Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

a picture of a Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever Doogle (above), and his people Geri and John Eakins, are one of many volunteer handler-dog teams in UBCO’s Building Academic Retention Through K-9s program. New research confirms that canine cuddles can significantly enhance student wellbeing. Photo by Adam Lauzé.

If you find watching funny dog videos puts a smile on your face, try indulging in canine cuddles.

New research from UBC Okanagan confirms physical contact with a therapy dog can significantly enhance student wellbeing.

The research was led by Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, associate professor in the School of Education and director of the Building Academic Retention Through K-9s (BARK) program. Co-authors include BARK coordinator Freya Green and Zakary Draper, a doctoral student in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences psychology department. Together, the team assessed the impact of client-canine contact on wellbeing outcomes in 284 undergraduate students.

“There have been a number of studies that have found canine-assisted interventions significantly improve participants’ wellbeing, but there has been little research into what interactions provide the greatest benefits,” says Dr. Binfet. “We know that spending time with therapy dogs is beneficial but we didn’t know why.”

Students volunteered to participate and were randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions — touch or no touch canine interaction, or to spend time with a dog handler but with no therapy dog present.

Prior to the sessions, participants provided self-reports of wellbeing; specifically measuring their self-perceptions of flourishing, positive and negative affect, social connectedness, happiness, integration into the campus community, stress, homesickness and loneliness.

Participants across all conditions experienced increased wellbeing on several of the measures, with more benefit when a dog was present, with the most benefit coming from physical contact with the dog. Notably, the touch contact with a therapy dog group was the only one that saw a significant enhancement across all measures.

“As students potentially return to in-person class on their college campuses this fall and seek ways to keep their stress in check, I’d encourage them to take advantage of the therapy dog visitation program offered. And once there — be sure to make time for a canine cuddle,” says Dr. Binfet. “That’s a surefire way to reduce stress.”

With many students feeling anxious about the return to in-person learning, the results stand to influence post-secondary mental health and wellness programs along with the organization and delivery of canine-assisted intervention programs.

“When therapy dogs are brought to campus, program organizers must be mindful of the dog-to-student ratio. Our research tells us that interacting through touch is key to reducing student stress so program administrators must be mindful to offer programs that make this possible,” says Dr. Binfet.

The study was published in Anthrozoös, an international journal showcasing multidisciplinary research on interactions and relationships with animals.

Shane Koyczan

Canadian poet and spoken word artist Shane Koyczan will address the UBCO graduating class of 2021.

Virtual ceremony recognizes more than 1,800 graduating students

UBC Okanagan is marking its second virtual convocation next week.

More than 1,850 graduates — including 1,600 undergraduates as well as more than 100 masters’ and doctoral students — will tune in to celebrate the success of their educational journey.

“This has been a remarkable year for our students and our faculty,” says Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2021.”

There are also some new faces in the procession of dignitaries that will congratulate the graduates this year. UBC’s 19th Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl), will preside over the ceremony, his first since taking on the role of chancellor last year. And this will be Cormack’s first convocation since joining the university in July 2020.

“Coming to UBC Okanagan during a time when our students are learning remotely has indeed been interesting,” Cormack adds. “Through it all, our students have shown remarkable fortitude while learning and conducting research online. I commend them all for their accomplishments.”

Once the ceremony has begun, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono will address the Class of 2021 live, dressed in full academic regalia and graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono. Along with a congratulatory message from Cormack, graduates will also hear inspiring words from student speakers Ali Poostizadeh, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and Blessing Adeagbo, who has earned a Bachelor of Human Kinetics.

Another highlight of the 50-minute ceremony will be a keynote address from Shane Koyczan. The Canadian poet and spoken word artist will honour the perseverance and resilience of the 2021 graduating class. His message, written from the heart, will inspire all viewers, Cormack adds.

UBC Okanagan’s graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments virtually on June 2, starting at 2:30 p.m. Students and their family members can watch the ceremony on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries.

