By employing a multi-disciplinary learning style known as "Project 0" from Harvard's Graduate School of Education, a local group of teachers are noticing benefits to their classroom engagement in learning.

The "PZ" (Project 0) describes itself as "An intellectual wellspring, nourishing inquiry into the complexity of human potentials, intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, ethics, and exploring sustainable ways to support them across multiple and diverse contexts."

The program was founded in 1967 by philosopher Nelson Goodman and is now being utilized in the Foothills by three Grade 3 teachers in the Spitzee Elementary School in High River.

Barbara Calabrese, Cathy King and Krista Mace have been utilizing aspects of the project, to create a culture of thinking within their grade 3 classrooms.

Calabrese says, put simply, it's less about dictating a lesson and more about allowing students to be autonomous and intellectually curious.

"Instead of me or one of my teammates being at the front of the classroom and just saying: 'this is what you're doing, and this is how you're doing it' it's more like: 'What should we do? Or, what do you see? Or, how should we go about doing this?'"

Providing an example of this concept in practice, Calabrese explains that children are encouraged to think about their thinking.

"So for example, this year so far with my grade 3's, we had a bucket of measurement tools. Usually in the past what I've done is explain the concept of scale. Scale is used to measure mass and weight, and rulers are used to measure length, width and height. Who was doing the thinking there? I was. So the students are being disengaged because they are being told what to think. Instead this year, we utilized the bucket of tools again, but this time we asked the children what they saw and what they thought about what they were seeing. From that, all the curriculum that I planned about introducing the concept of the tools and what they were used for, the kids discovered by themselves, just by being the ones doing the thinking."

Calabrese says these exercises in thinking enable enriching classroom discussion.

"Asking themselves questions such as what do I notice? What do I see? What do I think about that? What came from those questions were a really rich discussion, rather than me standing at the front, telling them all those things."

As students learn to develop their thinking skills, Calabrese says those abilities continue to serve them throughout their life.

"If you always have a parent or adult in your life telling you what to do or what to think, you never exercise that thinking muscle."

As the group of grade 3 teachers continue to foster questions and discussions of thinking in their classrooms, Calabrese says she's happy to be part of a school division that allows for innovative and cutting edge learning strategies to play a part in their students lives.

"There is a pocket of people here in Southern Alberta, in High River and Okotoks and Turner Valley that are really engaging in practice that is world class and at the forefront of education. It's really exciting to be part of the Foothills School Division for that reason."

 

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