Saturday, October 30, 2010

oh dear bloggy mcbloggersons...

I have neglected this poor ole bloggy in the face of a giant tidal wave of SCHOOL. Exhaustimacating and awesome in equal parts - work school and life have been keeping me super busy.

Things are still interesting - have discovered the work of Kieran Egan and his merry band of Imaginative Educators. That was super exciting, and I was staying up late into the nights reading his revisioning of schools and cognitive tools and super cool school transformation instead of reading politics and literacy and families textbooks...well that came back to bite me in the butt, as midterms crashed down up me, and I scrambled to prepare. Truth be told, I did pretty good, juggling assignments, scholarship applications, exams and meetings with the research team, as well as handling an incredibly festive Canadian thanksgiving where we made our yearly Mount Vesuvius tofu volcano. This year, my dearest friend Andrea was here and we took it up a notch and did a whole diorama, with the tofu volcano erupting mashed potato lava covered in cranberry sauce, flowing down onto a forest of steamed broccoli with raisin people fleeing the destruction.

So - I've been a little busy. Our sweet friend Nicole took a bunch of photos for us, which are pretty wonderful.

I must say, school this year is a crazy rollercoaster of onslaught compared to the last two years. However, I'm eating it up like dessert, because I am a nutbar.
I wanted to show you this. 
Little posts of teacher inspiration.

I have been thinking a lot about engagement recently - how to foster it, what are the key ingredients...kind of exciting as it feels like something I want to sink my teeth into and think about for a good long time.

Ok. I will post more regularly - things should quiet down a little bit. It's time to say goodnight, as I've been wrestling with a paper about private money in public schools all day. Enough - sleep sweet and see you soon again.

Nerd out!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

gifts and wrestling

These days, I am consistently amazed and grateful at the wonderful incredible quality of my life. I am head-over-heels with my crazy, human situation.

First - school is awesome. I have 5 full-time fascinating courses, all with really engaging instructors and thoroughly interesting and challenging material. Second - my new job as a research assistant is kind of like the coolest amusement park ride, mixed with a collaborative project and some fabulous philosophy. The project that I'm involved with is part of a much larger one called the Experiential Design and Gaming Environments Lab, a cross-disciplinary collaboration involving folks from three different universities, from a whack of different sectors (technology, DIY, social economics, gaming, new media, early childhood ed & development, hacking, disabilities studies, etc, etc, etc). Everytime I go to work I hang out with exceedingly smart people and have wicked-cool, INSPIRING conversations. My work there is hilarious, and has so far involved learning to play Farmville (to explore social media), having in-depth conversations about co-construction and autonomous learning (to work out what our themes are for the project I was hired to work on), organizing cardboard (for the adaptive design lab and workshops), and playing with (learning how to use) an off-the-shelf brainwave monitoring device that Dr. Jason (the prof who hired me and a pretty awesome amazing guy) got off the internet to study biomapping. So many brackets in that last paragraph!

It feels like there are so many situations and conversations and people who are like gifts in my life right now! So, my brain and heart are being regularly kicked into overdrive, but in a good way. I have noticed that my critical thinking has picked up it's pace, too. I have started to wonder about school and teaching and the edu-crisis that is smacking North America upside the heads. I have thought about teaching styles and why I love direct instruction (it's like candy to me) but don't think it's an effective way of helping folks learn...and that's just it. I have started to think about helping people learn, instead of teaching people. That's a wonderful, fundamental change that feels really good.

Anyways - I wish I could post the gazillion things that are rushing around in my head right now - things like:
- how can we create learning environments that foster autonomous learning in a school system that is so authoritarian you have to ask to go to the bathroom?
- what is the role of technology in learning, now that technology is becoming more and more inseperable from everyday life for a lot of people on the planet?
- who has access to good educational opportunities, and what can we do about the folks who don't?
- do schools work? Teachers sure do - HARD! So what's creating the oncoming educational crisis?
- imagine teaching kids in early learning environments that asking questions was one of the most important things they could do - how would that change a lot of things about school, society, inequality etc?
- with technology becoming so prevalent - what are schools going to look like in the future?
- how can I make the greatest playground in the world?
- games and learning - bringing play back into education, don't just stop playing once school starts...
- does there have to be a struggle between 'natural' and 'technological'?
- authentic learning, collaborative innovation, asking questions - how do you inspire people do deeply engage with these things?