To find out more about the virtual convocation ceremony, visit: virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

This year’s medal recipients

Governor General's Gold Medal: Sandra Fox

Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Aidan O'Callahan

UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Jade Zitko

UBC Medal in Arts: Michelle Tucsok

UBC Medal in Science: Jakob Thoms

UBC Medal in Education: Patricia Perkins

UBC Medal in Nursing: Alex Halonen

UBC Medal in Management: Breanne Ruskowsky

UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Marika Harris

UBC Medal in Engineering: Rohan Ikebuchi

UBC Medal in Media Studies Sydney Bezenar

Dogs put the fun into learning vital social skills

A new UBC Okanagan study finds children not only reap the benefits of working with therapy dogs–they enjoy it too.

“Dog lovers often have an assumption that canine-assisted interventions are going to be effective because other people are going to love dogs,” says Nicole Harris, who conducted this research while a master’s student in the School of Education. “While we do frequently see children improve in therapy dog programs, we didn’t have data to support that they enjoyed the time as well.”

Harris was the lead researcher in the study that explored how children reacted while participating in a social skill-training program with therapy dogs.

The research saw 22 children from the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club take part in a series of sessions to help them build their social skills. Over six weeks, the children were accompanied by therapy dogs from UBC Okanagan’s Building Academic Retention through K9s (BARK) program as they completed lessons.

Each week the children were taught a new skill, such as introducing themselves or giving directions to others. The children would first practice with their assigned therapy dog before running through the exercise with the rest of the group. In the final phase, the children —accompanied by their new furry friend and volunteer handler —would practice their new skills with university students located in the building.

“Therapy dogs are often able to reach children and facilitate their growth in surprising ways. We saw evidence of this in the social skills of children when they were paired with a therapy dog,” says Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, associate professor in the School of Education and director of BARK. “The dogs helped create a non-threatening climate while the children were learning these new skills. We saw the children practice and hone their social skills with and alongside the dogs.”

While the children were learning and practising their new skills, the research team collected data.

“Findings from our observations suggested that canine-assisted social and emotional learning initiatives can provide unique advantages,” says Harris. “Our team saw that by interacting with the therapy dogs, the children’s moods improved and their engagement in their lessons increased.”

In fact, 87 per cent of the team rated the children’s engagement level as very or extremely engaged during the sessions.

At the end of the six weeks, Harris interviewed eight children, aged 5 to 11 years old, who regularly attended the sessions. Each child indicated the social skill-training program was an enjoyable and positive experience and the dogs were a meaningful and essential part of the program.

One participant noticed that the children behaved better at the sessions than at their regular after-school care program, and they thought it was because the children liked being around the dogs.

Half of the children mentioned ways that they felt the dogs helped with their emotional well-being, with one participant crediting a dog with helping him “become more responsible and control his silliness.”

As a full-time elementary school teacher, Harris notes that schools have become increasingly important in helping students develop social and emotional skills, and this research could contribute to the development of future school-based or after-school programs.

“Dogs have the ability to provide many stress-reducing and confidence-boosting benefits to children,” says Harris. “It was really heartwarming to see the impact the program had on the kids.”

The research stemmed from the Building Confidence through K9s program, which was offered in partnership with the TELUS Thompson Okanagan Community Board.

The study was published in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Many people are having to re-think their Christmas plans, or make new traditions this holiday season. 

2020 will go down as one holiday season that’s hard to forget

While it’s true that Christmas 2020 will be unusual for most, a team of UBC Okanagan experts suggest it doesn’t have to be a holiday season to regret. The experts’ advice includes everything from online shopping tips and getting some exercise to curling up with a good book.

Careful while shopping online, suggests Faculty of Management researcher Ying Zhu.

“Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, people should be more mindful of their shopping budget. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the world of online shopping. Balance joyful feelings with a budget.”

Ying Zhu suggests putting down the tablet or smartphone when holiday shopping online, especially when you plan to buy indulgent products in an effort to stem pandemic stress. Her research has shown that study participants were more likely to indulge in guilty pleasures when shopping online with a touchscreen device (i.e., a smartphone) versus a desktop computer. The reason is that using a touchscreen evokes consumers’ experiential thinking, which resonates with the playful nature of hedonic products.

Find creative ways to get some exercise, says School of Health and Exercise Sciences’ Matthew Stork.

“Due to the winter weather and current COVID-19 restrictions, finding ways to stay physically active is more challenging than ever. Try new outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing, go for socially distant walks or find creative ways to be active at home.”

If you’re busy, or overwhelmed this holiday season, add some “exercise snacks” into your day. Go up and down the stairs three times in a row, or take a five-minute walk to the end of the street and back. Even short bouts of exercise can add up and can help keep you fit at home.

