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Singing a song of inclusivity

By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer

Francine Young (R) joins Natasha Tan (L) at the piano (photo: University Communications) 

Francine Young stands behind a large wooden xylophone clasping a mallet. She’s smiling but focused, her eyes darting down to the keys before her, and then up again to watch her professor, Ben Bolden, as he prepares a group of about 30 music students in the concurrent education program to play a short, end-of-term concert in ”student street,” the main corridor at the Faculty of Education’s Duncan McArthur Hall, to show off everything they’ve learned this term.

But unlike her classmates who hope to carry on to careers as music teachers, Ms. Young has been participating in the class in a different capacity. A student at Kingston’s H’art Centre, a local non-profit, charitable organization serving people with intellectual disabilities, Ms. Young has been taking classes at Queen’s for the last five years as part of a unique partnership with the Faculty of Education. This week, she will see her hard work rewarded with a Certificate of Learning as part of the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Initiative (IPSE) at the Faculty of Education.

“I feel really proud of myself,” she says happily about her accomplishment. “My first year when I started, I was kind of scared, but now I’m used to coming to Queen’s. I’m not so nervous. This was also my first time playing the piano and the drums and all that," she adds with a smile. 

But as well as expanding her own educational horizons, Ms. Young’s presence in class has helped her fellow students learn more about the joys and challenges of teaching differently-abled learners. While Dr. Bolden’s class instructed them on the basics of teaching music, they put those teachings into practice working with students like Ms. Young.

 Francine Young and her classmates perform an end-of-term concert in 'student street' at Duncan McArthur Hall (photo: University Communications)

“Having them in the class has helped us learn more about what to do when your students aren’t trained musicians,” says Natasha Tan, a fifth-year student in the concurrent music program who hopes to teach music or pursue work in education policy. “So we taught rhythm exercises, and things like bucket drumming…it really gives you experience in differentiating your lessons.”

Ms. Young says she has felt supported by both faculty and students in every class she has taken at Queen’s. She’s also had the support of a buddy through the student-run Social Transition Education Program (STEP). Ms. Young’s teacher at H’art, as well as their program director, Toni Thornton, says the students take Queen’s classes through a voluntary arrangement with faculty members.

“We don’t expect the professors to provide special accommodations, but we do help them get to know the IPSE student and help them to understand their disabilities,” she explains. “Some students may simply sit in on lectures, while others may be able to do some of the readings and assignments. In some cases, professors have gone so far as to write alternate exams for our students so that they can be assessed. There is a real range.”

 Natasha Tan and Francine Young play a bucket drum, while Dr. Ben Bolden looks on. (photo: University Communications)

Ms. Young says she liked that she could turn to her classmates for help when she needed it. “I always felt welcome,” she says of her experience. “They understood that if there was something that I needed, I would ask them. But I liked brainstorming and contributing my ideas. That was something I did a lot.”

Smiling from the audience as she watched Ms. Young’s performance on the xylophone, piano and bucket drums, Ms. Thornton says she was thrilled to see one of her own students performing alongside Queen’s students.

“This program lets our students be included in environments with their typically developing peers,” she says. “Francine was meaningfully included in this class. That’s an experience that a lot of people with intellectual difficulties will never get.”



Teacher candidates reach out to the world

The Technological Education Expo is being held in Duncan McArthur Hall from 11 am to 3 pm Tuesday, April 29.

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Amid the buzz of drills, the pop of the welding torch and the smell of sawdust, there is an undercurrent of excitement inside the Technological Education workshop at the Faculty of Education.

After months of work, the teacher candidates in the Technological Education Program are putting the finishing touches on projects that will impact people in the local community and around the world. The projects include a human-powered lathe for underprivileged youth in the Dominican Republic, a culinary partnership that raises money for a health clinic in South Africa, and a new mail cart that will help a Queen’s staff member living with a disability deliver mail more easily and efficiently.

“As part of the teacher education program, students research a need for a project or a service – the sky is the limit,” says instructor Ena Holtermann (Education). “I ask them, what kind of world do you want to create for your students and how can you improve the human condition? We want these experiences to be real-world and authentic – we want to bring the world into the classroom.”

