Rachael Chang, Kindergarten Teacher

To be able to say to other people, ‘Look! Kindergarten children are really smart, they’re really capable, they see possibility everywhere’, I really liked that about [Integrative Thinking].

Rachael Chang introduced Integrative Thinking into her kindergarten classroom through the Snail Challenge, which came about when one of her students found a snail on the class’s daily nature walk. Rachael saw an exciting opportunity for hands-on inquiry that involved studying the snails in tanks, but another student, Johnny, thought they should let the snails go—his mom says to “study nature in nature.”

Rachael faced a tension: "I have my needs, I really want to work through this inquiry, but Johnny's mother's thinking is incredibly valid." So, she turned to Integrative Thinking.

Rachael framed the challenged by explaining to her students that "when your parents go to work they solve problems all the time [...] and I know that you can do that because you're very capable."

By role-playing as snails to build empathy with them, Rachael's students were able to identify three requirements of a great new model for studying snails: 1) the snails have food, 2) they stay with their families, and 3) they are safe. 

Rachael was delighted when one of her students, Beckett, came up with the solution of a cucumber garden for snails that combined all of these elements. She was even more excited when students rallied together to help Beckett bring his idea to life by actually building the garden in the recess yard.

The tension that sparked the challenge came up before Rachael learned about Integrative Thinking, and the situation made her uncomfortable. "I had my goals, I had the curriculum, the parents, and the principal. I wanted to do inquiry, I wanted to do student-led, and I had this perfect opportunity." When Johnny raised his hand and expressed his conflicting opinion, Rachael's heart sank. But everything changed after she was introduced to Integrative Thinking:

When we went to the workshop I thought to myself ‘Hang on a minute, now this becomes the work’. This isn’t an issue for me to solve, or for me to say ‘you’re wrong’ or ‘I’m wrong’ [...] Now, I’m not fearful.

Debbie Stockton, Grades 4-5 Teacher

What Debbie Stockton enjoys most about Integrative Thinking is watching the shifts in how her Grade 4 and 5 students work. “I like seeing how they’ve become more empathetic […] They’ve had to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and really think about what that person would be feeling.”     

As a result, Debbie’s students have learned to listen to each other when doing group work. Before, each student would take the marker, write down their individual thoughts, and pass the marker to the next person.

“Now, they have one marker and they all talk about what they’re going to write before they put it on the paper."

By listening to and building empathy with one another, Debbie and her students have “created an environment in our classroom of well-being,” one in which everyone’s point of view is considered and no one is shut down. Within this environment, students feel like they have voice. “They knew that they solved the problem—not me or someone else—and they were so proud of their achievements.”

Since introducing Integrative Thinking, Debbie has noticed a shift in her students' attitudes to learning:

 
They come to school and they’re happy, they’re excited to learn, and they feel good about themselves. They know they’re going to participate, they know they’re going to make a contribution today, and everyday. They’re just happy.
 

Dan Taylor, Principal

As the sole administrator of Givins/Shaw, Dan Taylor felt like his position could be isolating at times. Through Integrative Thinking, Dan has developed a collaborative decision-making process that empowers his colleagues to “feel like they can add their input to strengthen what we’re doing.” This has made his job as a principal “that much more rewarding.”

[Integrative Thinking] has given me a different perspective on the role and allowed me to come to school really energized everyday.

Instead of coming in “feeling like the answers are all within me,” Dan now feels like he and his team are capable of coming up with answers collectively. He has confidence that by following the Integrative Thinking process, “you’re going to be coming up with an answer that’s very rich […] Everyone will agree that there’s a need for the decision that was made, and voices were listened to while making that decision.”  

Integrative Thinking has "made a big difference" for Dan in terms of what it means to be the Principal of Givins/Shaw:
 

You still have the lead voice in a lot of ways, you’re still signing your name to a lot of things, but really what you’re doing is signing your name to a process that’s involved a lot of people.