And if you want to get a bit more out of your workouts—add tunes.

“Music is a simple, yet powerful strategy that can enhance your exercise and make it more enjoyable.”

Okanagan School of Education Associate Professor Stephen Berg focuses on active, healthy children and youth.

Berg has several suggestions for making sure children, and the entire family, have a good holiday season. The idea is to stay active.

“It may seem simple, but getting outside and going for a walk is beneficial. With limited daylight hours, getting outside, even if it is for a short time, will help boost the immune system and provide some much-needed energy.”

Other tips include limiting the treats, trying something new—like a YouTube workout the family can do together, volunteering, and setting basic and small goals, like getting outside for 30 minutes a day.

“My final tip would be to do your best to stay balanced,” he adds. “Quite simply, this has been a unique year. Let children have some fun, relax and breathe. Connect with them. Play board games, find out what they are doing online.”

Alex Hill, who teaches astrophysics at UBCO, suggests people look to the stars as a new activity this holiday season.

When there are clear skies during the holidays, grab a pair of binoculars and get outside after dark, says Hill. The next few days will be spectacular because Jupiter and Saturn will pass quite close to each other—a 400-year benchmark.

“To find them, look southwest as it gets dark, which is nice and early this time of year, about 45 minutes after sunset. If you hold your fist at arm’s length, they’ll be a bit more than two fist lengths above the horizon. They’ll be the brightest ‘stars’ by far and easy to see.”

With binoculars, you should also be able to see the rings of Saturn and the four largest moons of Jupiter. While Jupiter and Saturn are both spectacular with binoculars, they are visible without.

“They won’t look quite like they do in Hubble Space Telescope images you might see in books, but it’s still amazing to be able to see the rings and the moons with your own eyes.”

Fall in love with reading all over again suggests Marie Loughlin, who teaches in UBCO’s English program.

Her advice to anyone is to get settled comfortably with a good story. Loughlin and colleagues suggest books to help relieve stress, help with loneliness or fill in time spent alone.

George Grinnell suggested Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (Penguin/Random House 2020). “This is easily one of the most compelling and artistically complete novels I have read in a long time.”

Margaret Reeves suggests Thomas King’s newest novel Indians on Vacation (HarperCollins, 2020), saying it is well worth reading for its wry sense of humour.

Joanna Cockerline recommends Idaho (Chatto & Windus, 2017) by Emily Ruskovich; it is set in the rugged mountains of Idaho and is tied around a devastating secret that impacts the life of a man facing early dementia.

Sean Lawrence suggests Andrew Kaufman’s All My Friends Are Superheroes (Coach House, 2003); the ordinary guy Tom has a close group of friends and a wife, all of whom are actually superheroes.

Finally, suggests Loughlin, Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, of which the author’s iconic reading will be featured on CBC over the holidays.

Try something completely new or outside your comfort zone, suggests psychology Professor Lesley Lutes.

“My students suggested we do an online cooking class together,” says Lutes. “I must admit, my first thought was ‘oh lord, this is going to be a disaster.’ But I said yes because they suggested it and I could see they that they needed it. I had never done anything like this before and had no idea how it would go.”

Lutes picked a favourite recipe and purchased all the ingredients, including a candy cane and gluten free dessert. It was a great success and she would do it again in a heartbeat.

Lutes shares other suggestions on how to make the most of this atypical Christmas:

  • Try and accept this holiday season for what it is, instead of what it should have/could have been.
  • If you can connect virtually with friends—do it!
  • Deliver, either virtually or to front doors of your friends and loved ones, gestures of your love/affection/appreciation.
  • Try and find humour and levity in the moment—and put it to good use.

“This was truly one of the most challenging years in modern history,” Lutes adds. “I hope everyone can take some time to slow down, reflect and find safety, love, and feelings of hope during these final days of the year. May 2021 bring us all some much-needed relief but also the resolve to make everything that happened this year matter.”

 

Associate Professor John-Tyler Binfet's new research seeks to disrupt that notion by showing how adolescents demonstrate kindness.

Associate Professor John-Tyler Binfet's new research seeks to disrupt that notion by showing how adolescents demonstrate kindness.

