Category Archives: Learning Immersion

In-depth projects Introduction (week 2)

In-depth Study: Two Universal Goals.

The in-depth project is the TALONS’ program final large component of the school year.  The in-depth project has two main goals:

1. Know something about everything and everything about something.

In school you are usually taught about many subjects.  In this project, the goal is to learn a great deal about one field of activity, usually not available in a school setting.

2. Learn what others tell you is important and learn what you decide is important.

In school you are told what to learn and how to learn it.  In this project, you will decide in what field and with what strategies, you will become an “expert.”


We are interested in three components of your study.

1. The process: as young people, you will be learning patterns of behavior that will emphasize your strengths and that will help you overcome any difficulties.

–          Project will last at least five months

–          Your bi-weekly blog will demonstrate the process:

Blogging Criteria

Post includes: thorough progress report, includes information on mentor, describes frustrations, overcoming obstacles, includes evidence that illustrates process and product, includes modifications to project, includes relevant research, quotes, articles, references, websites etc, shows a caring about project.  Entry makes sense, is written concisely. 4
Includes most of the above description, but in less detail. 3
Includes about half of the above description, but in little detail.  Little progress is demonstrated. 2
In-depth study is progressing too slowly.  Entry is vague.  Demonstrates that not much effort has been made since last entry. 1
Not completed or handed in on time 0

2. The product: The product will include three areas:

i.            The evidence of learning

ii.            The source of self-esteem

iii.            The cause for celebration


3. The mentor: The relationship with the expert in your field.  This relationship will include three areas:

i.            Meeting with mentor on regularly basis

ii.            Expanding network in community

iii.            Getting feedback on progress

iv.            Obtaining an in-depth understanding of chosen field.

The learner’s first entry this week introduces their project, reasons for their choice and a description of their mentors.


Sample in-depth blogs for this semester:

Immy introduces us to rowing and her mentor.

Victoria continues to explore her passion for ballet

Sam is making jewellery.

Having a mentor for in-depth is the critical piece.  Anyone knows a local drum teacher who could mentor Max?

Follow Katie on her journey of yoga.

Ventriloquism with Galen

View Julie’s prezi about the history of fencing

Learn cake decorating alongside Emlyn

Juliana is developing skills in soap making

Follow fashion design with Carlin

Jess is drawing web comics

Bhangra dancing with Aman

Jeffery is taking advanced first aid

Alphabet photography with Alysha

Tie knots with Hayley

Driving lessons with Stephanie  

Learn to animate alongside Christina

Take golf lessons with Conrad

Sara will share her learning with photoshop/graphic arts

Screen writing with Richard

Once upon a time there was a writer called Megan

Learn alternative guitar from Sepehr


Talons Program Science 9 and English 9 Final Exam

Grade nine learners researched, wrote, presented and recorded 6 to 10 minute TED Talks–their final exam for English 9 and Science 9 this year.  They share their understanding of a topic of choice connected to science 9 and/or science 10 learning outcomes, demonstrating their research and presentation skills learned in class during this past year. Powerpoint slides, video clips and/or a hands-on demo are added to illustrate their topic. As part of this project, they listened to five TED talks preferably related to their chosen field and learned how TED talks are structured and presented.  After having posted their own TED talks, they will comment on at least five of their peers’  TED talks, learning about five additional topics as well as furthering the discussion by leaving comments.  You find links to their posted TED talks below.  Please feel free to provide additional questions in the comment section of each edublog.

