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G R E AT T E A C H I N G 23 June 2018 | Professionally Speaking PHOTOS: MARKIAN LOZOWCHUK To view our Great Teaching video archive, visit oct-oeeo.ca/GTvideos Beth Alexander, OCT, makes science come alive at an all-girls school, where creativity, curiosity and building confidence are key. BY STUART FOXMAN A s a group of nine girls surround a work table, science teacher Beth Alexander, OCT, asks each the same question: "What's your goal for today?" For the Grade 6 students at The Linden School in Toronto, this class is playtime. The students have created games using circuits. One devised a football trivia game; get enough questions right and a ball will fly over a mini-goalpost. Other students are toying with variations of tabletop hockey (or foosball), where scores light up or buzz. Over the next hour, the students saw, glue, cut and test batteries, and then work on assembling their inventions. Alexander floats from student to student, answering questions without imposing her thoughts about how the games should work. When one student wonders about the approach she's taking, Alexander says: "Try your idea — what's the worst that can happen?" To Alexander — who teaches JK to 9 — learning is about investigating, experimenting, overcoming obstacles and gaining from these experiences. In that way, every subject is like science, she says — it's the same mental exercise. "Allow space for students to come up with their own questions, then guide them to the process of figuring out the answers," she says. Alexander has spent 14 years, her entire teaching career, at The Linden School. The all-girls school has a teaching philosophy that promotes intellectual risk-taking, leadership and social justice to its 111 students; Alexander's largest class has only 15. As an independent school in Ontario, it operates in accordance with the Education Act but receives no financial support from the government. In some areas, teachers have provided their own support. Alexander designed the science/design technology lab room herself, and there are quirky touches: oval and circular white paper lanterns in a corner, curtains with a cat design, a three-dimensional cardboard unicorn wearing blue sunglasses on the wall ("My junior students are unicorn-obsessed," she says), and alligator clips used to plan and test electrical circuits dangling from a tennis racket. One poster highlights notable women in computer technology. A chart describes the process of identifying fake news.

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