IERG News & Updates March 2016

IERG News & Updates is our way to keep you informed about some IERG activities worldwide. You will find examples of Imaginative Education in action, interviews with practitioners, as well as short pieces describing our different programs, publications, and events.

We welcome your feedback, and as always, please feel free to share this with your colleagues and students, so that everyone can stay connected.

Enjoy our 1st edition of 2016!


Spotlight on Dr. Kieran Egan

NEW IE–focused BLOG

IERG in Latin America

IERG in Santiago, Chile

IEE Resource: A Walking Curriculum


Online Graduate Certificate in IE

Work has begun on the Online Graduate Certificate in Imaginative Education. This fully online 1 year graduate program will launch in May 2017. Stay tuned for registration information this fall. Now, no matter where you live, you can study with the experts at the IERG!


With focus on the new B.C. curriculum

AVAILABLE NOW! NEW Book on Imaginative Education by Dr. Kieran Egan and Dr. Gillian Judson (Teachers College Press)

A very practical guide to using cognitive tools to enhance your teaching!

11th IERG International Conference 2016


Submit your proposal today!



Spotlight on Prof. Kieran Egan

kieranI have been asked to briefly write about my retirement from Simon Fraser University and what I imagine its effects might be for me and for the work I have been doing with IERG. Perhaps the main effect is that my retirement has meant that Mark Fettes has kindly taken over Directorship of the Centre for Imaginative Education, the umbrella organization for all our programs, and the effect of that will likely be much more efficiency and effectiveness in our work generally. So I am delighted to keep passing over bits and pieces, files and documents, pictures and proposals—and there’s much more to pass along to Mark.

My attempt to run the IERG always reminded me of the Hilaire Belloc rhyme:

Lauda tu Ilarion audacem et splendidum*,
Who was always beginning things and never ended ‘em.
[*Praise be to you, Hilaire, brave and splendid].

But, at least, we certainly began many things, and what is most prominent when I think back over the past 15 years since we started IERG is the many talented people who have generously given of their time, skills, and energy such that the IERG has become an organization that seems to me to have done and continues to do good, promoting ways of making the world meaningful and imaginatively engaging to children. I am constantly surprised by how many children, students, and teachers our work has influenced, in an astonishing number of countries around the world. It has been a constant delight to have been able to work with—and I hope continue to work with—so many wonderful IERG colleagues, even though it has been a constant embarrassment that so much of their work has been inadequately funded and done mostly on a volunteer basis. So I don’t imagine I will be disappearing from IERG, and will try to remain energetic in helping the spread of the Learning in Depth program, and will hope to remain in touch with as many of the good friends I have made through our work, conferences, talks, and workshops as possible. And I wish Mark well, and confidently expect to see our work develop and elaborate and ramify in the future under his thoughtful and intelligent direction.

But retirement has consolations, of course, like more opportunities to walk down the street holding the hand of our youngest grandchild as he seriously tells me bits of what is in his strange mind.

Congratulations Kieran On Your Retirement!

The beginning of 2016 marks a milestone for the IERG. Dr. Kieran Egan—friend, colleague, teacher, guru—has officially retired from his position as Professor and Canada Research Chair in the SFU Faculty of Education. With greater and sometimes lesser reluctance he worked for SFU for 44 years (because they paid him moderately well) inspiring and influencing literally thousands of students. He has made countless contributions to educational scholarship and research. We offer Kieran our congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy retirement, knowing that he will remain closely connected with the IERG and continue to inspire and guide us in the years to come.

IERG will continue to be led by a group of Directors recruited from Education faculty, with Dr. Mark Fettes taking over the lead role as Director of the Centre for Imaginative Education at SFU. Mark has worked closely with Kieran since the founding of the IERG; he was the lead researcher on the LUCID project which explored using Imaginative Education to engage Aboriginal children in school, and has recently collaborated with Dr. Sean Blenkinsop on a variety of ecological and place-based education projects. He foresees continuing and strengthening the IERG’s key projects and programs, including workshops and collaborations with teachers in BC and developing relationships with universities and research groups in other countries.