Richard discusses Panspermia

Sara discusses going green

Michelle discusses cancer and cancer treatment

Conrad discusses global warming and reproduction link

Megan discusses why we should not eat beef

Louise discusses oppositional defiance disorder

Toren discusses perception of time

Chelsea discusses dreams and memory

Alvin discusses steroids

Iris discusses lost memories

Jen  S. TED talk

Sepehr discusses stem cell research

Immy discusses superbugs in meat

Jen. A. discusses what gymnastics does to your body

Leanne discusses instinct

Emily discusses terraforming Mars

Derek discusses biolumminescences

Zoe discusses dopamine systems

Lexi discusses stem cells

Kelsey discusses spleen cancer

Macguire discusses how fear works

Stephanie discusses how light affects sleep

Jonathan discusses antimatter

Albert discusses technological singularity

Clayton discusses how we experience space

Daniel discusses collapsed lungs

In-depth Week 10

The BC Ministry of Education mandates the curriculum for each grade and each subject. The Talons program provides some choices in what, when and how learners learn. The in-depth project is another example that illustrates this philosophy.  The following links exemplify what happens when learners explore passions and interests that matter to them.   Incidently, many of their skills match learning outcomes in electives offered at our school. In our case, learners decide what learning outcomes to address, how to assess their work, and how to represent their learning.   They also set their own pace.  Sometimes their project is on hold for a few weeks and other times they have a marathon session that leads to long hours of dedicated learning.  What these projects have in common is learning that is in-depth, focused, intense, personal and meaningful to them at this point in time.  I also believe that not everyone knows what is best for them at a certain time. Adults have a role to play in setting the course; however, learners, when given the chance, can chart their own course some of the time as well. They often take more care with their own learning when they have ownership over it. Even though their choice of projects varies widely, they are learning a lot of the same lessons:

Persevering when things get tough

Showing commitment

Overcoming challenges

Asking for help when needed

Being reflective

Being humble and flexible

Being motivated

The following learners demonstrate these skills and exemplify a great variety of projects.

Meghan is learning about make-up.

Nick is writing computer code.

Daniel is break dancing.

Louise is wire crocheting.

Emily is making jewellery.

Alvin is writing a book.

Veronica is doing vocal training.

Jennifer is reducing her ecological footprint.

Michelle is writing a story.

Jonathan is juggling.

Albert is rebuilding computers.

Sepehr is writing video scripts.

Clayton is film editing.

Inspiring a Life of Immersion

Building on recent conversations in Talons, “What do I believe?”, Jacqueline Novogratz’s  TED talk provides another worthwhile perspective.

Here are small sections of her talk that spoke to me.

She states,  “Your job is to be human.”  What is the cost of not trying? We must do what we cannot meaure.  Put yourself in somenone’ s shoes. Live a life of immersion. Make your dreams come true.  Stand on moral ground. One persons’ actions can spread. We need moral leadership and courage in our world. We live a life of fear and sense of otherness, distancing ourselves and living with blame.  Or, we can take the more difficult path of transformation, justice, accountability and compassion.  Stand  up for change.

We need leaders and we need to lead.  We cannot do it alone.  We can change a small portion of acts.  Our lives are short! Our time on our planet is precious.  We all have each other.  Live a life of immersion!  That is all that will sustain us.

Quirien MtK

Talons (progam for gifted grade 9 and 10s) philosophy and more…

I was recently asked about the philosophy of the Talons (The Academy of Learning for Outstanding, Notable Students) program and how it implements its theory into practice.  Its theory and practice inform one another on almost a daily basis and our learners often influence our practice more than anything else.  While its approach is grounded in the Autonomous Learner Model developed by George Betts, we adopt and merge other insights as they seem fit and a good match.

My own personal/professional philosophy of learning is mostly influenced by people such as David Orr, Chet Bowers, Fritjof Capra, Rachel Carson, Barbara McClintock, Barbara Kingsolver and Donella Meadows.  Capra stresses three elements of particular importance to me:

1. relationships

2. connectedness

3. context

He advocates for a shift in perception that is:

1. from the parts to the whole

2. from objects to relationships

3. from objective knowledge to contextual knowledge

4. from quantity to quality

5. from structure to process

6. from contents to patterns

Meadows refers to systems thinking as a dance:

1. get the beat.

2. listen to the wisdom of the system.

3. expose your mental models to the open air.

4. stay humble. Stay a learner.

5. honor and protect information.

6. locate responsibility in the system.

7. make feedback policies for feedback systems.

8. pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.

9. go for the good of the whole.

10. expand time horizons.

11. expand thought horizons.

12.expand the boundary of caring.

13. celebrate complexity.

14. hold fast to the goal of goodness.

 It is up to us to do these things!

(Source: Stone, Michael and Barlow, Zenobia (2005). Ecological Literacy Educating our children for a sustainable future).

A learning society

A learning society

(informed by reading Kate Davies’ article in Resurgence, November/December 2009, No. 257)


It feels somewhat ironic to use an electronic media to express what I am about to say below.  I have been very hesitant to use an edublog to post.  I am familiar with Chet Bowers’ s work, particularly his book, called Let Them Eat Data, outlining the concerns and dangers of computers contributing to the ecological crises and loss of intergenerational and local knowledge. Yet, this medium is an enticing way to get messages out beyond our direct, immediate  interactions with others at work, at home or at play and get more of us to be more critical about almost everything.  How can this kind of learning community enhance our understanding of each other and the world we live in without losing touch with one in other in person to person direct contact? 

