Being the Mayor and Council


Well, it really was amazing today. Our Council seemed like the real deal:  the students spoke very well; our co-Mayors managed the flow of debate expertly; the rebuttals were pertinent and precise!  The real Mayor, with whom we had an excellent visit with later, would have been very impressed.  But enough from me (I’m going home to bed!).

img_0653By Trinity

I got to be the mayor for the week and we got to do a debate about banning plastic water bottles. Some people were against it and some people agreed. The vote was 2 on the yay side and 9 people where on the nay side there were 2 not sure what side to be on. It was fun spending time at city hall and fun to be a part of  some thing that most people don’t get to do.It was a bit scary for the first time and i was a bit nervous because it was my first time doing this.  And i was in a big room with lots of people.  We also got  interviewed by someone from the news news.We got to meet the real mayor!

By Haadi

I was also the mayor for the week and we got to be in the council chamber it was pretty big.  We also got interviewed by a old man who asked us if we wanted to be a mayor when we got older.  And the man who was interviewing us wants to know if the people who were in the council chamber voted to be mayor .  There  were a lot of reasons that we should not ban water bottles and reasons to ban water  bottles.


Here’s the link to the CKWS news report:




Beyond the Classroom!

img_0528Hello folks!  I’ve been very slow to get a blog post up this week–partly due to technical challenges and partly because I’ve frankly been knackered at the end of the day!  (Have your kids?)

So, Beyond Classrooms:  after weeks and weeks of preparation and planning we finally arrived and the week has been amazing!  The students have been focused and inquisitive; the City staff have been welcoming and generous with their time!

  • Monday, we had a long tour of this beautiful, history-infused building and then spent the afternoon in the new “Heritage Centre” looking at artifacts.
  • Tuesday, we met Councillors Schell and O’Neill, who were friendly and engaging as the students probed them with questions (using the handy microphones).
  • Wednesday, after a last-minute schedule change we had a presentation about water conservation from Brianna Rustige at Kingston Utilities.  Again, great questions (especially about water barrels!) and some surprises about the cycle that includes our sewage and drinking water!  We then visited different City departments about which the students presented to one another.
  • Today, the delightful Derek Ochej, City Clerk, visited again with a presentation and activities around the topic of “Civil Servants”.  Mrs. Sartor also stopped by to check things out.
Carlos with Chico--welcomer, security, the heart of City Hall.

Carlos with Chico–welcomer, security, the heart of City Hall.

Between times, our main activity has been “journaling.”  This has involved the students heading off about City Hall (with an adult) and using their skills of observation, reflection and questioning to investigate the nooks and artifacts of the building.  The discoveries, connections and open lines of inquiry have been shooting off in all directions.  The quality and quantity of writing has grown throughout the week.

We’ve asked a lot of these kids!  The sustained focus and heightened expectations of attentiveness have tested us.  But we have been consistently impressed with their eagerness to get back at it.  Miss Tchigak and I have been reflecting a lot about the pace and structure of the week, including the amount of listening demanded.  We’ve done some tweaking and thinking about how one might do some of it differently, but overall it has been a wonderful, challenging week of learning.

  • Tomorrow is our debate, and we’ll also meet Mayor Paterson, both a fine way to end a fine week!

Here is a link to a Beyond Classrooms Gallery of pictures I’ve taken–not a complete reflection of the week, but a taste.  (I find the gallery function in this blog platform really cumbersome, but have a look).

Karla Tynski, our amazing Beyond Classrooms coordinator, and Ann Blake, the driver behind the program, have been invaluable!  (What will I do without them next week?!)  Karla is putting a video together that I’ll post when she’d done.



The Kingston Whig Standard visited today!  Here’s their report:




P.S.  In case you were wondering, we’ll have our pictures done on the re-take day!  






To Ban or Not to Ban: Our Council Debate

bottled-waterHello folks,

Next Friday, our students will “become” a City Council.  The proposition before our council:  The sale of bottled water will be banned in the City of Kingston. 

Students have all been given roles to play, and are working to find evidence to support the “Yay” or “Nay” position they will argue.  Helped by their “team” some students will rise in the Chamber to present their argument.  After debate and careful deliberation, other students will enter their vote.

Between now and then, I’d like to encourage you to discuss this issue with your students.  Whatever your opinion, try to be “devil’s advocate” to help them explore their “side” of the argument.  Of course a good argument means knowing the opposing one and being prepared with a rebuttal!   The “Nay” side probably–okay, certainly!–has a tougher job!

Here are some websites that might be helpful if you care to go there:




A Message from your Student Teacher!

helloHello new friends!

This post is coming to you from the desk of Miss. Tchigak. Who is this, you may ask? Why is this new person in my classroom? Why is there a stranger writing on the blog?! Before there is any more confusion, let me tell you a little bit about who I am.

