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Calgary teachers share their passions

March 24, 2015 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

Students Kyle Hodge, Nolan Renwick and Ali Watson have some fun during an Iron Chef session.

Students embrace freedom and variety of Pursue Your Passion day

It’s not every day that high school students can show up at school and choose whether to learn about solar cars, powerlifting or take in a motivational speech by an Olympic champion, but that was the case for one day at Central Memorial High School, in Calgary.

On March 4, the school’s teachers and students tossed convention aside for its first Pursue Your Passion event.

For this, teachers were challenged to offer engaging tasks, activities and experiences — meeting Alberta Education curricular outcomes — that they wouldn’t normally be able to do within the constraints of the regular timetable and course of the year.

Pursue Your Passion day included an all-day figure drawing session. Pictured, from front to back, are: Kaelan Sikma, Chelsea Kroepfl, Jess Fox, Faith Garay and Malakai Strobach.

Students were then allowed to choose how to spend their time throughout the day instead of following their regular timetable.

“I was really hesitant and a little bit afraid,” admitted principal Nancy Lisi, who came up with the idea as a way to inspire teachers and engage students. The idea was partially inspired by the book Teach Like a Pirate.

Olympic hockey champion Hayley Wickenheiser talks to students about what it really means to follow your dreams and how successful people deal with adversity.

Among the dozens of offerings were sessions on West African drumming, wolf ecology, defining manhood in 2015, backcountry trip planning, proper sprinting technique (with an Olympic sprint coach), the basics of a pit crew change, yoga and a fetal pig dissection.

There were also keynote speeches by four  Olympic athletes and a number of other career-related speakers.

Student Raelene Sali (right) takes part in the African drumming session offered by teacher Andie Shaffer (left), a professional calibre drummer.

“It was an inspirational day and it did give me hope that high school education doesn’t have to look the way it did for me back in the ’90s,” Lisi said.

It took considerable planning to make the day happen, given that it involved having “1,200 kids running around the building picking their own timetables,” Lisi said. Feedback from teachers and students has been very positive.

While the day was inspirational, it was also exhausting, because teachers were dealing with students who were 100 per cent engaged the entire time.

“They were doing bell-to-bell teaching,” Lisi said.

“The challenge now to staff is to take the inspiration, momentum and feeling from that and to bring that to the classroom on a regular basis.” ❚

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