IERG News & Updates May 2015
IERG News & Updates is our way to keep you informed about activities of the IERG, examples of Imaginative Education in action, interviews with practitioners, as well as short pieces giving in-depth insights into various aspects and programs of the Imaginative Education Research Group.
We welcome your feedback, and as always, please feel free to share this with your colleagues and students, so that everyone can stay connected.
AT A GLANCE
Spotlight: Dr. Kym Stewart
Interview with Joeri Cant
Whole School project (WSP) update
Spotlight on LiD Kids
10th IERG International Conference 2015
IMAGINATION, CREATIVITY, and LEARNING
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to celebrate Imagination!
Spotlight: Dr. Kym Stewart
1. Who are you? Where do you teach/study/research?
I read Egan’s work in the late 1990s in an Educational Foundations class at the University of Alberta. It was during this class that I decided to take a major detour—instead of continuing down the path toward elementary school teaching, I started to look more closely at media studies and question the role of media (film, TV, videogames) in the lives of young children. This drew me to the West Coast, in particular Simon Fraser University, because of the work being done in the School of Communication by Dr. Stephen Kline, and in the Faculty of Education by Dr. Kieran Egan.
After completing an MA in Communication Studies that focused on media in the lived experiences of young children and their families and the role of media education in schools, I realized I needed to find my way back into the education field. I began my PhD studies there.
My PhD thesis entitled Teaching the Media with Mouse Woman: Adventures in Imaginative Education was completed in the summer of 2014 with the incredible support and guidance of Dr. Mark Fettes, Dr. Kieran Egan, and Dr. Michael Ling.
2. What milestones have shaped your educational interests?
A major milestone happened with my transition from my MA to my PhD—this involved leaving a very well-established research home in the Media Analysis lab and finding a new one. At this point, Mark Fettes was initiating the LUCID (Learning for Understanding through Culturally Inclusive Imaginative Education) project and was looking for a research assistant. I happened to be at the right place, at the right time, with a CV in hand and a pile of enthusiasm to better understand Imaginative Education. This new job meant a LOT of travel and with that amazing chance meetings (on plane, trucks, ferries, forest paths…) and deep, meaningful conversations about education, research and imagination. It also meant connecting with dedicated teachers looking for new ways of engaging students. I witnessed their transformations as they began to unpack issues/topics including what education meant to them, how they saw their role(s) in the classroom, and the central role imagination needed to take the classroom.
My involvement with the LUCID project meant I was invited to develop and implement media-education programming in various schools in Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, B.C., as well as in the Lower Mainland in a Grade 3 class; my understanding of IE’s nuances grew.
3. What are your hopes for education in the 21st century?
Balance! I think we’ve come to a point where the idea of balance has emerged from the shadows and is something that we, and our students, are actively striving for. My work in IE and holistic models of education, like Rudolph Steiner’s work, reminds me that we need to seek balance in our abilities to think, feel, and do. We also need balance when it comes to dealing with classroom content such as the amount and time dedicated to screen media. There are moments when I feel the trend towards bigger, better, faster educational toys (computer/iPads) far outweighs the prolonged investigation of deep, transformative engagement in classrooms; yet I can also recognize the importance of these technologies in our lives today. But I am also witnessing lovely glimmers of hope in hallway conversations with educators who are using terms like balance, alternatives, well-being, care, inquiry, slowing down, and imagination as important issues to be more thoroughly examined.
4. What questions/projects are you currently pursuing?
With my PhD completed, I find myself in a privileged position to open up my ‘Research-To-Do’ book and review a decade’s worth of ideas that have cropped up after various conversations with colleagues, students, and theorists. My focus continues to be the role of media in the lives of children; this is a growing concern with the rise of wireless technologies and portable screens. I’m hoping to realize my dream to develop and implement media-education workshops for parents-to-be. Working with these parents, before they are inundated with pressures of parenting in a media-saturate world will help plant the importance of finding alternatives to screen time, help to create conversations and hopefully initiate a supportive community to rely on when Disney, Nickelodeon and Nintendo come knocking at their doors.
A more recent project has been sparked by conversations with my teen daughter about her own school experiences, in particular about classroom engagement. My previous research on imagination, education and engagement seemed to be missing the voice of teens who are willing, and extremely able, to articulate what captures their attention and makes them stop in their tracks. My foray into qualitative methodologies, in particular Metissage via my thesis, has inspired me to work more cooperatively and having an opportunity to spend more time with my teen is just something I can’t give up.
5. What direction(s) would you like to see the IERG taking in the future?
I always appreciated how the IERG is the hub for researchers to gather and I hope that this can continue. Meeting researchers from around the world who are all looking carefully at the role of imagination in education is both inspiring for upcoming IE educators and essential for the health and growth of the IERG.
