Wednesday, April 28, 2010

inukjuak...oh inukjuak

Ok - here I am!! We've managed to get internet in our room in the school, and we've just had a mightily successful Day Two of the training week/skills share, and I'm tired but I want to get some word out that awesome stuff is happening, and maybe even get some photos on here! The internet connection is REALLY SLOW, tho - so it might not be many!

Nunavik is an amazing part of the world. We're in Inukjuak, and it's pretty amazing. There are about 1 200 people who live here, and the majority of those folks are Inuit. Inukjuak is above the treeline - so we're here on tundra, and it's mostly frozen at the moment. The village has a handful of roads, and people get around mostly on foot, by four-wheel ATV, or snow-mobile. There are two department stores, the Co-Op and the Northern, and they sell everything from clothes to produce to appliances. It's pretty quiet, and the house that I'm staying in is right smack dab in the middle of everything.

Our hosts - the school and some key teachers - have given me my own house to live in, which has pros and cons. While it's right around the corner from the school, and I can go home and have quiet and peace very easily, it's also a little lonely and by not billeting with someone I'm missing out on some important social connecting. I'm working hard on trying to make those connections, and it'll happen, but at the beginning it feels like just a little too much peace and quiet. That could change once the program gets underway, though.

We're doing a training week, and the folks who'll be working with Natasha in Kangirsuk have come to Inukjuak so that we can all bond. We're playing a lot of games, and all sharing how to do all kinds of theatre-related art activities. It's going pretty well, except for the fact that no one can find the 15 rubbermaid bins that were left up here from the previous 6 years of this program that contain all the accumulated supplies, puppets and materials we were sort of banking on using. I'm rolling with that punch - it's pretty typical of community arts, especially when done remotely like this - and we're making do. If anyone wants to spend a lot of money and donate some random art supplies to us, however - please feel free!! Just email me and we'll work it out. We'll take anything! hahahahhahha!

I feel pretty honoured to be up here, and for the most part everyone is really welcoming. It's pretty wild to see the collision of several cultures trying to work it out - and that's exactly what's going on here. Inuit culture and the dominant western culture of Canada and North America are - newsflash - REALLY DIFFERENT. Different expectations, understandings of time, priorities, is really complex. So - we just roll with how things come, and try to become friends. That's what I'm focusing. As I mentioned in my last post, there are THREE languages being spoken constantly here - Inuttitut, English and French. It's a lot to wrap my head around, and I feel lucky that I can at least speak the last two.

My team is pretty amazing too - Pamela Epoo, who is a primary gym teacher here at the Innalik School, and Isa, a young man from the community will be my primary folks - Isa and I will be side-by-side full-time, and Pam will join us after school and when she can during her spares. The kids'll be with us for a couple of hours after school, and that's when we'll be doing most of our work with them, so as not to disrupt their school days.

It's a big thing I'm involved in up here...but so far so good! More later!

Here are some photos though - to wet your whistles...

Nunavik from the air!

this was my first view of the village - coming in from the airport.

a closer view of Inukjuak.

The school and some houses at night - it's light here from 5.30am til about 9.30pm - loooooooong days and getting longer.

Some random things found on the window-sill of the kitchen where I'm staying - rocks and...teeth? Probably dog teeth - there are a lot of beautiful husky-type dogs here.

The Nunavik Theatre Arts Program Facilitator team at training week - or at least some of us - that's Lisa Ross, the artist-organizer who got us all into this, Isa from Inukjuak (my right-hand, right-on dude!), and Maggie, Sarah and Misty from Kangirsuk.

Here we are working our art-vibes to the max - working on different pieces to quilt together into a tapestry that expresses our ideas of an ideal learning creative experience.

More to come for sure, but I've got to go eat supper and rest up - big day of movement and more puppet building tomorrow ---- wow wow wow!

northy nerd out.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I made it!!!

I'm here!
It's amazing!
I have no internet connection where I'm staying, so I'll have to do all my stuff at the school.
Inukjuak is amazing. It's like a suburb on the moon. The folks are friendly, and there are three languages being spoken at all times. My mind is constantly blown by the light, the bare snow and rock, the big blue sky when it's clear and the clouds so close when there's cloud-cover.
Never fear - I'll be posting lots of photos - but our training week is going well for the most part - there's just not much time to do anything other than PROJECT!
It's awesome - more soon -

nerdy nerdy nerd nerd in the north out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

on our way!!!

Ok friends!

I am totally tired from the high level energy and anxiety and whirlwind prep that the past few days have been, but we're finally on our way to NUNAVIK! After a mutual mad dash to the airport, Natasha and I met up at security and made our way on to our flight to Montreal, met up with our colleague and organizational genius Lisa, and are one sleep away from the North.

I'm pretty well knackered - and I'm going to make the most of having my own hotel room, and watch a little bad television until I pass out. So far, the adventure is AMAZING!


Seriously though, it is amazing to be included in this adventure, and the more I find out about it the more I am delighted and excited to be doing this.

More tomorrow - when we actually get to Inukjuak!


Northbound nerd out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Ahhhhh - the totally bittersweet victory of completing exams!

