Featured Activity Kit: Studies in Symmetry

The Studies in Symmetry with Pattern Blocks kit is a fun, hands-on way to learn about geometry! By allowing students to explore the principles of reflection and rotation in an experiential way, students will be able to develop a stronger understanding of these concepts.

The Studies in Symmetry kit contains 48 designs on 24 cards and 250 pattern blocks in an assortment of shapes and colours. Each design makes use of one geometrical operation (single line reflection, double line reflection, or rotation) and can require anywhere from 10 to 62 pattern blocks to complete. Students will be able to work their way from simpler operations to more complex ones, all the while building their understanding of the underlying geometrical principles.

Other activities using the Studies in Symmetry kit include discussing each design to work out the operations before applying the pattern blocks and using the pattern blocks to create new and unique designs on a blank sheet of paper.

The Studies in Symmetry kit is currently on display on the ground floor of the OISE Library, next to the Circulation Desk. For more activity kits aimed at developing an understanding of geometry, try the Multipoly Construction Set, the Image Reflector Geometry kit, or the Power Solids kit, or check out the OISE Library K-12 Manipulatives Database for still more ideas.

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Mindfulness at the OISE Library

We’re excited to announce more dates for our Mindfulness series. Starting next Tuesday, you can join us for yoga on the 3rd floor of the OISE Library.

The dates and times are as follows:

  • Yoga: Tuesday Jan 23, 12:10-12:45pm
  • Meditation: Wed Jan 31, 12:10-12:45pm
  • Yoga: Tuesday Feb 6, 4:10-4:45pm

For the yoga sessions, please bring a yoga mat and wear comfortable clothing.


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OISE New Title Display: Safe and Inclusive Spaces

The OISE library is constantly acquiring new items that help to enrich and inspire all types of learning environments. While this includes materials that are targeted towards expanding a student’s academic progress, it also extends to those materials that help to create a safe and inclusive learning environment. The items featured within this blog post help to do just that by acknowledging and discussing the different needs of students with diverse lived experiences. By addressing issues of bullying, gender identities, and mental health, this series highlights the various needs of students, and the ways that education administers can formulate their classrooms to address those needs.

The first item to be featured, Feather, is a children’s book written by Rémi Courgeon. With its colourful and whimsical illustrations, this picture book depicts the journey of a young, small girl who has a passion for playing the piano amongst a family who she describes as “rough and clumsy.” Although it is evident that Paulina wishes to spend her time playing the piano, she instead takes up an activity that is more in tune with the interests of her family, boxing, after she comes home from school one day with a black eye. This emotionally provocative story tells the story of a girl who struggles with her identity as being different, yet finds a place in her family by being true to herself. Feather is a great novel to inspire children to have pride in who they are, and to always follow their passions.

The next item to be featured is the book Confronting Oppressive Assessments: How
Parents, Educators, and Policymakers are Rethinking Current Educational Reforms.
Edited by Walter Polka and John McKenna, this book is comprised of a collection of articles and essays that speak to the emotional hardships that students may experience at the hands of current educational policies governing the nation’s classrooms. This work speaks to the varying ways that students experience anxiety and emotional distress at the hands of policies that fail to encourage the emotional and intellectual growth of their students in a healthy way. By analyzing the static and regimented ways that students have expected to learn in the classroom, this book pushes administrators and teachers alike to rethink their classrooms and create anew a learning environment that is more inducive to the reality of a child’s unique learning processes.

Supporting Transgender and Gender Creative Youth, edited by Elizabeth Meyer and Annie Sansfaçon, is an excellent book that works to include and engage children who are transgender, gender queer, or gender questioning. Compiled of many articles and essays that discuss the experience of transgender youth in the classroom, this work helps administrators to better understand the lived experience of these students so as to ensure they can grow, prosper and learn in a safe and welcoming environment that is cognizant of their unique needs. By discussing the creation of such an environment through the perspective of teachers and parents alike, Supporting Transgender and Gender Creative Youth acts as an excellent aid to help everyone involved in the educational process to understand and learn from one another in a healthy and productive manner.

