Celebration: Calef Brown Land

This week I am thrilled to celebrate a very special visit from author/artist/poet/word-wizard/snail-inventor, the amazing Calef Brown! To say that we adore Calef Brown’s art and poems is an extreme understatement. We are ultimate fans! So much so that we have been working on creating what we have come to call Calef Brown Land: a world on our outside bulletin board that features creatures, flying machines, flora and fauna inspired by Calef’s work.

Calef’s book Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny was the inspiration for many of these pieces  Dragon, Robot, Gator Bunny Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That We started drawing . . . Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That And then we painted Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Creatures and such were cut out and collected. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That And then the building of Calef Brown Land began. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That It was admired 🙂 Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Because it is AMAZING! Full of whimsy, vibrant colours and all kinds of joyous charm. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That And then, today . . . Calef Brown, himself, was coming to visit! Books were ready (check out the top row) Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That The schedule was set. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Welcome signs were made. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That And then, we heard the shouts, “Calef Brown is here! He’s here!”

Staying in the room and calm went quickly out the window. Because today was the day! We got to visit with Calef Brown!

Sharing the mural was pretty special. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That But having Calef Brown share with us . . . Well, now, that was just full of wow! We talked about syllables and favourite words. Rhymes and near rhymes. List making. Word savouring. Rice paper. Tones. Inspiration. Silly. Colours. End papers and treasures under the book jackets. We got to ask lots of questions and found out many things like which came first – the poem? the word? the illustration? (Never the chicken or the egg in case you were wondering)

We watched Calef read poems (perfectly) upside down. And . . . recite multiple poems from memory. Most of his poems are stored in his head and he shared them with us, when the time was right, on multiple occasions. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That When the students had their recess break, Calef made each one a special note. (Yes, he really did this! I witnessed it!)

He also gifted a signed copy of his newest book Hypnotize a Tiger to our school. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That Calef got a little peek at my students doing what they do best: losing themselves in books! His books, of course, flew into hands and were shared together or devoured individually. Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That In the afternoon, students got a peek at their individual notes. Lots of smiles all around 🙂 Celebration: Calef Brown Land There's a Book for That This week I celebrate Calef Brown’s generosity, creativity and time. His visit was very special for us, confirming our knowledge that book makers – readers, writers, artists extraordinaire are magical. They make the world extra everything! Thank you Calef Brown! This was a morning for the very important memory files. Filed under . . .

wordy wanderings

art meanderings

kindly offerings

Same  number of syllables inspiration  🙂

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. celebrate-link-up

The Other Side of Me

“Lost in a book? It’s the best place to be!”  I often say this in our classroom when the bell rings and everyone is so busy reading or listening to a story that nobody has noticed the time. But how much better is it when the book we are all reading (see below) is a book of stories written by our classmates? Add to this that each of us has our own copy to keep! And . . . that this book is the product of a whole lot of amazing process work: talking about, planning, writing, editing and illustrating a story with the help of staff and volunteer mentors from the Writers’ Exchange.


This was our journey:

On Day 1, Jennifer from the Writers’ Exchange arrived at our class with four volunteer mentors ready to begin working with students on a creative story. We split into four working groups and Jennifer led us through some engaging get to know you guessing games. Students then filled out a story planning sheet in preparation of writing a transformative story – where they would turn into another “version” of themselves to have a small adventure. With the help of the mentors and school staff, all of the children made a great start on story ideas.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

One week later was Day 2. The day we called “Sticky Note” day. Our young writers added various details to Story Maps to flush out their story ideas. Clever mentors seemed to know that these colourful sticky notes were great inspiration for writing a lot of details! And they also make great moustaches. Don’t you think?

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

While I knew we were on route to some really fun stories, I particularly loved all of the talk time with our mentors. Students were so engaged and so excited to discuss their ideas. They were able to listen to feedback and were inspired to stretch their thinking.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Day(one week later) was our day to write drafts. Jennifer explained that in some places we could just transfer some of our sticky notes and write details/words around these ideas. This certainly took the pressure off students who were worried about rewriting everything again.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Look at how many adults were in the room talking and engaging with students! It was a beautiful thing! Many students actually wrote and edited their drafts in this one hour work period.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Day 4 was a busy, busy day! Final edits and drafts were completed and then there was time to make masks, complete illustrations and celebrate creativity! The room was full of language, sparkles and the buzz of imagination.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

And then we had to wait . . . Jennifer and her team brought our stories and illustrations back to the Writers’ Exchange where they would be passed along to those people who worked on the editing, design and layout of our book. In the meantime, we had to decide on a title for our book. We thought The Other Side of Me was a brilliant idea! It captured the essence of our stories of transforming into another “enhanced” version of ourselves.

