Making Sustainable Well-Being Connections To the Classroom

Making Sustainable Well-Being Connections To the Classroom

First off I wanted to talk about the reason for doing something a bit different for this assignment. When I took the Health Promoting Schools course last Fall I chose to use the Living Schools Classroom Planner as one of my assignments and didn’t feel like enough has changed in my perspective or teaching assignment since that time. I’ve really connected to the Sustainable Well-Being Framework and wanted to see how I’d be able to make connections to the curriculum in a way that makes sense to my grade 3/4 learners and demonstrate to other educators how this can be done in a meaningful and approachable way.

If you’d like to look at my Living Schools Classroom Planner please click this link:                             Living Schools Classroom Planner

Throughout my work for this project I have included some photographs that I felt reflected the attributes from the Sustainable Well-Being Framework. I’d like to thank my colleague at work, Lena, for allowing me to use her photos for the purpose of this project. As you scroll through you’ll see how talented she is and you’ll also be able to feel her passion and respect for nature.

All photos are from Lena’s Instagram account for which she has given me her permission to use

Sustainable Well-Being Framework

Below are the the eight sections from the Sustainable Well-Being Framework. I’ve bolded the key words that I have either a) had success with using with my current grade 3s for this school year in some way or b) feel like I could/would use with this age group!

*The words without the bold are ones that I would either a) want to tweak for the age group or b) work with the 5/6 team and see if leaving them for when the students get to the next grade level.




creativeplayfulcuriouswonderinspiredinnovative, awe


open mindedflexible, grateful, interconnectedreflectiverespectfulself-aware

Integrity: *The term integrity is a challenge to explain to young learners!

authentic, transparent, honest, ecological integrity, principled, congruent


braveadventurousresilient, tenacious


patientappreciativemindfulstillnesscalmtranquil, prudent, self-regulatednon-action

Growth Mindset:

hopefulcollaborativeoptimistic, future-mindedresourcefuladaptable

Just: *The term just might need a little extra explanation since it’s different than “just” 😉

fair-minded, ecologically responsible, equitable, socially responsibleaccountable

Personal Thoughts:

After considering all the words, there are only a few that present a larger challenge for our young learners. I think that there is potential to be able to explain or reword some of the words that have not been bolded, but I also like the idea of leaving some areas of the framework for different grade groups.

At my school we teach in multigrade groups. We have three classes of 1/2, three 3/4s and three 5/6s. It would be really neat to use the Sustainable Well-Being Framework within our grade groups. I can imagine the 1/2s being able to teach and work with: Humanity and Passion, the 3/4s could integrate: Growth Mindset, Humility and Focus then the 5/6s would be able to delve into: Integrity, Courage and Just.

By using a whole school approach it shows commitment, unity and the belief in the importance of what it means to possess sustainable well-being! Obviously this would have to be discussed with the administration, then the staff and plans would have to be made together moving forward rather than pitching it to the administration then expecting teachers to begin implementing sustainable happiness and well-being into their teaching practices. It also can’t feel like another thing on teacher’s plates. The next steps in this project are to use the curriculum to show how to easily and meaningful sustainable happiness and well-being can be connected to what we are expected to teach! For this purpose I have considered ways to use all eight sections of the framework to show that this approach is also a possibility.

“World Year” Grade 3/4 2020-2021 @ Montrose School

“World Year” and “Earth Year” are what we refer to our Science/Social Studies rotations as the 3/4 team at my school. We are currently finishing up our “Earth Year” and next year we will head into a “World Year”. The reason we do this is because our classes are always set up as multiage. We do not alter grade groupings according to numbers which is different from split classes. This allows us to rotate the Science and Social Studies topics that we teach. Grade 3s will learn some of the grade 3 outcomes in grade 3 and some in grade 4, and vice versa.

Grade 3/4 Science/Social Studies Topics for ‘World Year”:

Grade 3 Science:

Materials and Structures

Forces That Attract and Repel

Grade 4 Science:



Grade 3 Social Studies:

Grade 3: Communities of the World
Cluster 1 – Connecting with Canadians

  • rights and responsibilities
  • connections with other Canadians
  • community leadership (formal and informal)
  • decision making (conflict, bullying)
  • Canadian citizenship (national anthem)
  • Remembrance Day
Cluster 2 – Exploring the World

  • mapping (maps, aerial photographs and satellite images)
  • mapping (equator, hemispheres, continents, oceans)
  • common concerns and connections between world communities
  • community services
  • human rights (housing, education, security, food, water…)
  • international support organizations (United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross…)
Cluster 3 – Communities of the World

  • global human diversity
  • contemporary world communities (physical, social, cultural; daily life, traditions)
  • indigenous communities of the world
  • mapping (location of communities or countries)
  • media influences on perceptions of people and places
Cluster 4 – Exploring an Ancient Society: one of ancient Egypt, China, Japan, the Vikings, Incas, Mayas, or Aztecs

  • ways of life
  • customs, stories, traditions
  • cultural expressions (art, architecture, music, dance, writing,stories, religious practices)
  • senduring contributions (ideas, inventions, art, architecture, stories)

So…how can the Sustainable Well-Being Framework fit into what I will be teaching next year?

First off I’d like to talk to the students about the framework, explain what Sustainable Happiness and Well-Being could mean to them. I don’t want to tell them what it is, but it could be a nice way to begin the year. Even the new grade 3s would have likely heard of some or all of the words: Sustainable, Happiness and Well-being! It’s hard to say what things will look like because it would be a mini inquiry which includes a lot of student voice and choice!

Science: Materials and Structures

We often use bridges as a way to talk about materials and structures and then relate that to Communities of the World. However, instead we could use the outcome: Use the design process to build a structure that meets given criteria related to strength, stability, and function” to have the students think of something they could create to serve a positive purpose in the environment or for social welfare. Through this activity other outcomes will happen naturally.

Example :

Use appropriate vocabulary related to their investigations of materials and structures, Explore to determine an appropriate method for joining two materials for a specific use, Explore to determine ways to improve the strength and stability of a frame structure, Evaluate simple structures to determine if they are safe and appropriate to the user and Identify various materials used in the construction of buildings in their community and in communities around the world, just to name a few! 

Potential Connections to the Sustainable Well-Being Framework:

Humanity (compassion) , Passion (creativity and innovation), Humility (open mindedness and flexibility), Integrity (authenticity *or maybe we’d refer to this as true and real and ecological integrity *or “environmental health and safety”, Courage (tenacious *or “persistent and I like adding in another word like bold to this category), Focus (appreciative and patient), Growth Mindset (collaborative and future-minded), Just (responsibility and how that can be environmental and social and explain the differences).

  • The beauty is that these are just potential connections and once the students know more about the framework they will be able to communicate the connections that they see and that matter most to them!

Science: Forces That Attract and Repel

Again, a natural starting point could be suing the design process: Use the design process to construct a game, toy, or useful device that uses gravitational, magnetic, or electrostatic forces”. The design process might seem like a natural ending point for some people. But in inquiry there is less focus on the end product and more about the process, so just because the Design Process outcome is listed at the end of the cluster it doesn’t mean you need to end with it. The curriculum tells us the what…not the how!

I like this as a beginning or end of the year project! By focusing on a need of the people of the world or the natural environment, the students have so many areas that they could focus on. They an certainly take something that interests them and go from there. This type of cluster also lends itself nicely to a Genius Hour type of project! This is something I hadn’t thought of before. I always left this unit until the end of the year and then in June we’d be rushing to cover as many outcomes as possible. We would use LEGO to build cars and then take them outside to race using either the push or pull force of a magnet. The students love it, but I think there is potential to do better!

Science: Light and Sound

Light and sound have never really felt integrated for us. They have become ‘units’ that we go through quickly or get ‘out of the way’ at the beginning of the year. I’ve been thinking about ways to connect these two clusters in a more meaningful way. One thing we could do is start with the outcome with the design process (like we did with the Materials and Structures cluster);

Light: Use the design process to construct a device that transmits and reflects light

Sound: Use the design process to create a musical instrument

OR maybe a different outcome that includes and investigation;

Light: Identify technological developments that extend our ability to see, and recognize their impact on science

Sound: Investigate to identify inventions related to sound, and describe their impacts on society

Then maybe we use the framework (now that they are more familiar with it to make more connections together or in small groups. This uses the gradual release of responsibility model (I Do, We Do, You Do). The students use what they’ve learned by having things modelled first and now are ready to work together and eventually will be able to make these connections independently! So, again. This could look different from what I imagine in my head right now. The students will think of some of the same connections as I am, but also different connections as well. When we work together in a supported way they become more confident and extend their learning.

