École St. Germain Leads the Way in Fighting Climate Change
École St. Germain's EnviroClub brought one of the most important global issues to centre stage last January when some of our EnviroClub members participated in a climate strike. Several students delivered speeches at the strike and left those speeches at the Legislature, in letter format, to the attention of the Premier Brian Pallister. The Premier personally responded to the letters and sent the Minister of Sustainable Development, Rochelle Squires, to visit the school in March. She took questions from the students and offered them a direct link for their voice to be heard by the government.
In the Spring, the EnviroClub also had the privilege of receiving a visit from the Environment Critic, MLA Rob Altemeyer. In a productive 90-minute session, he showed them a PowerPoint that challenged them to predict and then learn the main sources of climate pollution in Manitoba, and then to come up with solutions to this problem. The presentation was very interactive and engaging.
As well, in January, the EnviroClub students participated in a Climate Change Conference at École St. Germain, organized in collaboration with the organization Climate Change Connection. Students learned about how to help the climate through presentations, games and hands-on activities.
Finally, students created their own solutions for how to help our planet based on what they learned throughout the year, and by the end of June 2019, they created 3 main action goals to consider for St. Germain:
- Learn about composting
- Banning single use plastics
- Sustainable Transportation initiatives
To wrap up their year's environmental learning and activities, two of the students also shared their passion for this cause along with all they had learned about climate change and citizen advocacy to the Board of Trustees of the Louis Riel School Division at one of their Board meetings. These two students also took their presentation to four other LRSD schools to promote the cause as well as participation in climate conferences and the upcoming September global climate strike. Along with the teachers involved in this initiative, Mme Ginette Paillé and Mme Jennifer Engbrecht, plans were well underway by the end of June for the September strike as well as other activities to promote awareness and take action against the climate crisis.
Improving Reading Through Multisensory Approaches
At the core of learning are the basic skills related to literacy and numeracy. These skills develop from a very young age. In fact, research has shown that the most important years for laying the foundation these skills in literacy for all students is from preschool age to about Grade 2. Research has shown us that it is essential for students to acquire many basic literacy skills by the end of Kindergarten. Research has also taught us that using literacy teaching strategies that offer a multisensory experience are most effective for students with learning challenges, and more engaging for all students.
One of those essential skills to learn at this age is the ability to know the sounds of the letters. Last year, our Kindergarten teachers incorporated a new program into their teaching called "Raconte-moi l'alphabet". This program offers stories, songs and gestures to go along with the letters of the alphabet. By combining those elements to learning the letters, students are expected to better retain their learning and more easily access their letter sound knowledge when they begin to read. As our Kindergarten students move on to Grade 1 this year, we notice the positive impact of this program and many other teaching strategies and interventions that were used throughout the year on their facility with alphabetic principles.
We also use these multisensory approaches in different ways in classes and in Student Services interventions with much success. In fact, last year, our Student Services teachers partnered with several classroom teachers as well as similar staff members from other schools and met regularly throughout the school year. The goal was to explore multisensory resources and find ways to incorporate such resources and related strategies into their everyday teaching. We expect to continue to build upon these successes and expand the use of these approaches across the school.
Social Emotional Learning
Our emotional state has a significant impact on our capacity to learn. As educators, we know this, and as a result, we invest a lot of time in teaching students different ways to maintain a stable emotional state in order to allow them to maximize their full learning potential. Last year, staff continued to implement strategies from the Zones of Regulation program in classrooms. In many classrooms, this was complimented by explaining how the brain works when we are in control (big brain) and when we do not have control of our emotions (little brain).
Recognizing one's emotions is an important first step; however, students were also taught strategies, including breathing and movement, that would allow them to more easily regain control of their emotions when they are in an undesirable emotional state. Applying these strategies appropriately is a very important life skill and we want our students to understand these concepts and strategies from an early age.
Along with teaching these strategies in the classroom last year, staff worked collaboratively with the school psychologist and learned about sources of behaviour, how behaviour is a form of communication, and effective classroom strategies that lead to positive behaviours. Teachers will continue to apply and expand upon their learning in this area.