What a wonderful month full of Arts-Centred Learning at Belfast!
We welcomed our artist in residence Sarah Smith to our school to work with all students and staff. Her expertise in both theatre arts and natural science made for some rich and authentic learning experiences for our students. Through the work Sarah did in our classrooms, students were able to experience learning at all stages of the learning process. Their performances and galleries at our Celebration of Learning on February 28th reflected final products of a residency that was actually very process oriented. We know that our students had fun and were engaged and we also know that through that engagement their learning will endure! This is what arts-centred learning is all about!
We continue to work on our School Development focus of improving our functional writing throughout the school. Functional writing shows up in many all subjects – math, science, social studies. The type of writing that students are asked to do is based in observations and research and will help them to develop their learning across subjects.
Please be sure to visit our school website, and specifically our classroom websites for ongoing celebrations and updates about learning at Belfast School. Grade 1 and 2 students have been honing in on using their senses and observational skills to describe small moments. Grade 3 and 4 students have been writing persuasive writing related to issues that are discussed in science and social studies. Ask your grade 3 and 4 students about OREO writing! Grade 5 and 6 students have been forming their own opinions and informing those opinions with research that backs them up! This has been a shift in focus for us at Belfast. We know that our students, as creative as they are, are very good a developing imaginative stories. Our expanded focus on functional writing helps students to be successful with the many ways we communicate through writing.
Looking forward to March each grade team will take up a new focus in functional writing that will focus on Social Studies. Grade 5 and 6 students will spend a week at Canada Olympic Park where they will learn to ski or snow board. This is a wonderful experience for our students who are able to have exposure to a new life long sport! http://schools.cbe.ab.ca/b203/classroom.htm
It's been a while since we talked about our Beautification Project. As we near spring some people in our community are wondering when this project will start to become visible at Belfast. This update will explain the timeline to date, and hopefully renew your excitement for this project!.
About 2 years ago we were writing grants. This was a very long and detailed process that involved parents, teachers and students. We brought in a designer and worked alongside Grounds for Change from the Calgary Zoo. When we were finished gathering ideas we had a very clear vision for what we wanted. In the fall of 2015-16 our grant proposals were submitted and we had to wait to see if we would be successful in securing grants. By the spring we found out that we were to receive $75 000 from the Communities in Partnership folks. The Communities in Partnership grant is a matching grant which means that the school needed to come up with another $75 000 in order to receive the full amount. We successfully secured a grant from Parks Canada for $25 000 and the remainder of the $50 000 was committed from our School Council and Belfast School. We were ready to roll!
The scope of our project was large so we deiced to break the project into 2 phases. The first phase would be to install the large pieces of playground equipment and other items that required extensive excavation. We sought out the required 3 quotes for this equipment but in the process of obtaining the necessary approvals discovered that there were underground power lines running directly below where we would need to dig to install equipment or plant large trees. The design need to be majorly reconfigured. This was a big set back for the committee as we had hoped to have the installation completed over the summer in time for students to return in September.
Over the summer, I met with CBE facilities and grounds personnel as well as our chosen playground supplier. We needed to choose a different layout, as well as modify some of the original choices. Since it was summer vacation, the process was very slow. When we returned in fall, we finally came to a new design concept that was as similar to the original layout as possible. It was important to make sure that the design still accomplished as many of the things our students and teachers had indicated were important to them!
By early October, we were obtaining all the necessary permits and sign offs and were ready to order the equipment. We found out that some of the pieces would take up to 8 weeks for delivery. The problem with that was the surfacing around the playground equipment needed to have a window of warmish weather in order to properly cure. Our timeline now looked like we would be into the end of November before we would be able to take delivery of all the playground pieces. If we were not lucky with the weather, we would have to surround our entire playground (old and new) with construction fencing for the duration of the winter -- until the ground was warm enough for the pour in place surfacing to be installed. NO PLAYGROUND FOR MONTHS - NO WAY!
So... the bottom line is that we have been ready to go for several months but our Calgary weather, being unpredictable, we decided to wait until spring for the install. We have paid deposits for all the equipment. We are just waiting for the ground to thaw and to be reasonably sure that we will be able to coordinate the installation of the playground surfacing.