We’d ask ourselves: “How can we connect: Humanity, Passion, Humility, Integrity, Courage, Focus, Growth Mindset and Just to Light and Sound?”

Potential Connections to the Sustainable Well-Being Framework:

-creativity, curiosity, wonder, innovation, open-mindedness, interconnectedness, reflective, respect, self-awareness, ecological integrity (or environmental health and safety), appreciation, collaboration, optimism, future-minded, resourceful, adaptable, accountable

There are so many potentials that will happen naturally and helping the students make those connections brings more meaning to the projects and learning. Just like in the Materials and Structures cluster, the other outcomes will be learned in an organic way. Vocabulary get developed, connections between light and sound become realized, an extension of learning about senses way back in grade 1/2 takes place, connection to light and sound in nature will form, etc.

  • These clusters don’t have to be taught in isolation
  • We can integrate them into our environment and possibly teach both clusters at the same time

Social Studies: Communities of the World

I think this is where I see the most natural connections for some areas of the framework. As we compare Ancient Civilizations to how we live today, or where we live with other countries or how we explore the world or connect as Canadians there is so much potential to focus on Sustainable Happiness and Well-Being. We often teach Ancient Civilizations, then move into countries of the world then focus on connecting with Canadians as our year plan. It’s kind of like a past to present to future direction. I like teaching this way, but also wonder about working through these clusters simultaneously. If we were to commit to a yearlong learning plan that connects to the framework, then I can see a lot of natural ways to integrate the attributes to the Social Studies curriculum as a whole. For example: maybe the students choose to focus on “Humanity” and consider that through Ancient History, Countries of the World and in Canada. It’s just a new way to think about making connections to what we are required to teach! This could give students who are ready to be independent the freedom to do so (the You Do stage) and also allow more of the We Do practice that other students still need. So much to think about!

English Language Arts, Math, Health, the Arts, etc.

Although I’ve only touched on Science and Social Studies there are always ways to connect the framework to other core subjects.

Some Examples of Connections May Include:

-Introduce the framework and its attributes by doing writing prompts

-Use writing forms such as poetry, comics, How To, etc. to explain the attributes

-Read picture books and then discuss which attribute(s) the story fits into

-Find a way to incorporate drama and dance to explain the attributes

-Use facts that contain numbers to incorporate math (word problems, reading/creating graphs, mathematical reasoning (Which One Doesn’t Belong is one of my favourites!), etc.

-Talk about the connections to health (healthy body, healthy mind, healthy environment) that the attributes have

The Sustainable Well-Being Framework & Connections Through Photographs!

Thank you to Catherine for sharing this image of the Sustainable Well-Being Framework Graphic

The photographs below could be used for multiple sections of the Sustainable Well-Being Framework, but this is what I have come up with so far! Thanks again to Lena for these gorgeous images. The addition of the images provides powerful visual connections for the students. They become more than words! By no means do we want to limit what their visual representations could be, but simply give a starting point. I could also show them all of the images and we could talk about which attribute they feel matches and why. These type of opportunities allow students to deepen their understanding, make connections, respect other people’s opinions, etc.

*Using photography or art in other forms is also an idea to incorporate student voice into making connections to the framework!



















Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset




Final Thoughts:

This has been a valuable experience for me and I’m grateful for the opportunity to take the time to really think about the Sustainable Well-Being Framework and how my grade 3/4 learners can use this in any of the curricular outcomes they are required to learn. I feel like by doing the Living Schools Classroom Planner in a previous course has helped me set a foundation and be ready to think about next steps. I have some ideas of how the framework could be used in my own classroom (or hopefully with my grade group team) or how we could delve into this as a school. I often start with things in my own room and with my teaching partner and then try to extend that to others, so maybe this is how I’d approach this too. It’s helpful to have the experience and also a starting point for people and ways to grow your own work (based on what worked and what didn’t the first time around). My favourite “takeaway” is that teaching anyone about sustainable happiness and well-being can be integrated in anything and everything we do. There are no “rights and wrongs”.

Sustainable happiness can be defined as “happiness that contributes to individual, community or global well-being without exploiting other people, the environment, or future generations” (O’Brien, 2016, p. 1). It’s time to focus on this at every level of school and create a world where future generations can enjoy for many years to come!


Manitoba Education as retrieved from:

Manitoba Education as retrieved from:

O’Brien, C. (2016). Sustainable well-being for all.

O’Brien, C. (2016). Education for sustainable happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nature, Interconnection, Other Ways of Knowing

Nature Affluence Chart

Connecting with Nature

Impact on my Happiness and Well-Being 

Increasing my Nature Affluence

Taking morning and evening walks -Good start and end to the day

-Relaxing and calming

-Technology free time!

Using all my senses as I explore/revisit my community
Planting seeds “with” my class as an online experiment -Knowing that this is a real life experience for my students makes me happy Considering to plant our own food in some capacity
Sitting on the deck -Good way to unwind

-Appreciation of the outdoor space I am fortunate to have

Using the outdoors more in a variety of ways: as my work space, more dining, reading, etc.
Doing yard work -Physical activity

-Proud of the work done

-Feels good to look at what you’ve accomplished

Thinking of this more as an opportunity to connect than as a chore allows us to observe and appreciate the nature around us. For example: A rainy day doesn’t have to have a negative connotation, but can be looked at as a time for plants to grow instead.

 As I filled out this Nature Affluence chart it made me think of the direction that I wanted to go for my response this week. I want to go back to the “basics” and consider how well-being can be positively impacted when we slow down. It felt like this is a good time to revisit the simple ways I can connect with nature since I am at home 99% of the time and have very few things that I feel are urgent or need to be rushed toward.

This week’s reading and videos have felt like they’ve given me motivation and almost like a permission to slow down and really think about nature and interconnection. This felt really good because for so long I feel like things are so busy that I forget about the small things that I enjoy, or simply don’t consider interconnectedness like I want to or even take time to reflect. Fortunately as a teacher I am able to “reset” each summer, but why stop there?!

I chose to read Chapter 1: Mino-Bimaadiziwin: Education for the Good Life from Deer and Falkenberg and watch The Hidden Beauty of Pollination and Multiple Ways of Knowing in Environmental Decision Making this week. These all served as tools to pursue time to reflect, wonder and just simply “be”.

From the readings and videos this is what I have decided to focus on…

Connecting with Nature for Well-Being

a) Self Care:

-Whenever I need to hit the ‘reset button’ or think something through I seek out nature

-Being in nature without bringing any technology is literally a breath of fresh air!

-The expectations I feel from all aspects in my life are paused for awhile and I simply breathe, reflect, appreciate and soak in nature and all it has to offer

*It is important for me to realize the interconnectedness that we experience between self-care and sustainable happiness. My own self-care is connected to the well-being of the environment. There can be such a positive relationship between caring for ourselves and caring for our environment!

Self-Care in Nature Morning Routine!

Self-Care looks like this a lot! Hudson and I chilling and watching the wildlife! Fortunately she wasn’t too curious about a skink in the yard the other night!

b) Education:

-Being a multiage class I loop my Social Studies and Science curriculums. This year is what we call an “Earth Year” as we learn about plants, soils, etc. 

-This is a great opportunity to each the students about plants, the environment, the Earth and there are many ways for this to happen (whether we are at home or at school!)

-The valuable lessons about interconnectedness and Indigenous perspectives are very meaningful and valuable

Getting started with our “Planting at Danielle’s” experiment!

Plant A will be inside in the sun and get watered regularly. Plant B will be inside in artificial light only and get watered regularly. Plants C & D will both be outside in the sun, but C will get watered and D only gets water when it rains. The students had to make predictions and weekly observations based on the activities I post on our online platform.

This was our final check in on May 27. After discussion with the students we opted for all plants to be outside and watered regularly and see if the plants not doing well could “catch up” based on their observations.

This was another offering…an inquiry based on a plant observation (with a journal feature for them to fill out). This is a glimpse of the observation at my house, but the students did one at their house as well!

c) Building Relationships:

-There are opportunities to build relationships with the nature that surrounds us, with other people, with ourselves

-When we build connections and relationships we are more invested and care more. These are important parts of our well-being

This poor buck reminds of the interconnectedness between humans and animals. He clearly got caught up in some sort of outdoor decorations. The first time I saw him was on Christmas Day and then sporadically throughout the remainder of the winter. I am hoping that he still comes around, but has lost his antlers and I just don’t recognize him anymore. The choices that we as humans make impact animals and plants when we don’t even realize it. It makes me think about the relationship we can have with nature if we choose to do some.

d) Discovery:

-Finding things that make us happy!

-Finding out things about ourselves

-Learning about how things are connected to all other living things

-Discovering something new each day as no two days are ever the same!

