Friday, February 16, 2018

Celebrating Traditional Culture

In celebration of inclusion and the power in developing awareness and understanding of Indigenous knowledge, traditions, and values, Innobration welcomes guest blogger, Judy Whitford, Indigenous Education Coordinator and organizer of the Regional Youth Handgames Tournament to share the story of this amazing event celebrating traditional culture.

Yellowknife Catholic Schools Regional Youth Territorial Handgames Tournament held on February 2 and 3, 2018 was a huge success! The Regional Handgames tournament hosted by YCS, came about through interest from our Indigenous students and families to increase cultural awareness by creating an event that showcases Dene culture in a fun and positive environment.

Handgames is a traditional game played between two teams or communities. It was originally a way communities and people were able to trade goods, dog teams or their supplies. One team tries to outwit and hide objects from the other team. The opposing team works to guess hidden objects while earning sticks to keep score. There are three rounds of play. Drums are played powerfully in this game with lots of movement (teasing) by players to fool and/or intimidate their opponents.

Traditional Handgames had started to disappear, however, there has been a resurgence and growth in popularity over the last few years in many communities. It has become a very competitive sport, sometimes with large prizes, but always with the personal pride and honour of being the winning team. 

Youth from around the entire region participated in the tournament including Ndilo, Detttah, Yellowknife, Behchoko, and Ft. Providence with two age divisions; 9 -12  and 13-18. In total there were seventeen teams registered - that's 150 young men. Older more experienced drummers also played a huge part in guiding and mentoring the youth. Drummers from across the region and the north supported our young men with their songs and powerful drum beats. It was fantastic to see fathers, grandfathers, and other family members supporting their kids with traditional culture. One elder commented, "Walking into the school, you could hear the was like hearing the heartbeat of a school."

Through the two day tournament, we are able to provide a positive environment that reflects the rich cultural history of the region. One high school parent called on Monday to let the school know, "Lately my child has been disconnected from the school. He doesn't always want to show off his culture. This was such a positive thing for him. He was so excited to be part of this. He is still drumming around the house and excited to play again, this has connected him back to the school again."

This year Traditional Games were added to the tournament to provide an opportunity for other students to be part of the games as well. This was graciously done in coordination with the Aboriginal Sports Circle. Northern youth were invited to participate in four events: one-foot high kick, wrist hang, triple jump and stick pull. Youth were separated into the same age divisions as Handgames. There was over 40 youth that participated in these events. Students were scored and given points based on their overall performance in each event. "It was so fun to try these sports! I knew I could try them but I'm actually pretty good at them too. Next year I know which ones I'm' gonna get better at!"

The community support for this event has been amazing! Dominion Diamond Mines has been the proud sponsor of our "Diamond Dinners" by providing all meals during the tournament for participants, drummers, and coaches. This includes breakfast, lunch, and suppers.  We received financial contributions from a number of organizations, which are always greatly appreciated in making an event like this happen, and fun "swag" from community organizations and companies for the students and drummers. 

The Regional Youth Handgames and Traditional Games Tournament provides an opportunity to showcase Dene and Inuit culture in a fun and exciting environment, and includes not only YCS students but our families, our staff and our community. We were able to support the skills and talents of both our Northern students and Indigenous youth in a unique and positive way.

An elder that attended on Friday night said, "After (being in) residential schools I never thought I'd see the day my grandchildren could play their games, our Dene games, in the school with classes going on and teachers watching...this is good, things are changing."

If you are interested in learning more about the Regional Youth Handgames and Traditional Games Tournament please feel free to contact Judy Whitford at

Friday, February 9, 2018

Students Love MakerSpace!

What is a MakerSpace? Well... if you ask Google, which I occasionally do 😉, it is a noun; a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge. That's a good definition (of course it is, it came from Google) but if you have ever had the chance to walk into a MakerSpace when kids are there exploring and learning ~ mostly by inquiry and design-thinking ~ you will see that it is so much more than space where kids share ideas.

Maker Spaces are bustling, engaging, collaborative, and inspirational hubs of creativity and innovation. They are safe spaces to learn without the fear of failing because failing forward is always
an option. In a MakerSpace students understand that learning is a process and that mistakes are part of learning, reflecting and reiterating. MakerSpaces are ideal environments for students because exploring, investigating, and experimenting is what they do best.