I hate tests. I don't test well, I feel like the don't reflect anyone's learning all that much, and I think exams are a terrible way to end a year of learning - with stress, isolation, and a burnt-out brain. I think that's why I'm feeling a complicated mixture of dissatisfaction, unfinishedness, relief and discomfort. I don't feel like exams honoured my year of intense effort, integration and learning. But - what can I do about that right now? Not a heck of a lot - giant changes like that will have to wait a while, until my super(educational)-powers are fully formed.

So - it's the anticlimactic ending of another year at university - and I don't want it to end! Even though I leave in two days for dramatically exciting educational adventures, it's hard to let go of my scholastic routines. I didn't want my classes to end! HOW NERDY IS THAT?!?

But they did, and that's the way things work - and now I have A MILLION things to do to get ready. So far, my packing has consisted of idly wondering which books I'll take up with me to read and use as resources, and buying soap. Oh, and goji berries. It's just the burn-out from end-of-school times -- I know that I'll start getting REALLY excited once I'm packed and on my way.

So, now I have a couple of days to do that, and putter around seeing friends and slowly putting things in suitcases. While spring is sproinging all over the place here in Toronto, it's -4 Celsius right now in Inukjuak. It's going to be a bit like going back in time, weather-wise. So, I'll do some wandering around in the cherry blossoms and unfurling leaves before I go.

I will certainly be posting a lot while I'm up there - stay tuned for news!

Nerd outside in the springtime...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

sweet-sad endings and the next adventure...whoa.

My school year ends, in fits and starts, over the next two weeks. I can hardly believe that this year has come and gone, slid through my living like water. My History and Philosophy course is over, which is a tragedy as I wanted to keep taking that class forever; my interpersonal class has ended, and it was maybe the MOST RELEVANT educational experience of my life. This semester rocked hard - my courses were deep and influential, and there was SO MUCH WORK.

And on Wednesday, I had my last placement day at the High Park Bloorview Nursery School. It was a sweet day, where we planted bean seeds and sang songs, and as I led my last goodbye music circle, each child said "Goodbye, Noah!" and smiled and waved, which they'd never done with me before, not every single one! I was really is such a special thing to create relationships with kids. It is a truly powerful thing. I'll miss them a lot there. My placement was really spectacular - I felt welcomed by the educators I worked and learned with, and learned so much with the kids too. The power of integrated classrooms, emergent curriculum, reflective practice, interdisciplinary support teams...the list goes on and on.

And now - just a couple of other things to do...presentations, final interviews, and two exams. And's off to the next adventure.

I can't remember if I've talked about this yet on the blog. I've barely had a chance to think about it, with the end-of-the-year push, and when it was being conceived and organized it was still too far away for it to percolate into these pages.'s what's happening next. When you hear about what the heck I'm doing, you'll wonder how I managed to NOT think about it for so long.

I'm flying to the Arctic to teach art for five weeks.


I know. I can hardly believe it myself.

Lisa, an amazing artist and friend of mine, has been running an arts and theatre program in Inukjuak, a remote fly-in community in Nunavik for the last 6 years. Last year, she had a baby, and now being up North away from her family would be too much. So she asked me to go up instead. She is also expanding the program to another community, and so another friend of ours Natasha, will be starting a similar project in Kangirsuk.

I can hardly believe that I'm going to have this opportunity. I hardly know what it's all about. I've dreamed of the North in different ways for a long time, and now I'm going to experience it, and get to work with real kids and a real community. Because Natasha and I are both in school, and Lisa's been doing it for so long, she's been organizing it all, and I only have the vaguest notions of this whole thing. The next two weeks are going to be a bit of a crash course. I'll write more about it as I find things out.

So --- spring is here, and the school year's almost done, and I'm starting to get ready to go to an amazing place where there will still be blizzards, you have to fly to get there, fierce beauty and let's not forget the turbulent history of colonialism and general awfulness that our government has smacked the Inuit people with. Whooooo, nelly.

I hope I can do all this justice. Lisa thinks I can, and she's done it and knows. It's gonna be a crazy ride!!!

More soon -

Nerd out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

generous Deborah's amazing ideas

The online community of educators I've found myself in really is a wonderful thing. I find myself constantly inspired, affirmed and energized by all the folks out there passionate enough about the time they spend with young children to write blog posts about them after spending a good chunk of their day with them. My kind of people. In the sidebar are listed a whole bunch more really interesting folks.

If you haven't encountered Deborah Stewart's wonderful blog Excellence in Early Childhood Education, go there now. Deborah's enthusiasm for early learning and warmth pour out of her incredible blog, where she shares her ideas and knowledge gained from over 20 years of experience working with young children. Her blog is like a storehouse of ideas and jumping-off points, and her encouragement and kindheartedness have been a big part of weaving an online community of early childhood educators together.

Researching activities that promote prosocial behaviours (sharing and negotiating) for my final project in my Social Emotional Intelligence course, I turned to Deborah for some ideas. She was generous beyond my wildest dreams, and in FIVE comment posts left me some of her ideas. Absolutely amazing ones, I might add.