-Appreciating what we have in our natural world and what can happen if we don’t care about the choices we make as a human society 

The discovery that happens when we take a new walking path, or when we tune into our senses when we take a path we’ve walked a thousand times…always something new to discover…with my best girl!

When you discover that your husky might be the “big, bad wolf” in any fairytale ever written! This made me smile! It made me laugh! It made me appreciate the sun and how we create amazing shadows!

I rarely take my phone with me when I’m outside…except when I have the purpose of sharing a photo while I’m out. While connecting with my students I wanted to share these images with them in some capacity. I don’t want this pandemic to distance the relationships I have with the students, so I share a bit of home with them as they do with me! Mostly they are interested in what Hudson is doing!!

My Takeaways: Nature, Interconnection, Other Ways of Knowing

*Don’t worry about the weather, find something good in each and every day

*Listen to your heart and your “gut” and allow yourself to feel what you need to feel

*Never forget the relationships we have as humans with the natural world. We have the power to decide if these relationships are positive or negative.

These words by Maya Angelou are fitting for our relationship with nature. We now know better, so let’s do better!

To quote one of the wisest 9 year olds I’ve ever met…

Me: It’s raining. That’s too bad.

9 Year Old: Ya…but I haven’t seen a worm for awhile!

It’s all about perspective…and that’s the kind of perspective I want to have in my own life!


Deer, F., & Falkenberg, T. (Editors). (2017). Indigenous perspectives on education for well-being in Canada. Winnipeg: Education for Sustainable Well-Being Press.

M.J. Barret. (2013, July 12). Multiple ways of knowing in environmental decision- making [Video]. YouTube.

O’Brien, C. (2016). Education for sustainable happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Routledge.

TED. (2011, May 9). The hidden beauty of pollination | Louie Schwartzberg [Video]. YouTube.

EDUC6103: Genius Hour Project

EDUC6103 Education for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship

A Genius Hour of Genius Hour At Montrose School

By Danielle Shrumm


The purpose of this Genius Hour project has been for me to go through the Genius Hour process using Design Thinking as a tool to plan a Genius Hour project for my grade 3/4 students at Montrose School. 

Background Information:

This is my fourth year teaching at Montrose School and my third year doing Genius Hour (GH) projects. Over the years we have made big and small changes to GH, yet the common theme is:

Doing. A. Genius. Hour. Project! 

We have learned many things along the way and our learning will not be over anytime soon!

This is how Genius Hour has progressed for us:

*First of al I should let you know that he “us” I refer to is my teacher partner, Helen at Montrose School (on my Grade 3/4 team)!

Year One: We feel like should do a GH project, but we have no idea what to do, so we decide to learn more about it and try next year

Year Two: We’ve done some reading, but there is a lot of information about GH, so we decide to just start and see how it goes!

Year Three: The kids loved doing a GH, but we had a big question for ourselves: How can we make GH better? *Note: This is the year that I started my class off with doing Genius Hour and then our Inquiry Support Teacher took over. I was given the opportunity to get our whole school’s Friluftsliv (Outdoor Education) program up and running. When I was out of the room one day of our six day school cycle, it made sense to leave my replacement (the Inquiry Support Teacher) something that he could build on from week to week. It also made sense for him to actually do a Genius Hour with a class instead of telling people how to do one without ever going through the process himself. The challenge was that I was disconnected from the process and felt that I wanted to be more hands on. The students were given a booklet to use as direction this year, but again we needed to evolve our expectations of GH and I knew that I needed to play more of a role in it.

Year Four: (This current year): Our plan as classroom teachers was to work with our Inquiry Support teacher, but he had other plans. Fast forward a few months and…still not started. This Genius Hour assignment has been a great motivator and opportunity to get things going! Working with my amazing teaching partner, we began the process of GH ourselves!

*One important addition is the suspension of schools due to Covid-19. This has created a change in how I have been able to implement and oversee the “test” phase of the Design Process, yet has still offered valuable information. Once we are back at school I will be able to try again teaching this process “in person”.

Genius Hour Process/Design Thinking:

Some of the major influences, for me as well as countless others, when it comes to Genius Hour and Design Thinking are John Spencer and A. J. Juliani. If you are unfamiliar with their work but interested in doing your own GH projects, PBL (Project Based Learning) strategies or Design Thinking then visiting the websites of these two authors is a great way to start!

We have definitely used resources, templates, videos, etc. from these two in order to help shape what we have created during this Genius Hour of a Genius Hour!

In fact, my favourite videos to share with parents and students to explain what Genius Hour is are:

My teaching partner Helen and I teach very similarly and we use a team teaching approach for most of what we teach. Her help during this process has been very valuable to me for this particular project, but our ability to work together to further our students’ learning is also incredibly powerful.

In a previous course (EDUC6109: Transformative Education: Teaching for Creativity) I did an assignment about Genius Hour and how I could do a ‘revamp’ of what I already do. We used this as a tool to help us plan our own GH project!

Image of the Design Process that I created in my previous course

D. Shrumm Teaching for Creativity Genius Hour

(PDF version of my previous assignment)


What matters to us is that our students are taught meaningful learning tools and strategies that they can use for a variety of subject matter and after instruction will be able to work on independently for things they are curious and passionate about.

Step 2: DEFINE-

Our students need a Genius Hour that uses the Design Thinking Process because it will teach them how to learn in ways that are important to them about material they are curious about.

Step 3: IDEATE-

  1. Find a prepackaged Genius Hour template and let the students work thought it
  2. Create a Genius Hour template from scratch
  3. Find Genius Hour resources and make tweaks to what our students need
  4. Let the students figure out what Genius Hour is and isn’t on their own
  5. Create a school wide “Genius Hour” fair (like a Science Fair)


We’ve decided to move forward with Idea #3. To do this we will ‘scour’ the resources out there and make the ‘tweaks’ we think make sense for our learners.

*More on our PROTOTYPE later!

Step 5: TEST-

The test phase has changed from what our original plans were. Once our prototype was complete we sent it off to our school division’s printshop and were going to spend the last two weeks of school before Spring Break to do a GH project with our students using our prototype and testing it out! However, due to unforeseen circumstances, our test phase has moved to being tested at home during our “virtual teaching and learning sessions”.

*More on my “new” version of the TEST later!


-In order to put together a GH project for our students, we searched for resources and also created our own. We felt that at this point, this IDEA from the IDEATE process was the best fit.

We worked on a lot of things at once!  In the end this is what we have come up with!

We used a template we had found from for the students to keep track of their Design Thinking Process.


We had our package back from the printshop and had our schedules ready for the last two weeks of school before Spring Break to test out our prototype. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 our plans needed to be shifted. With classes being suspended we needed to be able to send the project home. Each student was sent home with a paper copy of our GH package and were asked to wait for further instructions. I created resource for parents and students explaining what GH is (including videos, storybooks read on YouTube, etc.) called “Before You Begin Genius Hour” and an audio recording to match a photo of each page in the package. 

This is the video I sent to the students before I posted their GH assignment!

Genius Hour Before You Begin!

(PDF of a GH overview for the families)

Genius Hour Process

(PDF of some reminders of the order to do things in)

(Audio with image explaining the “Step by Step to Genius Hour”)

(Audio with image explaining the “Design Thinking for Students”)

(Audio with image explaining  “Ideate/Prototype”)

(Audio with image explaining the “Research Log”)

(Audio with image explaining the “Self Reflection”)


-Students still had a lot of questions and were unable to use their parents as their guide (still wanting my approval on everything)

-The Empathy and Define sections needed much more explanation. The students simply wanted to “jump in” and make something (they were treating this more like a Maker Space activity)

-Not many students were ready to participate in the GH project at this time. I think the families are feeling overwhelmed with working from home. I offered this as an optional project and it is my assumption that it’s too much for home (for now at least)

-This is a much easier process to do in person than it is online

-It makes me reconsider our approach in general. If the students are coming to us without ever spending much time doing Maker Space type projects or have had choice in what they learn, then they really just want to explore and discover on their own

-We are unsure at this point which tweaks we will need to make as we are not able to know exactly what has been used by our students


-An option for us may include starting the year with more “free” design thinking plans and work our way up to more of a structured plan

-Perhaps as a school we have a system that is more like a continuum approach so we can ensure students are getting this type of learning across all the grades. If this were to happen then we’d need to share this vision with our administrator and see what role the Inquiry Support Teacher could play

-More emphasis needs to be on empathy and how that can lead to a project, developing a guiding question and what role research plays in all of this

-Differentiating between GH, Design Thinking and Maker Space opportunities

-Creating different expectations for grade 3 and grade 4 students, or for students with varying needs (like a “beginner” and “more advanced”-wth this one being for the more advanced)

-Do whole class projects first so students understand the process and expectations better


-This process has been very valuable for myself and my colleague. We have come up with a process for our students that has the potential to work, with again some tweaks! 