In addition to the exploration of gender identity, Sexual Cultures in Aotearoa New
Zealand Education
also explores the experience of sexual identities in children and teens. This book works to highlight the features of queer culture and how that culture is experienced by queer students in the classroom. Through its various articles and essays, this item works to identify and actualize methods that would help queer students feel comfortable expressing their queer identity both in and outside the classroom. It also expresses the need to educate queer youth concerning topical areas such as sexual education and mental health. By helping educational administrators to understand the queer student experience, they are given the tools they need in order to build an inclusive and safe learning environment.

The importance of eliciting conversations about mental health not only concerns queer youth, but also concerns all students who make up a classroom. School Mental Health Services for Adolescents is an edited work that helps to formulate a foundational comprehension of mental health and the ways that it can affect youth and adolescents. By first juxtaposing mental health as it was experienced in the past to how it should be experienced in the future, this collection helps education professionals to imagine changes that can be implemented in the classroom in order to work towards creating spaces that are welcoming and inclusive. Broaching topics such as disruptive behavior, the regulation of emotions, and drug abuse and health concerns amongst teens, this item helps to induce in teachers and their students a progressive lens through which to view mental health, thus allowing them to effectively combat its symptoms.


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Railway Car Schools

For some 40 years, pupils in remote parts of northern Ontario attended some very unusual schools. Instead of going to the schools, these railway car schools came to them!

Teacher H. F. Antoniak with some of his students outside of CNR School Car No. 4

Until the 1920s, children living in northern Ontario often lived in settlements that were too small or too temporary for the construction of a regular school to be practical. As many as 75% were the children of railway employees, who were posted along the rail lines to maintain them. Other affected children were those whose parents did hunting, trapping, and forestry work. Once a permanent settlement had 12 pupils, the Department of Education would build a regular school in the community; however, until then, pupils had to rely on correspondence courses, with mixed results.

Teacher W. H. McNally and students in the schoolroom
of CPR School Car No. 1

In 1926, the Ontario government conducted a two-car pilot run of the railway car schools.  The rail cars were donated by the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway and were converted into schools by the Ministry of Education. Teachers Walter H. McNally and Fred Sloman taught 82 children during this pilot run, stopping at 14 points along two rail lines. Of these children, 57 had never before attended school, and only 4 spoke English.

The railway school cars were an immediate success. During the two-year pilot run, these school cars had 100% attendance and the children attending them progressed rapidly, completing on average three weeks of schoolwork every week. Following the success of the pilot run, the railway car school program was expanded.

This map shows which parts of northern Ontario were served
by the railway school cars

Two new rail cars were added in 1928, with an additional two in 1935, and one in 1938. At its peak in the 1940s, the Department of Education operated seven railway car schools serving over 200 pupils, with four cars operating on Canadian National Railway lines, two cars on Canadian Pacific Railway lines, and one car operating on the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway.

Each railway car school served 5 or 6 settlements and travelled about 150 miles each month. The school cars would stop at each point of call for 4 to 8 days, and the teacher would assign pupils homework to complete between calls. Although the railway school cars were not limited to a specific set of stops and would change location as the settlements changed, many children nonetheless travelled great distances by foot, horse, snowshoe, or even canoe to meet the school car.

Teacher Fred Sloman conducts class in CNR School Car No. 1

The railway school cars contained a school room as well as living quarters for the teacher and his family. The schoolroom was equipped with two blackboards, roll-down maps, a globe, desks, school books and general supplies, and a small lending library with titles for both children and adults. The railway car schools would also open night schools for their pupils’ parents, teaching reading, writing, and math.

Students leaving a Canadian Pacific Railway school car

Many of these parents did not speak English and could not read. For railway employees, these night classes offered them the opportunity for advancement in the rail company, as they could now perform functions such as writing a train order.

As the number of pupils attending the railway car schools decreased, so too did the number of railway school cars in operation. Ontario’s last railway car school closed in 1967.