NEW IE–focused BLOG

Get imagination-focused lesson ideas, teaching tips, and resources! Gillian Judson and Adelle Caunce started a Blog that is all about Topic copyIE and IEE in January. It is called “imaginED” and can be accessed here:

The blog is for educators of all ages of students in all contexts. It is intended to support IE teachers by offering cognitive tool-focused resources.

A few posts so far include:

  • Calling All Imaginative Science Teachers!
  • Calling All Imaginative Math Teachers!
  • Inspiration! 3 Resources for Imaginative & Ecological Teaching
  • A Walking Curriculum: Walking & Learning K-12
  • For The Love of Language–For English/Second Language Teachers
  • The Odd Origins of The Encyclopedia
  • Learn To Live Attentively In A Media Mad World (Part 1)

The blog also teaches about IE to anyone unfamiliar. Posts so far that introduce IE:

  • The Tools of Imagination Series: Tips For Imaginative Teaching
  • How To Make All Learning Meaningful & Memorable: Teaching As Storytelling.
  • The Danger of Designing Lessons For Thinkers
  • Imagination Misunderstood

There are also wonderfully random and randomly wonderful ideas about education through the IE lens.

Subscribe & get a weekly email with all our posts. If you prefer facebook you can access our blog posts there too.


“If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is definitely not for you.”
Thanks for this observation, Kieran!

A Recent NIET Meeting

By Judy Dabideen-Sonachansingh

niet As the sun set, turning SFU Surrey’s glass façade into a sparkling display of shifting lights, 11 harried and hurried Imaginative Education (IE) teachers came together to connect with each other and with their practice. What a splendid way to spend the evening hours!

The hot topic: IE teaching and the new curriculum here in B.C., Canada.

The IE teachers at NIET felt strongly that the new curriculum being implemented in B.C. fits very well with the principles of IE. For example, there are many references to “sustained learning on a chosen topic” (LiD), and wonder and engagement appear frequently in different curricular areas. Equipped with cognitive tool-focused practice, IE teachers welcome the move to more “big ideas” and away from prescribed learning outcomes.

Then we broke into 2 smaller groups—one focused on LiD and the other on Mythic IE teaching. The small group discussions always allow individuals to either share successes or ask for help. Frequently the small groups allow for collaborative planning and brainstorming challenging teaching topics or issues.

A gift! New information was shared about the Danish graphic designer, Christian Boer. He has designed a new font that makes it easier for dyslexic people to distinguish between similar letters Check it out. He himself is dyslexic and therefore has the emotional engagement to find such a seemingly simple solution to a devastating problem.

The meeting ended at 6:30 pm with everyone going away feeling refreshed and enthusiastic about their teaching practice.

IERG International

Imaginative Education In Latin America

Under the direction of Carolina Lopez, graduate from the Med Program in Imaginative Education (IE), at Simon Fraser University, an extension of the IERG has opened in Mexico. Supporting Carolina’s work in Mexico is Adriana Grimaldo and, from the IERG chapter based in Santiago, Chile, Marilú Matte (Graduate Director of the Faculty of Education Finis Terrae University), Magdalena Merbilháa, and Soledad Acuña (Administrative team at the IERG Chile). With Mexican and Chilean IE researchers and teachers joining forces, more and more people are learning about IE in Latin America.

The Chilean IE team has travelled to Mexico to work together on three occasions. On the most recent trip to Sonora, Mexico, in December 2015, Chilean and Mexican IERG chapters teamed up to offer an annual meeting of teachers focused teaching and discussions on IE.

The Chilean chapter of the IERG (called “Imaginative Education Chile”) was founded three years ago in Chile and is expanding. IE Chile introduces Dr. Egan’s educational philosophy and the practice of IE widely within the Latin American context. The first cohort of 15 students in an Imaginative Education Masters of Education program in Chile recently graduated. A new Masters program will be available to Chilean teachers through Finis Terrae University starting in April 2016. At Finis Terrae University the Master Degree will be called “Creativity and Pedagogical Innovation” and will be based on the theory and practice of IE. The IERG and the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University will collaborate with Finis Terrae University on this project in terms of program design and delivery of courses in both English and Spanish.

