Category Archives: Lower School

Adding Flow to a Positive Education

In recent years, researchers have identified predictors of success as well as keys to living a satisfying, happy life. At Ridley we are infusing the best of this research – centred on grit and flow – into a Ridley education to help instill in our students the lifelong habits they need for success in our global community. At Ridley being a student is about more than passing tests and meeting standards, it is about flourishing.

Flow is an optimal psychological state that people experience when engaged in an activity that is appropriately challenging to their skill level, often resulting in immersion and concentrated focus on a task. This can result in deep learning and high levels of personal and work satisfaction.

If you’ve ever heard someone describe a time when their performance excelled and they used the term being “in the zone”, what they are describing is an experience of flow. It occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand are equal.

Flow can be experienced in any task, in any field of activity, including academics, athletics, and the arts. Teachers at Ridley try to understand flow in order to help their students optimize their learning. The experience of flow is universal and it has been reported to occur across different classes, genders, ages, cultures and it can be experienced in many types of activities, making it a perfect tool to incorporate into the multinational learning culture at Ridley.

Flow was first recognized by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist and distinguished professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Inspired by Carl Jung, he has spent more than 25 years researching flow, a state of “intense emotional involvement” and timelessness that comes from immersive and challenging activities. Through his research he found that people were most creative, productive, and often, happiest when they are in this state of flow.

Flow is one of eight mental states that can happen during the learning process, which Csikszentmihalyi outlines in his flow theory. In addition to flow, these mental states include anxiety, apathy, arousal, boredom, control, relaxation, and worry.

Flow is the optimal state for learning, as it is where skill level and challenge level of a task are at their highest. This creates an opportunity for learning and intense focus, where learners can even feel that they lose track of time because they are so immersed in the task. Flow is a constant balancing act between anxiety, where the difficulty is too high for the person’s skill, and boredom, where the difficulty is too low.

“Inducing flow is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is a dynamic rather than static state, since a properly constructed flow activity leads to increased skill, challenge, and complexity over time. Since skill doesn’t remain static, repeating the same activity would fall into boredom; the flow reward inspires one to face harder and harder challenges, as skill increases.

The experience of flow in everyday life is an important component of creativity and well-being. it is also intrinsically rewarding, the more you practice it, the more you seek to replicate these experiences, which help lead to a fully engaged and happy life.

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is more likely to happen when students find the right balance between the skills they have and the challenge they face. Pursuing this path can enable them to flow, focus, finish, and as a by-product, flourish.

Adding Grit To A Positive Education

One of the advantages of a Ridley education is that the experience of being a student is about more than passing tests and meeting standards. In recent years, researchers have identified predictors of success as well as keys to living a satisfying, happy life and this is something our school consciously enacts.

At Ridley, we are infusing the best of this research – centred on grit and flow – into a Ridley education to help instill in our students the lifelong habits they need to flourish in our global community.

The concept of grit is one aspect of Positive Education that Ridley has incorporated into school culture. Grit is defined as the tendency of a person to sustain interest and effort in pursuing long-term goals. Grit allows people to pursue challenges over the course of years.

In her groundbreaking research, Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Psychology and MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellow, determined that passion, perseverance, and stamina outweigh IQ as a predictor of success. In other words, grit is the key to lifelong success.

“Educational policy has not yet taken adequate note of the whole child. Kids are not just their IQ or standardized test scores. It matters whether or not they show up, how hard they work,” says Duckworth, in an interview with the Washington Post. Duckworth has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Ridley encourages students to discover and pursue their passions and equips them with the capacity and determination to persevere through challenges, risk failure, and develop grit and resilience, while creating a supportive culture that allows students to face adversity in a positive and engaging environment. Accomplishment and engagement are essential elements of a flourishing life, and both can be fostered through conscious effort, grit is a fundamental element for achievement.

“The importance of the environment is two-fold. It’s not just that you need opportunity in order to benefit from grit. It’s also that the environments our children grow up in profoundly influence their grit and every other aspect of their character.”     – Angela Duckworth

Duckworth’s research began by searching for an answer as to why some people succeed while others do not. Being ‘gritty’ means consciously deciding to push forward in the face of adversity, failure, and physical or emotional pain, without knowing when the adversity will be over.

“One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t,” explains Duckworth. “Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.”

Self-control and grit are often confused, says Duckworth in her research, while they are related there are key differences. Grit allows people to pursue challenges over the course of years, while self-control, helps to maintain focus, in the face of distraction, in the pursuit of those goals.

The concept of grit has been around for some time. In 1889, the year Ridley was founded, Dr. Francis Galton reviewed the biographies of eminent individuals, throughout history and concluded that success resulted from intellect combined with “zeal” and the “capacity for hard labour”. The modern study of grit continues in examining single-minded perseverance over the very long-term.

“I believe grit will for many adolescents be more evident in activities pursued outside of the classroom–in the school play, on the football field, in the school orchestra, in community service, and so on.” – Angela Duckworth

At Ridley we are empowering our students to do more themselves, by increasing opportunities for Ridleians to play an active role in their school communities so that they can gain the necessary habits, skills, and practice to lay the foundation for flourishing lives.