These and another million things are pummeling my brain. I feel so lucky to be wrestling with it all...

Nerd out for now

Saturday, September 25, 2010

oh my '80s

I never realized how much I'd been influenced by Whitney Houston.

Soon more, but right now I just have about 500 pages of politics to read - and I'm not even behind in my readings or anything.

nerd 0ut

Thursday, September 16, 2010

yowza! year three in full swing

Hello there -

Third year is going full-bore already, and we're only in week 2! Yipes!

Got some interesting courses - a families course that focuses on diversity, ethnicity and culture; a politics course looking at well-being and opportunity; a literacy course where we'll learn instructional methods and theories of literacy, as well as get to explore a lot of good books; and a year-long Research class, with Methods in our first semester and Applications in our second. Each class has a bucket of reading, and a couple of projects, but if I keep on top of it all I think I'll be ok.

Add my Feminism in Society class, a professionally related course, to the load, and that's some heavy-duty academics. I'm going to be reading and writing and thinking 'til the cows come home, and I haven't seen them for ages.

So, of course, I'm psyched, being the silly little nerd-lord that I am. But I ALSO just got a pretty super job - I'll be working as a research assistant on a project in the ECE department that sounds wicked-cool. The project will be looking at how kids interact with technology and sociable media practices, and how those interactions influence their learning and socializing...I think. The prof I'm working with is zany and inspiring, and I have yet to meet the rest of the team, but I am pretty excited about the whole thing. Hence, the post down below of the thought-provoking TED talk about child-directed, technology mediated learning.

By this little TED talk alone, I'm not convinced that this is the bright new future of education. However, it is really interesting to think about how incorporating sociable technological learning tools into social, constructive classrooms facilitated by thoughtful, nurturing teachers might invigorate learning.

Anyway - I gotta get back to those books...more for sure soon!!!


Ok - this is pretty crazy.  It sure has got me thinking...

Nerd oUt, peeps.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the octopus's garden in Victoria

We were brought to this totally AMAZING playground in Victoria on Vancouver Island while we were out there - I have become increasingly fascinated by outdoor play, playgrounds and outdoor learning environments since Teacher Tom bent my brain around some great ideas (and here, here and here) and I found Arcady's blog. Irresistible Ideas and Let the Children Play have also been huge sources of inspiration and fascinated reading and wondering.

So check this out - Octopus, Salmon, and Cadborosaurus concrete climbers and a huge boat playstructure, all poised on the edge of the beach looking out onto the Pacific. AWESOMENESS.

I mean, it's practically heaven. I wish that I was 10 years old and had had all day to hang out here, climbing and playing and seeing how deep the Octopus's arms went under the sand. Ridonkulously great.

If you're out in Victoria anytime soon, go check it out - it's super-fun.

Nerd OUT on the playground

Summer summary and the first day of school

woot!! Today was the first day of school - yeeehaaawww! As I rode my bike downtown to Ryerson to start my THIRD (gasp!) year of this degree, I saw a ton of parents walking their kids to school all the way through the neighbourhood. It got me so excited!

So, today's class was Research methods, and I think I'm going to like it a lot. The prof is very human and approachable, and also the first male prof I've had in the Early Childhood Ed. department.  His name is Bob Rinkoff, and he's from a developmental psychology background, and his research right now is focused on outdoor education and children in mountain wilderness environments. Pretty awesome, as I've been getting excited about that kinda stuff too - playgrounds, adventure learning, outdoor schools and classrooms. Zowee.
Anyway, it seems promising.