I deleted them after copying them to another document, and immediately regretted it - they were such good ideas I wanted more people to get a chance to see them. I wrote her back and asked her if I could re-post them in another post of their own. She said yes, being herself, and so here they are. Enjoy as much as I did! Thanks Deborah.


Hi Noah,
I don't know what age students you are planning for but here are some ideas as requested. These would probable work best for children ages 4 and up. This is a long post because I couldn't find and email address - you can feel free to delete the post once you have save or copied the material somewhere... Deborah:)

Activities that promote the development pro-social sharing and negotiation skills

#1 Sensory Play: Pepperoni Pizzas

Tell the children that you want to make a pizza. Show the children a large pizza pan and a very small ball of play dough or use real pizza dough.
Tell the children that the ball of dough has to cover the bottom of the entire pan and ask them to tell you what they think you will have to do to cover the entire bottom of the pan. As you follow their suggestions, have the children notice how one ball of dough is too small to cover the entire pan.

The goal is to get the children to recognize that in order to cover the entire pan it will take more dough.

Next, divide the children into partners or small groups. Give each child a small white ball of dough. Set a large pizza pan and one rolling pin in the center of the group. Tell the group of children that you want to see how they can work together to make one large pizza crust that covers the whole pan. While the children are working together, walk around and make comments such as, “You all make a great team!” or “Making pizza is so much more fun when you do it with a friend.” Or “I like how you take turns using the rolling pin.”

After the children have covered their pans, give them either real pepperoni or red play dough (and one round cookie cutter) and ask them to work together now to create pepperoni for their pizza. Continue to walk around and encourage them to work together.

Finally, have each group bring the pizza to the large group and show the results of their work together. Use this time to praise them for their ability to work together as a team to create a fabulous pepperoni pizza.

#2 Music and Movement: Circle of Friends

Place a number of large tape circles on the floor. You should have at least one circle per every two to three children.

Tell the children that when you play music, that the children are to walk around the circles and when the music stops, all the children are to find a circle and stand inside of it. Tell the children that they are to make sure no one ends up inside or outside of a circle all alone. Ask the children what they can do to make sure no one is left all alone.

Brainstorm ideas with ways the children can make sure no one is left all alone. What can they say? What can they do? How will they know if someone is all alone? Talk about how the children are actually sharing the space with each other.

After you play the music and stop, wait for the children to work out their situation until everyone is in a circle with their friends. Then talk about the words that you heard that were helpful to each other. Have all the children step outside of the circles and start the game again – tell the children that each time the music stops, they should choose a new circle to stand in.

#3 Creative Arts - Creating a rainbow

Begin by having the children join you and watch you use crayons to make a simple rainbow. Show them how to draw one arc of the rainbow at a time using all the different colors of crayons to make each color of the rainbow.

Tell the children that they are going to make their own rainbows. Set out a piece of paper for each child on the table along with one crayon of each color of the rainbow. Brainstorm with the children what they will need to do to create their rainbow since there is only one of each crayon color on the table.

#4 Setting the Table

Gather some magazines that show beautiful table settings. Show the children the magazine pictures and talk about what makes the tables look nice. Ask the children how they can work together to set a table that looks nice too.

Bring in a set of plates, spoons, forks, napkins, napkin rings, a tablecloth, a flower, a vase, and other items to set a table. Talk about the each of the items with the children so you are certain they know what the items are. Set the items on a tray beside a table and invite a group of children to work together to set a table.

As each group of children work to set their table, take pictures of them working together. Later, print out the photos and create a class magazine of your own titled, “Designer Table Settings.” Read and discuss the pictures in the magazine with the children.

WOW. And all that was just off the top of her head. Ladies and gentlemen, the ever-resourceful, ever-amazing Deborah Stewart!

grateful nerd out!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

groooooaan...and twinkle. time for tired.

We are almost there.

My fellow students and I can really see an end to the academic year close at hand. Only a couple more major assignments - finish my paper on sharing and negotiation for my social-emotional intelligence course, and put together my portfolios for interpersonal communication, creative arts, and field education. Oh my...I hadn't written it all out like that yet...yikes.

But considering I've worked through a good two thirds of the majorness, I feel good about it all.

That's not really what I want to be writing about. I want to write about the gazillion new thoughts that firefly through my heart and mind, even when I'm brain crushingly exhausted from working non-stop on final assignments and never hanging out with my loved ones. I want to write about the amazing feeling of watching tulips sprout up with young children. I want to write about the amazing free feeling of playing outside after a cold-weather climate winter. I want to write about reflective practice, and new thoughts on how we can encourage children to talk and plan with each other, and how we can guide and encourage a lot of learning with stories and narrative, or some new picture books I found at the bookstore, or the amazing feeling of the springtime sun on my back as I ride my bike to placement or class. Or the wonderful, warm, exuberant and inspiring community of thinkers and writers spinning threads of connection through the internet to inform and make community. The early learning and education bloggers are doing a wonderful job of weaving a feeling of togetherness right now...very awesome.

But I won't write about that now. The 'soft animal of my body'(thank you universe, for Mary Oliver) needs to rest, and not look at screens for a while. I will write about all of that soon.

nerd out, friends. let's rest.