their learning and experience.

Have some advice, we would love to hear from you.

#Peel21st Blog Hop – When Tech and Numeracy Collide

It’s the 3rd #peel21st BlogHop I have had the opportunity to work with many classes this year in a variety of different capacities; support teacher, co-teacher, filling in on that day when there was no supply to cover the class or simply when I had the opportunity to drop in and see what was going on when I heard excitement.

Area/Perimeter and Minecraft with the Grade 3’s (@CSVGrade3) and (@PGsInquires)

The students in these two classes were so enthusiastic about Minecraft and being able to teach their teachers how to build a variety of different structures that in turn their teachers turned that energy into a teaching opportunity.  What I  happened upon was students constructing various structures within their Minecraft world to represent various Areas and Perimeters.  The level of engagement was significant and it was clear that the students had developed a good understanding of the concepts being explored.  The best of all, it was being done using one of the most popular games amongst students.

I did not have the opportunity to take any photos of the students working within Minecraft however, here is some of the non-tech exploration of Math and Minecraft that evolved from the tech.

Math meets Google Earth and The Pyramids

The Grade 8’s @CountrysidePDSB are your typical group of Grade 8 students whatever, that may actually be.  About two weeks prior to a visit in the computer lab they approach their teacher and asked is they could learn about the major empires of the world.  This idea evolved and resulted in the learning about the Egyptians.  Now they’ve likely done this before back in Grade 5 but she went with the idea and great things happened.  Eventually, Tech met Math when she presented them with the following challenge, “Pick 3 of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids. Research their measurements and calculate the volume and the surface area for each.”  I happened to venture into the lab on this day when the group was feverishly researching the dimensions of the ancient structures.  I at first questioned the likelihood of being able to find the data readily available somewhere on the internet or for that matter readily available in some sort of book on our library shelves.  Moments later, the idea came to me, why not explore the pyramids using Google Earth, it would show each in 3-dimensions.  The students continue to plod along with their plan of finding the measurements and using known formulas to solve the challenge at hand.   I pushed my crazy idea of using tech and Google Earth and the result was…

A 3D view of the Great Pyramid of Giza

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Some approximate measurements using the ruler tool and the 2D image.

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The length of one side

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The height of that side

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Look we figured out how to use the ruler tool itself to do the area calculation and the others below.

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Using information that was readily available online at their fingertips along with a basic tool “The ruler” a few members of the group gathered the necessary information and applied previous knowledge of perimeter, area and volume to solve the challenge.  Of course as some of the images show, they figured out how to have the tech-tool solve the challenge for themselves.  All in all a great meeting of tech and math.

The Math of SGTS

SGTS, what’s that?  Sorry, top secret unless it has leaked or you caught one of my prior blog entries.  But in working with our Grade 6 class @CountrysidePDSB and their space inquiry we will be working with various mathematical concepts that will help the group predict where our package may end up, how fast it will get there, how long it will take to recover and.  Of course being able to work this out will be a key component to further mathematical exploration that will focus on data gathered during the testing.  More to come regarding this meet up.  Follow the Twitter feed @SGTS_CSVPS

The Village Video Newsletter

Earlier this year, myself and a colleague (@wedermireroberts) put together an application for a “SpeakUp” grant through the Ministry of Education.  The primary aim of these projects is to, “help students engage both academically and socially by leading projects that they design and implement with the support of their learning community.”  Our project idea was to evolve the traditional paper newsletter and create a newscast, written, edited and produced by the students at Countryside Village Public School.

Initially, there was great interest in all aspects of the project, the class brainstormed the various roles that would be required to produce their very own newscast.  The list of jobs was extensive and of course both their homeroom teacher and myself would have to take on a role just as each of them would need to.  Of course, discussion were had about having the opportunity to play to their strengths where by some who felt they were strong writers would work to write the stories that would be reported on while others who felt the had the necessary editing skills would work as a team to edit each newscast that would be produced.  We, their teachers would help guide the production of each newscast to ensure that deadlines were met and students were fulfilling curricular expectation that would be covered by working on this project.

We also needed some equipment and training to help us in the production of our newscast.  We are currently working out of  holding school (James Grieve Public School) and using resources previously purchased by another school who actually opened the building.  As a part of receiving the grant we would be able to purchase some equipment (see Reviews to Come (Studio Equipment) and receive some training

There was excitement in the air, and with that we would have to come up with a name for the newscast.  Some of the suggestions were: CSV News, CSV24, The Villager, CSVPS News, Everything News News and a few more… To be honest I think this may have been one of the more challenging task for the class, to choose a name that, represented what was being done and the school it was about.