The summer went by so fast - I can hardly believe it. Oh! I promised some more photos of the end of Snail Trails Camp - here they are:

So - Snail had a Carnival to celebrate the end of camp, and we had a lot of different carnival-esque activities for everyone to get involved in.  This is a photo of the giant snail that Alison and I built with the kids - 2 x 4s and screws, duct tape and sheets, and the head is made out of foam core.

This giant Snail really wanted to play on the playstructure...

...and looked really wonderful after the kids and their families applied beautiful colours to it's shell...
We put food colouring into spray bottles - and we used the same thing to do another activity, our Spray Snail...
...this activity ended up looking like this... colourful!

We also had another fun activity, using squirt bottle paints on big snail forms. They were pretty fun, and ended up looking fabulous!

Some other cool, but slightly random things that we did at the end of camp were these - check it!
and...the mixing bin!!! It grows real grass!!! Just add kids and water!

I feel so lucky that I was able to work with the kids and educators at Play and Learn - I learned so much and felt so good, and it got me really thinking about playgrounds and outdoor classrooms and learning and ...well, the list just goes on and on. It was super-duper.

What a summer - first being up in Inukjuak, remember that? Look here, and work your back if you don't remember. Then Snail Trails. Jam packed goodness.

Then, when Snail Trails Camp ended, I got to go on holidays! The greatest holiday ever of my life so far. First I was in Nova Scotia with my parents, and then all the way across the country to B.C. visiting friends and family there. I came home feeling soooooooooooo relaxed and recharged, and psyched for school.

And so here I am and here it is - just a quick little look at my summer. More real soon, cuz I want to show you this amazing playground we found in Victoria.

Nerd out!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

empathic civilisation - what we're working towards in early childhood ed!

Watched this AMAZING video on TEDtalks (love it!) and was blown away at how it fits so deeply in with what we're trying to do with the education of young people. Lots of interesting things to think about and some great drawings.

Jeremy Rifkin on "the empathic civilization" | Video on

Also - I'm home now from my most amazing vacation ever of my whole life, and I'll begin to post regularly again. Third year of school starts in two days, on Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to it, especially with ideas like these bubbling away inside me. I'll get some photos up, and other thoughts real soon.

Nerd OUT!

Friday, August 20, 2010

ack! teeny update

whoops! Hello there folks - it's been a rollercoaster!

I'm on vacation now - in Nova Scotia with my parents, and then out to BC for a bit (coast to coast!) - but I'll post intermittently as I've brought my laptop with me so I can keep working on scholarship thingees, and bloggy thingees.

I'll have some photos and some last words about Snail Trails: the awesomeness, and other things that I've been thinking of/reading about/talking to folks about/learning about.


SCHOOL IS COMING!! I can't believe how excited I am for it. Righteous.

Nerd out for now - more to come

Monday, August 9, 2010

"What are you trying to tell me with your hands?"

At our Snail Trails Camp, we deal with kids with all kinds of needs. We have kids with behavioural things, communication stuff, physical quirks, developmental differences. While last year was the year our program focuses on special needs, and I learned a lot then, I am learning buckets and tonnes and heaps and I can't even tell you.

So it's nice to know that all that learning is actually shifting things and settling in, in different ways.

I am lucky to have had some really amazing models - in my placements, in my reading, in my courses at school and in my mentors. I have found myself really thinking and questioning the way I communicate with the kids that I work with and how to do so clearly and descriptively, rather than directively, vaguely, bewilderingly or demandingly. I have been working hard and changing how I talk with kids for the last two years. So here's a story about how I'm coming along with it.

One of our kids, a boy who no doubt would be labeled a problem kid in a regular setting, has some processing and communication differences, as well as having almost no impulse control. The little guy basically goes from 0 to 100000000000 in a REALLY short amount of time. He strikes out, out of frustration or not being able to say what he wants or process what he's feeling or for scads of other reasons, and we've been working to model other ways of getting what he wants.