Interview with Joeri Cant
Research Assistant: Imaginative Education Research Group
1. How did you get involved with the IERG?
Before we moved to Canada, I ran a humanitarian educational organization in Eastern Europe that had initiated daycares and pre-schools based on the principles of Imaginative Education (IE). By working on projects involving these IE early childhood centers, I was in continuous correspondence with Dr. Kieran Egan and the Imaginative Education Research Group. In 2008 I got to meet Dr. Egan in person, at a conference I organized for Babes Bolyai University in Romania. After that conference, my wife Annabella shared with Dr. Egan, her mentor, her wish to pursue her PhD in Education. (She had completed her Masters degree with Dr. Egan in 1999). In September 2010, our family moved to Canada and since that moment I have been increasingly involved with the IERG.
2. What is your role within the organization?
I handle multiple roles throughout the IERG. My two main tasks, however, focus on the overall web and social media presence of the IERG and on organizing the IERG international conferences and other workshops.
I am responsible for the optimal functioning, maintenance and overall design of the IERG.ca website(s). The fun part of that is that I need to be technically savvy, while applying a high level of creativity. I was very happy to be given a free hand in setting up and designing the latest versions of the websites for the IERG. Since we launched the new IERG websites, our visitor count has doubled. Something to be proud of!
Another big part of my time goes to organizing the IERG International Conference on Imagination and Education, which takes place each year at the beginning of July. I find my involvement with the IERG to be very rewarding!
3. What role does social media play in the IERG?
Our websites offer a wide range of information on Imaginative Education and its practical applications around the globe. If you want to find out more about the IERG and the different programs we offer, IERG.ca is definitely the place to start. At the same time, by using social media, we try to create relationships with people who might not otherwise know about our programs or what the IERG represents.
4. What future directions would you like to see the IERG taking
Even after a decade of going strong, the IERG still has many opportunities to further expand its reach. Given enough people-power and funding we will do just that!
IEE Workshop @ Erma Stephenson Elementary School in Surrey
On April 27, 2015, Michael Derby and Gillian Judson spent a great evening with a group of B.C. teachers, support staff, parents and university faculty members interested in learning about IEE, or Imaginative Ecological Education (www.ierg.ca/IEE). The aim of the workshop was to show the many ways that teachers (K-12) can tap into their students’ imaginative lives, but also do so in ways that engage the body with the natural world and, thus, cultivate students’ ecological understanding. Following an introduction to some principles of IEE, participants took to the playground to explore some of the possibilities of implementing imaginative learning and cultivating students’ sense of place. They experienced some tried-and-true examples of IEE-inspired activities and were introduced to the many possibilities for place-focused approaches to teaching. All participants received a resource book entitled Imaginative Ecological Education: Practical Strategies For Teaching (Pacific Educational Press, 2015).
Whole School Project (WSP): Westwood Elementary School (Coquitlam, B.C.)
As part of its WSP, Westwood Elementary School has just released another batch of young Chum Salmon that were raised at the school into the Coquitlam River. First Nations’ representative Dean Sam spoke to the whole school about the importance of salmon to First Nations people and to our environment. Following this presentation the whole school made the short walk to the Coquitlam River, just a short distance from the school. Each class had some salmon fry to release into the river. Students turns going down to the river shore to release their salmon, while Dean Sam gave a blessing and song to the salmon as they made their journey into the river.
The students at the school will shortly be commencing a tile mural for the front entrance way related to the school’s WSP theme: The River. The theme was chosen as a means to bring the students into greater contact with and develop a greater awareness of this valuable resource located very close to the school. All the students have created designs for the mural. Eventually, these designs will be used in the tile project and on painted murals at the front entrance to the school. As the mural phase of the project is concluded, staff and students will be moving towards a variety of landscaping projects at the school to take place in the 2015/16 school year.
Pamela Hagen – Grade 4/5 Teacher at Westwood Elementary School
Whole School Project (WSP): Canada Qingdao Secondary School (CQSS), China
This is a bit of a transition point for the school community at CQSS. The first WSP on “Garden Plants of Qingdao” was started in 2011 and 2014; at this time the community is enjoying the fruits of our labor (i.e., strawberries at the moment) and reflecting on all that has been gained and learned. Such reflection should assist the school in selecting and refining its next WSP.
In late June 2014, as part of the school’s end-of-year celebration, students presented work performed over the past three years. Members of the student council unveiled a booklet outlining the formation of the garden, learning activities undertaken through the project, as well as artifacts created over the 3- year period in each of the grade levels. Graduands then presented their individual student portfolios. These included their own, increasingly specialized contributions to the project.
The Garden Plants of Qingdao project brought the school community together and helped CQSS develop a unique school culture and school identity. The project had significant curricular and extracurricular benefits and served to connect students of various grade levels; it also allowed them to connect with their community and with the non-human environment. From an educational perspective, the project extended learning beyond the confines of the classroom in allowing students to meet learning outcomes in diverse subjects such as science, math, art, planning, ESL, and graduation transitions. Much of the work performed could be included in student resumes and in applications for university programs. As school principal, I found the WSP to be a truly worthwhile addition to the school program—it invigorated the school, and enriched our students’ education. I am already looking forward to participating in further such adventures.
Yvan Zebroff – Principal, Canada Qingdao Secondary School