Detective Devaroe: From Page to Stage 

This December, the English countryside's roaming hills, cloudy skies, and green fields house a great mystery. You never know who you can trust with a jewel thief on the loose. Thankfully, a detective and sidekick duo are on the case.  Detective Devaroe and The Disappearing Diamonds brings classic mystery tropes to Calgary Academy. This year’s Junior School production premieres December 2, teaching its writer and director an important lesson: nothing ever turns out quite how you imagined it. 

The Beginnings of Detective Devaroe and The Disappearing Diamonds A student and teacher rehearsing on stage for Detective Devaroe and the Disappearing Diamonds

While Detective Devaroe hits the Calgary Academy stage soon, it was born years ago from a love of mystery and Sherlock Holmes. Writer and director of Detective Devaroe, and CA Educator Charlotte Nixon grew up reading the tales of Sherlock Holmes with her father, fostering a love of the genre.  

Around seven years ago, Ms. Nixon wanted a writing challenge. Inspired by all the mystery shows airing on television, she set out to write a daring play—the original draft of Detective Devaroe. Ms. Nixon aimed to introduce her unique writing style into a genre known for its subtly, suspense, and seriousness.    
“My work tends to be big, loud, goofy…all the things Sherlock Holmes is not. The question was: ‘how do I take a Sherlock Holmes-like character and mash that with my particular writing style?’”  - Ms. Nixon
The original drafts of Detective Devaroe sat on the shelf until last year when Ms. Nixon was asked to write a play for the Calgary Academy Junior School production. Picking up the Detective Devaroe draft, she looked to create a flexible, easily adaptable play, so any CA student could join if they wanted.  With over 45 students (compared to 19 last year) involved in this year’s drama production, finding a way to give everyone their spotlight has been a unique challenge. The answer eventually became clear for Ms. Nixon and the drama department: two separate casts.  

Bringing Detective Devaroe from the Page to the Stage   

Besides writing, Ms. Nixon is the director of Detective Devaroe, a new experience compared to her background as a playwright. Directing is an exciting opportunity, but it also brings new challenges.  
“As a playwright, I only have to speak to myself to decide what’s going to happen. In the director’s chair, there are so many moving parts. So many people to coordinate—costumes, props, cast.”  - Ms. Nixon
As Ms. Nixon and the drama department get closer to opening night, the energy and creativity the students bring to the stage become even more noticeable. Each cast has different perspectives on their characters, something Ms. Nixon is thrilled to see. The characters she imagined have completely changed now that they live on the stage.   Rehearsing each scene, Ms. Nixon asks students what they notice, what their character is doing, and what is happening in the overall scene. The cast constantly exceeds expectations with their characters, analyzing and improvising scenes when the opportunity arises. 
“The students surprise me every rehearsal…I see new things every day, and each is bigger, goofier, and sillier than it was yesterday.”  - Ms. Nixon
While the two casts have taken their characters in different directions, Ms. Nixon isn’t surprised that their creativity is shining through their performances. She sees the students acting as they really are—silly, funny, and interesting people. 
“This year, I want students to see and embrace their silliness and wonderful sense of humour. I think if you ask any parent of a child at Calgary Academy, they will tell you that we have some of the funniest kids.”  - Ms. Nixon
With opening night just around the corner, make sure you secure your tickets to the show. CA parents can purchase tickets through their PowerSchool accounts. See this tremendous cast when Detective Devaroe and the Disappearing Diamonds debuts on December 2.   

November 2022 Minutes

Salads in Space: Real-World Learning in the Classroom 

For astronauts to walk on the moon, plenty of boots are needed on the ground—in this case, the classroom. Calgary Academy is proud to say that some of its students are applying classroom learning to the real world, helping further NASA research.  Walking the halls of Calgary Academy, you may notice a glowing, neon-pink light coming from the Senior School science lab. For the next few months, this lab is serving as a home base for a unique extracurricular project: Growing Beyond Earth. 

What Is Growing Beyond Earth?  

Growing Beyond Earth is a classroom-based science project that provides meaningful data for NASA. Students help test how plants grow in certain environmental conditions, helping NASA determine which plants are suitable for the International Space Station (ISS) and future space travel.    With hundreds of schools (including Calgary Academy) participating, NASA receives thousands of data points to help identify space-ready vegetables. Each classroom uses a plant habitat similar to the vegetable system used on the ISS, known as Veggie.   While working alongside NASA is an amazing opportunity, what’s interesting about this project is the real-world learning students experience—something project coordinator and CA physics teacher Rebecca Keeler agrees with. 