One day last week, our friend spun out of control outside on the playground and was doing his regular jumping and twisting and smacking routine, and as I moved between him and another bystanding child, he swatted and smacked me a couple of times. Without really thinking, that question just came out of my mouth - "What are you trying to tell me with your hands?" As I led him over to a quieter part of the playground, I helped him get calmed down and organize himself again. I've been thinking about that question since last week, and really wondering about it. I meant it when I asked him, which means that my assumptions have really shifted on a foundational level about what motivates behaviour and what might have been going on. I also didn't yell, or say no, or ask him to tell me he was sorry, or any of a number of unclear and not useful things I could've said, and have probably done in the past. I really wanted to know what was going on for him, and was modeling a tool he could use when he started feeling internally unbalanced, which seems to happen often for him.

That feels awesome. I am really working hard on my communication, and it's paying off. I'm sure I'll flub it up again in the future, but it feels good to know that I'm digesting these things I'm learning. It's lead me to imagine a classroom environment that sees conflict as attempted communication, and gives me a lot more room to work with it. And it makes me think about all kinds of other questions, disarming questions like that, thoughtful questions that we can ask ourselves and the kids we work with, to dig deeper into the how/why we do the things we do.

nerd out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I found these on my street a little while ago. I am sooo excited. I'm kind of into just playing with them myself for a while, and then MAYBE sharing them with the kids in my life. For now they are going to stay in my room, though. Ha!

Wooden block city building nerd out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

as promised, PHOTOS

ha HA! Here are some snaps of my little universe - the playground at Play and Learn. As you can see we have a big expanse of weird rubber paving - soft and bouncy for falls (of which there are many) and a garden that grows pretty flowers and TOMATOES! We planted two tomato plants last week, and they seem to be bouncing back and beginning to thrive.

I love this place, and pretty well all aspects of it, but this is the least favourite element of mine in the playground - the playstructure. It was installed a while ago by the powers that be, and is not that imaginative or inspiring. In fact, it takes up a lot of room that we could use for something else. So we use it for as many diverging uses as we can come up with, and it definitely makes a good anchor for construction projects.

A really great but not well used aspect of the playground is the hill. Because of the physical or cognitive involvement of a lot of our kids, not many venture up the incline. I'm trying to plan some activities that use it - and I'm pretty sure it makes an amazing tobogganing run in the wintertime.

Ok - here are some photos of the evolving water wall. We used an old roll-up vinyl blind as our backing, and started wiring on all kinds of funnels and plumbing and objects that can channel water. It is pretty popular with our kindergarten-aged kids, who spend a lot of time watering the grass, themselves and each other while keeping cool in our heatwave. We've got some serious pouring happening. So much in fact that it's having some great effects. One parent earlier this week asked if we'd been doing any pouring, and when I told her about the water wall she told me how her son had easily filled up his cup from the juice bottle. She told me she'd been so surprised, thinking "Holy moly! I didn't teach him that! Where he learn to do that?!" Say hello, AWESOMENESS.

This was the first version...

...and this is what it looks like now. Every few days, some of the kids and I will wire something else on there, and add a new adventure. Behind the fence that the water wall is hanging from is a bench that faces the sandbox, and kids can climb up there with jugs and bottles and fill and pour and direct water all over the place. You can see Max's waterfall made out of cut open sonotube on the right side of the water wall.

And here it is in action!

I found this firetruck with some very interesting firefighters when I was cleaning up on Wednesday.

And here are our volcanoes - the amazing lava spouting (water with red food colouring, piped in via the surgical tubing from the water wall), rock and sea-shell covered geological marvels. The kids have been making these all week, mirroring what happened over at Woodland Park here. Sometimes we here in my life and Teacher Tom and the kids in his preschool are really on the same wavelength!!

Ok, enough. It's too hot to write on the computer anymore. It's Friday! Time to relax in front of a fan for a while.

Nerdy nerd nerd out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Snail Trails Summer Day Camp


That is the official name of the summer camp program that yours truly is the outdoor coordinator and basically summer camp teacher at. GRAMMAR! Forall it's ridiculously long name, and imposing sounding-ness, it is a really laid back summer program forboth kids with extra support needs and typically developing kids. It runs for 2 1/2 hours Monday to Friday, and I get to mostly organize the fun stuff to do outside and then also get to go inside and hang out with the kindergarten-aged kids until they go home. It's basically a blast everyday.