On April 23rd, we had our Book Launch party at the Writers’ Exchange (located just a few blocks away from the school). Yes, there were treats (the brownies were perhaps the biggest hit!) but first we received our books and students were invited to come up and read in front of classmates, Seymour staff and mentors. We even had two Moms come along to celebrate!

As our brave students read their story, everyone else followed along. The respect and focus was incredible. Some of our quietest children volunteered to read. Let’s just say that the adults in the room were in a constant place of “emotional awe”.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Proud writer showing us her story.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Proud Mama with her two little authors.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

A few days later, students filled out feedback forms about the experience. Here are some answers to the prompt: My favourite thing about working on this project was . . . 

  • writing my story. I like when we made our own books
  • reading, making and drawing my character
  • the nice mentors. I get to use my imagination.
  • making us better at writing
  • that we can put anything we want. We can write mythical!
  • our story! our own ideas! And now we can make our own book at home
  • we made our own stories with our own ideas and they are brilliant ideas
  • everyone feels like a star
  • everyone feels like a real author

Students then did some writing about what this project meant to them and what they were grateful about. I typed out key ideas from each child and these were used as part of a thank you photo series for the staff and mentors who worked with us. This thank you post (The Other Side (and side and side and side) of Me) can be found on our classroom blog. It is well worth taking a peek at! Here are just two photos that are part of the post.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

More information about the Writers’ Exchange can be found on their website. From the inside of our “chapbook”:

The Writers’ Exchange makes literacy exciting and accessible for inner-city kids through free mentoring and creative writing projects like this chapbook.

Our gratitude is huge for everyone who helped make this book possible: staff and volunteer mentors from the Writers’ Exchange, Seymour staff and volunteers and the huge generosity of all those who provide donations for this amazing program!

Our little writers feel all kinds of pride!

Monday on the Mountaintop!

So what better way to spend a Monday than up on the mountaintop? Add some falling snow, some snowshoes, our favourite big buddies from Take a Hike and we’ve got lots of reasons to smile! Cypress Mountain felt like the top of the world!


It kind of went like this . . . 

Put on the snowshoes and head up and up and up. Big buddies and little buddies were supposed to be sticking together. And that happened (mostly). There was some coaxing and some chasing. But we kept smiling!


Get some rosy cheeks and keep smiling!


Stop to celebrate along the way! We walked a long ways up!


If you took a little longer getting to the top, celebrate a little bigger! 


Head back down – this time knowing where we are going!


Stop to smile! (and savour the view!)


Sometimes you need to go back up a few times so . . .


You can go down! Wheee! 


Let your smile show how you felt about the day!


And remember, you are never too old to smile big! Take a Hike seniors were troopers! Thanks for all the help guys!


Water, water everywhere!

Today was hardly a day when you would look outside through the clouds, mist and rain and think, “What a perfect day for the beach!” But this is Vancouver. Rain is what it does here. And . . . we had a much anticipated field trip with our big buddies from John Oliver’s Take a Hike program. So for Division 5, today was a day where we did think “Beach Day!”

The Take a Hike vans picked us up at recess and we drove out to UBC to head down many sets of stairs to reach the beach! When we were at the bottom, one of my students said,”Something here is making my leg shake. It won’t stop and I’m not doing it. Really.” His big buddy explained to him about muscle exertion! We certainly got our daily physical activity today!

The Take a Hike staff brought along buckets and the rain did not curtail our big plans for scouring the beach for treasure. Boots, raincoats and buckets! We were set.

Not only did we find treasures on the beach but we were lucky enough to spot seals out in the ocean and various sea birds flying overhead or landing together on the water. Logs were the perfect look out spots.

With nobody else on the beach, we had huge expanses of sand to do some writing in. Little buddies and big buddies wrote each other’s names.

We found shells, pieces of driftwood, crab legs and even a bracelet!

It was certainly very wet! But who needs sun? There was sand for sinking in, puddles to splash in, and rocks to scramble over!

And the smiles persisted. These girls found a coconut. So how did that end up on the beach? Was it left at a picnic? Did it travel across the ocean? We wonder!