Real-World Context Takes Learning to a Higher Level 

Participating students in Growing Beyond Earth get hands-on learning outside of the classroom. Junior and senior high students have come together to learn more about science in an applied setting. Ms. Keeler believes that students see how different subjects, like biology and physics, come together during research.  Learning can happen in a vacuum during school, but answers aren’t always in the back of a textbook. Ms. Keeler emphasizes that students must keep an open mind during this project—the results they get may not be the ones they expect. 
“Nothing is ever quite as we expect when we do research. You can learn new things every time you do something.”  - Ms. Keeler
Plants growing in a science experiment at Calgary AcademyStudents in this extracurricular project get to participate in NASA research, building and setting up the plant habitat, planting different test subjects and monitoring progress as time goes on.   Nineteen days into Growing Beyond Earth, students are almost halfway through their first research trial. Some basil plants have thrived, while others are yet to bloom. Participating students are seeing the tangible results of the scientific method. Ms. Keeler says this project is a lesson on how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related fields work outside the classroom. 
“As much as you plan for things in the science world [. . .] in real life, it never turns out that way. I think [this project] teaches that as much as you understand a concept, [research] isn’t going to be exactly like what you were taught.”  - Ms. Keeler
Besides teaching new lessons, Growing Beyond Earth shows students what a future career in STEM can be. Whether in botany or aeronautics, the future is bright for budding scientists at Calgary Academy. 
“[This project] allows [students] to see what opportunities are out there for their future lives and careers [. . .] seeing the application of what we do in the class can help [students] see a future path for themselves.”  - Ms. Keeler

What’s Next for Growing Beyond Earth?  

Growing Beyond Earth involves two trial periods, the first following NASA-regulated protocols—the second a student-driven trial. Ms. Keeler and her students will draft a research proposal for a 49-day trial period. After both trials are complete, there is a video chat with NASA researchers to present project results.  A research symposium is planned for April, held by NASA to show the results of the multi-school and nation project, and Ms. Keeler and her students plan to participate virtually. This symposium is a fitting end for the project, showcasing what different schools have learned over several months of research.    Growing Beyond Earth is teaching something to all involved—real-world learning for students, plant data for NASA, and a reminder of the love of teaching for Ms. Keeler.    “It keeps me personally engaged and excited to teach when I get to do things like [Growing Beyond Earth]. I was super excited that Calgary Academy supported this project.”   If you’re interested in seeing the progress Growing Beyond Earth has made, check back in April when Ms. Keeler and her students plan to meet with NASA and share their findings.  

Reconsidering the Conversation for Parents Around Anxiety in Students

Think about the last time you felt that familiar, pit in your stomach feeling of anxiety. Was it when thinking about your never-ending to-do list, the weekend activities that are piling up, or maybe even your commute to work on a snowy day? Anxiety is one of the most prevalent and normal emotions that humans experience, yet we are becoming increasingly less equipped to manage it.

On Monday, November 21, Calgary Academy’s Registered Psychologist, Serena Braun, will be presenting virtually at the School Council of Calgary Academy (SCOCA) meeting about how to better manage children’s anxiety, a topic top of mind for many families amidst returning to normal in schools.

“While anxiety can be uncomfortable, it is normal and not dangerous. The best thing we can do for our children is communicate the belief that they can handle tough emotions. They don’t need the adults in their world to solve their problems or rescue them from feelings of anxiety. When our children are young, it is essential that we teach them how to experience their emotions, how to name them, and how to sit with uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety." - Serena Braun

This is vital to fostering resiliency and developing executive functioning skills. When students experience anxiety and do not have the tools to cope with it in healthy ways, they may turn to common avoidance techniques such as leaving the classroom, scrolling endlessly on their phones, and not paying attention in class.

Ms. Braun, a former elementary school teacher for 20 years and now a Registered Psychologist for Senior School students at CA, sees firsthand the impacts of anxiety on students almost daily. In fact, it’s the most common reason that students see her. Unfortunately, humans most commonly deal with anxiety by brushing it under the rug with avoidance mechanisms.