We've been dealing with a heatwave here in Toronto for the last while - the last two weeks were blisteringly hot (like living in an oven), but it's tapered off a little bit and is a lot more liveable this week so far. The entire city basically was suffering from heat exhaustion within moments of stepping outside of any air conditioned enclave they may be lucky/environmentally insensitive enough to partake in. We had some parents wondering if we were actually SERIOUSLY going to be taking the kids outside during the hot hot heat - and I said yes of course we are, but we'll be playing with water and wet most of the time, and wearing hats too, so we'll be ok. And we were.

My territory at Snail's summer camp is the playground, and I am happy. We have a kickass sandbox, a hill with a pretty intense incline, some green space, a garden and a big ugly metal and plastic playstructure, but we make up for the last with our enthusiasm and funtimes.

Today was BubbleMania day - we have one each week - and I just realized that I should have taken some pictures of our awesome bubbles - we had bubble makers of all shapes and sized all over the place, and made some pretty wonderful bubbles. My goal is to make a bubble big enough to have a kid inside it --- by the end of the summer. YES! Photos of that for sure!

The camp is run out of one of the Bloorview Nursery School Preschool sites called Play and Learn, which I think I mentioned before. The preschools run on a Reggio Emilia inspired emergent, creativity based curriculum, and I feel really lucky to be able to continue playing with these ideas - follow the kids interests and build your curriculum on what they want to do - progressive education, right?! AWESOMENESS. I'm lucky enough to be working with some of the educators from the schools, as well as other talented folks, who are fluent in these ideas and ready to just go for things. My co-teacher Allison in particular and I seem to be cut from the same cloth - we're jazzed about creative construction projects, like getting wet and dirty and painty with the kids, and I'm learning so so much about listening and clear communication with her. No joke - it's super fun. And the kids are the darndest!

For instance, one of our lively fellows has been working on making a waterfall as a part of our water wall - thank you Jenny, Tom and Donna - out of cut open cardboard sono-tube. We've been pouring and scooping and getting wet, working together to get the water up to the top of the waterfall with other friends, and today we figured out a gravity feed method to make the waterfall run. We just keep everyone wet and no-one gets heatstroke.

All in all - it's pretty wonderful.

More soon, and photos.

Nerd, out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

what's new - SO MUCH!


I don't know where to begin!

This week has been so busy - coming home from an amazing vacation (more about that in a bit), starting a new job, and settling back into the rhythms of Toronto and home, especially after the recent civil turmoil around the G20 summit and protests - and still struggling with the reality of what's happening in the Gulf...

Everything is contributing to me FREAKING OUT about education - which feels pretty good, actually. Anyway - it's a lot to tackle all at once in one little blog post. I'll break it down a bit to the immediate - that oughta help my roiling thoughts.

So - first things first - we went on an amazing vacation to Vermont and down to Cape Cod to visit my grandmother and aunt, and back again. Vermont...ohhhh I can't say enough amazing things about I love you! especially since we got to stay at this wonderful place - Shelburne Farms. This place is ridonkulous in the most amazing ways. It used to be a wealthy family's estate, but has become an incredible education centre, working organic farm, heritage and conservation site and all around amazing place that focuses on "cultivating a conservation ethic". Explore their website to get a glimpse, but GO GO GO GO GO to get a taste of how actually awesome this place really is.

