On April 16, two teams of students from the Algoma District School Board (ADSB) joined students across Ontario to present their research projects to the Ministry of Education. These projects were undertaken as part of the Students as Researchers (StaR) initiative set out by the Ministry of Education to offer students a voice in provincial educational priorities. The StaR project is part of SpeakUp, a provincial initiative dedicated to reshaping the learning environment based on student input, and was designed to help grade 7 to 12 students develop critical thinking and research skills while they completed research projects to better understand how to improve their education.
The students involved in the Students as Researchers Conference in Toronto, including Madison MacLachlan and Danielle McKenney from Superior Heights Collegiate & Vocational School and Emily Duchesne, Breanna Hamilton, Abbi Harris, Mitchell Hayes and Tristan Sacchetta from Northern Heights Public School, discussed their experiences presenting to the Ministry of Education and findings of their research projects at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on April 21st, 2015.
The projects from Northern Heights and Superior Heights were among the 38 research projects selected by the Ministry to be presented to Minister of Education Hon. Liz Sandals, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Student Achievement Officer Hon. Mary Jean Gallagher, and Minister of Children and Youth Services Hon. Tracy MacCharles, as well as other government officials, educational professionals and peers.
Davey Taylor, ADSB’s Wellness Special Assignment Coordinator described how the students were exceptionally well-received and how impressive they were in representing the ADSB in front of such a distinguished audience: “The officials and educators were very impressed with the caliber of our students’ presentations. There was quite a buzz both before and after their presentations about our students and the research they completed.”
During the conference, each team was given 40 minutes to present their research process and findings using a workshop, round table or poster format. The information presented throughout the conference was then developed into an infographic to be utilized by the Ministry of Education to incorporate student insight into the curriculum.
The StaR research initiative began in the fall with over 40 students meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Education and OELC (Ontario Educator Leadership Council) for a 3-day retreat in Stokely Creek. At the retreat, the students began to develop their research questions based on the theme: “What does student well-being look like to you?”
With this theme in mind, the students developed individual research questions. Students from the grade eight class at Northern Heights constructed the research question “Can we make active minds through active bodies?” and used observation and surveys to investigate whether Brain Breaks (short bursts of exercise during the school day) would improve students’ mental and physical well-being. Grade 12 students from Superior Heights investigated the question “What factors influence a student’s willingness to participate and find success in the school environment?” and utilized focus groups and a school-wide survey to discover what prevented students from participating in classrooms and school events.
The students completed their projects throughout the school year with the help of Davey Taylor and Christine Tissone, Teacher at Superior Heights, and submitted proposals in January to be accepted into the Students as Researchers Conference.
Chair of the ADSB Jennifer Sarlo and Director of Education Lucia Reece congratulated all students from the Algoma District School Board who participated in the Students as Researchers program and the students who presented at the Students as Researchers Conference.