The railway school car resources here at the OISE Library include correspondence, contracts, newspaper and magazine articles, and a great many photographs. A selection of photographs and other documents will be on display in the glass table on the ground floor of the OISE Library through the month of January.

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OISE Lobby Display: Environmental & Sustainability Education

In celebration of OISE’s Annual Eco-Fair on January 27, 2018, the OISE Library is highlighting its books and resources on environmental and sustainability education for the month of January. The display features a variety of materials from the library’s stacks, children’s literature, and curriculum resources. These materials are geared towards helping students and teachers understand the importance of infusing environmental awareness within all forms of education. Please check out these titles in the lobby book display, located on the ground floor of the OISE building.

Deepening environmental education in pre-service education resource, by Hilary Inwood and Susan Jagger

OISE instructor Dr. Hilary Inwood and Ryerson professor Susan Jagger created Deepening environmental education in pre-service education resource as part of the faculty’s DEEPER project, which introduces teacher candidates across Ontario schools to basic environmental education principals. Written as a teachers guide, the book provides readers with practical approaches towards environmental education by utilizing case studies, teaching strategies, and recommended resources on the topic. The purpose of the book is to increase awareness of environmental education among staff, students, and faculties, and to provide teacher candidates with valuable insights into the importance of infusing environmental education within school curriculum.

Environmental education in context: An international perspective on the development of environmental education, by Neil Taylor, Michael Littledyke, Chris Eames and Richard K. Coll (Eds.)

Environmental education in context: An international perspective on the development of environmental education examines how the social, political, and cultural factors of a country or region influences its field of both formal and informal environmental education. The book features a variety of case studies and works by experts and professionals from 25 different non-English speaking countries. The local insights and knowledge presented in the book allow readers to gain a greater understanding of how different cultural contexts promote or hinder the effectiveness of environmental education. The book covers topics such as the implementation of environmental education, role of institutions, external influences, and many more.

Fuel for thought: Building energy awareness in grades 9-12, edited by Steve Metz

Fuel for thought: Building awareness in grades 9-12 is a comprehensive teachers guide geared towards helping high school students become familiar with fundamental concepts of energy and environmental awareness. The teachers guide is divided three main sections –each section is comprised of a particular set of tools or resources for students to engage with. The first section consists of a variety of classroom and field activities that help students to learn the science behind energy. The second section includes a series of case studies and projects that promote critical thinking. Lastly, the third section of the guide provides in-depth knowledge into the greater significance of sustainability, which compels students to tackle the issues of energy and the environment in a sociopolitical context.

Wild eggs: A tale of Arctic egg collecting, by Suzie Napayok-Short and illustrated by Jonathan Wright

Written by Suzie Napyok-Short and illustrated by Jonathan Wright, Wild eggs: A tale of Arctic egg collecting, is a heartwarming story about a young girl named Akuluk and her adventures while visiting her grandparents in Nunavut. Initially unhappy about the trip, Akuluk quickly begins to change her outlook as she discovers the natural wonders around her. Akuluk embarks on egg-hunting adventures with her grandparents and learns about the animals that inhabit the various natural landscapes of Nunavut, as well as the family’s traditional ways of hunting and gathering wild eggs.

At the edge: Sustainable development in the 21st century, by Ann Dale

Ann Dale’s At the Edge: Sustainable development in the 21st century paints a grim picture for humanity as she exposes the negative social and economic impacts that have been brought on by rapid ecological deterioration. Dale argues that sustainable development is key to remedying the world’s disastrous ecological status. However, the movement towards sustainability is not solely comprised of advancing green technologies, instead it can only be achieved through the development of ecological, social, and economic imperatives. Looking at existing literature, research, and current Canadian policy on sustainability, Dale discusses how strong government leadership is necessary to promote sustainable development within all areas of society.

For more titles on environmental and sustainability education, please visit the ground floor lobby display. All resources in the display case can be checked out – please ask a staff member at the circulation desk for assistance.

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