We were wandering around inside the castle-like barn (no kidding, look at the photo, that's the BARN), and I kept wishing we could run into an educator, when that's exactly what happened!! We met the incredibly kind, welcoming and generous Sarah Kadden, an educator at Shelburne Farms also involved in the Sustainable Schools Project. Sarah gave us a tour of the facility and we talked and talked and talked, and I left in a daze of magic and wonderment, after wandering across the courtyard of the castle, I mean barn, to the Children's Farmyard to gawp at their amazing teaching spaces and pet some sheep, goats and calves, and where you could play fun games like in the following photo

It was really great. I feel really lucky that we got to go there, and really grateful for meeting Sarah, who I'll stay in touch with and who's work is so inspiring! AWESOMENESS! Am busy now reading about their very well thought out curricula on teaching the basic ideas of sustainability to kids of all ages, and am beside myself with excitement at the potential it has. I feel like I'm having a mega paradigm shift, and am holding tools in my hands to help kids explore ideas and subjects I hold really dear - community, nature, food, conservation, ecology,'s a real long list, folks.

Then we went to Cape Cod and had a really great time with my Nana and Aunt Pam, who trek from Austin to the Cape every summer. It was so restful and wonderful and we had a ball.

Coming home just in time to witness police brutality and the government spending excessive amounts of money on needless things to impress, and get ready for my stint as counselor and outdoor coordinator at Holland Bloorview Kid's Rehabilitation Hospital's summer camp, at the Play and Learn site. I'm working with a bunch of awesome educators I worked with at my placement this year, and some other fantastic folks. We had one day of HR intake and two days of training and prep, and now Canada Day has descended upon us, long weekend HO! The kids come on Monday, I'm working in the kinder-aged kids classroom, with Allison who teaches kindergarten at Play and Learn during the school year, and Tatiana with whom I worked at High Park! That's when I'm not outside coordinating art, science and nature shenanigans in the elegant and potential filled playground, and I AM EXCITED.  It'll be great to work with young kids again - after Nunavik I need some little kids energy. Am psyched to try out some of the ideas from Shelburne Farms and Sarah and the Sustainable Schools Project stuff I've been reading.

More photos and news and enthusiasm to come - summer AHOY!

get ready for summer - NERD OUT!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I am home

And wow does it feel wonderful!

Nunavik was really amazing, and I'm very seriously considering going back to do the project again next year - that kind of continuity feels right, especially for this shape of project and for that community. However, I'm HOME now and that feels really amazing. Leaves on trees, warmer temperatures, my own bed...wonderful pleasures.

I got a great job, working with Isabel and other awesome educators at the Bloorview Nursery School - where I had my placement last year - at the summer program they run at their Play and Learn site. I think that I'll be the outdoor coordinator, connecting the curricula and activities of the three classrooms through outdoor creative activities. I want to do a combination of art and gardening activities with the kids, all adapted and inclusive, and try to spend as much time outdoors with them as possible. Really inspired by Spiral Garden, I think. I want to do stuff like this...

It'll also present me with the perfect opportunity to read up and research more outdoor learning, and outdoor play-based learning. Hello, all my bloggy friends experimenting with indoor/outdoor learning (I'm looking at you, you, you and you, friends!), I'll be hanging out and studying what you're doing for theory, ideas and best practices.

But that doesn't start until the end of June, so I get to just hang out, read, eat yummy food and garden. We may go visit my grandmother in Cape Cod, and have a little road trip adventure in Vermont, but these things are still up in the air and I'm not thinking about them too much. For now, relaxing and recharging, reading and gardening.


Photos found on the internet -
Joe Mangrum Sand Painting

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

goodbye Inukjuak - hello down south

Well - if you can believe it, it's done.

I can't, and I was there.

My last days in Inukjuak were a whirlwind. AN AMAZING whirlwind.

The play was a fabulous success. We moved things into the gym, and did our best to have a rehearsal. It wasn't as smooth as we would've liked, but it was useful, and the show itself was fantastic. We had an audience of around 60-70 people - family members, kids from school, teachers and elders - and they laughed and clapped and seemed to have a great time.

Here are some photos -

Everything is set up in the workshop - ready to begin! Costumes, masks, and props.

Here is the Royal Family - the Queen, the Princesses and the Older Princesses dog.

While the Princesses are picking flowers and berries, two thieves steal their crowns. Here is one of them sneaking out into the audience.

Tracy was the youngest participant in our project - she played the cat.

The Queen, under the influence of the witches spell, is very mean to everyone in the castle.