International Seminar On Creativity and Innovation in Education at Universidad Finis Terrae

Santiago, Chile

A two day International Seminar on creativity and innovation in education was offered by the Faculty of Education of Finis Terrae University, Santiago Chile in October 2015. Dr. Laurie Anderson, Executive Director at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Center Campus and Associate Director of the IERG, represented SFU and the IERG at this event. Topics were diverse! Marilú Matte (Graduate Director of the Faculty of Education of Finis Terrae University) discussed how recent finding in neuroscience applies to new educational practices. Eduardo Aguila (Director of the Creativity Centre of Finis Terrae University) spoke about the process of creativity itself. Magdalena Merbilháa (Director of IE Chile and director of the Master in Creativity and Innovation program) presented on the theory of IE. A central theme in the seminar was the need to secure a proper space for emotional engagement in education.

TEACHING: Glimpses into IE Second Language Classrooms

IE in The Second Language Classroom: A Cognitive Tools Approach to Teaching French Vocabulary

Andrea Leeburn (Grade 8 Teacher, Graduate Student (MEd IE)

Andreea mugshotIn this IE FSL French food unit I employ the metaphor of the kitchen as a foreign country called “La Cuisine”. Within this foreign country there are several countries such as Le Réfrigérateur (fridge), Le Congélateur (freezer), Le Four (oven), Le Garde-Manger (pantry), Le Grille-Pain (toaster) and Le Compost. I include teaching of weather and temperature vocabulary in my description of different regions in La Cuisine. What is it like in “Le Réfrigérateur?” Est-ce qu’il fait chaud? Est-ce qu’il fait froid? What about “Le Four”?

In my overall narrative, different foods (vocabulary) are personalized; they become the inhabitants of different regions in the country of La Cuisine. For example, the students meet “Les Glaçons”, a family of ice cubes living all year round in “Le Congélateur” and Mr. Pain and Mme. Gaufre, snowbird grandparents who spent most of the year in “Le Congélateur” but visit “Le Grille-Pain” when they are looking for a warm holiday. We also meet Mr. Sel and Mr. Poivre and their adopted children La Cannelle, Le Paprika, Le Curry et L’Origan who live together in “Le Garde-Manger”. We enrich the narrative by including vocabulary structures to express emotions. “Les Glaçons” could be “froid” et “hostile” or Mr. Brocoli could be “grincheux” et “toujours en colère”.

I also employ the change of context cognitive tool by recreating the country of “La Cuisine” in my actual classroom. My students participate within the overall story-form by creating a travel journal that describes the story of one item of food’s journey from one region of La Cuisine to another. What happens when Mme. Pomme visites “Le Compost?” Does she meet Mme. Peau de Banane? Or Mr. Noyau de Peche? Having students create a biography of one whole item of food employs the cognitive tool collections and hobbies. Where did it grow up? How was it grown? Is it imported to BC? How many types are there? Furthermore, the literate eye and sense of agency tools are engaged when I ask them each to choose a processed food and map out where all the ingredients come from on an actual world map. How does each ingredient arrive at the production plant? How does it get to your local grocery store?

IEE Resource: A Walking Curriculum—Sneak Peak!

These walking-focused learning activities are for all educators.  As you teach curriculum topics, you can engage students with the natural world in your community or schoolyard.

Each walking theme is followed by at least one imagination-focused question, challenge, or activity.  These prompts are all tools in the imaginative educator’s toolkit.  If you are wondering about what these “tools” are and/or where these teaching ideas come from, please read more on the “imaginED” blog—BRAND NEW.

Below you will find 5 walking themes.  Decide which would be most suitable for your students–all can be modified.

5 Focused Walks

Shapes Walk—What geometric shapes (circles, squares, rectangles, triangles etc.) can you find outside? Collect & Organize: Do a tally of the shapes you find. How many of each kind?

