The citation from the Upper Canada District School Board reads in part that the Trustees’ Award is a “way for the board to recognize innovative teaching and work practices in the hopes that they will be shared and used to improve the way the Board delivers education and other services to our students.”
Melissa Ringler and Carrie Gilmour of Seaway District High School in Iroquois were honoured with a Teaching Innovation Award September 23, 2015, at the board meeting in Brockville, for their very innovative and fascinating concept, CASE.
The two teachers, long time educators, were recognized for a program which they have developed over about five years, called CASE (Collaboration Among Science and English). With the on-going support of the school administration and of many fellow teachers, they have been able to implement their project into the grade nine curriculum at the school.
“Every grade 9, whatever his or her academic ability, participates in this program,” said Carrie Gilmour. “In real life, you must work with people with a multitude of abilities, talents, ambitions and skills. You must also do so in the CASE program.”
The purpose of the CASE project is to combine science and English skills within a single collaborative program. The content of the course work is science based, while communication of students’ research and findings is English based.
Over a semester, student teams create four specific activity/projects. The work involved in these projects is totally relevant to the ministry’s established curriculum and learning outcomes, and also to the specific demands of the literacy tests each student will take in grade 10.
Gilmour and Ringler say that “the idea came to us as we were discussing goals and learning ideas about five years ago. We put our ideas into practice, building the program gradually.”
The original project of CASE was an EcoMagazine, researched and written by the teams.
Since then, CASE projects have developed into a very innovative and exciting learning journey.
“We both like to emphasize the idea that skills can be transferable and the process and planning of a project, and the team work, are as important as the product,” Melissa said.
As the course progresses, the first step is an infograph, “a model which conveys information on the computer in a concise manner, primarily through pictures. It becomes a visual representation of the students’ science information,” explained Ringler.
This is followed by an Inquiry Project, which could take the form of a traditional science fair display or one based on the Stanford Design School.
The next step involves creating a downloadable podcast (this year the focus is on space, one of the components of the science curriculum). The podcast requires a script and vocal work (components of the English curriculum).
Ultimately, the students work together to create a digital magazine that has to focus in on one of the strands of the grade nine science curriculum.
Within this project, they must choose the top 10 interesting things about their science project and demonstrate 10 different types of writing.
Good scientific research and testing methods, and an ongoing emphasis on visual, oral and written communications in English keep the CASE course exciting, interesting and involving.
Senior students in both the LINK and peer tutour programs at Seaway are also involved in CASE.
“These kids actually join us in working with our grade 9s in some MSIP periods, often doing some of the instructing right along with the teachers,” said Carrie Gilmour.
“It was a real honour to be recognized by the school board with this Trustees’ award,” said Melissa Ringler. “This project was our ‘thing.’ We created the ideas and then developed them. And we both feel very strongly about the CASE program.”