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. Ridley will continue to review the latest research in education for new ideas to ensure we are a leader and innovator in molding the minds and lives of our students.

Top 10 March Break Trip Experiences

During the 2017 March break, six groups of Ridley students embarked on life-changing trips around the globe. With many adventures and memorable stories, it was almost too hard to limit the list of amazing experiences to just ten.

1. Bonding with the talented students of the Jacaranda School in Malawi through music lessons and theatre.

2. Putting the finishing touches on the Centre of Hope – a school for special needs children, that Ridley Students helped build in El Progreso, Guatemala.

3. Earning scuba diving certification at Sodwana Bay – South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Visiting the Vimy Memorial in France just before the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

5. Rowing with the Canadian National Team, who were training at Shawnigan Lake, in British Columbia.

6. The Days for Girls group presenting 50 feminine hygiene kits to girls in Malawi. Having worked tirelessly, for weeks, to prepare the hand-sewn packages.

7. Climbing one of El Salvador’s highest peaks, the Santa Ana Volcano.

8. Experiencing a mock elephant charge at Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa.

9. Attending the Last Post Ceremony, at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, which has been held every night since 1928.

10. Visiting with Old Ridleian, Gaby Florigo de Luna ‘99, in Guatemala.

The Value of an Arts Education

This April, Ridley celebrates the arts as a distinct and valuable part of the Ridley educational experience. The various arts events being held across the school represent a wide range of student achievement in Ridley studios and classrooms.

Ridley’s arts programme is designed to inspire students to develop their inner muse by exploring their creativity and skills in drama, music, visual, digital, and spoken arts.

 

“My favorite aspect of the arts is that arts can be anything, regardless of the medium, the subject matter and can be made regardless of time and place. There is no right or wrong in arts and no barrier of entry. Everyone can enjoy the beauty of arts.” Helen Wang ’17

All students at Ridley have the option to work in the studios, perform with an ensemble, act on a stage, and explore their creative talents once the academic day is done. Students learn from faculty members, who are accomplished professionals in their artistic field. In class, students can explore a variety of styles and mediums. Many student produced artworks are prominently on display in hallways throughout the school.

At Ridley arts education has two key roles. The first role of art education is to facilitate the development of fundamental skills that enhance a student’s physical and mental capacity to engage with the myriad of day-to-day tasks that require fine motor skill, creative problem solving, and fluent expression. Through careful study of the auditory and visual world, students also develop heightened sensitivity and awareness.

“Arts is a unique type of education that develops intellectual wealth of a person. It helps me to recognize my personality and to discover my environment. Arts itself might not provide me any knowledge that will explain the fundamentals of this universe (like physics and chemistry), but it enhances my ability to observe and to reflect on the world around me. The creativity part of arts also train me into a better learner, in terms of finding alternative pathways to solve problems.”                              Helen Wang ‘17

The second key role of art education is the development of an awareness of art as an essential component of civilization. Through an array of artistic experiences, students acquire knowledge of the important achievements of artists throughout the ages and across cultures.

“Many people view arts as unnecessary, but in fact it is not. Arts can exist in different ways and is not limited to visual arts. It blends in our life and contributes significantly to the Ridley community,” says Helen. “There are many aspects of life that involves arts, it’s just we don’t often realize these.”

The work of Ridley artists—past and present—can be seen on display all over campus. Through the arts, students gain an understanding of why creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of aesthetic form are fundamental aspects for the foundation of a flourishing life.

Ridley Exploring Mindfulness as Part of a Positive Education

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development, to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. For this reason, our school was an early adopter amongst independent schools, embracing positive education as a fundamental approach to learning.

Being on the leading edge of positive education means continuing to explore new ideas and research as it becomes available. This semester, the students of Lower School have been part of a pilot programme to evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on students. The programme developed by Jacqueline Oscvirk, creator of The Mindful Family, involves students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 practicing mindfulness twice weekly.

Mindfulness meditation focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of the past or future. It is a way to calm the mind and develop clarity, calmness, empathy, and positivity.

Within educational systems, mindfulness has shown an improvement in students’ attention and focus, emotional regulation, creativity, as well as problem solving skills. Studies have shown youth benefit from learning mindfulness, in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being. These benefits may lead to long-term improvements in life.

“Our intention is to equip all of our Lower School students with the tools to overcome everyday challenges.” – Hanna Kidd, Lower School Counsellor

There is substantial evidence that skills which increase resilience, positive emotion, engagement, and meaning can be taught to school children. In this way, without compromising either, Ridley teaches both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement.

“It’s another tool for teachers to use,” says Hanna Kidd. The Grade 7 and 8 students will begin their mindfulness training in early April, with the goal of using mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety as they prepare for exams.