Creating a sense of meaningful, responsive and responsible community, particularly since entering the field of teaching, has been particularly important to me.  I seek out schools to “work” in close to home so that I feel connected to students in the classrooms as well as in their community at large.  Even if I would not run into them outside (many get driven back and forth to school -another post for later!), I would know and be in their “home.” Their place in the community, their issues and their struggles would be familiar to me at some level.  It does “take a village to raise a child.” I like to be connected to what I am doing.  I have never seen “work” as many others see  work in the more traditional sense of a nine to five job!  A TED talk by Stefan Stagmeister discusses a way of being and doing that I believe is important and fulfills life.  Kate Davies’ six ideas for a Learning Society that is sustainable totally captures my calling.

  1. Create Learning Communities – “A learning community is any group of people who share a common purpose and who are actively engaged in learning from each other” (p. 43).

Personal example: The Talons program at Gleneagle Secondary, Coquitlam, BC. 

2. Learning from Experience  –“…our own lived experience is the best teacher. Through experimentation and critical thinking we can learn what works and what doesn’t” (p. 43).

Personal examples: teaching hands-on science as much as possible by experimenting in the classroom and taking students into the community for small field excursions whenever possible instead of using the book!

3. Foster a New Worldview -“With its assumptions of human superiority, Western culture assumes that humankind has the inherent right to exploit other species and the planet’s resources. Developing values and beliefs consistent with sustainability will require an understanding of the destructive consequences of the old worldview, as well as creating a respectful relationship with the earth” (p. 43.)

Personal example: Continue to remind myself that actions speak louder than words. Challenge myself to lead a life that is more eco-entered rather than ego-centered. Walk the talk!

4. Think Systematically -“Based on the belief that the parts of a system can best be understood in the context of their relationships with each other, systemic thinking emphasizes patterns, trends and feedback loops. Systemic thinking focuses on the interactions between human and ecological systems. Without systemic thinking, society will continue to apply ineffective and superficial solutions that do little to resolve underlying problems” (p. 43)

Personal examples: Live life more deliberately. Follow more voluntary simplicity and smart growth principles.  Make more informed decisions and think more critically about my actions.  Why use chlorinated water to water my plants? Where are my clothes made? Do I need this object? Live life more slowly. Less is more.

5. Embrace Diversity – “We need to embrace not only different cultures and ethnicities, but also different ideas and beliefs.  This is important because it demonstrates a commitment to a democracy based on inclusion, equality and respect. It is also important because differences are a source of learning. We can learn from people who donot look or think like us, because they challenge our assumptions, beliefs and expectations” (p. 43).  In terms of ecology, the more diversity in a population the more adaptable the species is to changing factors in its surroundings.  Being in equilibrium or in balance or in stable state or frame of mind of sameness is not conducive to being flexible and ready to respond quickly.  Instead it gets us in a complacent state, lulled into believing that everything is fine and taken care of.  We are less ready to respond to sudden changes or major disasters. Instead, being on the edge of situation that can go either way allows us to respond more quickly and be more alert.

Personal example: I continue to seek out new experiences and be open to new possibilities. Seeing the potential in others and their ideas and beliefs and continuing to be a life-long learner.

6. Whole-person Learning – “ We should foster the development of whole human beings, who can think critically and appreciatively, respond compassionately and act ethically. Whole-person learning enables students to grow as authentic human beings. This is very different from contemporary education which focuses mostly on intellectual learning, and largely ignores ethical values, stunts emotional intelligence and leaves students with few practical skills for navigating the complex world around them” (p. 43.)

Personal example: Teaching mathematics 11 applications/ introductions. Students sit in groups and talk about their math questions that they are trying to solve. Yes, they socialize as well and talk about other topics but that makes us human. Sitting still and doing math problems for 75 minutes is not naturally what human beings do every day! I facilitate skills, like listening when someone else is talking, taking turns, taking care of assignments and  taking responsibility for their own actions.  When they decide what to do when something gets challenging, they are in charge of their own results.  Act responsibly and you get results that enhance learning and make you a better human being.

This list is not exhaustive. My intent is to explore these ideas further in future blogs.  I appreciate any comments or questions in the meantime.