Welcome Back, CEC, & IMBES

Welcome Back, CEC, & IMBES

Educational Research High School Middle School The Study Academy Report

Greetings! Welcome back! I hope your summer was everything you’d ever hoped it would be and more.

First off, please let me introduce myself: My name is Ariana. I enjoy long walks on the beach, sunsets, and filing OSRs. In other words, I am the new School Administrator, and I am pleased to handle all of your administrative needs. I have also assumed the role of Blog Master, so here we go:

Once again, welcome back! We’re glad to see so many new and returning faces, and we’re excited about everything that this year has in store. Already, we’ve had our high school trip to the Canadian Ecology Centre, Parent Welcome Meeting, taken student card photos, had our first assembly and fire drill of the year (which everyone aced), and will soon begin our extracurricular clubs and activities. We’re powering through and loving every second of it. On to thing two!

Various balls on the groundDuring the first week back, we had our start-of-year high school trip to the Canadian Ecology Centre (CEC). For those of you who don’t know, the CEC is a non-profit environmental science education and research facility. They share the landscape with Samuel de Champlain Park, as well as the goal of “conserving and protecting our natural environment.” Their aim is to “[facilitate] informed choices [for all of their visitors] – presenting a better understanding of the conservation and development issues related to the environment and [associated] sectors. The CEC is also home to the Canadian Institute of Forestry”, and from September 6th to 9th, they housed our high school students. During that week, Grades 9 – 12 got to engage in some awesome activities, including: Team building and other group exercises, swimming, canoeing, drumming, astronomy, night vision and campfire construction, wilderness survival, stream and aquatic study, Creatures of the Night and Living Discovery Lab, orienteering and introduction to GPS, and intro to GIS. It was a packed week, but the group had a great time and learned some important information about our environment, and themselves, in the process. Trips like this are a great way to supplement classroom learning, facilitate teamwork, and present an opportunity for students to participate in outdoor education, but they also provide a practical understanding of nature and the environment, situating it in a context that then becomes more relatable and, thus, more actionable. We are dedicated, through these experiences, to the growth of our students both in the classroom and beyond; at present and into the indefinite future.

Lastly, we are very pleased to announce that our very own Jason Krell, Patrick Dolecki, and Anderson Todd have been accepted to present their research at the International Mind, Brain, & Education Society’s (IMBES) 2016 conference here in Toronto! IMBES’ mission is to “facilitate cross-cultural collaboration in biology, education, and the cognitive and developmental sciences.” They aim to “improve the state of knowledge in, and dialogue between, education, biology, and the developmental and cognitive sciences; create and develop resources for scientists, practitioners, public policy makers, and the public; and create and identify useful information, research directions, and promising educational practices. [They] invite researchers and practitioners at all levels of education to explore the questions and proposed solutions that emerge at the intersection of mind, brain, and education.” This year’s conference featured keynotes from Dr. Clancy Blair, on The Development of Self-Regulation in Early Childhood; Dr. Tania Lombrozo, on The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful (evidence for broad/simple explanation preference in children and adults); Dr. Marla Sokolowski, on Gene-Environment Interplay in Individual Differences in Behaviour; Dr. Janet Werker, on Perceptual Foundations of Language Acquisition; and Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, on About the Facts and the Myths about Education in Finland: Mind, brain, and smart education policies.

Neurofeedback schematic diagramKrell, Dolecki, & Todd (2016)’s poster, Executive Functions Through Attention, covered their research on the effects of neurofeedback training (NT) on attention and executive functioning (e.g., self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, reasoning, problem-solving, planning) in Gr. 5 – 8 students. NT teaches individuals to self-regulate by providing direct feedback on temporal and spatial patterns in brain activity. Using EEG measurement, it rewards individuals for attending effectively, encouraging them to attend further. In their presentation, they noted the changing landscape of education, with increasingly personalized learning, expanded accessibility, and new desired learning outcomes centred on adaptive competencies. Despite this, as well as the promising evidence of its effectiveness for individuals with and without ADHD, educational research on NT is presently scarce. This motivated them to examine the relationship between the use of this specific technology and student attention/executive functioning. After acquiring the appropriate assent and consent, data was gathered from semi-weekly, 30-minute training sessions, and performance was assessed by parents and teachers. Results support that both teachers and parents observed decreases in the relative occurrence of inattentive behaviours over the course of the NT sessions. This supports the hypothesis that NT can be effectively used in a classroom setting to supplement student learning and existing growth, and improve attention, planning, and organizational skills. In short, we’ve not seen the end of NT at The Study Academy, and we’re excited to see what else we can do with it moving forward.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more exciting news and events.

