Tag Archives: creativity

A local innovation project: St. Jerome’s SPLICE week

As much as I was impressed by the innovation I saw at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia, there is a local project that I’d like to highlight in my District that is just as powerful as some of initiatives I saw showcased there.

Ingredients for Success

  • 1 highly motivated Intermediate teacher-team willing to try something completely different
  • 1 administrator supporting the initiative and removing barriers that might impede success
  • 1 collaborative peer group exploring ePortfolio and the All About Me Portfolio
  • 2 dashes of inspiration (Bishop Strachan‘s similar initiative & George Couros’ presentation @YCDSB talking about Innovation week at Parkland School Division in Alberta)
  • 1 bunch of  grade 7/8 students using their creativity and passion as inspiration

Bake for 1 full week.  Result is an amazing learning opportunity for students!

Marisa Benakis and Brad Blucher, two intermediate teachers at St. Jerome Catholic Elementary School decided to drop everything in order to create a unique learning experience for their intermediate students.  In order to do this, they needed and got support from their Intermediate team and administrator, Michele Reume who gave them the go-ahead to eliminate all other subject periods.  This meant that the whole school day for one full week would be entirely devoted to this self-directed learning opportunity.  I’m not sure what SPLICE stands for exactly, but the learning initiative was awesome!

Goals of SPLICE (as articulated in the student handout)

  • To learn more about a topic that interests you
  • To push your creativity and innovative thinking skills
  • To reflect upon yourself as a learner and the learning process
  • To communicate your learning and experiences to others

Students could research or create absoultely anything of their choice and could work independently or up to groups of three.  Most importantly, they had to capture the process in a reflection and share the learning with their peers.

These are just a few of the presentations I was privileged to see:

  • A student created an All About Me scrapbook and showcased the process in film
  • A group of students built a marshmallow launcher (after unsuccessfully trying to create a potato launcher)
  • A student painted a canvas and created an accompanying short story

Many more projects can be seen in this storify.


One of the questions that is a burning one for educators is, how can you possibly assess or evaluate a project like this?  Well, Benakis and Blucher addressed this in two ways.  Firstly, students were evaluated on the quality of their oral presentation.  And though you might be wondering, what if a student isn’t strong orally,  I can assure you that when a student is presenting a project that is meaningful and personal to them, this is a non-issue.

There is also an explicit focus on Assessment AS Learning through these guided questions:

  • What did you learn about yourself as a creator?
  • What was difficult? What was interesting?
  • What would you do differently?

When we chatted later, we agreed that if we really wanted to go into the Curriculum to evaluate the project, we would likely find lots of curriculum connections.

Connections to the Individual Program Pathways, All About Me Portfolio

Both Benakis and Blucher are involved in a District  pilot exploring ways in which to implement the Creating Pathways to Success Policy Document; more specifically helping students address these four areas:  Who Am I? What do I want to Become? What are my Opportunities? What is my plan for achieving my goals?

Ed Career Poster smaller

Many other teachers in that collaborative pilot, led by Michelle Bulger, Ines DiTullio, and Patricia Zaroski are providing students with unique opportunities to explore these questions.

Interested in hosting your own Innovation or SPLICE week?

Contact @marisabenny or @blucherclass  They are so passionate about the project and its success, they would be willing to assist anyone who is interested in trying it!

Jesse McLean, @jmclean77 , of the Parkland Public School District in Alberta, generously shares his resources here.  He too is excited for schools to realize the benefits of an Innovation week project.




Cross-grade Collaboration

I had the privilege this week to work with two awesome teachers: Eric Fabroa (Communications Technology teacher) and his RAMS Media Film Club, and Rob Cannone, a grade 6 teacher.  We had a nugget of an idea, connected online and voila, a mutually beneficial collaboration has begun between the highschool and its respective feeder school.

I can’t tell you about the project itself–that’s top secret (for now), but what I can tell you is that connecting via Google Hangout to plan a film project was completely invigorating and exciting (after our initial technical difficulties).  I think we were all giddy!    The grade 6 class, who had already been planning the script, shared it with the secondary students on Google Drive so they could come to a common vision.

The high school students are going to bring some equipment down to the elementary feeder school to film a promotional video next week.

So simple.

And yet, what a powerful experience! When students from the feeder school graduate from grade 8 and go to the high school, they will already have a connection to the school and an amazing artefact of their time together.  And the high school kids will benefit from the mentorship experience and have a film to show for it.

To me, the true transformative power of technology is that it makes it easier than ever to connect to create these real life and memorable experiences for our students.

So I’ve been thinking about other opportunities for cross-collaboration.

A few ideas:

Science:  Secondary students prepare experiments  which elementary students  complete and write the lab for.  Labs could be shared with the teacher AND the secondary students.

English: Secondary students work with a group of younger students on creative writing, paragraph writing, or any other writing genre using Google docs (writing workshop).

Geography:  Secondary students create a geocache scavenger hunt for elementary students.

Art:  Secondary students can invite elementary students to their art exhibits.  I know a few teachers who are already doing this with great results.  To extend the learning, elementary students can take a pic of their favourite art piece and ask the artist questions via any of the tools below.

Religious Education:  Co-create an awareness campaign for a charity that is important to the school community.

Physical Education:  Create an exercise and/or healthy eating routine for elementary students (age appropriate).

Here is a Google Doc I’ve created.  Feel free to add ideas!


Google Apps for Education provide a great way to collaborate with other classes.

Skype in the Classroom provides some great ideas and opportunities to connect with other teachers and classes.

Connecting with other educators on Twitter is also a great place to start if you are looking for ideas (Use hashtags i.e. #kinderchat, to find other teachers teaching the same grade).  Check out Teachthought’s Guide to Twitter hashtags.

If you already have an idea in mind, Facetime and Google Hangouts work well.  I also see lots of exciting opportunities to connect with experts and events emerging using the @periscope Twitter app.


For a successful experience, I think that the teachers should have an idea about what they would like to see happen; i.e, know the big ideas and learning goals they are hoping to achieve.  and then co-construct with students what effective collaboration will look like.  Start small.  You probably wouldn’t do this more that one time in a year to begin.

Have you already done this?  Would love to hear about it or additional ideas you have either on the Google doc or here!  If you’re in my school District and want some help connecting, please contact me and I’d love to help you to get started!