After being banished and imprisoned, the bunny, the Older Princess and her dog make a plan to break the spell on the Queen.

They realize that LOVE will break the spell, and tell everyone in the castle their plan.

Everyone hugs the Queen!

Everyone hugs again, rejoicing that the Queen is back to her normal state.

The End - the Queen is nice again, the Younger Princess is freed, the spell is broken, the cat and dog hug, and the thieves are caught and put in the dungeon. The crowns are returned and there's nothing left to worry about - except maybe the Witch who at the end of the play runs across the stage laughing...The End?

As soon as we'd finished however, Pam scooted backstage to tell us that some parents had come in late, and should we do it again. I asked the audience if they wanted to see it again, and they responded positively, and the kids were game, so we put everything back in place as fast as possible and then DID THE SHOW AGAIN, immediately after the first. I don't think I've done a back-to-back show like that in a while! It was awesome, and everyone got a chance to see it, and be seen.

We all got pretty great feedback from the audience, and after everyone had gone we went to the kitchen to have a mega-feast.

Then there was the clean-up that had to happen. I spent a while Friday night organizing and cleaning, and then a chunk of Saturday packing everything up, labeling and cleaning and putting stuff away. We now have 19 rubbermaid bins and the big trunk full of costumes that belong to our project - chock full of useful tools, supplies and materials.

Sunday I cleaned the house I'd been staying in, went to a wonderful brunch and packed up all my stuff. My plane was only 3 1/2 hours late, which is pretty typical, and
so I went for a long walk - to the waterfall behind the airport and then out along the tundra. It was really beautiful, and I still feel really lucky to have been able to come up to this amazing place, work with these kids, participate in this community for a while. Here's a couple of photos from my last walk in Inukjuak.

I've spent the last few days in Montreal visiting with friends and loved ones, and replacing the clothes I'd blown out by hard wearing up north. Tonight I get on a train and go HOME. Ahhhhhhh, the sweetness of just thinking that! Awesomeness.

Ok folks - that's all for now - the adventure to Nunavik is pretty well done (I just need to write the report). Thanks for staying tuned in with me - I'll be relaxing for most of June, trying to save money and garden and visit with friends, before starting the next adventure, which is my job working with the Bloorview Summer Camp! More on that soon.

Nerd Out, my friends!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

whooo! where I am pooped by the evil queen

Ok folks - it's the night before the big show! The kids are doing amazing things, the story has come together, we even have COSTUMES, and I am tired. I'm feeling really good, much better than I was at this time last week - there is hope, being are being real nice, things are in good shape (including myself). I am just pooped, that's all.

Here is an update on the Puppet Project - in the form of the script for the play and some photos from after rehearsal today. The script will be narrated in Inutittut and English, and maybe even French if I can pull it together tomorrow - but the beauty of this piece is that it's visual theatre, and therefore visual, and you can pretty much get the story even if you don't hear the words.

But anyway - here are the words, in English -

The Happy Ever After that Almost Never Was

One day, the Queen and everyone were out picking flowers and berries.
Two thieves found the princesses crowns and STOLE THEM.
A huge wind blew everyone away, except the Queen, and a witch appeared.
The witch cast a spell on the Queen.
The next day the maids tried to help the Queen.
The princesses discover that their crowns are missing.
The evil Queen sends the princess to the dungeon.
The bunny tries to help the princess escape.
The bunny meets the princess's dog.
They make a plan.
With LOVE we can break the spell!
The spell is broken.
Everyone lived happily ever after...maybe.

Thus, you have the bare bones of our story. Unfortunately for you all - you don't get to see the hilarious Samantha being the witch, or Savaana who can't stop laughing try to clean the windows, or just how funny the cat and the dog are as they chase each other around through the audience. It is a really strong piece of work made up by girls in a remote northern community ages 7 to 15, and I am so so so proud of them and of how it's come together. WOW!

No wonder we're all so tired!

And here are some photos - I'm going to try to take more tomorrow during the rehearsal, so we have a record of the action - but this'll whet your whistle.