Inquiry and design-thinking build independence, acceptance of all ideas, and the perseverance to keep trying until a project comes to fruition... they build a Growth Mindset in our students. Choice and the ability to pursue passion areas are key to engagement. In a MakerSpace, students choose projects they want to learn about and work with people who have similar interests. Students love MakerSpace!

Here is the journal entry that inspired this blog, written by a student in grade five who also happens to be my daughter, so I hear first-hand tales from the space. She has learned that making mistakes is okay and learning is more fun when you don't have to worry about always being right.


Last year the YCS board office came up with the idea of having MakerSpace in all the Catholic Schools. At the beginning of last year I had no idea what MakerSpace was but now it's my favourite subject! I love MakerSpace because it's a place where you can express your love and passion for inventing. There are so many things you can do like... Learn how to fix iPads and Chromebooks, make things move with a wave of your hand, build stuff out of cardboard or popsicle sticks and much much more!

MakerSpace is a place where everything is right and there is no wrong answer and if the first time you fail you can keep on trying till it works. When I first started I was nervous because I'm the kind of kid that always wants to be right, but then as the weeks went on it was more and more fund each time because I wasn't as scared about being wrong.

At the end of the year last year I was working on fixing a Chromebook that didn't turn on. It was really cool seeing all the diffrenet parts and it was fun taking the Chromebook apart. Last year they started a MakerSpace Club where you could work on projects and finding new projects. The only way you could get in was by emailig the teacher and telling them why you want to be in the club! I was in the club and it was really, really AWESOME!

We are doing MakerSpace again this year and hopefully for many more years to come and I just want to say thank you to all the teachers that helped us find our passion and love for Inventing!

- Kadyn

Weledeh Catholic School has been running an awesome MakerSpace for two years now, under the leadership of teacher Trent Hamm, who has brought the design thinking process to life in a space that is in constant motion and learning. Mr. Hamm ensures that there is a balance of both high-tech and low-tech options for his students to explore. While some students have a penchant toward one or the other, most students take time to explore both areas of learning.

Low-tech options include DIY crafts, sewing, painting, arts, science experiments, and building structures from various materials to name a few. Some of the high-tech options include 3D printing with Tinkercad, Makey Makey electronics, Littlebits, Cubelets, Exbots, Sphero robotics, circuit building, green screen and stop animation, website and YouTube building, virtual and augmented reality, sound mixing, coding with Scratch, drones ad Littlebits, and online art creation with Medibang and pixlart. Wow! Is it any wonder that this is a space that every student loves to spend time in?

I asked Mr. Hamm what he likes most about teaching in the MakerSpace and it's obvious he enjoys his time in the space as much as the students do.
"I am so passionate about teaching kids how to use creativity and innovation to fuel their ideas into awesome projects! I feel like we are finally moving education in the direction it should be going. Tapping into students extensive hidden skills and stretching their own ideas further to be able to solve a problm or create a unique prototype. I believe that if students have enough chances to try and fail in a safe environment, they may eventually be able to tackle some of the communities, or even the world's major problems. Creativity and innovation plus technology will one day save our world!"

If you are ever in the school during the day, pop by the MakerSpace and take a peek, it is impossible not to be excited about the learning that is happening ~ you'll want to get in there and try yourself ~ the Maker Bug is contagious!

Ecole St. Patrick School also began a MakerSpace in second semester last year and their program continues to grow. Ecole St. Joseph School recently opened their MakerSpace amidst rave reviews. In fact, ESJS' MakerSpace is in the process of a "Make" over. Watch for exciting news from each of these awesome spaces coming soon!!

If you would like to learn more about Weledeh's MakerSpace feel free to connect with Mr. Hamm at or follow his Twitter handle @WolfBitsLeader to watch amazing learning taking place.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Power of Learning is in the Performance!

Preparing for a role in any production is authentic learning and provides an opportunity for growth in confidence, in communication and as a leader. The skills that are honed when students come together to explore, create and bring to life characters in a play go beyond traditional classroom learning.

From set design to sound and lighting, and character development to performance, students are involved in critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication throughout their work on a production piece. Imagination, voice, and passion clearly come across when watching the actors and the crew engage in their work on, and behind, the stage. There is no greater way to share your learning than with a public audience.

Ecole St. Patrick High School recently performed Annie Jr. under the direction of Ms. Emma Smith. There were 40 students involved both behind the scenes and on the stage. What an amazing learning and performance opportunity for those students. If you were lucky enough to have seen the performance I’m sure you noticed the pride with which the students performed their roles, and the confidence they gained in doing so. Ms. Smith and the ESPHS students made a massive undertaking look easy and the entertainment value was priceless. Bravo - ESPHS Drama!!

