Summer Hours

Starting April 28th, the OISE Library will begin its summer hours. Please take note of hours below:

Monday-Thursday: 8:30am-7pm

Friday: 8:30-5pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: CLOSED

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Learning about the Environment in Early Ontario Schools

Spring has sprung and Earth Day is coming April 22nd. Check out the glass display case on the ground floor of the OISE Library to see how students in early Ontario schools learned about the environment!Education about the environment was a core part of student life in early Ontario schools. Nature study was a mandatory course of study. This course was taught in Forms I-IV (equivalent to today’s grades 1-8) and by 1915 was also taught in Kindergarten. Curricula about nature study provided suggestions for teachers, which could be adapted to the school’s local environment. Nature study was intended to foster an interest in the natural world and children were expected to interact directly with nature. According to the 1909 curriculum, teachers were not supposed to dictate notes to their students or assign textbooks. Instead, books about nature study were designed for teachers’ use, such as the Guide to Nature Study (1902) and the Ontario Teachers’ Manuals: Nature Study (1926).

When students in early Ontario schools reached high school (“Form V”), science classes taught botany and zoology. Unlike nature study, textbooks were assigned to these classes and included texts such as the Ontario High School Beginners’ Botany (1925). Workbooks were also used in botany classes: a 1891 copy of the Botanical Note-Book is included in this month’s display, open to show student work.

Agriculture and horticulture was another course of study taught in early Ontario schools. This class was originally offered as an elective in high schools; however, by 1915, it was being offered to younger students as well. Many textbooks were available for agriculture classes, such as The First Principles of Agriculture (1890, e-resource) and Agriculture (1898). According to the 1911 curriculum, the choice of specific textbook was left up to the local school board rather than being assigned by the province.

As with nature study, agriculture courses were designed to promote a love for nature and country life in students. Even after the curriculum changed in 1937 and nature study became less central to a student’s study of science, agriculture remained part of the Ontario curriculum. In fact, agriculture and horticulture are offered by the Ontario curriculum today, as special courses of study for grade 11 and 12 students!

School gardens were another important part of a student’s school life. Introduced in 1904 in rural schools, school gardens were seen as a way to foster the necessary skills for rural life. School gardens quickly became popular and were believed to improve students’ performance inside the classroom. Beginning in 1907, the Ministry of Education even made grants available to schools so that they could establish and maintain a school garden!

These books will be on display in the glass table on the ground floor of the OISE Library through the end of April.

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New furniture – coming soon!

We are very excited to announce that the large study tables and chairs on the Concourse, 2nd, and 3rd floors of the OISE Library will be replaced with new, comfortable furniture the week of May 8th – 12th. A wheelchair accessible table will be installed on each floor as well.

We anticipate the furniture removal and replacement will take 3 days. There will be noise on these floors as old furniture is removed, and new furniture is installed. We’ll do our best to keep all floors of the Library open, but it will be necessary to close off sections of the Concourse, 2nd, and 3rd floors at times.

Furniture of historical value will be preserved; other furniture will be reused elsewhere in the OISE building or sent to the UofT’s Swap Shop for reuse elsewhere on campus.

We apologize for any disruption this will cause.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


Monique Flaccavento
Acting Director, OISE Library

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Featured Activity Kit: Tree Biodiversity Kit

The Tree Biodiversity Kit allows student to get hands on, learning about North American tree species and how climate effects tree growth. The kit includes six tree rounds, consisting of oak, basswood, walnut, ash, white pine, and red pine. Magnifying glasses, rulers, and push pins are also included to aid students in making observations about the tree rounds and identifying the individual tree species. Ideal for use in a secondary school Science or Environmental Science class, the kit includes both teacher and student guides that scaffolds students completion of the tree species identification activity. The kit’s focus on both species identification and climate markers means that it would easily fulfil Ontario Curriculum for Grade 9 and 10 Science which requires students to “analyse different sources of scientific data (e.g., lake cores, tree rings, fossils and preserved organisms, ice cores) for evidence of natural climate change and climate change influenced by human activity.”

Teachers and teacher candidates planning lessons about trees and ecology might also be interested in the Conifers of Ontario: Notes for Teachers Identification Keys for Students by W.A. Andrews. Conifers of Ontario offers guidance for designing a conifer tree (commonly know as evergreens) identification activities, book features lessons designed for grade 3-4 students and the grade 10 level. Younger students might benefit from Curriculum Resources books such as Leaf Hunter by Marie-Claire La Flair, A Tree is Growing written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by S.D. Schindler, and Trees are Terrific! published by the National Wildlife Federation. These works feature information and activities relating to trees, biodiversity, and ecology appropriate for elementary school students.

The Tree Biodiversity Kit is currently on display on the ground floor of the OISE Library next to the service desk. Stop by and try your hand at some tree-rific science!

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Assessment and Grading: April Lobby Display

One of this month’s lobby displays explores the topic of Assessment and Grading. As we head towards the end of the school year, assessment becomes more and more important. How can this be done fairly? What new approaches are transforming theory and practice when it comes to grading? With this in mind, the OISE Library has a collection of resources to help!

This topic is well represented across the OISE Library collections, and there is a wealth of information in the curriculum resources and stacks sections of the Library. This is a subject that has a long history in the Library collections, there is a wealth of materials for those who are interested in looking at the history of this subject in the province of Ontario. Fair grading and assessment that is conscious of the differences between students is emphasized in these works.

Other themes include differentiation, common core standards and debates about the usefulness of standardized testing. There are also items representing some of the historical materials available at the library. These allow students to explore how assessment and grading standards and approaches have changed over the last several decades. Assessment can be a fraught subject for some; being able to objectively evaluate the progress of a student can be difficult, and to avoid instances of insensitivity it should be done with care.

These resources can be found in the lobby of the OISE building, close to the cafeteria. If you should see something that you are interested in borrowing let a staff member know, so that they can remove it from the case for you.

Happy reading!


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