So clearly, this is the evil Queen, complete with sparkly crown...

After I cleaned up the workshop, I had to take a photo of most of our set and the evil Queen just hanging out...ahhh, so restful!

This is a shot of the witch's spell from backstage - secrets revealed!!

Ok - I'm going to crawl home now and make something to eat. Tune in soon for more on the play, and wish us all merde and broken legs and wonderful times tomorrow!

nerdy outy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

hoo-hah - did I need this!

This amazing gem is from one of my total mentors Teacher Tom - CHECK IT!

So - I'm homesick. REALLY homesick.

I usually get this way, which is why I don't often travel. And this is the longest I've been away from my home on a trip in about ten years. It's been a real gift to get to be up here and experience life in a remote community - I have learned SO fricking MUCH being up here - and the project is continuing to do pretty well - facing challenges and time-crunches and all the day-to-day crazy-business of a regular community arts project...and I want to go home. Which is totally ok and fine and natural for me, and I'll use it to fuel the next week (which will be bonkers as last weeks always are) and we are going to have a really great time. And THEN, I get to go home.


I'm feeling both elated and a bit down-in-the-dumps, which is why Jessica's encouraging messages to herself are so exactly what I needed right now. And maybe you do too.

Due to the long weekend, I've had a bit of an enforced vacation, and don't have anything to show you of the project that you haven't seen already since I haven't seen the kids since Wednesday (Thursday all programming was canceled due to a death in the community). I've done a few things for our set (you'll see once the kids get their hands on it), but I've mostly worked on relaxing, going for walks and getting things ready for this week.

Here are a couple of photos just to remind you of where I am...wandering around some of the bones of the planet waaaaaaaayyyy up north -

This was taken on Saturday, on a ramble on the rocky hills out behind town, and this...

...was my walk yesterday. Wow.

Ok - enough for now, I'll post more about the play as the week progresses!

nerd out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

wow! shadow puppets!

Today we finally got to playing around with some shadow puppets - the thing I was most excited about bringing up here! The kids ooohhhed and aaahhhed at the light and colour and I was deeply gratified by that.

Here are some photos - of all kinds of things...

Here we are making some shadow puppets for up against the screen, and on the overhead projector...

...and here's some beautiful playing around with shapes and colour.

Over the past few days we have really banged out the important points of the story of our play - and almost have a script. Here's a photo of me trying to map out the points and some of the action. As you can see, it's the age old story of good Queen turned bad by witch's evil spell, missing crowns, heroic bunnies and dogs and, of course, thieves and servants. Eat your heart out Disney - the kids at Innalik Public School are kicking your butt!

I have been through this process no few times, and I love it when the story grows organically out of the participants imaginations and art. Really, this story grew out of the masks the kids made - and all this reminded me of Teacher Tom's recent Pre K Play - although we've had a lot less role-switching than he did. A LOT of bunny masks were made (for some reason) and they all mutated into other things like villagers and castle workers, and the thieves just turned up out of nowhere one day, causing a huge and awesome plot twist.

Let's not forget the days (and days and days and days...) of effort spent on getting the handpuppets together. Here is a photo of a few in action - at some point in the play, all the villagers get blown away by a strong wind while out picking flowers - and I think we're going to do that with the hand puppets, as they all turned out to be pretty much regular looking people, with the odd dog and bunny thrown in to boot.

Yes! I love the stylish hair on all of them.

My dear friend Jane has run programs like this for year in Toronto, and has documented an amazing continuum of imaginary development in children. We have laughed and laughed at the regular re-occurrence of heroic animals and princesses wrongly accused. The kids of Inukjuak aren't any different, and it's a treat to see those common themes of childhood running so strongly across cultures.

Ok - enough for now, more shadowy goodness tomorrow - OH! Except for at the end of the session, because we'd spent so much time in the dark, the kids wanted to tell ghost stories instead of play games, and so we turned off the lights again and pretty well instantly had 24 kids screaming for the next 15 minutes. SOLID. Ha!

Shadowy nerdness out!