I am a Teacher Candidate from Queen’s University in my last year of the Bachelor of Education degree. I want to be a teacher!! I am in the primary/junior division (hoping to teach grades K-6) and I specialize in Environmental Education (I love nature). I recently moved to Kingston in May 2016 from the city of Cambridge, Ontario. Over the past 4 years I have studied at the University of Guelph. Here, I completed my Bachelor of Applied intro-post-3Science degree, where I focused on early childhood education and child, youth and family development. Over my lifetime, I have spent time working at summer camps, wilderness survival camps, outdoor education schools, day cares and volunteering my time in elementary school classrooms.

What is my role at Centennial Public School in Mr. Caldwell’s Grade 5 classroom, you ask?

I will be completing my FIRST EVER practicum teaching placement in this amazing classroom. I will be spending 6 whole weeks (plus a couple of extra Fridays before the winter break) with my new grade 5 friends. During this time, I will be teaching, assisting, helping, observing, as well as learning alongside our little scientists.

Here is a photo of me right after I caught a Monarch Butterfly, right here in Kingston! Me and my classmates tagged them with a number. But do not worry, we set them free because we want to track their migration down south to Mexico.

Here is a photo of me right after I caught a Monarch Butterfly, right here in Kingston! Me and my classmates tagged them with a number. But do not worry, we set them free because we want to track their migration down south to Mexico.

So far, I have spent only a couple of days in the classroom and I have already learned a lot about the students. What an interesting and fun group of kids! Now, here are 10 fun facts about Miss. Tchigak:

  1. Miss. Tchigak is pronounced “chee-gah-k”… but you can also call me Miss. T
  2. I speak, read and write fluent Russian (I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and moved to Canada when I was only 5 years old)
  3. I have jumped out of a plane and gone sky-diving
  4. My favourite book is The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – I have read it in three different languages and I have seen the ballet performance
  5. My favourite foods include: olives, any kind of pizza, salads, quinoa (I am a health nut!)
  6. I love everything about water – swimming, canoeing, kayaking, diving, marine life, fishing, drinking water, looking at water, studying water, etc.
Here is a photo of me loving water. This past summer I went kayaking through the Toronto Islands!

Here is a photo of me loving water. This past summer I went kayaking through the Toronto Islands!

7. I love to travel – whether that is around the city or around the world. I have been to 10 Canadian provinces and 34 states in the United States. In March 2017, I will be travelling to Utila, Honduras for a marine conservation placement where I will be scuba diving with whale sharks and teaching!

8. My favourite animal is a whale – not any specific kind of whale, I just love all kinds of whales!

9. I have a younger sister who is 10 years younger than me and is currently in Grade 7

10. I have two life mottos, or words I live by:
“Follow your bliss”
“Nothing can substitute experience”

If you ever want to talk or have any questions about anything, feel free to come and talk to me! I am very excited about starting this new teaching adventure. Let’s explore and learn together!

See you in class and talk to you soon,

Miss. Tchigak

Instant Parliament

Well, not quite instant.  But a lot faster than the process currently underway south of the border!

This might be the only activity I actually invented, quite a few years ago.  After a fair bit of preamble, we have an almost-instant election by handing out colour-coded constituency cards.  The party with the most elected members forms the government, the member with the highest number on the back of their card is the leader and now Prime Minister, and before you can say, “The House is in session” we are debating bills.  (Sorry again to the Members of the House whose speeches were muted by my thumb!)

This was our first go, which always ends as the dismissal bell is sounding.  We will have a longer session in which students can more fully prepare their arguments and have more time to present.  But it gives us a taste of the process and hopefully gets the kids thinking about what it means to have a voice.  Our time at City Hall will culminate with a debate in the actual Council Chambers.

Investigating Gas

In a Grade 5 class with this many boys, “Investigating Gas” could easily have other meanings!  But this was True Science today, following up on the heated lunchtime discussions around the question, “Does air take up space?”  There was lots of “Yes!” and lots of “No!”, but scientists demand proof, and that usually means getting messy.  Great job today at keeping the mess to a minimum!

All good inquiry answers some questions and inspires new ones!  Today we left with:

  • Why does the plunger get sucked back into the syringe?
  • Why does baking soda and vinegar create carbon dioxide?
  • How was it possible to compress the air in the syringe (while impossible to completely squash it)?

Note:  If you don’t see your child in these videos I make, it’s not because they were in the principal’s office.  It is more likely because I stuck my thumb over the lens or the mike while filming them, turned the screen sideways or forgot to press the record button.  I am learning, slowly.


P.A. Day Word Homework

Do you find yourself struggling to fill a whole extra day away from school?  Fear not–I have some relief!  Here’s a bit of word thinking or discussion that could happen.