“The goal isn’t to get rid of anxiety. We can’t rewire our brains unless we have repeated exposure to what makes us anxious. This can begin the process of helping us think and do differently.” - Serena Braun

Ms. Braun’s hope for this session, which will be the first in a series around this topic, is to empower parents to start thinking about anxiety in their child, and what things they can do differently as a family to support their child.

“The focus of this session is not necessarily on getting our child to do something different, but it’s for the adults in their world to start thinking differently about how to address anxiety.” - Serena Braun

Join our next SCOCA meeting on Monday, November 21 at 6:30 p.m. to learn more about how you can think differently when it comes to managing anxiety in your child to allow them to become the best learner they can be.

Meeting Link

November 2022 Agenda

  1. Welcome/Call to Order
  2. Approval of the Agenda
  3.  Reports:
    • Chair - Carolyn Whitelaw
    • Principal - Timothy Carlson
    • Alberta Ed Results (AERR) - Lindsey Meredith
    • Calgary Academy Student Executive (CASE)
    • Volunteer Update - Courtney Buchholz, Sarah Hoag
    • Calgary Academy Parents Association (CAPA) Update - Aaron Lane
    • Learning Presentation: Children and Anxiety - Serena Braun
  4. Next Meeting - Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:30 p.m.
  5. Future Agenda Items
  6. Q & A
  7. Thank You/Adjournment
Meeting Link

Help ITS Students Go Global: The Gift Card Fundraiser Is Here!

International Travel Studies (ITS) trips are a highlight of the Calgary Academy experience, as many students choose to travel across the globe, including past visits to Ecuador, Morocco, Nepal and Vietnam. These trips aren’t just vacations to beautiful locations—this altruistic program helps students learn what it means to be a global citizen and serve their greater community.   The next destination for Calgary Academy is a return to Tanzania, the first location the ITS program ever visited.   While not everyone goes on ITS trips, the entire CA community can support this altruistic program by purchasing a gift card (or several) to help with the future journey the ITS students will take this spring.  

ITS Gift Card Fundraiser Details 

From now until November 25 at noon, you can purchase gift cards for any Sobeys-associated stores across Canada, including Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland or FreshCo. These gift cards have no expiry date, meaning you can use them whenever you see fit.   You can purchase gift cards in $10, $25, $50, $100 or $250 increments. A portion of these sales will go directly toward the ITS program, helping fund supplies for projects and travel costs for the students.   These gift cards can be used for whatever you need, whether for a birthday, event, or supporting Calgary Academy’s upcoming Adopt-a-Family fundraising initiative. Your donation helps support altruism in the local and global community.  Whether it is extra paint and brushes, food or school supplies, the funds raised for the ITS program benefit the community the students and teachers visit. Kim Petersen, Calgary Academy teacher and long-time contributor to the ITS program, understands the impact of these donations. 
"Part of being in the ITS program is getting a full understanding of what the community needs when we first arrive in the country. It allows us to help in two ways, including the in-person volunteer work but also contributing to the local economy when making purchases at local shops for supplies. The money that students raise through various initiatives beforehand, including gift card fundraisers, goes directly to purchasing these supplies to help in the best way we can. - Kim Petersen

How Can You Purchase a Gift Card?  

If you’re looking to help the ITS program raise funds for Tanzania, it begins on Rycor. Fill out the form with the required information and select the number of gift cards you want for each dollar amount. After making your purchase, you will receive instructions on where to pick up your order. You can expect your gift card[s] the week of December 12, 2022.    The impact the ITS program has on Calgary Academy students cannot be understated—these trips aren’t possible without your help.
What seems like a simple fundraising project contributes in a much bigger way, which is why it's such an important facet to this program and what makes it so impactful year after year." - Kim Petersen
Contact its@calgaryacademy.com if you have questions or want more information about the gift card fundraiser.  

Writing the Code for a Future of STEM at CA

November 8 is National STEM Day, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. While many of us don’t consider ourselves to be experts in maths or sciences, our day-to-day life revolves around technological advances. What makes STEM so important in schools is its focus on hands-on learning and applications of these skills to the real world. What better way to highlight it than by showcasing one of Calgary Academy’s newest student clubs – the Coding Club!

Momentous learning and innovation aren't limited to regularly scheduled class times. Our incredible teaching staff inspires our students to bring forward ideas that will foster a love of learning in a safe space with like-minded peers through a diverse network of clubs. The idea of the Coding Club came from a deep interest in computers by a Grade 10 student, Andrejs L. This student took initiative by hanging up posters in our halls to see how many others would be interested in learning about coding.