So... what is being installed?
There will be 3 large pieces of equipment installed including a bank of swings, a bank of arch swings and something called a super nova. We are also new bicycle racks, more bench seating around the playground and an outdoor classroom space that will have picnic table style seating for our students to use during the day! All of these improvements will also be well used by our parents an our community members when school is not in session!
Once the large pieces are installed we will be able to look at what funds remain and prioritize stage 2. In Stage 2 we will add landscaping, naturalized areas and other wish list items.
Looking back at where we began, there have been changes along the way. Our murals on the front and south sides of the school have helped to beautify our building. CBE installed a new surface in our compound area that replaced the broken and weed filled concrete that was there before. The front of the school was enhanced with new plantings and the north side of the schools received some much needed attention in by pruning and removing overgrown shrubs.
I want to thank our Beautification Committee who have worked so hard (and now waited so patiently) to have our outdoor dreams realized. From the beginning our guiding idea was to have our outside reflect the beauty that was already apparent inside Belfast School. It is exciting that we will be able to see this come to fruition very very soon!
Today was a wonderful day in our learning community. Our students rotated through a number of engineering challenges today, each with a focus on solving a problem. Students worked in family groups from Kindergarten through Grade 6 so it was an amazing opportunity for our students to create new friendships with students in other grades and in the process build our family at Belfast. Our older students were incredible leaders and mentors for our wee ones and they found out that our youngest students are so creative! In many cases the solutions to the challenges came from ideas our kinders came up with! I'd like to thank Mr. Symington for his leadership and organization in pulling the format of today together. I am also (as always!) so grateful to our incredible staff for pulling together to put it all together. Thanks also to Ms. El-Guebaly who made sure that we all got a movement break during the day by hosting Just Dance Jam Sessions in the gym!
Staff and student feedback after this day have been enormously positive! We will definitely be seing more #belfastydays in our future!
Over the past few months we have been talking to our school council and engaging our parents in dialogue and surveys about our security procedures at the school. We are aware of changing realities in our city and the need to revisit our procedures in order to keep our students safe. We opened our discussion up to our Staff and to School Council If you look at my blog post on January 3rd, you’ll see a summary of the input that our School Council gave us at their November meeting. Council input prompted us to poll our parents to bring more voices to the conversation. Two questions were asked on the survey:
At our January 23rd School Council meeting I shared the results of the survey and discussed the plan that Belfast Staff have put together and the decision we have come to. Below is a breakdown of which option respondents preferred.
The most valuable part of the survey was in understanding why people chose the option they did:
Those who preferred the doors locked all the time spoke of:
Those who preferred the doors unlocked all the time spoke of:
The input we received is extremely valuable and informs considerations for our next steps. Our goal is to provide safety while maintaining the welcoming, community feel of our little school. Below is the plan we will implement as of February 6th, We will reassess the effectiveness of the plan and make changes as necessary to meet our goal.
Starting February 6th;
It is worth repeating that locking the doors in no way reflects a change in the way we feel about our parents. Our parents are always welcome in our building. We thank all our parents in advance for their patience as we work out the details of this new procedure.
If you have any comments or concerns please feel free to contact me! Our parents are our partners and a important members of our Belfast Family!
It has been a very busy week at Belfast School! We returned from Winter Break to what we have come to call "Cocoon Time". Cocoon time is an intentionally uninterrupted period of instructional time that allows students and teachers to focus on learning at key points in the year. We have found it particularly useful to do this in September as teachers are establishing classroom routines, prior to parent teacher interviews, and recently as teachers welcomed students back from Winter Break. This time of the year is particularly important as teachers prepare to write report cards and gather evidence of student learning mid year.
This week we also welcomed Alicia Hampshire back to our school. Alecia has been coming to Belfast over the past several years to teach tennis skills to students K - 6. It is exciting to see how students’ skills have grown year over year. Student activity fees funded this athletic residency.