-This has proved that we are open to giving things a try, even when we aren’t sure they will work. This is a good lesson to share with the students as it shows we are all learners and that learning is a process

-We’ll try again when we get back to school!


-There is so much potential to use sustainability as a focus in a Genius Hour and Design Thinking Process project. Incorporating sustainability is my goal in all that I teach and to me I think a GH project is a perfect avenue to embed sustainability in seamless and natural ways. I believe this is where the empathy piece can really come into action. I included a section on sustainability  in my “Before You Begin” page for students and families. Had I been teaching this process at school this is where I’d really stop and focus on what sustainability is and remind students why this is so important to us as humans. This is a step in the process as a whole that I feel cannot be left out.


I’d like to thank my colleague, Helen Mather-Oliver, for her support and collaboration during this process. 


Chris Kelser. (2013, September 6).  What is genius hour?-Introduction to genius hour in the classroom [Video File]. Retrieved from

John Spencer. (2017, March 9). What is genius hour? An overview of genius hour and 20% time in the classroom [Video File]. Retrieved from

John Spencer. (2017, August 25). You get to have your own genius hour (a video for students) [Video File]. Retrieved from

Makers Empire. Design thinking for students. Retrieved from

Spencer, J. & Juliani, A.J. (2017). Empower: What happened when students own their learning. IMpower.

Spencer, J. & Juliani, A.J. (2016). Launch: Using design thinking to boost creativity and bring out the maker in every student. San Diego, CA. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.





EDUC6103: The Cost of Convenience-Deep Learning Food Challenge

EDUC6103: The Cost of Convenience-Deep Learning Food Challenge


Over the years I have felt both upset and guilty from the conveniences we have grown to expect as we shop for groceries and consume snacks and meals in and outside of our homes. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “cost of convenience” and have used this Deep Learning Food Challenge as a way to question my own consumption habits and invite others in my life to do the same. Taking the time to really look at our choices, consider alternatives and choose ways to make changes in our own lives is a great way to make positive impacts in our world. We don’t need to do everything perfectly when it comes to clean eating or waste free living, but even if we each focused on one small goal we’d be making a positive impact. One goal practiced enough times becomes a habit and once something has become a habit we can choose a new goal and continue with this pattern. It makes “big ideas” such as waste reduction easier to manage and to stick to.

Don’t worry about being perfect…just find a place to start!

Why is convenience so important to us?

In my opinion, one of the most important reasons is: Time!

We are in a hurry a lot of the time and when we can eliminate or ‘shave off’ time in someway, it is very appealing to us. Some ways we use to help save time include: getting groceries delivered or using a grocery pick up service, using a meal subscription service, eating out, etc. These ideas save time with: thinking of meal ideas, purchasing or preparing food and even clean up. Time not spent doing the above tasks allows for more time to get where we need to be, balance a home/school/work lifestyle, spend the time in other ways (such as with our families and friends), etc.


Let’s consider what the convenience might be costing us

Questions to consider:

Have you ever…

-grabbed a coffee on a whim and used a disposable cup?

-bought fruit or vegetables that were pre-cut/washed and packaged instead of buying your own and preparing them at home?

-ate breakfast, lunch or dinner that you picked up “on the go” for no reason other than you wanted to?

-thrown away leftovers after days of keeping them in your fridge, instead of actually eating them?

-brought home leftovers from a restaurant even though you doubted you’d eat them?

-bought healthy foods that you knew you should eat but let them spoil?

-thrown expired food out in the container instead of reusing or recycling the container because it was easier to toss the whole thing?

-bought food because it was a good deal knowing that it would likely expire before you ate it?

-purchased a larger container/package of food because it cost less money, even though you knew you wouldn’t use it?

-have you used a food subscription service for its convenience?

-thrown food away and not think about what happens to it or worry about being able to get more food at your earliest convenience?

I personally can answer yes to many of the questions above. I am not proud of this by any means and am actually very embarrassed to admit that I am guilty of these actions, but this also is what has inspired me to delve deeper into this topic and make the decision to reduce making choices based on convenience. I know I am not alone in this and have decided to attempt to get others to question their choices too!

This is often what we see while at the grocery store. The temptation of shopping for convenience is all around us.

Ready for more questions?!…

-Have you ever bought a coffee in a single use cup, felt guilty about it and planned to use a reusable cup next time?

-Have you ever bought food that is already prepared for you and thought about what the store/restaurant does with the scraps and leftover food? (Do they compost? Is any food donated to those in need? What ingredients get repurposed for other food items?, etc.)

-Have you ever bought food “on the go” but then thought about how you could be more prepared and next time bring something from home?

-Have you ever brought leftovers home and made sure you ate them?

-Have you ever reused containers that food was purchased in? (example: yogurt containers, to go containers, etc.)

-Have you ever felt guilty about some of your purchasing choices and made changes the next time?

-Have you ever considered the idea of what convenience costs us?

If you have answered yes to these questions then you might be ready to make some changes with your purchases and understand that our desire to have things so convenient has a major impact on our planet.

What choice will you make?

How true is this statement?

Digging a Little Deeper:Even if we feel like we do a pretty good job about being careful what we purchase as far as food goes, we need to consider the conveniences we have at home that help us to:

-heat our food

-keep it cool and fresh

-clean our dishes, etc.

We rely on the conveniences of stoves, microwaves, fridges, freezers, dishwashers and other appliances to cook, store and clean our food and food ‘products’. When is the last time we’ve thought about those as a convenience?

Check out this video from Inside Energy to give yourself a little something to think about as you dig deeper into the idea of the cost of convenience!

Conversations About Convenience with Kids!

Recently I decided to take some time during our health lessons in my grade 3/4 class to talk to my students about the idea of convenience and what that might mean to 8, 9 and 10 year olds.

Question: What does convenience mean?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-convenience means that things are fast and easy

-we get things right away

-we don’t have to wait long to get something

-we can get what we need/want and move on

-we can do more than one thing at once

-it helps when we are busy

Question: When do you notice convenience when it comes to the food we eat?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-when we eat at a restaurant instead of eating at home

-when we eat on the way to a sports practice/after school activity

-when we go on trips and can’t make our own food

-when we use plastic bags for food instead of a reusable container

Question: What types of foods do we eat because they are convenient and what could we do instead?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-cheese strings instead of cutting cheese

-yogurt tubes instead of putting yogurt in our own containers

-water bottles instead of filling our own

-buying fruit and veggies trays instead of cutting up fruit an veggies

-when we have snacks after school (sometimes we eat snacks that come in a package instead of cutting fruit or veggies up)

-buying bags of popcorn instead of popping our own

Question: How else is convenience connected to what/how we eat?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-using a straw that comes with the drinks we order (at fast food restaurants)

-getting a whole bunch of napkins in the “to go” bag even if we don’t ask for them

-using the forks and spoons that you throw away after

-getting lots of ketchup packages (more than you need and there is only a little then you throw it out)

-so many plastic bags being used 

-can’t recycle ‘paper’ drink cups or coffee cups because of the wax on the inside

Question: What are some changes we could make in our lives that could make a positive impact?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-buy whole fruits and vegetables and cut them up instead of buying them pre-cut

-have a piece of fruit after school as a snack instead of having a granola bar in a package

-bring reusable forks, spoons and straws with you instead of using single use/disposable ones

-tell your parents to bring their own coffee cups instead of using a disposable cup

-before stopping for food/drinks ask yourself if you need it or just want it

-talk to your family about some of the choices you make and see if you can make better choices

Question: How can you talk to your family about convenience?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-tell them that you are worried about the environment

-tell them you are learning about things we sometimes choose to do because it’s easier and how these choices aren’t always the best ones for our planet

-ask them if we can talk about some ideas we have

-don’t be mean about it and blame parents for making certain decisions

-know that we can’t change everything at once

-share that one change can still make a difference

-offer to help with things like packing lunches and not asking for fast food

Question: What are some of the “costs of convenience”?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-there is more waste

-can be unhealthy sometimes (food choices)

-just because it’s easy doesn’t make it the best choice

-just because I think I want something doesn’t mean I need it

-we are always rushing but doing things together like making supper or baking can be really fun

-just because something takes longer to make or get ready, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. For example: When we put yogurt into a reusable container, pack a spoon from home, eat it at school and have to wash the container it takes more work than just eating a yogurt tube and throwing it away. One is more convenient, but not the best choice when you think about a healthy planet

-something that is already made for you can cost more money than if you made it yourself

-sometimes we can’t help it but can think about the best choice in that situation

My grade 3/4 students have been very insightful as always! They understood what I was asking and also understand some of the ways that convenience “costs” us and ways we can make changes where our choices aren’t always the most convenient for us. Teaching these big ideas now and having these important conversations early is very effective. These students will go home and share what we’ve been talking about and many of their parents will listen to them and start making changes where they are able to. I always say that kids who care turn into adults who care. And we definitely need more people who care in this world!