The student then had to convince a teacher to supervise the club. Luckily, it didn’t take much convincing for Mr. Daniel Catley. Mr. Catley has been at CA for five years and currently teaches Grade 10 Math and Science. He originally went to post-secondary for Computer Science and was eager to support the six students who joined the Coding Club.

In simple terms, coding is the handy set of instructions we give a computer to perform a specific task. As you’re reading this on either your computer or cellphone, it was the pieces of code that brought you to this place. While technology is the pinnacle of how we go about our daily lives, we have those in STEM to thank for these advances. For students in the club, the sky is the limit.

For a student who is just joining the Coding Club, the area of focus right now is learning about Python code, which is text-based coding. Members are working at their own pace to complete several tutorials, challenges, and tasks before they move to the next exciting lesson.

“Part of what makes coding such a valuable skill is that making mistakes is part of it, just like it’s part of everyday life. Being able to make a mistake and not get discouraged, but instead keep going and find solutions is an invaluable skill. Skills aside, there is increased demand for technology-based jobs, so for students wanting to pursue a path in those fields beyond high school, this club will give them the background and knowledge to thrive in programs centred around finding jobs in those industries.” – Mr. Catley

The Coding Club is open to any students interested in computers, coding, or just looking to make friends! Students will build their resilience, confidence, organization, and problem-solving skills. If you’re a student in Grades 9-12 who wants to deepen their computer literacy knowledge weekly, you can contact Mr. Catley directly to join the club.

To read more about STEM initiatives at CA, you can read last year’s blog here.

A Love of Learning Begins Early at CA

Walk into any Kindergarten-Grade 3 class at Calgary Academy and you will experience a group of young minds full of fun, excitement, and wonder. The sounds of laughter and a flurry of small but mighty voices interacting with classmates and their engaged teachers echo the halls. From classroom walls adorned with a colourful array of projects, student birthdays, and the latest lesson, to personalized hallway cubbies with each student’s personal touch of school bags, shoes, and even stuffed animals, Early Years at CA is not just about learning. It’s the culmination of soft skills that are shaping these young learners to gain the skills in creativity, playing, and making friends that will ultimately shape them into the people they become.

The Kindergarten program was launched in 2019, and so began the possibility that students could experience their entire Kindergarten to Grade 12 education at CA. While every grade has its own unique purpose and path to shaping learners, these early grades are now known to be some of the most impactful that a student experiences in their life.

Ms. Chatt, who has been teaching in the Early Years program for three years and currently teaches Grade 2-3, approaches her work knowing how impactful it is in shaping learners into adulthood.

“The Early Years program teaches foundational numeracy and literacy skills, helps create positive associations with school, and it’s the time when students learn to become advocates for their needs. This is the most important period to establish a love of learning that stays with them.” - Ms. Chatt

A day in the life of an Early Years student includes their core subjects of literacy, numeracy, social studies, and science. Through hands-on learning, students will build their understanding of these foundational-level subjects. Then it’s off to physical education and their selected options. From music, multimedia, art, or drama, students are given the autonomy from a young age to explore their passions. There are multiple opportunities to get outdoors each day, through recess and times for exploration, which in our class are called Wonder Walks.

“The biggest change I see in students is in their confidence, self-advocacy, and understanding of themselves as learners and people. When students first come into the class at the start of the year, many of them are afraid to take risks out of fear of making mistakes.

Throughout the year, as we teach them about resiliency, growth mindset, and positive self-talk, students become more confident in their abilities and are more willing to try new and challenging things. The most rewarding thing as a teacher is that by the end of the year, students are independent, and see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn.” - Ms. Chatt

To learn more about CA’s Early Years, join one of our upcoming Open Houses. There will be a short presentation, a chance to meet our Early Years teaching staff, a guided tour, and lots of opportunities to answer all your questions. You can RSVP here.

CTV’s Inside Education Features CA’s Early Years Program

Recently, we were joined by CTV Morning Live for their Inside Education television segment where we highlighted our Early Years program for Kindergarten to Grade 3. We spoke with our CA community about what makes this program so impactful, why families should consider Calgary Academy for their child, why the early years of learning are so crucial, and how to sign up for our next Open House. Watch each segment here:

If you're interested in learning more at an upcoming Early Years Open House, click here to RSVP!

October 2022 Minutes