(Sur)Faces Walk—Look for “faces” of all kinds. What (sur)faces do you encounter on the walk? What do you notice about the (sur)faces? Senses: What do the surfaces feel like? How do they feel different to the touch of a finger? How do they feel to the touch of your forearm instead of your finger?

Motion Walk—Employ as many of your senses as possible to complete this challenge. What is moving around you? What is on the move? Besides seeing movement, how else can you tell something is moving? Gesture & Intention: Try to repeat using your body the movements you discovered. Are the movements easy or hard to do/represent? Why?

Texture Walk: How Place Feels (or Feeling Place). For this activity begin in the classroom with a class brainstorm about ways to describe how things feel to the touch—smooth, bumpy, prickly, hot, cold etc. In groups students might be challenged to come up with as many adjectives as they can. (Perhaps assign this task ahead of time—kudos to the student who comes up with the most unusual adjective!) Once a master list has been created you can ask students to head outside to explore. Their challenge is to find something that matches each descriptor on the list.   They can record what they find that matches the adjective. Following the walk give students an opportunity to debrief and share what they found. Encourage them to classify some of the textures—which were, for example, Pleasing? Surprising? Curious? Unusual? (They can identify additional categories).

Where Is Here? For this activity begin by simply asking students the following question: Where are we? Students will likely respond with “At school!”, “In Class!”. Tell students that you want them to be more specific—and more thorough in their answer. Students can be asked to find the following information:

Actual geographical coordinates for the school (Latitude/Longitude)

Street Address.


City, Province, Country.

Planet & Galaxy.*

(Change of Context: *Once students have figured out these dimensions you could ask them to give directions to the school…but the person—or thing—needing the directions is coming from Mars. How does one get from Mars to this actual location?—Ask them to get the “visitors” to arrive to Earth at a landmark in the local city (Latitude and Longitude will be required). They might give some suggestions as to the distance to Earth, what the visitor might expect in terms of weather or climate upon arrival. From there students will need to provide actual street directions, distances etc.)

Now ask students to get more specific and descriptive about the place—they will need to head outside, freely wandering as they try to provide particular details about the place. They can comment on:

  1. a) the landscape (what do they actually see? What natural vegetation exists? What kinds of colours and patterns are visible? What local natural zones exist nearby? Is the land around the place flat or mountainous? What is the nearest water source?)
  2. b) the climate/weather—what is the weather like at that moment? What are typical patterns of weather?
  3. c) the “soundscape”—what sounds characterize the place?
  4. d) the smell—what particular odours are there? Where are the odours coming from?
  5. e) the (wild) life—who lives in the neighbourhood?

Following their exploratory walk students can do some additional research into the local types of rock and soil. Typical vegetation and animal life etc.

(Once the “general” and the “particular” descriptions of the place are complete discuss with students how the two differ—despite being about the same location. Which is more engaging?

A Few Extensions…

  1. Ask students to think about someplace they went on their last summer outing (it need not be far away). They need to describe it without naming the location—so, for example, explain the kind of terrain that was there or the weather or climate. They might explain natural features there and other things they remember about it. How is it different to describe a place with these aspects as opposed to the name? (Idea: Our “GPS” systems are helpful but they leave a lot out!)
  2. Tell students they are now “aliens”; they have been sent to scout out a new planet to live on. They will go outside with a pen and paper. They should imagine that their “walk” is actually their “flight” to a new undiscovered planet. When you say “freeze” they should stop and drop to sit. They should then imagine that what they are looking at right in front of them and around them is new land—they must report back on what they see, smell, hear, touch etc. What is odd about the activity they observe going on around them? What is appealing about this place for life? If they want to please their “masters” they need to become “hoarders” of the particular. Every detail counts! How will this place be appealing or the opposite if they are very large—twice as big a tyrannosaurus rex—or very small—the size of a grain of rice?

(Learn more about this walking practice on the “imaginED” blog: **Information is available there about how to prepare for the walks, extend these learning across disciplines, prepare students etc.)

Important Links For Users

To maximize the success of your walking activities I encourage you to visit the following pages on our blog:

“background info on the walks”