Looking ahead:

Consider the following questions:

  • What role does convenience factor into your purchase and lifestyle choices?
  • Can you think of one thing you could change in your lifestyle that would have a positive impact on the environment.
  • Am I willing to make a change even though it might be less convenient for me and my family?
  • Why is convenience important to us?
  • What comes to mind when I use the words “Cost of Convenience?”

What Could I Do?

  • Spend more time preparing meals and snacks
  • Commit to reducing (and one day eliminating) single use plastics (cutlery, straws, cups, etc.)
  • Try starting a compost
  • Shop at bulk stores where you can use your own containers
  • Eat what you have before buying more food
  • Reduce eating out when possible. When you do eat out do things like ask for only the amount of supplies that you need (napkins, ketchup, etc.)
  • Consider your actions before acting upon them!

If you think about it…there is convenience in these waste reduction suggestions!

Have you ever thought about bringing your own container for takeout and leftovers? What’s stopping you? Is the notion that “this is weird” a barrier? If so, what can we do to change that?

We need more of this!

An example of the environmental cost of convenience

Concluding Thoughts:

Convenience is something that we as humans seem to be seeking as well as live with without even realizing it. I understand why convenience is important to us, especially when it comes to food. We have a limited amount of time in a day and what can seem like an endless list of “to dos”, so finding ways to spare some extra time makes sense. However, I think it is very important to think beyond ourselves when it comes to the choices we make and begin to consider what convenience is actually costing us.

Social Media Posts to Get Us Thinking:

Here are some Instagram posts I have connected to as I think about society’s infatuation with convenience, how convenience is linked to what and how we eat as well as some ideas to make positive changes…

This is a really important reminder…

Ask yourself… How can we change our relationship with food in a way that has a positive impact? How do these suggestions connect to convenience when it comes to the decisions we often make with food?


What can we do to make this statement true?

Let’s find out!

Changing our mindset is a great place to start making a change

Why do we buy so much?

Kindly refuse!!

Change has to start with each and every one of us!

Do. What. You. Can.

Words to live by!


This project has provided me the opportunity to do some deep thinking about a variety of ideas as well as include my students in the process. It has been my goal to deepen my own thoughts,  initiate a conversation with my students that they could then take home and continue at home, share some resources with others and to bring awareness to and encourage you to think about the idea of what convenience is costing us.

Interesting Articles:

Thank You Kindly…

-A special thanks goes out to my grade 3/4 students at Montrose School for their participation in our discussions and for their great ideas!

-Instagram photos that have been used from the following accounts:










-Click on the links to the articles and video for more information

Meet Amanda Carson…Social Entrepreneur

This is Amanda Carson. She is the owner of Shift Wpg, her integrative therapy and coaching business. Amanda is also a yoga instructor and teaches classes and workshops throughout Winnipeg. I’d like to thank Amanda for her participation in this interview (including allowing me to use her posts from Instagram) as well as for the work she does in our community. You only need to meet Amanda once to know how genuine she is and how much passion she has for helping people. She also has the most calming voice!  I personally have become so relaxed while listening to her that I have fallen asleep or shifted into a deep meditative state!

Please enjoy learning more about Amanda Carson and Shift Wpg.


These are the types of messages that you will see on Amanda’s Instagram account (@shiftwpg). As you scroll through her account you become uplifted and find yourself beginning to think about things in a different way. Amanda offers her own thoughts and shares resources from others to help shift your way of looking at yourself and others. Amanda does this in a way that you know comes from a place of kindness and concern for the wellbeing of all humans.

I first met Amanda in 2016. She was working as a Yoga instructor at a new studio near me and I had made the decision to give Yoga a try. I started off with an introduction to Yoga class that went through some of the basic poses and shared what a Yoga practice can do for us mentally, physically and emotionally. Amanda was one of the workshop leaders. Her and I were partnered for an ice breaker activity and I instantly felt at ease with her. Trying new things can be very challenging for me. On that day I signed up on a whim and I’m so glad I did! Fast forward 3.5 years and here I am submitting an interview of Amanda and have the opportunity to share the amazing work she has been doing. I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations throughout the years about mindfulness and how I can use it in my classroom (we are hoping to work it out so Amanda can come visit us one day). What I learn from Amanda’s classes gets put to use with my grade 3/4s as we practice mindfulness daily at school.

This photo was taken at one of the introductory workshops I attended with Amanda in 2016!!

Since 2016 Amanda has completed many courses geared toward helping people. Her passion is to help, heal and teach people to practice self love. When we love each ourselves we will also love each other. Amanda’s work fits so well within social entrepreneurship as she has developed a business in which addresses social issues. Positive Mental Health is becoming a well established focus in today’s world. Amanda’s approach to integrative therapy and coaching is very powerful and healing. She doesn’t only focus on one or two areas of stress or anxiety for people but understands that by working collaboratively with people they can find each client’s inner challenges as well as their strengths. One unique things about Amanda is that she acknowledges that we all have stressors, trauma and pain in our lives that we would benefit from seeking help to understand. Her work is about all people’s Mental Health, and not only those with a diagnosed illness. Amanda is open with her own challenges and this openness encourages others to be willing to seek and accept help for their own challenges. A variety of support and treatment options allows Amanda is able to reach a wide audience. She works with people in person at her new office (which I am planning on visiting soon!), virtual sessions are available, group sessions are an option, she is always planning workshops alone and with other local businesses. Amanda can really cater to what your specific needs are. This range of support  options is so effective as she understands that not everyone has the benefits through their jobs that can help pay for these services. To participate in a group workshop is very cost effective and Amanda is always there to listen to your questions and concerns before or after these workshops and help you with your next steps. Her choice to offer a sliding scale for payment is another way that Amanda shows that her desire to help others is her top priority. Yes, Shiftwpg is her business and is how she supports herself financially, but it is also her platform to help those in need and sometimes those in need also require a break in cost of services. Amanda uses Social Media to share resources, announce workshops, educate people about the work she does and inspire people to take care of themselves and each other. In a world where Social Media can be viewed as damaging to our self love, Amanda offers the perspective of how it can also do the opposite. “It is important to be aware of accounts we are following…do they lift us up or do they trigger us in some way?”

Amanda has a beautiful soul. She truly wants to make the world a better place and because of that has created a career where she can support herself financially and fuel her desire to help others. Amanda always speaks highly of other people in our city and finds ways to support them work with them through collaboration. Her intent is not to complete with others who might be doing similar work, but to work together to achieve the ultimate goal of helping people.

Thank you again Amanda for all that you’ve done for the people of Winnipeg and beyond.

If you live in the area and you want to take a class with her let me know! Your body, mind and soul will thank you!

For full interview details please continue reading!

Amanda owns Shift Wpg, which is an integrative therapy and coaching business. She provides therapy and coaching to her clients privately, in groups, and in workshop settings. Amanda’s background is in social work, hypnotherapy, coaching, yoga and mindfulness. She utilizes all of these approaches in the work she does with her clients so that it is holistic in nature. Amanda support those going through various challenges in their life including managing stress, anxiety, depression, grief, loss and chronic pain/illness and teaches people tools and techniques so that they can live in a positive state of wellbeing and health.

Human beings are certainly complex! Each with their own set of unique challenges and also their own unique strengths. The work that Amanda does is very much a collaborative effort with the clients she sees, which means they have to be willing to hold themselves accountable in order to make positive changes in their lives and Amanda needs to believe in their ability to heal, grow and evolve. It can certainly be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding and humbling. We, as humans are resilient creatures and Amanda’s belief is that we all thrive when we utilize our inner resources while navigating what life presents us with.

When Amanda was asked motivated her to take the steps she has taken to realize the social entrepreneurial accomplishments she has attained she answered very honestly:” Definitely my own personal and professional challenges. I have been very fortunate and have received assistance from helpers from various disciplines and have always had a good support network of family and friends in my life. I have witnessed that we are always better together and every one of us can use a bit of guidance and support from time to time. I started working in hospital and health care centres after finishing my degree in social work but quickly knew I wanted to work on a much deeper, personal level with my clients than I was finding I was able to in previous job settings. I created my business based on these personal and professional interests and values.”

