Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Latest ECC Gathering: Connections, Active Students and Tons of Fun!!

Last week, students, teachers and other adults from all four Elementary Connected Classrooms (ECC) gathered together. Every year, each ECC site hosts the entire group for a day of active learning and community building face to face. It was our turn so we booked several facilities at the local recreation center and then walked down, welcome poster in hand, to see the rest of our classmates and colleagues.

Waiting to welcome our friends!
The students were super excited to see the other classes. My students watched down Main Street carefully as we walked down from our school in case one of the school buses arrived. At the last minute, when we were no more than 40 meters from the recreation center, we saw a school bus round the corner. The first student who saw it started screaming "RUN!! The bus is coming!! The bus is coming!! HURRY!!" which of course prompted everyone to pick up the pace and hustle in order to arrive at the recreation center first. My students were howling with laughter or screaming 'RUN', or 'they're going to beat us', or 'HURRY!!', or 'we need to get their first and welcome them!!' as they raced along. It was one of those moments that none of us will ever forget.

Setting up a running race to stretch the legs after a long bus ride!
After we welcomed the first bus full of people from Lytton Elementary (we did get there first...just!), Mr. Lewis decided to run a racing game while we waited for the other two classes from Ashcroft and Cache Creek to arrive. It was great to see the students mixing between classes much more easily than at the previous gathering in October. It does take time, and a great deal of purposeful effort, to build the community but one takeaway from the day was that real peer relationships are definitely forming between the groups.

Skating in the arena!
The first part of our day together was spent skating in the arena! As a class of nearly 100 students, it was wonderful that many parents and family members came along to help tie all the skates!! One aspect of the gatherings that I enjoy the most is that regardless of which community we gather in, there are always parents and family members involved in some way. The ECC doesn't just connect students and teachers in a meaningful way, it connects families too.

Fast friends who live 80 km apart!
After working up an appetite in the arena, the whole group ate lunch together. There's nothing like enjoying a meal together to bring people closer. The photo above is one of my favourites from the entire day. I was walking along and they asked me to take their photo together because they said they were 'besties'. While these two boys, who attend schools that are 80 kilometres apart, connected tentatively in the fall, they were fast friends during our day together last week. Every day since the gathering, the one on the right has pointed out his friend on the video conferencing screen during our daily connected lesson. I would guess that they have a connection that will last.

Swimming, diving, a water slide, and the tether ball made for a fun afternoon! 
The afternoon went quickly with all the students either in the pool or playing pickleball in the gym. The busy pace of the day resulted in engaged, active students! They certainly had enough exercise that day, but, of course, they had more than enough energy to keep going right to the end! Our community is the only one with an indoor pool so it was a real treat for students to spend time in the water with their friends that day.

Walking up the hill to return to school
After saying our good-byes and seeing the last bus pull away, it was time to make the trek up the hill and return to school. As both a mother and a teacher, there is something very satisfying about leading children through a fun day so packed with activity and friends that the children are happily exhausted at day's end. That was the lasting impression as we arrived back at the school. The children, and adults, experienced a full day that will be remembered as a full of connections, physical activity and tons of fun!

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