GREG NEIL, Inquiry Portfolio Leader/Grade 9 Teacher
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At Connect Charter School, inquiry-based learning doesn’t stop when the lunch bell rings. John Cadman, a Grade 4 Math/Science Teacher, recently started a lunch club called the Nerf Mod Club. This club provides students in Grades 4 and 5 the opportunity to explore a number of scientific and mathematical principles, all embedded within the joyful act of firing a Nerf projectile. As Mr. Cadman explains, the goal of the club is to modify the student’s own Nerf blasters to either fire faster or more accurately.In this first stage, students assembled in Connect’s Science Lab to conduct some preliminary tests. Using a chronograph to measure the speed of the projectiles in meters per second, students took turns firing their blasters.
Each student fired a projectile three times to establish their baseline data. This data will be used to help determine the extent to which their future modifications were successful. As Mr. Cadman explains, after establishing the baseline, students will be guided through the process of disassembling their Nerf blasters, looking for ways to increase spring strength, or increase air pressure. This process provides these students with an authentic opportunity to conduct meaningful scientific exploration, following a process of asking questions, collecting data, testing hypotheses, conducting research and critically evaluating their results.
Just down the hall, another Grade 4 teacher is preparing for one of her multiple clubs. Mrs. Waite, a Humanities teacher, runs a different club most days of the week. On Mondays, students participate in a writing club where they have the opportunity to select their own topics and write for various mediums, often with authentic audiences in mind. On Tuesdays, students gather for the History Club, another student directed club where they choose the focus, the questions to explore and the specific activities. After some getting to know you games that Mrs. Waite organized, students started to explore their first topic, the American Civil War. On Wednesdays, the Language club takes over where approximately 20 languages are being learned using the Duolingo App on the iPad. Once again, this student run club provides an opportunity for students to use technology and establish their own goals as they learn the basics, or even expand their vocabulary in a new language. Finally, Thursday is for the Nature Club. This new club was formed when students in the Garden Club and the Animal Rescue Club suggested a merger as they wanted to work to protect both animals and the environment. This club is led by Leah Smith, a Grade 6 student who has a passion for these topics and who has stepped up to provide a leadership role. Students in this club have planted a tower garden in Mrs. Waite’s classroom and are currently planning a number of field trips and guest speakers, including a trip to the Calgary Zoo. Last year’s Garden Club raised over $500 which was used to enhance Connect’s Reflection Grove. So far this year, students in the Nature Club have raised over $500 which has been donated to the Humane Society.
Connect has numerous other clubs, each one providing our students with varied opportunities to explore, question and to engage with authentic learning experiences in between the bells. Please check back to read about other clubs and initiatives offered at Connect.