Amanda admits that there are many barriers she has had to overcome throughout her entrepreneurial journey.

The first barrier she speaks to was: imposter syndrome. “That feeling of “not being good enough” to be doing what I am doing. Dealing with those thoughts that there is always someone who is doing it better, that I am not skilled enough or experienced enough. This is something that still pops up every now and then but what I like to focus my attention on is all of the positive work I am doing with my clients, witnessing them improve their life circumstances and stand in their strength reminds me I am right where I am meant to be.”

Another challenge for Amanda is charging professional fees for her services. “That was a tough one to get used to. I personally have chosen to offer on a sliding scale to make my services more accessible for those who do not have insurance coverage, I offer donation based community workshops through out the year. I provide referrals for people to access mental health services that are free or income based in our community. This is definitely something that is important to me. Our system needs to do better at prioritizing mental health. I’m not sure what the all the answers are but I do my best in supporting people in the ways that I can while also recognizing my own worth as a practitioner.”

Amanda has some recommendations for fostering more creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in people . One of which is simple and effective: “Allow people the opportunity to stay curious. I tell my clients all the time to “imagine” their various possibilities, goals, desires. Our minds are more powerful than we often give them credit for. Everything was once only an idea. One of my favourite aspects of this is encouraging people to learn from others instead of compare themselves to others. If you see someone doing something you love or also want to do, then that means you too are just as capable of accomplishing it or anything else for yourself.”

When asked if Amanda sees her efforts as contributing to social, economic, cultural, or environmental health and well-being her response was…Absolutely! “I would say all of the above. My work is very holistic, so when I meet with clients we really take into consideration all of these aspects of our wellbeing. I am a big fan of educating people on the different resources available to them in our city, whether that be services that are focused on mental, physical, social or even professional/educational wellness. I value informing clients on resources they can access whether they be free of charge, support our local businesses, or focus on culturally specific traditions and teachings. I work with clients in person but also virtually which allows me to support our community but also those throughout our country.”

Amanda’s concluding thoughts are:

“I love spreading valuable and informative content for the public over social media platforms such as instagram or facebook. People can connect with me there @shiftwpg or Speaking of social media in general, it is important to be aware of accounts we are following, do they lift us up or do they trigger us in some way? Social media has been the number one tool for growing my business. I believe in our ability to use it as a way of connecting with like minded individuals, creating community and sharing/learning with and from others.”

EDUC:6105 Health Promoting Schools: Deep Learning Inquiry Project: Welcome to Room 123!


The basis of my Inquiry project is the Living Schools Classroom Planner. I have used this as an opportunity to reflect and plan for new and improved learning opportunities moving forward.However, before I share that document with you, I would like to introduce you to my home away from home…Room 123 at Montrose School in Winnipeg, MB!

Custom script bythe very talented artist and activist Kal Barteski (@kalbarteski, that greets those who enter our classroom!

Introduction video to my classroom and school!

I’ve also uploaded some of videos taken at school (at the end of last year and this year so far) from events I have helped organize and facilitate. Developing community is really important to me as a teacher in my own classroom and is also a priority (not in the write down on the school plan to submit to the division kind of way but is very important at a school level kind of way) for our school. By creating school wide, vertical team and grade group learning opportunities we strengthen our sense of community!

Round Dance Video on National Indigenous Peoples Day 2019

-This video was taken last June at Indigenous Peoples of Canada Day. The whole school came together in a round dance led by our amazing music teacher and one of my grade 3 students (such an amazing opportunity for her to share her gift of a beautiful voice with the school)

International Yoga Day 2019

-We started our morning off with a whole school Yoga sequence led by our Yoga teacher (he teachers Yoga once a cycle and is our Inquiry/Innovation support teacher for the other 5 days of the school cycle) on International Yoga Day in June. It was a really great way to start off our day!

Take Me Outside Day Yoga 2019

-The Yoga was so much fun in June that we came together as a school again, this time as an ending this year’s “Take Me Outside Day”. The entire school spent a little over two hours outdoors doing a variety of activities to celebrate outdoor learning. The students were able to come and go to each ‘station’ as they pleased and experience the afternoon in a way that made sense to them. No timers at each station or groups they had to travel with…it was their time and they were able to choose how they spent it. Some activities included: carpentry, yard weaving, giant Jenga, design your own obstacle course, learn to juggle, Indigenous games, backyard BBQ games, pots and pans music, student designed scavenger hunt and nature art!

Eruption Video!

-When you are learning about rocks and minerals and one of the moms is a geological engineer, you invite her in and learn from an expert! She was pretty excited to share her passions with the students and set up 8 stations for them to learn from…including everyone’s favourite: the eruption that happens when Mentos meet Diet Coke! It is really important for us to have parents, grandparents, community members in the classrooms to create connections between home, school and the community.

Living Classrooms and Schools

After learning about Living Schools and Living Campuses I wanted to focus on what I do at school in my classroom as well as how that extends into the school environment. When Catherine offered the draft document for the Living Classroom, I was happy to accept it! I wanted to explore and reflect on what I’ve been doing within the classroom setting, then see if and how it meets the criteria of the Living Classroom.

*After using the Living Schools document I also have some thoughts about that process as well (check further down in this post)

Note: My responses to the questions in the planner have been based on what I am currently doing in the classroom as well as what we did last year, as it is early in the year and it made more sense to use examples from both years.

What is a Living Classroom?:

Grade 3/4 Remembrance Day art from 2019 

I shared my Inquiry project idea with my grade 3/4 students and asked them what they thought a Living School might be. Here are some of their responses:

-it is a whole school community that spreads kindness

-it is learning about all subjects and even learning at recess

-it is tidy and organized

-kids are treated nicely, there are no bullies and everyone is respected

-learn in new ways (like using technology, Genius Hour and figuring things out on our own) and not like people did before (only from teacher talking and having to read from textbooks)

-use multiage classrooms to support learners (stay with teacher for two years, older students help younger, etc.)

-has a feeling like a home when you come into the school

-work together using the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity)

-connect to the community and not just thinking about ourselves

-there is a focus on the future and what we need to learn to make things better in the world

-kids have strong skills because you practice skills in lots of different ways

-learning happens both inside and outside

-kids learn about being healthy because it says living and living means alive

-uses a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset

-accepts people and celebrates differences

-kids learn how we can all live in peace and be happy

It turns out that they had a pretty good idea of what a Living School represents…and that’s because it is how they are used to learning and is what helped to shape my own Inquiry.

Student created school treaty developed in 2019. Words and actions we try to put into practice

Using the experience of a field trip to the Petroforms as well as poetry to connect with the school treaty

Living School Classroom Planner:

Below is the link to my Living Classroom Planner. Over the course of a few weeks I was able to go though the planner and reflect on my role as a teacher, my methods of teaching, my connections to the students, staff, school and local communities as well as the world as a whole.

Living Classroom Planner D. Shrumm October 2019


Upon filling out the Living Schools Classroom Planner I think that a lot of what I do really does fit in with the philosophy of a Living Classroom and we have many strong attributes of a Living School. When I first read about Living Schools I was inspired and motivated as a teacher. I wanted to visit these schools and campuses and see how everyone is able to accomplish and facilitate such amazing learning experiences for and with their students. After spending the past few weeks reflecting on my own classroom I can honestly say that I am still very inspired and motivated and would love to visit these places, but also that I personally have a lot to share on the topic as well.

I’ve asked my grade 3/4 students to share something about our class and am so proud of their  responses. They are deep and thoughtful as well as important life skills that are connected to the world around us.

Student art from treaty. Each student created their own art representation that reflected their own interpretation of an area of the treaty 

Here are a few I’d like to share with you…

“Remember that story I wrote for you last year? Well my friends and I have taken it and turned it into a game. It’s so fun because it was such a good idea!” Grade 5 student shared this with me while I was on recess duty!

Student 1:”I can’t explain why I don’t feel shy anymore” Student 2:”It’s because you know it’s safe to take a risk in here!”

“I like that in this class I have made new friends and that people care for each other”

“Our class feels like a family because of the warmth and kindness. I try to bring these feelings into the classroom too so I can share them with others. It makes me happy to see others happy.”

“I like the forest visits because we get to be in nature and learn how to care for nature so we will still have a place to enjoy when we are adults. When we keep going back to the same place we feel connected to it and want to care for it even more.”

“We are lucky because not all schools and classrooms get to learn the way we do. I’m glad this is my classroom and school.”

“We have voice and choice and that’s really good!

Personal Thoughts Living Classroom Planner Document:

After using the Living Classrooms Planner Document I have compiled some notes of my experience.

