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The last three months of the 2019-2020 school year were filled with unusual challenges for students, parents and staff. While we are saddened by the postponement and cancellation of many annual spring and end-of-year events, we still have much to celebrate. Intermediate & Secondary Student Success has turned the challenges that we faced in education into opportunities for staff and students. Here are my #ocsb5things during our time of learning at home:

1. Enrichment and Engagement Activities for Students 

Over the years, Student Success has developed many partnerships with local, national and international organizations. Our partners help us to bring engaging and enriching opportunities to our students. During school closure, we worked with many partners to transform student activities into virtual experiences.  

In May, 24 students from six OCSB schools participated in the ECOO Computer Coding Contest, and 120 grade 7 and 8 students took part in the Noetic Math Contest, all online.

In June, we worked with MASC to provide intermediate and secondary students with the opportunity to participate in interactive workshops and shows presented by local francophone artists. During the presentations, artists shared how their experience with art through Indigenous storytelling, traditional and contemporary dance and various forms of music from different cultures shaped their understanding of the world. Feature presentations included concerts by Wise Atangana, Twin Flames and Sonia St-Michel. 

2. Career Exploration Activities for Students

Career exploration is a significant part of our students’ educational journey through high school. During school closure, this exploration continued. Through our association with The Knowledge Society (TKS), 1000+ OCSB students participated in virtual sessions given by engineers from SpaceX and Tesla, leaders from Google and Uber, and most recently, with Microsoft Executive Shaloo Garg, who works with the United Nations and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  

Through our partnership with the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE), our grade 10 students had the opportunity to participate in the Junior Achievement Economics for Success program designed to teach youth about financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness.  

Our Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) students were also given access to several online certification opportunities, enabling them to learn more about their SHSM sector while earning the components necessary to obtain the SHSM red seal on their diploma.

3. OCSB Arts Month

While we were not able to offer our wide array of face-to-face arts activities this spring, Arts Month was still very much celebrated throughout the month of May. Staff and students developed and shared their artistic talents on Twitter through activities like the Daily Doodle, Photo Challenge and Creativity Bingo. We also had an online “Arts Wellness” night that was well attended and appreciated by OCSB staff. Arts Month culminated with the Art of Resilience project– a virtual gallery displaying the artistic works created during our time in isolation.

4. Professional Development Opportunities for Educators

We are very proud of the professional development opportunities offered to our OCSB educators. During the pandemic, we hosted several Tuesday Indigenous Talks, where our educators could virtually meet authors of books our grade 11 English students will be reading. Our board is currently moving towards offering all grade 11 English courses through an Indigenous lens where students explore texts authored by Indigenous writers. Our teachers were able to meet and ask questions from authors like Jesse Thistle, Waubgeshig Rice, and David A. Robertson. They also met cultural educator, visual artist and dancer, Rhonda Doxtator. Tuesday Indigenous Talks were very well-attended and appreciated.  

In May, four of our technology teachers were invited to present to teachers across the province, sharing their experience and creative ideas for teaching tech classes online.

This month, our technology and arts teachers participated in a Design Tech Educator Series, delivered in partnership with Algonquin College and critically acclaimed photographer Annemarie Gruden. This learning opportunity will help our educators learn more about Photoshop and Light Boom. 

5. Getting Ready for 2020-2021

Throughout the past few months, the Student Success Department has been reaching out to our schools to determine their needs in the area of the Arts, Mathematics, Literacy, Science and Indigenous Studies. In September, our schools will see an injection of new equipment, musical instruments, technology, reading intervention programs and books by Own Voice authors.   

Throughout school closure, the Student Success Department has exemplified our board commitments to Be Well, Be Community and Be Innovative. I am proud of the work they have done to keep students and staff engaged and learning, all the while still thinking ahead to the needs of our system in September.