Leighton Arts Centre Visit - Grade 5 and 6
On Thursday the Leighton Arts Centre staff visited our grade 5 and 6 classrooms. During the day students and teachers explored a number of different visual media and learned new techniques to apply to their learning. Our grade 5 and 6’s had been scheduled to visit the L.A.C. back in the fall but scheduling conflicts threatened to cancel the learning entirely. We are grateful to the Leighton Arts Center staff and to Mrs. Ayer for finding a way for this experience to happen!
Fish Creek Field Trip - Grade 1 and 2
Our Grade 1 and 2 classrooms had absolutely beautiful weather for their trip to Fish Creek! Students explored Science outcomes and the natural environment and had the opportunity to get some much need fresh air! Quite a treat for our students and teachers after weeks of indoor recesses and dangerously cold temperatures! Stay tuned for a picture of this field trip [coming soon]. Thank you to the grade 1 and 2 teachers and especially Miss Weber for her leadership in organizing this trip!
At our recent School Council meeting we discussed the security of our building and in particular the need to ensure the safety of our students while they are in the school. Many schools in the CBE have moved to a locked front door and intercom entrance procedure while others remain open to the public. Still others use a combination of locked times and unlocked times to meet the needs of the community. At this time we are asking parents to have input into this important discussion. For your information, the following considerations were raised by our parents at the November Belfast School Council meeting.
The following requirements were generated by our parents at the November School Council meeting and need to be considered.
Please take our short parent engagement survey...
We invite all of our parents to weigh in. CLICK HERE to let us know what is important to you. We will continue to consult with our school council about this decision and will update our parent community about any change in our door procedures very soon.
Principal, Belfast School
I'm writing to notify you that we had a fire drill today. It was one of the 3 required firedrills that the CBE requires us to have before Winter Break. There was no actual emergency.
We had been waiting for some warmer weather this week as we have been very busy with the school musical over the last several weeks. Unfortunately, warmer weather was not in the cards, so we made sure that all of our students were bundled up before lunch and scheduled our drill to coincide with what we hoped would be an outdoor playtime at lunch. The fire drill lasted exactly 2 minute and 47 seconds afterwhich all the students were brought back into the school. The brief moment outside would unfortunately be our only fresh air today as our temperature of -10 with the windchill was still -20 degrees.
We need to be aware that emergencies can happen when the weather is less than ideal, and organizing for our firedrill today has prompted an important conversation about what we would do if we had to evacuate the building in severe temperatures, especially since we wouldn’t have the opportunity to bundle our students up. Should this happen in the future, we will evacuate directly to the Crossroads Community Center. There we will wait for emergency personnel to determine if we can return to the school or not, and communicate to parents as necessary.
I want to reiterate that we conducted our fire drill today quickly and made sure that all of our students were appropriately dressed for the weather.
Our students were well organized and focused during this time and are to be congratulated!
If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Principal, Belfast School
Registrations will be accepted for all students living in our catchment area.
As many of our students come to us from out of area, we follow CBE procedures with regards to out of area registrations.
We do not do a promotional open house at Belfast. We find that most of our student registrations that come to us from out of area choose our program for our Arts Centered Learning focus or have older siblings that have attended Belfast in the past.
Students applying from out of area will be accepted based on programming and in consultation with their designated school. We will accept packages for out of area students but will not confirm registration until CBE processes have been followed. Should we be in a position of having more registrations than we can accomodate we will follow a lottery process to determine placements. Information about the CBE's lottery process can be found HERE. For this reason we will be unable to confirm registrations for out of area students until February 15th.
To determine where your designated school is please refer to the CBE Find a School tool.
Registration for Kindergarten - Grade 6 starts January 9th.
Kindergarten Registration for kindergarten students will start at 7:30. All registrations will be processed in the order that their completed package is received and assign a number. The purpose of numbering applications is to prioritize family preferences for morning or afternoon registrations. Please note, early registration does not guarantee acceptance for out of area students.
A kindergarten orientation night will be held May 25th from 6-7 pm. During this time we will discuss the kindergarten program as well as things parents can do to help prepare their child for the first day of school.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call us at the school 403.777.6250.