New research shows adolescents are kinder than we think

A UBC Okanagan researcher is hoping to flip the switch on the pre-convinced stereotype that teens are mean.

Associate Professor John-Tyler Binfet, a researcher in the School of Education, says teenagers often receive a negative reputation, sometimes showcased in mainstream media reports of bullying, cyber harassment or schoolyard battles.

Binfet’s new research seeks to disrupt that notion by showing how adolescents demonstrate kindness.

“There’s been a shift in schools in recent years to move away from anti-bullying initiatives to efforts that embrace and promote pro-social behaviour,” says Binfet. “There is an emphasis on kindness throughout school curriculum, but little is known about how youth actually enact kindness.”

Binfet and his research team surveyed 191 Grade 9 Okanagan Valley students to determine the extent they see themselves as kind in online and face-to-face interactions. The students were then asked to plan and complete five kind acts for one week.

In total, the students accomplished 943 acts of kindness, with 94 per cent of the participants completing three or more of their assigned acts. The kind acts ranged from helping with chores, being respectful, complimenting or encouraging others and giving away items like pencils or money for the vending machine.

“When encouraged to be kind, they surpassed expectations. It was interesting to see how adolescents support others with nuanced ways of helping that included helping generally, physically, emotionally and with household chores,” says Binfet. “As educators and parents model kindness or provide examples of kindness, showcasing examples of subtle acts might make being kind easier for adolescents to accomplish.”

The majority of the participants enacted kindness to people they know, most frequently to family, friends and other students. As the bulk of the kind acts took place at the school, the findings show positive effects for school climate, student-to-student relationships and student behaviour.

Following the one-week challenge, participants were interviewed once again to see how their perception of their own kindness had changed. The findings showed a significant increase in their self-ratings of face-to-face and online kindness.

“This has implications for school-based initiatives seeking to encourage kindness among students who may say, ‘but I’m already kind’,” says Binfet. “The findings suggest that by participating in a short kindness activity, students’ perceptions of themselves as kind may be boosted.”

For years, Binfet’s research has focused on counterbalancing the bullying literature to elevate the discussion of kindness. Through this latest research, his goal is to challenge the negative stereotypes of teens.

“I think adolescents can be misperceived, especially in schools. By understanding how they show kindness, parents, educators and researchers can gain insight as to how they actualize pro-social behaviour,” says Binfet.  “We can find ways to best structure opportunities for youth to be kind to help foster their development.”

The study was published in the Canadian Journal of School Psychology.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO professor offers advice to create a flourishing workplace remotely

Many Canadians have been working from home in an effort to help flatten the curve and limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some people have been thriving in their new remote work environment, but there are those who have been experiencing challenges.

As BC begins to cautiously re-open and lift restrictions, many organizations are exploring the potential of employees remaining to work from home on a part-time or even permanent basis.

“Working remotely has greatly changed the workplace dynamic,” says Sabre Cherkowski, Okanagan School of Education director of graduate programs and UBC Okanagan’s Social Sciences and Humanities Researcher of the Year. “Many people have experienced a sense of disconnection and disengagement, but there are still ways we can have a sense of flourishing in this new workspace.”

What does a flourishing work environment look like?

While flourishing may look different to staff members—depending on what makes them feel most valued and connected to their work—we all have the opportunity to contribute to building flourishing environments. Research shows there are three areas we need to keep in check: well-being, leaderful mindsets and adaptive community.

The first considers everyone’s personal well-being. This includes positive emotions, positive relationships and a sense of making a difference.

The second is the creation of an environment where staff are encouraged to communicate openly with colleagues, be creative and respond to conflicts as an opportunity to learn and adapt together.

The third is paying attention to how staff can identify ways that their work contributes to the larger, shared goals of the organization, which provides a greater sense of ownership, engagement and shared leadership.

How can people learn to flourish in a remote workplace?

Flourishing at work is something we move towards and we can learn to notice and build on what works. It is moments of contentment or feeling pleased and proud of our accomplishments, and is deeply tied to relationships at work. Each member of the team will experience ‘flourishing’ in their own ways and that is unique to their circumstances.

As a leader, you have the opportunity to model what it means to grow well-being, moment by moment, and can encourage staff to ask for support as they notice shifts in well-being that may occur as our work continues to shift and change. Learning how to notice and nurture what makes us well, and learning to let go in order to sustain, can become an important, enjoyable and even a playful part of our work routines.

