Monday, 29 April 2019

What Makes a Community? - Calgary French and International School - Grade 3

“What Makes a Community?” is the big question being asked this week at Chevron Open Minds Zoo School by grade 3’s from the Calgary French and International School. They have investigated many parts of their zoo community: observing penguins, finding endangered animals in the Canadian Wilds and learning about Swift Fox conservation from a Calgary Zoo conservation research expert. But perhaps the most significant insight into what makes a community came from travelling to the Eburu Forest in Kenya with the help of some vivid storytelling by Andrea Beaty, Zoo School Coordinator, who recently returned from the area.  The students wanted to find out how the Calgary Zoo is helping to save the Mountain Bongo from extinction and learn more about this elusive forest antelope.
In the Eburu Forest we met our guide and community conservation expert, Donna Sheppard. She is the Calgary Zoo’s Community Conservation Specialist who is working with the local people to help save the Mountain Bongo. There are less than 100 Mountain Bongo alive in the world, perhaps only 10-12 in Eburu. Donna Sheppard has a challenging job, alongside trackers from the local community they go into the forest to search for Mountain Bongo, setting camera traps in remote jungle forests to take photographs. They face long days trekking through thick bush, avoiding stinging nettles, safari ants and the large, and often ill-tempered, Cape Buffalo!
We also learned about another side to saving the Mountain Bongo, working with the local community.  Without community support and understanding of the conservation work being done, Donna’s job would be much more challenging.  Donna works tremendously hard to build relationships with the local people by visiting schools and wildlife clubs in the local area with her co-worker, fellow environmental educator and local Kenyan – Peter Munene. Working together, Donna and Peter help to share the important conservation story of the Mountain Bongo and seek out ways to better the lives of the local people along the way.   At Kambura-Ini School in Kenya, the students were asked to share through art, what they love about nature in their community.   We discovered that what they loved about nature shared some common themes with our students from Calgary French and International School – trees, mountains, forests, animals, fruit, and lakes were shown in the displays from both countries.   There is a Swahili saying in Kenya “Tupo pamoja”, which means “we are all together.”  This simple art display demonstrates how students on two different continents can come together in their own communities to share their love and knowledge of wildlife, connected through the conservation of a species. 

So, when asked the question: “What makes a community?” hopefully the students from Calgary French and International School might tell you - working together for a common purpose makes a community.  To ensure the survival of the Mountain Bongo and other species around the world, it certainly takes a global community.

~ Dawn Hardy, Zoo School Assistant Coordinator

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Exploring Privilege-Stories from SEED School

 by Shauna Lever

As part of the CC/OM program, the Grade 3/4 classroom at St. Angela School wanted to explore the idea of privilege and how we can impact change as the learners of tomorrow. At the beginning of the week it was especially difficult for some of my students to comprehend the idea of privilege. As much as we talked about it, it wasn't until they experienced it firsthand that I finally knew they understood what I was talking about. One morning we got dropped off at the new Central Library. It was an especially cold day and there were about 50 people, including us, waiting for the library to open at 9:00 to be let in. We weren't there for very long when a man who worked for the library approached me and asked if I was with the students. When I said yes, he instructed that we were able to go inside the library, even though it didn't open for an additional 5 minutes or so. Having the students recognize that they experienced privilege just for being kids, without having to do anything to earn that privilege, is an experience that happened at the perfect time. In that moment, they understood that some people in the world have  just because of who they are. While we got to go inside and get warm, the rest of the people who were waiting to go in, continued to stand in the cold. 

The students also got to explore the idea of privilege in more detail by taking a tour of Inn From the Cold, and Feed the Hungry. Both of these experiences allowed the students to recognize the supports that are in place for vulnerable persons and how life can look different for others. We also had the opportunity to talk to a resident of the Mustard Seed who shared her beautiful story of resilience and overcoming difficult circumstances and challenges. The students talked to their Indigenous counselor who assists and helps with their Indigenous clientele. Our week at the Mustard Seed is the first step in having the next generation rid the stereotypes of different populations of people. 

G-– My favourite thing about seed school was when we went to the staircase because I liked how Pat said to the people would you like to do your art in my staircase because even though they were drawing on the property he let them do it. 

E– My favourite thing about seed school was meeting Keely and planting the mustard seed. I loved her story and how she ended up in the mustard Seed. 

Friday, 5 April 2019

Places for Understanding Who We Are - John Ware - Museum School

In early march, we had a (n actually, not so rare) bit of serendipity at Museum School. As John Ware School was preparing to use the Museum as a place to investigate the connections between citizenship and identity, Glenbow had just opened a contemporary exhibit about artist's experience of place! The gallery's pieces, including 's Jim Me Yoon’s Regard (which in itself is a reflection of Jim Me Yoon's moving Group of Sixty Seven), Kimowan Metchewais' Cold Lake Venus, and Maxwell Bates' Tourists in Victoria, provided rich opportunities for us to examine national culture, what it means to be Canadian, and how place and identity are related.
If that wasn't enough, by pure chance, the Glenbow Museum was also selected as a site to host a Citizenship Ceremony on the last day of John Ware student's visit!

There were a few strokes of luck here, firstly, that everyone at ICC was so very accommodating when we told them we wanted to bring 30 extra people, and their journals, to their ceremony. Secondly, that the students were exactly the special people that they were, because the ceremony was both long and incredibly important; these students fully embraced the need for them to witness, and not detract from the moment for the new Canadians. Thirdly, that their teacher is exactly who she is, because from the moment that we knew we had this amazing opportunity she embraced it, providing scaffolding for the students to understand the ceremony and connecting it to their learning.
Afterwards, the students expressed how surprised they were to see the diversity of the new Canadians, who were of varying ages from very young to senior, and who were from countries across the globe. They also told us how moved they were to watch the expressions of the new Canadians as pride, happiness, and even tears lit across their faces. They were impressed by the seriousness and formality of the event, and noted that when you are living in a culture, it's hard to identify what makes is unique; but that this was a  Canadian ritual, proof of our distinct culture.
There were several special guests who presided over the ceremony, member of parliament for Calgary Center Kent Herr, Chair of the Glenbow Board of Directors Irfhan A. Rawji, respected Blackfoot Elder Clarence Wolfleg, and author and philosopher John Ralston Saul. We noted the different ways each one welcomed the newcomers based on their own culture and identity, with campaign style speeches, warm personal connections, prayer, and advice.
The highlight for me, was when we finished the week with a sharing circle sitting under the contemplative eyes of Yoon, and her mother in the Regard works. The portraits told us that there were many meanings to the place we were sitting, and reminded us to be thoughtful about be the people we are, and the place we live.

Amanda Foote, Coordinator, Glenbow Museum School