-I really liked the set up of the document and the first few pages of an overview. This makes it easier for people who are new to the idea of Living Schools and don’t need to search for what it actually entails. For example: the headings and descriptions of Values & Vision, Leadership, Teaching & Learning, Nature & Place-Based Orientation, Health & Well-Being gives you a ton of information at a glance and allows you to get an great overall sense of what Living Schools represent

-the planner was thorough, although maybe slightly repetitive at times

-it was very thought provoking, but I’m not sure if teachers who are less passionate about the idea of Living Schools would want to fill out something so lengthy

-pardon any typos, without spellcheck I am certain there are some poorly typed words!

-there was one section that I was confused by the wording and because of that left it blank

-I couldn’t get the feedback form to expand which is maybe something to look into before opening the document up to teachers, so I will write what I was going to type here:

I am pleased with the quality of questioning used in this document because it really made me think, reflect and plan. Because of this I have been able to think about what I do in my classroom and at my school to enhance the education of our learners. I’m proud of the things I do and am motivated to move forward with new teaching and learning opportunities. I think that the planner would be useful for teachers who are interested in a similar type of inquiry that I have done and also when creating classroom and school plans for the future. The planner was a fairly large time commitment and for the purpose of my inquiry was great, however I am not sure if the majority of teachers who are new to the idea of Living Classrooms/Schools would be willing or able to put so much effort into it. At times, I felt like my answers were repetitive and that the questions were asking similar things. I really feel that by adding so much of the sustainability component, this planner is much more holistic than using a the planner from Health Promoting Schools. The Living Classroom document encompasses health in all aspects, including the connection to sustainability which feels more up to date with current teaching practices and the direction of education. Thanks for creating this document!

Personal Inquiry Final Thoughts: Future Plans & Frustrations

Doing an Inquiry project on my own classroom and school environments has been pretty enlightening. Since we are an Inquiry based school we talk a lot about Inquiry with the students and now it was my turn! I feel like I’ve ironed out some of my own curiosities and wonderings and am allowing myself to feel pretty good about how I have evolved as a teacher and learner over the past few years. I work really hard at using a growth mindset and “practicing what I preach” to my students! I’m trying to be more accepting of compliments from parents and colleagues and realize that I am doing my job in way that I set out to do. Pausing and reflecting has been good for me personally and professionally. It has motivated me to keep doing things that I’ve been doing as well as seeing areas for growth. It also has reminded me that small changes are still changes. Everything cannot and will not change overnight!

Personal Inquiry Process:

I also wanted to reflect on my personal Inquiry process so I can use that to share with the students when we are using Inquiry at school. We are currently working on ways to redevelop our Genius Hour process and going through the process myself will be helpful with that.

-I thought about what I was really interested in and wondering about

-Developed a big question: Does my classroom have attributes of a Living Classroom?

-Daily work with the planner for about a week, answering questions and using the set criteria to compare with my own classroom environment

-Made notes about thoughts and ideas (about the questions and about the planner itself)

-Decided on possible ways to present my findings (gathering photos) and choosing one that I wanted to pursue

-Created an iMovie to help others to get to know my classroom and school a bit better (which has felt like an inquiry within itself, but taking a risk is part of this whole process!)

-Compiled everything to the blog

-Reviewed work and made revisions

-Shared project


-I plan on focussing on sharing more at my own school and with an extended community, realizing that I can help others who are interested in learning ways to incorporate health and sustainability practices into the teaching

-I plan on working with the staff to build community amongst us and enhance our well-being. We could all use some reminders of the great things we are doing. We can be guilty of putting pressure on each other to do too much sometimes instead of being more supportive. We are there for each other for the “big” things, but need to be there for the “small” things too

-I plan on exploring and sharing the idea of Living Schools and its connections with overall health and wellness with a sustainable focus with the staff and see where that takes us

-I plan on exploring authentic ways to connect to the world around us in a meaningful way to the students and facilitate ways to incorporate 21st century skills that help to consider the future


-The way I teach doesn’t necessarily match up to our provincial reporting system and writing report cards can be challenging

-The data expectations from the school division takes time away from inquiry and project based learning

-Sometimes it can be challenging to balance all the things I want to do with the things I have to do, so there is work to be done with that!

Thank You:

-To the staff and students at Montrose School for allowing me to share the photographs and your words for the purpose of this Inquiry project

-To Catherine O’Brien for the use of the Living Schools Classroom Planner


Living Campus framework citation: Murray, S. & O’Brien, C. (2019).

Living Schools website as retrieved from:

O’Brien, C. (2016). Education for sustainable happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Routledge.

Promoting Healthy, Active, Sustainable Schools in Elementary School Settings

Physical Activity & Health in Elementary Schools


Simply put, children are not active enough and spend too much time using screens and being sedentary. Despite many programs in place to encourage physical health along with the known benefits of physical health, we continue to be challenged with getting enough exercise whether it be in a structured or unstructured setting. What does this mean for children in elementary schools?

2018 ParticipACTION Report Card

The results are in…

We have been given an overall physical activity grade of a D+ as a country. Curious as to how this grade was decided? The overall grade is based on varying daily behaviours, individual characteristics, settings and sources of influence and strategies and investments. The following results have been retrieved from the 2018 ParticipACTIOn Report Card.

Working in an elementary school in Winnipeg,MB, I have been witness to students who fall into this average or below (inner city location) and students who would fall above the average (southern part of the city). It is a concern of mine that the overall grade is so low, yet I have taught students who would fail at all indicators.

On a positive note, many of our Canadian children are participating in organized sports, getting enough sleep and have support from the community. Now that we know where we stand within the rubric of the report card, how will we determine the next steps?

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guideline from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA)

Understanding the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines by age category is a helpful tool to use as we begin to figure out what the next steps in promoting physical activity could be.

For my role as a teacher in a Nursery to Grade 6 school I am most interested in the guidelines for children aged 5-17. In 2018, the ParticiPACTION report card gave our children an “F” for this category. Only “15% of children and youth in Canada meet all three recommendations within the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth” (2014-15 CHMS, Statistics Canada). We can do better for our children. We need to educate our children and youth and help them to make decisions that will take them from healthy children to healthy adults.

Physical Activity Linked to Overall Health

Being physically active has more benefits that we might realize. Besides helping to keep our body healthy it also helps us keep a healthy mind. It is super important to keep active to boost our overall health!

Benefits of Physical Activity as from Manitoba Healthy Schools

  • Children who are more physically active show better academic performance.
  • Regular physical education classes in school will keep kids active through their teens and help them control their weight.
  • Children who are more physically active have a better self-esteem and body image.
  • Regular physical activity improves children’s mental health and contributes to growth and development.
  • Regular physical activity reduces the likelihood of obesity. Both obesity and inactivity increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Daily physical activity improves children’s skeletal health. This, in turn, reduces their risk of developing osteoporosis in the future.
  • Regular physical activity in children can become a habit that carries over into adulthood.
  • Regular physical activity leads to better behaviour and a healthy lifestyle.
  • An increase in youth participation in physical activity will cut health care costs by decreasing future risk related diseases.

More Benefits of Physical Activity as from ParticipACTION 

Tools in Manitoba

The Manitoba Healthy Schools initiative provides many resources to help promote health and wellness to all children. There are many different tips and tools to be found if you are looking for ways to boost the level of activity in your students, your children or even for yourself. There is also research to back up these ideas if that is what you are looking for as motivation to get started. I’m unsure whether or not people are aware of these resources as they aren’t something that I had realized were there before actively looking. If we are serious about improving physical health then maybe we need to make sure people know they are being support and that there are already resources to get them started.

The Healthy Schools in Motion Physical Literacy Toolkit has been created to help Manitobans become more physically active. But what is Physical Literacy? Physical and Health Education Canada (as retrieved from the Physical Literacy Toolkit) describes Physical Literacy as “Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person” (Page 7). In order to becomes physically literate, individuals need to have learned fundamental movement skills from an early age.

I work for the Winnipeg School Division. In this division, each student from Kindergarten to Grade 5 is assessed on their fundamental movement skills in the first term of the school year. The outcomes that are assessed include: ball bouncing, catching, dynamic balance, galloping, hopping, jumping, kicking, overhand throwing, rolling, running, skipping, static balance, striking and underhand throwing.

Students are assigned with either an “M” for mature or a “D” for developing as for their performance assessment. Students who are within the developing rating will include instruction for that skill as their next step. Students who receive an overall “D” rating will be reassessed in the Spring to ensure the proper growth has been made. Schools have a trained physical education teacher who performs the assessment and teaches the fundamental movement skills. In my opinion, our physical education teachers are accurately able to assess each student and plan accordingly.