For the students who were away from class enjoying the world’s most popular sport (that isn’t rugby):

dscn9996I hope you had fun at the soccer tournament!  While you were running about, we were having a rich discussion about the words pictured at right.  We learned quite a lot from asking questions about these three simple little words.  We’ll share our findings on Monday, but just so you don’t feel left out:  Why do these three words have to be spelled the way they are?  (Why does <too> have to be the three-letter word instead of the two-letter word?) Why is there a <w> in <two>?

Note:  I haven’t done a post yet about our approach to word study this year which will be familiar to some and new to others.  For now, know that we are working from the proposition that “English spelling makes sense.  All spellings are logical and explainable.”  If you don’t believe that statement (and you or your child may not yet) stay tuned!

For the students who were in class using word investigation tools:

See what you can remember that you can share with your families.  (Feel free to use the links at the sidebar of this blog to get to the Word Searcher of Etymonline).  And here’s a question that someone (who were you?) called out yesterday and we never got to:   Can you think of a reason why one of the words couldn’t have been spelled <tu>?


Have a great weekend!  Play outside!  See you Monday!

Thanks, Derek Ochej!

Hello!  We had a great visit today from Derek Ochej (pronounced like “O’Shea”)!  Derek is the City Clerk and facilitated a fine discussion about government–municipal government particularly–how decisions get made and a beginning look at how we (non-voters) can participate, can have a voice.  I could not imagine a better introductory class on this topic, so thanks!  (Note how Edan highlights the endless educational value of Star Wars as he connects his understanding of a “council” to the Jedi High Council).  I’m sorry I got too immersed to film the group discussions about whether city buses should be free, but here’s a glimpse.

Next week we will begin to look at the Parliamentary process, will do some debating and law making, and also begin to plant preparatory seeds for our time at City Hall which will culminate with an actual “council” debate  on an issue.  Also, we have some very juicy words to dig into:  <democracy>, <government>, <parliament>, <municipal>, <citizen>, <petition>, <public>, <council> and so on!


Asking our kids about their day

Jodi’s response to the previous post reminded me about an article I saw last week called We Ask Our Kids the Same 3 Questions Every Night.  (Click that link or the one below).  I continue to fall into the trap of asking my teenagers “How was your day” to which the response is “Fine”.  Period.  Every single time.  Now I try to be very specific, but that’s hard if I have no information.  I think I have come to realize that in fact my kids do want to tell me about their day, but in their own time.  I am hopeful we can use this blog to stimulate some richer conversation–but I’m still learning how.

So:  three questions every night. 

What would yours be?  I like these three but can think of at least one more I might add.   I’d love to hear yours.  I’d also love to hear what your kids think would be good questions.

rscn9993P.S.  Feel free to ask if they can tell you anything about the image at right.  It is Khaled’s name.  He did a little lesson on Arabic writing and pronunciation today because I had spelled his name wrong.  (My failure, his bravery).  Hey!–we have eight different languages spoken in our class!

Provoking thinking…


My low-tech note-taking system

It would be reasonable if you or your child have wondered, What do those teachers get up to when they are away at the Board Office? as I was today.  I spent the afternoon at a presentation by George Couros, a highly-energetic and inspiring educator from Alberta who I’ve been hearing about for some time.  He  travels about the planet provoking teachers and administrators (and students) to consider that innovation should be the central driver of our education system.  “Change,” he quoth, “is the only constant.” I think we should feel good about our Board inviting him regularly.  It signals a commitment to–or at least a commitment to a conversation about–innovative, inquiry-based learning in our schools.  I haven’t settled on how I feel about everything he said (he talks much faster than I can write) but I am doing a lot of reflecting about my practice.  His most pointy question to us all:  Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your classroom?   Hmm…

Helping our young people meet change with excitement and resiliency is the goal.  Mr. Couros  says a lot about the role of technology in our lives and our schools, and challenges us to think about how we can see it as an opportunity rather than a threat.  Trusting them to do so will help them to become aware, competent, responsible users with a positive “digital footprint.”   In particular, he promotes the use of Twitter as a means to exchange ideas and stimulate innovative teaching, and to share goings on with families.  I’ll give it a try at some point.  Parents:  how many of you are Twitterers?  Is this something you would value?

I’m not uncomfortable with new gadgets or the Internet, but I do feel that what Couros proposes is not centrally a question of technology but one of structure.  It is the matter of re-orienting our teaching/learning so that it is increasingly driven by our students and their questions and passions.     That re-orientation doesn’t always come naturally or easily within the school system, a classroom or, frankly, to me  at any given point.   The reality is there are things we have to cover.   But a “Growth Mindset” intends that students are deeply engaged with a cycle of setting and monitoring their own learning goals.

I did feel pretty good about the conversation we had yesterday in Science in which students argued vigorously about evaporation and the qualities of clouds; and that three students arrived back at school today with new number patterns from the ones we began exploring in class.   This signals the blossoming of a learning community.  Now we have to nurture it, technology or not, and make sure everyone feels a part.  That’s all.  Phew!