Innovative learning pays off

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March 5, 2015 8:15 AM

Holy Rosary High School and St. Mary’s Elementary have won the Ken Spencer Award for Innovation and Teaching with their joint efforts in the No Class “room” Needed (NCN) program.

The program is a collaboration with Our Village Uganda (OVU), a community-based organization in Africa, where students from Lloydminster and their Ugandan counterparts can communicate through Skype for an intercontinental learning experience beneficial to students in both countries.

“We were able to apply for this award on behalf of both our schools, and Rick Lucas, who also champions this work with us,” said Jessie Mann, school of global media studies coordinator at HRHS, who started NCN. “We applied for the award to try and gain more financial support to continue to support students in moving ahead with fundraising, goal setting and educational initiatives.”

The partnership started in spring of 2014 when Mann and his two friends, Chad and Terra Lorenz, who run OVU, saw a chance to connect students from both of their schools in new mutually educational ways. They have shared stories, shared in prayer services, talked science, math and English and discussed everything from politics to the latest trends.

HRHS and St. Mary’s have also raised money to send to OVU for initiatives that will help the African village become more sustainable.

“Holy Rosary High School and St. Mary’s are not simply raising funds to support OVU’s development,” said Mann. “Our ultimate goal is to support OVU with independence. Our model is that we are helping citizens of OVU with a hand up; and not a hand out.

“All money raised is put towards steps to one day having ample technology at their fingertips with less reliance on the government in terms of power, and lastly, helping agricultural initiatives to further take reliance off of outside partners.”

So far money has been used to install windows and doors on their school house and supported a solar sustainability project they are currently working on. NCN have also sent them some technology to help increase their opportunities to connect and share the benefits of learning with technology.

St. Mary’s teacher Nicole Blais, Mann’s “partner in crime,” jumped on board with NCN shortly after the program began and applied to Microsoft for a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program, which led to the Ken Spencer award.

Blais and St. Mary’s have since helped in the fundraising and have taken advantage of the learning opportunity.

“Basically what it is is just communication back and forth. We have Skyped a couple times where we’ve just talked and asked each other questions and learned about each others cultures and things like that,” she said. “The first time we Skyped we sang each other the national anthems and we kind of got to know each other. What their likes and dislikes are, what they eat, what they don’t eat, things that we have in common.”

Both Mann and Blais say they’re going to continue forward with the NCN program and anybody looking to help out should contact them directly about donations.

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