The Healthy Schools in Motion Recess Toolkit has been created to share important information about recess. This document serves as a good reminder of “What Recess Is Not”. Recess is not an opportunity to keep children inside to catch up on work. Recess is also meant to enhance physical education and is not considered to be a replacement for physical activity. There are educators that need to read this type of information because they still use recess as a reward system for students. I understand how challenging it can be when students are behind in their work or seem unmotivated, but taking away their recess is not the solution and may even exacerbate issues if the student is not getting enough physical activity.

PLAY Tools or Physical Literacy Assessment for Youth, is designed to improve physical literacy and help close the gaps that individual children (aged 7+) may have. There are several resources  provided to help guide physical literacy such as PLAYbasic, PLAYcoach, PLAYfun, PLAYparent and PLAYself.

Winnipeg in Motion is all about providing tools for all ages in order to achieve physical activity goals. Here they have a section called @school which provides great tips for teachers to help encourage their students to be active while at school and also on the way to school.

Students at Montrose School 

The grade is in…

We know that in 2018 we were given a D+ when it comes to physical activity levels, but what does that mean for Montrose School? I’m in my fourth year of teaching at Montrose and as I look at the “rubric” for the participACTION “test” I notice that the students in my school would not be given an overall grade of a D+. For example, in my current class I have 25 students. 2 of the 25 do NOT participate in an organized sport outside of school. One of those students is a newcomer to Canada and with a little time and some information to the parent I think this is something she and her siblings will have the opportunity to do. The other student has a challenging family situation and his lifestyle has been directly impacted by that and furthermore his physical health has had a negative impact. The students who do participate in organized sports do things like dance, soccer, basketball, martial arts, swimming, hockey, etc. and most belong to multiple “teams” throughout the year. 23/25 would be a higher grade than a B.

The students have a physical education class taught by a physical education teacher for 90 minutes per school cycle (we are on a 6 day school cycle here), they get 30 minutes of Yoga from a trained Yoga teacher and participate in 60 minutes of teacher led gym, which gives them 180 minutes of physical education and movement time per school cycle. On top of that, each class has 60 minutes of outdoor education time (which we call Friluftsliv) and 90 minutes of Performing Arts (Music, Dance and Drama). We have recess before school (whenever students arrive until 8:55), two 15 minute recess breaks (morning and afternoon) and 35-40 minutes at lunch. We have a lot of movement happening throughout the school day and cycle and a lot of emphasis on being physically active, which would likely score higher than a B-.

One area of “weakness” for Montrose students would be the Active Transportation piece. Over the years we have noticed that many students are being driven to school for various reasons. Some students are brought to school very early and dropped off at daycare as their parents drive to work, some live quite far away and are unable to walk or ride their bike and some prefer to get that ride and not have to walk or ride their bike. The Winnipeg weather can also be a challenge for people. Last year we started an initiative called “Walk-tober” where students were encouraged to walk or bike to school. A colleague and I participated for the month and the walking group continued to walk to school for the rest of the year! Encouraging families to participate in active transportation and either walk with their children, set up a walking group or simply allow them to go on their own is still something we are challenged with. We live/work in a safe community, yet many parents are not comfortable with the walk to school.

Connection with Sustainability

The overall statistics are scary. However, if we ignore these results they are sure to be worse by the next time the report card comes out. The emergence of screens is a big part of the problem. We are becoming dependent on our devices and the time once spent outdoors playing is being replaced by a sedentary lifestyle in front of a screen. This is where a focus on sustainability could be of value. If we get outside and leave our devices indoors, we become more active and also appreciate our surroundings. Seems like a winning combination to me! When I do my “teacher led gym” I take my students outside (unless the weather is too severe). I can structure an activity (a walk or a game), but can also give the students choice and allow them to figure out their own activity or even have them facilitate an activity with the group. I participate with my students while also supervising the group. It is my goal to show them how being active outside has many positive impacts on our health and that in order to continue to have this outdoor space we need to ensure we are taking care of it. We pick up garbage when we see it, we respect the plants and animals that share the space with us and we USE the green space we have instead of admiring it from the inside!

Playing outside has many benefits. The Positon Statement on Active Outdoor Play reminds us that playing in nature is essential for development and that even the risks children encounter are beneficial to them. Being sedentary indoors poses problems such as overeating, lack of fundamental skills, being unmotivated, exposure to violence through what we consume on devices, etc.

In Conclusion:

In order for schools to achieve the desired outcome for health and wellness of their students, there needs to be continued emphasis put on the education and implementation of physical activity. We cannot assume that families are taking the responsibility of ensuring their children are active. When we work together with families to educate the children about healthy life choices, share our own practice of being active and find ways to put this into practice at school and at home we will foster positive lifelong choices.


“2018 ParticipACTION Report Card: The Brain + Body Equation” (YouTube video). June 19, 2018. As retrieved from:

Fundamental Movement Skills Assessment. The Winnipeg School Division as retrieved from:

Healthy Schools in Motion: Physical Literacy Toolkit. As retrieved from

Healthy Schools in Motion: Recess Toolkit. As retrieved from:

Manitoba Healthy Schools. Government of Manitoba as retrieved from:

ParticipACTION Report Card as retrieved from:

Physical and Health Education Canada as retrieved from:

Physical Literacy: PLAY Tools. As retrieved from:

Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play. As retrieved from:

Winnipeg in Motion as retrieved from:

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority as retrieved from:

Teaching For Creativity: Assignment 5


It made more sense to post everything on my professional portfolio page since the attachments were too large for our forum.



Morning Routines:

Danielle’s Morning Routine: I Feel Terrific vs I Feel Terrible Scenarios

Helen’s Morning Routine: Redesign Process

Helen’s Morning Routine: Redesign Process

Helen’s Morning Routine: Redesign Process

Helen’s Morning Routine: Redesign Process

Reflection Part 1:
I thought the process of asking someone else about their morning routine would be awkward. I struggled with who I should ask to be my ‘subject’ because I know how different my morning routine is compared to everyone else I know. I have a partner and a dog. Everyone else I know has a partner, kid(s) and often a pet too. What I am able to do before I leave for work looks quite different in comparison to what others can do (due to personal responsibilities) and I was worried about coming off as judgemental. I then realized that when I use empathy, the judgement piece is no longer a factor. I am not judging my friend, but because the mornings are such a busy time for her she is sensitive to how things might look to an outsider. We cleared that up right away! I told her that I was only here to listen and see if there was something I could do to help, even something that seems silly or “out there”. Empathy for the ‘win’! Removing the judgement and really listening helped to eliminate any awkwardness. If we want to do all the things that make us “feel terrific” then we have to make that a priority. Having a terrific morning often translates to a better day ahead, so we should be trying to do what we can in order to “feel terrific” as often as possible! Helen needs to work on communication and coming up with a plan as a family and I need to be motivated to just get up and get going because that’s when I feel best. I cannot control when the dog gets up and is extra hungry, but I can control how I react to that. Helen cannot control everything and everyone in her household, but she can let others know how the rushed mornings make her feel and develop empathy for each other as a family.

It also helped that both my friend and I have actually used this exact template while doing “Picture Book Engineering” with our grade 3/4 students. We both recognize that the process is beneficial as it gets you thinking about problems, solutions and even problems with solutions, and actually have some fun along the way!

Design Thinking Process: Genius Hour Redesign

Redesign Process for Genius Hour

*Please see links below for graphics!

Grade 3/4 Genius Hour Redesign

Revised Genius Hour Graphic Organizer (Assignment 5) 

Reflection Part 2:

As I already mentioned I have used this process before, but what I didn’t mention was it has been the only reason I’ve used it. When I l first learned about this specific version of the design process and saw the physical document at a workshop it was for picture book engineering, so naturally that’s what I thought it was for! Nobody really talked about how it could be used for any type of design thinking. 

An area that we’ve “struggled” with at school over the past few years is Genius Hour. Year one: we wanted to do it, but didn’t know where to start…so we didn’t. Year two: we weren’t going to use the same excuse as the previous year so we took the plunge and learned as we went. Year three: We found resources to help track student progress to make them be more accountable. Year four: Well, that’s where this process may be able to help. We are currently thinking about ways to change Genius Hour time in our 3/4 classes in order to enhance the projects/process/learning opportunities/accountability/ for our students. We want to make things better, but need to decide what that even means. We have some planning time as a team coming up at school, this will be a good time to look the Design Thinking Process together. For now I’ve created something that we can start with. The great thing about Genius Hour is that we recognize the benefits of offering choice and voice for our students and are able to keep an open mind about making changes. This resource has helped spark a conversation with my team that we’ve been meaning to get to, but haven’t found the time. For me, going through the process has been helpful to initiate things and will play a role in the future of our Genius Hour projects moving forward.