What are some practices you can do to enhance your workplace well-being while working from home?

Take opportunities each day to make space and time for what matters to you in your work. There are likely tasks that you dread doing and others that you love. Try making a schedule of your week and ensure you make time for what you love. As the week goes on, pay attention during these moments and savour them. Reflect on them later during the week and remember what you enjoyed in that work time.

Be similarly purposeful in looking for ways to engage your strengths in your work. Talk to your supervisor if there is a project that you would like to work on, or if you have an idea for something that might fulfil a need in the organization.

Find ways to enjoy time with your colleagues, laugh, relax and share ups and downs. Try to schedule a regular virtual happy hour after work or a casual lunch-time phone chat.

Reflect on what is working well for you. As you pay attention to these moments and experiences, you may find that more and more of them are cropping up in your reflections. You may want to try journaling to keep track of how your thoughts, feelings and experiences are evolving over time.

What are some ways we can engage with our colleagues in this new environment?

Find time to connect and be present with colleagues online. Acknowledge their accomplishments and celebrate successes, even small ones.

One easy activity you can do with your team through a virtual meeting platform, is to ask each of them to write down moments when they and their colleagues are engaged and having fun at work, and things that they’re often grateful for at the end of each workday

Allow some time for reflection and then have everyone share their observations, reflect on the conditions that seemed to make these experiences possible, and discuss how the team might support each other toward experiencing more of these moments in your work together.

During these times, it may feel as though the ground you’re standing on is slipping away. I always encourage people to try to see this as an opportunity for new learning, connection and renewal.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Virtual ceremony takes place Wednesday as more than 1,900 students graduate

UBC Okanagan’s Convocation of 2020 will go down in history as a unique event. Instead of students, parents and faculty joining together on campus, the celebrations will be held virtually.

“The context of 2020 has made necessary a very different approach to our graduation ceremony this year,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2020.”

This year, 1,925 students have qualified for convocation from UBC Okanagan—that includes 1,600 undergraduates, more than 270 students who have earned a master’s degree and 45 newly-conferred doctorate degrees.

While convocation is a time of celebration, it’s also a time of long-kept traditions. The program will begin with Chancellor Lindsay Gordon presiding over the virtual ceremony. UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono and Buszard will both address the Class of 2020 live, dressed in full academic regalia. And graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono.

UBC has arranged for Canadian icon and comedian Rick Mercer to deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Students have had the opportunity to purchase graduation regalia, special graduation gifts, create a personalized commemorative graduation video clip, download congratulatory signs and sign a guest book with congratulatory messages.

The virtual ceremony will last 45 minutes and it will be livestreamed on June 17, with a pre-show beginning at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and a 20-minute virtual alumni reception takes place at 3:55 p.m. The ceremony can also be watched on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries. To find out more, visit: virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

“These are, indeed, unusual times, and UBC students have shown once again their resilience and ability to cope and thrive in the face of change,” says Buszard. “With everything they have accomplished over these past months and over the course of their studies, I couldn’t be more proud of the extraordinary UBC Okanagan Class of 2020. Congratulations.”

This year’s medal recipients

  • Governor General's Gold Medal: Mike Tymko
  • Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Dominica Patterson
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Aiden de Vin
  • UBC Medal in Arts: Ellie Jane Fedec
  • UBC Medal in Science: Nicholas Kayban
  • UBC Medal in Education: Alyssa Pembleton
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Christopher Popel
  • UBC Medal in Management: Amanda Campbell
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Madison Pows
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Tyler Ho

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO School of Education experts provide tips to help parents cope and children thrive.

UBCO School of Education experts provide tips to help parents cope and children thrive.

Experts offer guidelines to support children’s learning during school closures

With schools closed indefinitely across BC, parents and children are adapting to a new way of learning. While there are plenty of online resources available, including those provided by school districts and the province, experts with UBC Okanagan’s School of Education offer basic tips for parents and caregivers.

Listen for wonderings, says Margaret Macintyre Latta, director of the Okanagan School of Education

“As you’re completing day-to-day tasks with your child such as cooking or cleaning, or even just enjoying time together by walking or examining the night sky, listen for their wonderings. These wonderings can offer many lines of inquiry that you can further by offering your own wonderings.

