A Saskatchewan teacher is looking at ways to enhance learning for young students, including an innovative way to share the blackboard. CNS photo/Don Blake

Innovation projects seek to enhance kids’ learning

  • May 8, 2024

Simon Lambert advocates that the comfortability of desks and utility of the teaching board in classrooms critically impacts the development of young learners. 

The Grade 3 teacher at École Holy Cross School in Prince Albert, Sask., is receiving $70,000 from Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education to bear out his theory during the 2024-25 school year. He was recently named one of the inaugural grantees of the Teacher Innovation and Support Fund introduced in January. 

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said this endowment empowers teachers to pitch their own classroom enhancements.

"The Government of Saskatchewan is listening to teachers and is engaged in finding practical solutions to improve the classroom environment for teachers and students," said Cockrill.  

Driven by a “desire to create a space that fosters engagement and minimizes distraction,” Lambert, a teacher since 2006, said he wants to use some of the funding to make adjustments to classroom furniture. He is particularly interested in providing alternatives to traditional desk chairs that provide no movement for the students. 

“The seating options will be ones that are designed to allow subtle movement, which will accommodate the needs many of our students have in our classrooms today,” said Lambert. “We would also like to incorporate alternate solutions like standing desks, wobble stools and fabric chairs.”

According to the educational blog Classroom Direct an unconventional seating option like a standing desk can be very helpful “for students who focus better in motion” as “standing builds core strength and burns energy as antsy kids learn.” 

Lambert also intends to capitalize on this wide array of seating options to format his classroom in an arrangement he hopes will nurture collaboration.  

As for his classroom board, it will undergo a substantial modernization from the traditional chalkboard. To be clear, Lambert and his colleagues are not deprived of tech as they have access to an iPad, but a multi-touch SMART board bolsters student participation as up to 10 can write and move objects on the board at the same time. 

A third major change coming to the classroom courtesy of the innovation fund is a solution to the toll instructing a large class may have on a teacher’s voice. 

“I taught kindergarten for 13 years,” said Lambert. “I would be constantly changing my voice to make stories engaging as different characters. Over the years I have had a bit of vocal damage. I need an amplifying system for me to be able to teach all day long. We’re integrating a sound system that will help with voice fatigue and improve student engagement as they will be able to hear clearly from wherever they are seated in the classroom.”

Saskatchewan has doled out over $850,000 of the $2.5 million budgeted for the Teacher Innovation and Support Fund. The minimum a teacher may receive is $10,000 and the maximum is $75,000. 

All successful applicants — 24 at present — will be expected to submit a report by June 30, 2025, detailing the number of students impacted by the classroom modifications, the results of the pilot test, the implementation challenges and the lessons learned. 

Lambert said his École Holy Cross colleagues are keen for his new classroom to succeed as it could lead to similar innovations for classrooms across the district. The Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of trustees is also enthusiastic.

“I know that the board is excited to try something different and the funds will be available to do that kind of a project,” said Lambert. “Budgets are difficult these days. We do not always have the liberty of trying something that is different. It’s exciting for the students, my colleagues, me and I can’t wait to see how my students engage with these different experiences.”

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