The Phantastic Quantum Computing Field Trip!

The Phantastic Quantum Computing Field Trip!

High School The Study Academy Report

Pedagogy is a multi-faceted thing. It has curricular and extra-curricular dimensions. And in the 21st century, we at The Study Academy have embraced the role modern technology plays in allowing students to engage with ideas. Enter teacher James Stinson who, in addition to knowing a thing or two in the social sciences, has a pretty firm grasp on advanced technology. James has already figured out ways of using that passion for the benefit of our students. His robotics club has been a big hit in past years and he’s continuing that trend this year. Add to the list the Computer Club that debuted Thursday of last week. With this in mind, it wasn’t surprising that James was a particular fan of Principal Jason Krell’s idea for a field trip to the Institute of Quantum Computing and the Physica Phantastica event at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. In fact, the field trip struck numerous faculty and staff as a very special idea for making an impact on students. We know that so many students today engage with sophisticated technology, from cell phones, to iPods, to various gaming platforms, and many more. And of course, as parents already know, we’re not shy of using modern teaching technology to illuminate our lesson plans and encourage self-knowledge for our students. Our brain wave technology has been an invaluable tool for helping students focus, and our smart boards have allowed us to incorporate various media into the classroom all in one device. But in addition to students using complex devices, we want our bright students to encounter how such devices function, and hear how they’re developed. While the Institute of Quantum Computing and Perimeter Institute in Waterloo were a bit of trek, we figured it was well worth the travel time.

Quantum Computing

On the road to the Quantum Institute.

And it was. The day began with a lecture by Outreach Scientist Dr. Kelly Foyle, whose interesting application of scientific principles made for a special treat: she demonstrated how very entwined birds are in various invisible forces. For example, birds depend on the Earth’s magnetic field and certain quantum effects to help them navigate during seasonal migrations. What an important lecture to remind us that quantum effects aren’t simply an invention of the modern age for the purpose of high-tech computers, but that they’ve been an important part of the natural world for ages. An awe-inspiring thought, one the students have proved they’re happy to engage with. And there was no shortage of people modelling deep thinking. Knowledge, as we came to see, wasn’t only being exchanged on the lecture stand — interested visitors and knowledgeable researchers were grouped around whiteboards, discussing a wide range of topics in the area of theoretical physics. What a great way for Study Academy students to witness the uncontainable nature of the scientific imagination.

After the lecture, students made their way across the snow-laden campus to see the incredible resources housed at the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridas Quantum-Nano Centre, where they encountered gorgeous open architecture. It was a beautiful backdrop against which they were about to glimpse into the heart of technologies that could “harness the quantum laws of nature,” as the Institute’s website boasts. The Institute of Quantum Computing is another fixture that puts on a number of wonderful lectures: in the past, they’ve explored topics like dark matter, the art of ‘guesstimation’, and the history of and science behind the famous Mars Rover. But in order to see why the Institute of Quantum Computing is considered one of the world’s top quantum computing research centres, we wanted physical proof.

Quantum Computing

A cryogenic chamber containing superconducting material.

That was taken care of by Senior Manager of Scientific Outreach, Martin Laforest, who offered explanations, history, and anecdotes on various machines the Institute had on display. He also fielded some really bright and creative questions from our students. While we knew the Institute contained impressive machines such as atomic clocks, we were treated to seeing two  particularly amazing machines that we weren’t expecting. We saw a quantum computer that operates through the use of a 14-watt laser, and another one that functions at temperatures barely above absolute zero (given that it was one of our colder days in November, it wasn’t hard to imagine what absolute zero would feel like). It was a privilege to get a first-hand look at these technologies. And while these machines aren’t likely to be commercially available any time in the near future, they signify massive leaps forward in the field.