Students had to find a business, person or group that fit with the curriculum they will teach and identify a project that would provide a direct benefit to their target audience. They then had to find support for their project from a community partner including supplies, promotional materials or consumables.

Scott Lewis (Ed’14) took this challenge to heart. A student in one of his practicum classes told him about taking baseball gloves with him on a trip to the Dominican Republic, which gave Mr. Lewis an idea for the project. His group designed a human-powered lathe capable of making baseball bats, a popular sport in the Dominican Republic.

He and partners Eric Foster (Ed’14) and Chris Darnell (Ed’14) then headed to Veron, Dominican Republic, where they rebuilt a workshop at a school, installed the lathe (which is powered by bicycle pedals), and taught the students how to use it. “This wasn’t just a handout,” says Mr. Scott. “The kids really did all the work. They were really excited.”

“They can also use the technology to make other projects because power is very expensive and this was a very poor area we were in,” says Mr. Foster.

Another project addressed a need much closer to home. A staff member with a disability in the Faculty of Education is finding it harder and harder to do his job delivering mail due to his disability. The group of James Poortinga (Ed’14), Allison Posthumus (Ed’14) and Thomas Bruce (Ed’14) took up the challenge of building a new mail cart that was designed specifically for his needs.

The biggest thrill for the teacher candidates working on the project? The new mail cart is a surprise that will be revealed to the staff member at the Expo.

“The mail cart before was noisy and hard to push and he had to bend down to push it which put strain on his back,” says Mr. Poortinga. “We created a cart that was much higher with a kids bicycle tire as the back wheel and two wheelchair wheels for the front wheels. The cart is lighter and much easier to push and will make his job easier.”

The community is invited to see these projects and much more during the Technological Education Expo Tuesday, April 29 from 11 am to 3 pm. Visitors will have an opportunity to use some basic shop equipment, sample food projects and experience hands-on learning. All of the projects will also be on display.

Making math matter

By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern

Lynda Colgan recently received the
Partners in Research National Award.

As an associate professor and director of the Queen’s Outreach Centre, Lynda Colgan is a woman who wears many hats. Not only does she work with Queen’s undergraduate and graduate students, but she also pursues her passion for teaching children and families about math.

It was this pursuit that ultimately earned Dr. Colgan the Partners in Research National Mathematics Ambassador Award. This honour recognizes the outstanding contribution for Canadians in the field of mathematics.

“I don’t take awards like these lightly, and I attribute the recognition to the many unique opportunities that have enabled me to do what I love in many diverse contexts with varied audiences,” says Dr. Colgan.

Dr. Colgan started her journey as a public school teacher and has taught at every level of the education system. She played a major role in developing the Ontario elementary math curriculum and has contributed as a textbook author for students and teachers as well as a developer of provincial assessments. During many interactions with parents, students and teachers during the implementation of these projects, she became inspired to make a difference after seeing the impact negative attitudes about the subject could have on students.

Dr. Colgan began to write a bi-weekly column for the Kingston Whig-Standard about how math can be used in our daily lives. It was these columns that led to her hugely successful television series The Prime Radicals, which airs  in Canada, the Middle East and Singapore and has won several awards for educational programming.

“The Prime Radicals aims to inspire students in Grade 2 and 3 to look at math in the world around them,” says Dr. Colgan. “This series has given me access to a huge virtual classroom, and the privilege of contributing to public education on a scale that most mathematics educators can only dream about.”

With this success Dr. Colgan also published a children’s book entitled Mathemagic! This book teaches children to perform magic tricks using math and has been nominated for children’s non-fiction book of the year by Library Associations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Recently, Dr. Colgan has given her full attention to the fourth annual Science Rendezvous Kingston. With a focus on elementary school students, the event allows children and their families to interact with skilled instructors during a free, day-long celebration of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. Science Rendezvous takes place May 3 at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.

Despite her busy schedule, Dr. Colgan still manages to find some time for herself at her retreat in Nova Scotia. With no phone or internet, this little piece of paradise is where she can go to be with her dog, cat and a few good books to relax and get ready for another year of math advocacy.



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