3 Teacher Tips Thursday: Dec. 17th Edition

This week’s 8th edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday comes from TCDSB secondary teacher Nicholas McCowan (monthly contributor).

Below are 3 simple yet effective resources broken up into 3 categories:
– Great Ideas
– Online Tools
– Teacher PD

Enjoy 3 Teacher Tips Thursday. Hope you find it resourceful.


Like many of you, as September was approaching, I struggled with conceptualizing my new classroom reality.  After developing an exhaustingly intimate relationship with Brightspace D2L, I sought to find a way to reinforce that sense of “Ohana” (Hawaiian for family) that I find invaluable in influencing the development of each of my classes.  I needed to find a way to build leadership skills, have brilliant hook ideas on the ready, and create a sense of playful joy that is harder to create in grade 11 and 12 classrooms.

So I chose 30 influential people to help students maintain social distancing in my classroom.  From the picture you will see that, sometimes, people have a harder time when attempting to keep their peers safe!  I selected pioneers of industry, thought leaders, cultural ambassadors, super heroes, athletes, activists, politicians and revolutionaries.  For the cost of a fancy dinner out, students can sit beside some great minds and perhaps… one day… stand on their shoulders. 


The Star Walk 2 App is my gem of the week.  I teach the grade 12 Earth and Space Science course, where the majority of the content is Astronomy.  With classes happening in the day, stargazing can be rather hard to come by.

Even at night, the light pollution from the city can give us only a few constellations to observe.  The four Scarborough stars are amazing and all, but we needed a tool to help us learn without staring at the sun. 

The Star Walk 2 App connects to your phone or tablet’s GPS and compass features so that whichever direction you point your phone, the stars, planets and satellites that would normally be visible in dark conditions, pop up directly where they are located out in the universe.

You can click any of the planet or star, and an info prompt comes up to offer the observer a brief explanation of what they are looking at.  

Even if you are not teaching sciences, this app can be used for creative writing, journaling, discussions of creation in your religion programs; the options are endless.


The Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO) offers TCDSB teachers a plethora of valuable resources and PD opportunities. As a TCDSB teacher you automatically have STAO membership and have access to STAO resources. All you need to do is create an account using the attached link.

Website: https://stao.ca/my-account/join-team/cfb06793b295ac90160a9b09dbff8219/

To get an idea of the various resources without creating a membership, check out the site above. From step-by-step guides on how-to create your own digital escape room, to school ground greening projects, to lessons on ecology from an Indigenous perspective, the resources are bountiful and exceptional. 

The PD sessions are updated frequently for members.  To attend, you enrol and access the workshops virtually via Zoom. Most sessions are hosted by professors at various Ontario universities and offer new and valuable lenses to peer through.  If you are looking for a way to sharpen the saw over the holidays, I highly recommend you put in some time to explore STAO’s membership and their professional development opportunities.  

About the author:

Nicholas McCowan teaches at St. Joan of Arc Academy in the Toronto Catholic District School board and teaches Science, Leadership and Student Success

Instagram: @mccowanroad and @teachmetoolbox
Twitter: @NJMcCowan

This edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday is brought to you by:
@teachmetoolbox. Educators sharing best practices with fellow educators.

Instagram: @teachmetoolbox

I hope you enjoyed our eighth weekly edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday. Got an idea, online tool, or PD opportunity you want to share? Email stefanie.lenzo@tcdsb.org.


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