Ridley is incorporating the latest research in positive education from around the world. Discoveries such as gritthe ability to persevere through challengesby Dr. Angela Duckworth, and flowthe ability to become immersed in a challenging taskby Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, have already been added. Based on this science, Ridley equips students to deal with the daily demands of life and learning by creating an environment that:

• Generates positive emotions
• Practices mindfulness
• Builds on strengths not deficits
• Models grit and resilience
• Nurtures positive relationships
• Encourages goal setting and accomplishments
• Fuels our vitality

Ridley students are empowered to embrace their individuality, develop who they are, strive for who they will be, and define the lives they will lead. They develop the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed. They are inspired to acquire the knowledge, explore the truths, and nurture the values that will allow them to lead flourishing lives.

Ridley Junior Scientists Win at Science Fair

Six Lower School students competed at the Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NRSEF) held on March 29th at Brock University. The Grade 7 and 8 students worked hard all year to get their projects ready for the competition and it showed, as the group won the Junior Division with the highest combined score.

Ella Belfry ‘22, Chloe Cook ‘22, Olivia Massis ‘22, Taylor Searle ‘22, Syni Solanki ‘21, and Isha Walia ’22 combined to win nine awards. Syni and her project “A Novel Approach to Causing Apoptosis in Ovarian Cancer Cells,” which tested the use of garlic and hot pepper extracts on reducing ovarian cancer cells, were chosen to represent Team Niagara at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Regina, SK. This is the second time Syni will represent Ridley and Team Niagara at the event.

Continuing Ridley’s tradition of fostering global mindedness and service to others, the science projects focused on finding alternative and accessible ways of bettering the lives of the less fortunate. This year’s projects included solutions to water transportation, filtration, and purification. “It’s something they were passionate about,” says Mr. Ben Smith, a MYP science teacher.

The 55th Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair is dedicated to encouraging students within the Niagara Region in science pursuits. Over 200 young scientists participated in the fair, with their projects reviewed by approximately 100 judges composed of local scientists, engineers, and businessmen.

Ridley Reflects on 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge

On April 9th, Ridley will look back 100 years to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge. A battle which saw six graduates make the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of victory and the birth of a nation.

The battle, which began on April 9th, 1917, was a turning point in Canadian history, where all the Canadian divisions fought together for the first time. By the end of the battle on April 12th, some 3,598 Canadian soldiers were killed, including six Old Ridleians. The impressive victory over German forces is often cited as the beginning of Canada’s evolution from dominion territory to independent nation.

During the March break,  students had the chance to relive history, on the Vimy Ridge trip, that visits monuments and battle sites in France and Belgium. This trip was made even more special when Charlotte Westcott ’18 and William Clayton ’22 discovered the names of Old Ridleians who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Situated in northern France, the heavily-fortified, seven kilometre ridge held a commanding view over the Allied lines. The Canadians would be assaulting up a ridge that the French Army had failed to capture. In numerous attempts, they had suffered over 100,000 casualties trying to retake it from the German Army. It would be up to the Canadians to take the ridge.

The first of the Old Ridleians to fall was Lt. Fred “A.J.” Norsworthy (1901-04), who was killed by artillery in the week before the battle, when the two opposing armies traded artillery barrages, in preparation for the upcoming battle. A week the German forces would later call “The Week of Suffering.”

After the call to go “Over the Top” was made at 5:30 a.m. on April 9th, five more Ridleians fell; including Gunner Jack “J.L.” Hart who was killed by an artillery shell in no man’s land. He was with friend and fellow Old Ridleian, Gunner Jack “J.M.” Wainright, who was mortally wounded by the same shell. He would perish in the days after the battle.

Lt. J.F. Manley (1910-14) a Mason Gold Medal winner in 1914, and one of the school’s most accomplished cricket players, was killed battling up the ridge with his unit, the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders. Lt.-Col. Dick “R.W.F.” Jones (1896-1901) and Capt. Alfie “A.S.” Trimmer (1893-1901) died on the ridge at the height of the battle. Trimmer had previously won the Military Cross and bar award for his actions at the Battle of Ypres a few months earlier. The Midsummer 1917 edition of the Acta Ridleiana— the former monthly magazine —noted that Trimmer “had come through so many dangers that we hoped he would be spared.”

“It was inspiring and also heartbreaking to find the graves. Seeing them for myself really drove home the sacrifice that they made during the war. It showed me the value of what they fought for and how much I have to be thankful for,” says Charlotte. “Seeing their names below the Canadian maple leaf really drives home that these Ridleians really were consumed in service.”

After the war ended on November 11th, 1918, the government of France granted the ridge and 250 acres of the battleground to Canada, to serve as a memorial park to commemorate the fallen Canadians. Hill 145, the highest point of the Ridge, is now the site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. After the war, Ridley commemorated the six Old Ridleians who fought and died at Vimy Ridge, along with 55 others who died in WWI, with the building of the Memorial Chapel. The Chapel was dedicated on June 23rd, 1923.

Today, the Ridley community continues to remember the students who made the ultimate sacrifice many years ago. Be it in the classroom, the Archives or the Memorial Chapel, the students continue to honour those who lost their lives.