Beyond some decision making, students were also asked to recall events, stories, learning and more that was occurring in the building during the previous four or so weeks.  This would make up the content of our first newscast.  The list was extensive, Black History Month, Intramurals, Mr. Raney’s Lambs were just a few of the stories that would be covered.  The first edition of our newscast was being produced in a somewhat different manner than what I had envisioned for the project in a sense that the students were reflecting on news events of the past and then reporting on them rather than hearing about an upcoming event/story to cover and then going out and covering it as it happened.  I’ve asked myself several times since this project has started why this is, and the answers I have come up with, “there is curriculum to cover, there is a schedule to follow and that working in this way is different than what the kids have grown to know”.

We are still in the production stages of our first newscast and the student have been working diligently with our encouragement to meet the deadlines which have been pushed slightly.  We are hoping that the 1st edition of the Countryside News will our  school Youtube channel by weeks end.

Hangout with CSVPS 6s and Laura Dawkins

This past week we returned back to school after a much needed break and we prepared for an important meeting with PhD Student Laura Dawkins from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter.

Today was the day, after a few test “hangouts” we were ready  to chat live with Laura.  The class was excited, the laptop was setup and linked through our Apple TV to the projector.  I put the call through to Laura across the pond in the UK where she took time out of her evening to chat with us about launching a balloon into near-space.

Despite all efforts to ensure an issue free chat, we had choppy video and audio.  Of course, had I not run a few test there would not have been issues.  We kept the connection live and began troubleshooting.  First, was to play with audio and video quality, it was possible that we were maxing out our bandwidth though I couldn’t believe so.  Without repair, I went on to the WiFi connection to the Apple TV and dropped our link to the big visual.  With that our connection instantly improved.  Next time, hard wire the laptop and leave the wireless connection for the Apple TV.

As Julie put it in her blog entry (

“During the chat our students had the opportunity to ask all of their questions, and more.  They spoke professionally and thoughtfully about their topics.  Laura was a great resource and we were so grateful for the time she took to speak with us.”

The group was engaged and attentive, ready for more.  The conversation went on and on.  The kids asked their questions, Laura responded sharing her experience and insight for our students and their project.  I must say that I was afraid that the conversation would end up feeling very scripted because we had prepared ourselves with questions.  But that was not the case and the conversation felt quite fluid with the students interjecting with questions not prepped because the discussion opened itself to their curiosities about the launching of weather balloons and space.

Here is our chat…

After a nearly 40 minute conversation, we had many of the answers we sought to the questions we were asking.  The chat also confirmed much of the initial research we had been conducting about the materials we would need and the knowledge that it would take to accomplish the task of launching a balloon into near-space.

Thank you, Miss Harper and Grade Sixes for let me be a part of your class and leading you down this path of exploration.

Thank you, Laura for taking time out of your personal time to chat with a group of students from Canada

And we are back…

More from our inquiry about space…

Students arrived back today after a week off on March Break.  Over the break, aside from recouping from a long winter stretch through January and February, the Grade 6 students from Ms. Harper’s class were tasked with two responsibilities;

1. to blog about what they have learned and focus their inquiry time on, and,

2. to come up with a few questions they would want to ask our guest #DIYspace “expert” about launching a weather balloon.

We are back and the blog entries have been made by “The Crew” which for many was their first.  For the audience out there that might read some of the entries, please share your advice about writing blogs to the students as they will have several more entries about their work leading up to the launch.

On Wednesday the 25th our “Crew” will chat with PhD student Laura Dawkins of the University of Exeter who earlier this month launched a weather balloon into the atmosphere.  ( The students arrived back each with a few questions they wil ask of Laura and hope will allow them to gather information that will support the design and build phase of our project

Stayed tuned for more following our Hangout with Laura.

Reviews to come (Studio Equipment)

Several months back we applied for a “Speak Up, Student Voice” grant from the Ministry of Education (  Our application was focused around building student voice through the production of a student newscast.  We received our funding and we sources out some of the tools that would allow us to create our news “studio”.  The following are what has been purchased to date.

The iOgrapher media case

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Polaroid Telephoto and Wide Angle Lenses for iOgrapher case

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Rode VideoMic


Polaroid Professional LED light

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Impact Green Screen and Background Support Kit

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The APPS.  We will be using a variety of APPs that have come recommended by others as we have read about while learning about school produced newscasts.


RecoLive Multi-cam

FiLMiC Pro


As we have time to work with the equipment and APPS, I will provide a more complete review of our experiences.  Have your own experiences with similar equipment and APPS, I would be interested in hearing what you have to share.

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