Principal, Belfast School
For the last two years our staff and parents have generously reached out to families in our Belfast Community to help make Christmas a little brighter. This year 10 families were supported by staff. Gift wishes are collected and written on anonymous tags that are placed on the tree. Individuals who want to help take a tag from the tree, fulfill the wish, wrap the gift and bring it back to the school for distribution before Christmas. It doesn't take that much time but shows a lot of heart. Thank you to all our staff and parents who made Christmas wishes come true for our students and their families. You are most definitely #BELFASTY
WOW WHAT A SHOW!
There is no doubt that there has been a humongous amount of time, energy and work put into Belfast School's production - A Rockin' Tale of Snow White! For an undertaking this large it takes a very strong and collaborative team. At Belfast we are so blessed by all of our staff and parents who willinging stepped up to make this show come alive! I've reflected throughout the process about the value of the experience. Whenever we commit to something of this magnitude we are making a choice. I know choice for one experience means not being able to choose something else. My evidence comes from the students before, during and after the experience. Staff reflections (to be gathered when we are more rested) and from parents comments and emails following our performances.
There is no doubt that that creativity is an essential part of Belfast School! We often say, it is not about the arts it is about the learner that is discovered in the process of the being involved in an artistic experience. Through the show we have seen our students in a different light but more importantly many of them have had the opportunity to see themselves in a different light as well. We know that for students to be successful in school they need to experience being successful. Success builds on success! We also know that having high expectations for student and helping them to reach those expectations increases students belief in themselves. The impact of our little show will far outlast the performance run. If we ask adults what they remember most about their school experiences it is not the stellar math lesson or the carefully sequenced science unit (although those are important) it is likely the key events (often artistic or sports related) where community came together to accomplish something greater than we can each do individually. The Belfast Family is very proud of our students! Bravo we say to each one! You are the true stars of the show!
I want to thank the following individuals who invested so much to make this show a success. It is likely that I will forget someone in this post, so if this happens please accept my appolgies and thanks!
Ryan Symington: you came to our school this year with a show already chosen and a mandate to make it great! You did just that! Your leadership and vision inspired us and kept us going. We are so lucky to have you here!
Nadine Ayer: This show was your choice - an amazing choice! You provided a platform that could showcase so many of our kids and let them be stars! Thank you for your work on the director team and for your technical problem solving abilities!
Jana El-Guebaly: Such energy! Such spunk! Your work with our Ladies in Waiting, the mirror and the Evil Queen was inspired. These young artists shone under your direction.
Tiffany Dahl and Debbie Boud: Thank you for your creative approach to the technical side of the show and for persevering through challenges with key technical issues. The sets, the props, the backdrop, the animation the crew and the promotional materials - Oh My! You are a dynamite team!
Kelly Knight: Your passion for the choir and efforts to make their role meaningful were extraordinary. Your energy with them was infectious and showed up in the choir's performance. Thank you!
Jim Sangster: You took on a new technical challeng in directing the shadow theatre! Thank you for taking the plunge and for researching the techniques to bring it all to life!
Kati Coates: Your coaching of our young vocalists was that little bit of individualized attention our youn performers needed. Thank you for sharing your talent with them!
Kari Forest: Thank you for managing the ticket system and front of house and all the other details that kept us moving in the right direction!
Our Kindergarten 1/2 team: Thank you for your time and patience while we figured out the details and for being such a great support to the production team.
Anne Marie Robart: Thank you for stepping in to our music position and for supporting our performers throughout the run!
Christine Jansen: Your vision for costuming and your relentless perseverance to make sure that each of our performers felt special has been a gift to us! Thank you for your leadership, your time and your passion.
Laurie Breitkreuz: Thank you for inspiring our stop motion animation and sharing your talent with our young technicians!
Johnathon May: How could we ever have managed without you? Thank you for designing our sound and making sure it was easy for us to run ! Your expertise and time is so appreciated!
Irena Kangas: Thank you for the amazing logo cookies and for mobilizing volunteers to do make up an a large scale!
Les Enser and Matrix: Thank you for coming to our rescue and lending us a projector bulb so that the show could go on!
Our School Council: You are definitely the best school council in the city - maybe the world! Thank you for your support and enthusiasm and for filling in the gaps where you saw them. We are so lucky to work so collaboratively with you!
The arts, it has been said, cannot change the world. But they might change human beings who might change the world.