Seek resources together, investigate ways to learn more and find new questions. When learning comes from the child’s own questions, then learning does not feel forced and can find direction on its own. And, the connections bring science, math, art and more together. Rather than thinking about learning as separate from living, consider that human beings are fundamentally meaning-makers—learning is elemental to being human.”

Stay active, says Stephen Berg, associate professor

“Right now, technology has really taken over everyone’s lives and justifiably so. Children and youth are now tasked with being online for hours. This sedentary time needs to be balanced out with physical activity. When time allows, move away from a screen. Stretch, do some calisthenics and go outside. Go for a walk, run or bike ride. Just make sure you abide by physical distancing and obey all park and playground closures where applicable.”

Work with the situation you’re in—and not against it, says Christopher Martin, associate professor

“I have two children at home ages five and eight, and I’ve had to learn to manage my stress about them ‘covering’ enough material and not ‘falling behind.’ These are totally understandable feelings, but they misunderstand a little about what education involves and how it works.

I try to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of my children’s educational journey. What is the key educational goal I want them to achieve, and what can I do as a parent to bring that about?

For example, one key aim could be critical thinking. All the worksheets in the world will not help my children learn to critically think; but something as simple as talking about what they are interested in, and getting them to think about different points of view can encourage critical thinking.

Children are very observant, and what they see in us will be a more powerful teacher than any YouTube video. You do not need to develop an entire educational program. Reading to your children—and enjoying the time you have to read to them—can make a huge difference.”

Learning happens in spaces and places between us, says Sabre Cherkowski, director of graduate programs

“There are the physical spaces where students and teachers gather, and there are also the emotional spaces between us—our relationships. These spaces can provide a sense of acceptance, belonging and an opportunity to see how our contributions matter and make a difference. Parents and guardians can think of these three things each time they set up learning for, and with, their children.”

Children respond to structure and routine and they can find that comforting, especially when the day is mapped out for them, says John-Tyler Binfet, Associate Professor

“As parents and guardians work to establish structure and routine, they must recognize children might initially require ample support that sees them actively implicated in the learning process. As children navigate their way and become familiar with expectations, they will develop a sense of independence and parents and guardians can then step back their support, pending the needs of the child.

‘Chunking’ or breaking tasks into small manageable pieces is useful for enticing reluctant learners and ‘co-learning’ alongside reluctant learners can help to engage children in learning tasks.

Parents and guardians can find comfort in knowing that they don’t need to have all the answers when it comes to supporting their children in online learning. As they tackle assignments, help activate learning by asking questions that predict—what’s likely to happen next? — connect—how is this similar to what you’ve studied before? — or extend—what could someone do with this information?”

Beyond all else, Binfet and his School of Education colleagues, remind all parents and caregivers to add an extra ounce of kindness into their days while they are at home with their children

“These are trying times for some,” says Binfet. “But my research has shown that kindness can go a long way during your day-to-day activities. We feel better when we’re kind to others and we make others feel better too.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Golden retriever Abby listens while Annie Letheman (right) reads to her sister Ruby and researcher Camille Rousseau (middle) observes.

Golden retriever Abby listens while Annie Letheman (right) reads to her sister Ruby and researcher Camille Rousseau (middle) observes.

Turning the page for Spot boosts literacy in young students

Reading in the presence of a pooch may be the page-turning motivation young children need, suggests a UBC researcher.

Camille Rousseau, a doctoral student in UBC Okanagan’s School of Education, recently completed a study examining the behaviour of 17 children from Grades 1 to 3, while reading with and without a dog. The study was conducted with Christine Tardif-Williams, a professor at Brock University’s department of child and youth studies.

“Our study focused on whether a child would be motivated to continue reading longer and persevere through moderately challenging passages when they are accompanied by a dog,” explains Rousseau.

Participants were recruited based on their ability to read independently. Prior to the study, each child was tested to determine their reading range and to ensure they would be assigned appropriate story excerpts. The researchers then choose stories slightly beyond the child’s reading level.

During the study’s sessions, participants would read aloud to either an observer, the dog handler and their pet or without the dog. After finishing their first page, they would be offered the option of a second reading task or finishing the session.

“The findings showed that children spent significantly more time reading and showed more persistence when a dog—regardless of breed or age—was in the room as opposed to when they read without them,” says Rousseau. “In addition, the children reported feeling more interested and more competent.”