When it was time to go, we had a lot of stairs to climb back up. Everyone was wet and cold. But the energy was positive. A few of us needed some distraction. Walk ten steps and do a wiggle. Stretch breaks. Ask your buddy to carry your bucket. Whatever worked. We all got up those stairs in record time. And because we still got to hang out with our buddies, everyone was happy!

After close to three hours in the rain, we headed back to the vans to drive back to school.

Some moments I wish I had captured on film? The Take a Hike student wringing out the socks of a little seven year old who had splashed a little too enthusiastically near the ocean. The Senior student who by the top of the steps had numerous buckets and a back pack or two in tow and still managed to hold the hand of a Grade 2 boy who was shivering. The big buddies who told me “This kid is the best!” about ten times. The boys who stood on the rocks and pointed out airplanes, possible seals and interesting birds on the ocean and the little buddies who stood beside them and asked over and over, “Where?” “That?” “Really?”.

We had water from our drenched hats and hoods down to our soggy socks. It was cold. And it didn’t stop raining until we were on route to the vans. But what did I hear on the way out the door today?

When do we get to see those guys again?”



What a lovely day for a boat ride

A sunny day in June. What could be better than taking a canoe ride out on Deer Lake? Not much! Students and staff from John Oliver’s Take a Hike Program picked up Division 5 with two vans laden with canoes and it was off on another adventure!

Once canoes were loaded off the vans and life jackets were secured, it was time to hear about the safety rules on the water.

Gathered together in Circle

We were a confident bunch. Some of us especially so! Doesn’t Sergio look ready to paddle across a lake?

Got my paddle. I'm ready!

One adult. Two students and the boats were out on the water in no time! My boat was full of enthusiasm. “This is so great!” “We’re really doing this.” “Let’s go faster!” “This is the best thing ever!” “Are we going to race?”

All smiles out on the water

The rule was when Tim’s paddle went up in the air, everyone should come to him. With many novice paddlers, this accomplishment was a big one!


Then it was off to find turtles! Many questions when we were on the lake: “Are there any beavers?” “There aren’t really any alligators, are there?” “Can I catch a fish with my hand if I find one?” “Was that a dragonfly? Look there are three!”


Some of us looked like absolute naturals on the water! Often the steering genius of the adult in the back wasn’t realized. But hey, paddle in hand, an open lake, and we felt like we could do anything!  Still, thank you Take a Hike students and staff for the back end of the boat power!


We headed in for lunch and some impromptu “goose herding” These geese were very interested in so many children with so many lunches!

So many geese!

After lunch, students were given the option of going back into canoes. But this time with no adults! Who was in? Who wasn’t?! The rules were only two in a boat (so nobody in the middle could tip the boat) and don’t go past the adult boat out there to keep an eye. We stayed in the shallow waters and felt like world class paddlers! Best line of the day was uttered at this point by Catriona when told she could go back into a boat, “Yes! Time of my life! Lived again!”

No, this wasn’t like bumper cars (but on the water in boats) but it kind of looks like it in this picture!


Some of us needed a little direction in paddling back to shore! Thanks to our yellow canoe full of expertise!


Everyone pitched in when it was time to pack up. Little muscles and big helped carry canoes to the vans.


Life jackets? Check! Paddles? Check! Lock it up! Little helpers learning from Take a Hike students (who now know how it all works!)


Thank you to the staff and students for a wonderful day and another “first” for our outdoor education experiences! Now we can paddle a boat, hike up a “mountain” and walk on the snow! There is nothing like getting outside and learning something new. And wow, is there power in Grade 12 students working with primary students to teach, “You can do this!”

Self Portraits courtesy of Arts Umbrella

What I love about Arts Umbrella Workshops:

1. Engaging, skilled teachers who can instruct and inspire in less than 20 minutes!


2. Students get to work big! Nothing like having one class and the whole gym floor to spread out on for art!


3. With instruction that inspires confidence, students are able to apply new learning instantly. Instructors walk around and give lots of great feedback!


Look how well the proper position of the facial features has been learned!


4. Students take risks. They aren’t afraid to experiment and try new things because it has been modeled and encouraged! Look at the fantastic colours!


 5. Students get to create pieces where they get feedback that sounds like this: “Wow!” “Did you do that?” “That really looks like you!”


 6. The instructors leave us with hints for finishing off pieces (like going back to add details with pastels) so that completed pieces really stand out!