With technology getting smaller and smaller, we felt it was so crucial for students to glimpse the features and components of nanotechnology which are integral to the devices they use on a daily basis. We want students to remember the human touch behind all of these technologies, to remind them that their primary purpose is to help them explore ideas and develop skills (in addition to being sources of entertainment). We think the best way to reconnect with that purpose is to see the minds that developed these fantastic technologies in the first place. We look forward to continuing this tradition of fun and educational field trips, even on the snowiest of days!

Theatre at Berkeley Street

Theatre at Berkeley Street

High School

Hello Readers,

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Landscape view of the stage at Berkeley Street Theatre

Welcome back to yet another Study Academy report!  Allow me to start this post by asking you, dear Reader, when was the last time you indulged in a bit of theatre? No, I’m not talking about seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster at your local Cineplex. I’m asking, when was the last time you saw actors on stage? Well, if I were to ask our High School students the answer may surprise you!

On Wednesday April 16th, students travelled to the Berkeley Street Theatre to watch a new production of Belleville for their Integrated Arts Class. The play was written by Amy Herzog and directed by Jason Byrne, and tells the story of two happily married Americans living in Paris. But wait, there’s more! In an Hitchcockian plot twist, the female protagonist returns home one day to see her husband in a way that forever changes the dynamics of their relationship! This suspenseful play kept our students on the edge of their seats. So you see, dear Reader, how enjoyable a little bit of theatre can be? It can also be a wonderful educational opportunity.

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Allan Hawco as Zack and Christine Horne as Abby in Toronto’s production of Belleville

In fact, when I spoke to Robert Webster (lead teacher for Integrated Arts), he told me how field trips like these benefit students: “It’s great experiential learning and an opportunity for them to see possibilities for young people to explore their passions and interests in the Arts, and what kind of work and level of commitment it takes to get into that field.”

Now students have the opportunity to exercise what they have learned in their Theatre unit to write a critical performance piece just like a professional theatre reviewer! They will be evaluating the play based on its writing, directing, acting, staging, music, sound, and even lighting. What a great opportunity to demonstrate the critical analysis skills they have been developing in class!

So, dear Reader, what will you be doing this weekend to expand your mind? How about you indulge in a bit of theatre. Perhaps, Belleville?

 

 

Exploring the Deep Blue Sea: Ripley’s Aquarium!

Exploring the Deep Blue Sea: Ripley’s Aquarium!

Middle School

Hello Readers,

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Our students building their very own plankton!

I hope you all have an exciting long weekend planned. Quite a few of our students mentioned some rather fun plans they were arranging, however, that is only after speaking so enthusiastically about their adventure at Ripley’s Aquarium.  I’m sure you recall how earlier this month a group of High School students traveled there for our Workshop week. If not, please check out the post at your leisure.

Just like our High School students, Middle School students and faculty truly enjoyed this educational and entertaining field trip. So, what were some of the activities that our animated students spoke so highly of?  The Great Plankton Challenge was certainly a highlight for many and featured academic ties to the Science curriculum. You might be thinking that something as small as plankton couldn’t possibly be so interesting. Well, dear reader, I am glad to tell you that you are wrong. Students were delighted and inspired; they learned how essential the role of the small organism truly is to our larger ocean biodiversity! They were even given a chance to design their own perfect plankton!

 

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Life within coral!

Middle School students were also able to explore the multiple galleries available at this large Toronto aquarium.  In the Canadian waters exhibit, the students saw more local creatures such as as lobster and largemouth bass. In the Rainbow Reef, students learned about more tropical fish originating from the Indo-Pacific region.  There was even an exhibit called “Planet Jellies”! I bet you can guess what creatures were there! Tons of beautiful jelly fish and information on their fascinating life cycle! The fun, however, did not stop at that — students were also able to interact with the aquatic life! They were able to touch some aquatic life at the Horseshoe Crab Touch Pool, and pet stingrays in the touch tanks, as well as watch divers feed stingrays from their very own hands.

Overall, it was a very exciting and informative day for our Middle School students. Now they are all off to enjoy a relaxing long weekend, which I hope you do as well, dear Reader.

Till next week!