With the recent rise in popularity of therapy dog reading programs in schools, libraries and community organizations, Rousseau says their research could help to develop ‘gold-standard’ canine-assisted intervention strategies for struggling young readers.

“There have been studies that looked at the impact of therapy dogs on enhancing students’ reading abilities, but this was the first study that carefully selected and assigned challenging reading to children,” she says.

Some studies and programs have children choose their own book, and while the reading experience would still be positive, Rousseau adds it’s the educational experience of persevering through a moderate challenge that offers a potentially greater sense of achievement.

She hopes the study increases organizations’ understanding of how children’s reading could be enhanced by furry friends.

Rousseau is continuing her research on how canine-assisted therapy can influence students in other educational contexts through UBC’s therapy dog program—Building Academic Retention through K9’s (BARK).

The study was published in Anthrozoös, a multidisciplinary journal focusing on the interactions of people and animals.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

New graduates celebrate their success after their convocation ceremony at UBCO last June.

New graduates celebrate their success after their convocation ceremony at UBCO last June.

Students presented degrees, top awards during two days of ceremonies

It’s the culmination of years of hard work, and the realization of hundreds of dreams.

This week UBC Okanagan celebrates its students as it hosts six separate graduation ceremonies over two days. More than 1,725 students will cross the stage, earning their undergraduate degrees while 215 students will receive their master's degree and 40 their doctorates.

“This year’s UBC Okanagan graduating class goes out into a world where sweeping changes are happening,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal. “From geopolitics and the environment to the nature of work itself, rapid and radical change is all around us. As UBC graduates, we know our students have the intellectual tools to thrive in the face of change.”

The formal procedures begin Thursday morning with students in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts And Sciences crossing the stage in three different convocation ceremonies. Students in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies will also cross the stage that day.

On Friday, celebrations kick-off early as Faculty of Health and Social Development students celebrate their achievements starting at 8:30 a.m. School of Education, Faculty of Management and School of Engineering students will be conferred their degrees in two following ceremonies.

“Congratulations to the class of 2019 for all they have accomplished,” Buszard adds. “I have every confidence their education and experiences at UBC Okanagan have positioned them for the brightest future.”

While student accomplishment is the heart of convocation, innovation, excellence and making a difference in this world are themes to be recognized. UBCO will present three honorary degrees this week.

Lewis Kay will receive a Doctor of Science at the 11 a.m. ceremony on June 6. Kay is a biophysicist known for his research in biochemistry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. He is a professor of molecular genetics, biochemistry and chemistry at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist in the molecular medicine research program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

Later that day, Dr. William Carpentier will be honoured with a Doctor of Science. Carpentier is an alumnus of the UBC Faculty of Medicine and was flight surgeon for NASA’s Apollo 11 crew. He is renowned for his contributions to the field of space life science. Carpentier will be honoured at the 1:30 p.m. ceremony on Thursday.

Friday morning, Olympic gold medalist Beckie Scott will be presented with a Doctor of Laws at the 8:30 a.m. ceremony. Scott was an 11-year member of Canada’s national cross-country ski team, retiring in 2006 as Canada’s most decorated cross-country skiing athlete. The three-time Olympian is widely recognized for advocacy for drug-free sport. She currently serves as chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency Athlete Committee.

Other accolades of note during convocation include the Provost Award for Teaching Excellence that will be presented to Biology Professor Andis Klegeris and Sally Willis-Stewart, a nutrition and physical activity instructor. The Killam Teaching Prize will be presented to Engineering Professor Jonathan Holzman.

The heads of class (top academic student) for this year include:

  • Governor General's Gold Medal: Ryan Hoiland
  • Lieutenant Governor’s Medal: Gabriel Dix
  • University of BC Medal in Arts: Victoria Scotney
  • University of BC Medal in Education: Tyler Tronnes
  • University of BC Medal in Engineering: Ethan McKoen
  • University of BC Medal in Fine Arts: Evan Berg
  • University of BC Medal in Human Kinetics: Janelle Smuin
  • University of BC Medal in Management: Zachary Bingley
  • University of BC Medal in Nursing: Elyse Acheson
  • University of BC Medal in Science: Alexander Garner

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.