The Arts foster learning by prioritizing community building, empowering learning through peer support and feedback and breaking down barriers between students and community. Being involved in a drama production, big or small builds perseverance and a growth mindset in understanding the importance of flexibility and teamwork in ensuring success.

Mr. Gerard Landry integrates the Arts into his Grade 9 English class through his Annual Midsummer Night’s Dream performance. Depending on the year, it is sometimes in collaboration with Grade 3 students from Weledeh Catholic School, allowing the grade 9 students to be leaders and role models in production and performance. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has become a tradition that continues to impress the parents and audience members that gather to see the students share their hard work and performance.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) learning has become an integral part of developing 21st-century skills in students. The Arts provide learners with opportunities to develop multiple brain systems because they support processes that produce results, rather than simply answering questions with easily-measured responses. They help to develop strong critical thinkers who are able to express themselves in multiple modalities, interpret and further the ideas of others, and culturally participate in society.  

Whether it be classroom-based arts education, Reader’s Theatre, or a production on stage, engaging our students in this type of learning helps them develop skills which will prepare them for a future beyond the classroom and school. A future that will require teamwork, flexibility and the ability to see a project through to completion.

A big, big thank you to Ms. Emma Smith for all her work with the ESPHS Drama program and the commitment she brought to directing Annie Jr. Thank you as well to Mr. Gerard Landry for providing powerful learning outside of the classroom, and bringing excitement and collaboration to Shakespeare! Check out more pics of Annie Jr. here!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It's a "Techy" Christmas

GSuite for Education is a powerful tool for learning, and it's even better when the learning is fun! Ms. Gessler had such an awesome day on Friday, December 15, visiting classrooms at ESJS and doing some fun "Techy" Christmas activities with the kids.

Using activities created by the awesome Eric Curts, Ms. Gessler helped the students learn how to do Pixel Art using Google Sheets and how to Build a Snowman and share its story using Google Slides. While the time with Ms. Gessler was about creating fun projects using GSuite tools, teachers were provided with activities that can be used as language arts and math-based classroom lessons.

Google Slides activities are a great way to get kids engaged in creating and writing, collaborating on shared projects, and publishing their stories for others to read. Pixel art using Google Sheets can be used to look at ratios, fractions, percentages, transformations and more!

It was an awesome day, and the students had almost as much fun as Ms. Gessler! She can't wait to go back next time!

ESJS Students' Christmas Pixel Art Collage

** For more information on these awesome activities check out the post at and be sure to check back often, Eric's blog is an amazing resource for technology-based activities!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Student Centred Learning At It's Best!

Students learn best when they are able to see the value in their learning and are given a voice and choice. Never has this been more evident than when we visited Ms. Genge's Grade 6 class where students are involved in an inquiry-based learning project that directly impacts their community. Students spoke with passion and excitement about their project and talked about how they planned to use what they learn to help others.

So what exactly are they doing? Using the Taste Makers Program, students have discovered what types of vegetables can be grown in their classroom, have learned the importance of hygiene when cooking, how to read and understand recipes, how to choose ingredients and create a meal, and how to work together safely in the kitchen. The best part of the project is that students are creating for an authentic purpose - to help the people who access the Yellowknife Day Shelter. They have been involved in planning, decision making, collaborating, and communicating about why there is a need and how they are making a difference.

So far the students have prepared and provided wraps (using lettuce they harvested from their own classroom garden), bannock pizza, beef stew with dumplings, and this week ~ Gone South Chicken!! Of course, the students make a little extra so they can taste their own creations. When we asked them to vote on which meal was their favourite, bannock pizza won by a landslide!! We are super proud of the students' work with the Taste Maker Project, and even more proud that their inquiry-based project supports and directly impacts their community.

Thoughts by Grade 6 Genge

"It was simply awesome and it was fun! My favourite part was putting the dumplings in the stew."

"It was fun doing that (peeling the skin off the carrots) because it felt calm and peaceful..."

"On November 2 our class harvested the lettuce and peas we grew and used it to make our wraps"

"The beef stew was DELICIOUS and the meat was perfectly cooked...People at the Day Shelter loved our stew"

"The first picture of me and my class with a beautiful sunset behind us. Miss Genge took the picture and said, "It's God's way of saying thanks for your kindness." 

** To find out more about this project feel free to contact Mrs. Genge at **