7. Our hallway and classroom bulletin boards look like this a few days later!


Thanks again Arts Umbrella for a fantastic learning experience!

Dragon Boating!

Today the entire school went Dragon Boating near the Creekside Community Center in False Creek.

Division 5 was very excited about this trip! Big smiles on the bus and as we waited to get suited up and into the boats!

Catriona and Khai can’t wait to see the boats we will ride in!


Waiting near the water in the sunshine is just fine with us!


Being excited before it begins is half the fun!


We learned how to hold our paddles and about the different calls like “Let it Ride!” (which means rest!)


Then it was into the boats with our buddies and out into False Creek!


Students loved seeing everyone on all of the other boats especially as we lined up for races!

Dragon Boating Pics 054

And of course, eating lunch after all of our hard work was a highlight of our trip! Happy boys in the hotdog line!


Students expressed their gratitude to the “Dragon Boaters” (Thanks to Dragon Boat BC and Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival Society) by writing thank you letters when we returned to school.

Thanks also go to the Vancouver community and matched funds from Adopt a School which allowed us to pay for bus transportation to and from the Community Center.

Some excerpts here:

Dear Dragon Boaters:

I got wet a bit but I had so much fun! Thanks. But why can we not see fish? From Jacky

I never in my whole life Dragon Boated! But now I have. I want to go again and again. From Carmen

It was good nobody fell in the water. I liked going under the bridge. It was hard pushing the water but I tried my best to do it. From Truman

Thank you for letting our whole school come boating. It was so much fun learning and going fast in the water. We loved eating hotdogs and hot chocolate. From Isa

Thank you for such a good time. I was a little scared at first but when I saw the boat, I knew it wasn’t going to tip over so it turned out to be okay. At the end of paddling my arms felt so tired that I had to go to the doctor. Just joking ha ha ha From Shae Lynn

I liked it when we raced. I won every race. I was in row 8. I’m 8 years old and it was my first time (I was scared) I had a blast. Thank you From Purity

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to go! One of my favourite parts was when we saw a black bird that kept dipping its head underwater. I’ve never been in a Dragon boat before and it was AWESOME! From Catriona

I was excited! I like paddling and I like racing but my hand got tired. We went fast when we were going under the bridge. I’m glad we went dragon boating and I want to go again. From Raymond

Thanks for letting us come Dragon Boating. And thanks for the Hot Chocolate and the granola bars and the hotdogs and the juice. I want to go again. From Reiko

Thank you for taking us dragon boating. My boat came second. I liked the food. But my favourite part was racing. From Raelyn

My favourite part was racing. I had a lot of fun! I was very excited. Even though I got wet it was still the best trip. That was my first time dragon boating. From Khai 

Making Vegetable Creatures

Our session today with Growing Chefs was a lot of fun!

We started by celebrating how well our windowsill vegetable gardens are growing! Not only are they thriving but . . . we got to do some tasting today. The verdict on arugula: “spicy”, “nutty”, “like radishes” and a “yuck!”

Arugula anyone?

Claire then read How are you Peeling? Foods with Moods to the class as an inspiration for making some vegetable art!

We appreciated the inspiration and happily selected from a variety of vegetables to create some odd vegetable creatures!

Raelyn created a zucchini sea monster!

Ashanti tried not to be too scared by the vegetable monster she made!

Hailey made a vegetable “guy” with a cool hairdo!

Carmen’s vegetable creature could stand by himself and was it just me or did he always seem to be watching us . . . ?

The More Mud the better!

What an amazing day Division 5 had with staff and students from John Oliver’s Take a Hike Program! We went to Deep Cove and hiked through the rain and mud to Quarry Rock.

It was fun to trek up steps, across bridges and over tree roots.

Across bridges we went

Despite a lot of rain, our smiles beamed through!


Reaching the top gave us this beautiful view!

The view from here is pretty amazing

The view from here is pretty amazing

An hour through the rain and mud made us pretty proud. We climbed a mountain!

Success! We did it!

We love the Take a Hike students. Always smiling and always encouraging!

Our hiking tour guides!

Our hiking tour guides!

For many of us, this was the first time ever in a forest. In fact when we were doing the poll, “How many people have ever been to a forest?” one child said: “This is a forest?!” Yippee for first time experiences!

Trees, even burnt ones, offer many stories . . .

Trees, even burnt ones, offer many stories . . .

After eating lunch on the top of Quarry Rock, we needed to head back down. We spotted a large black bird swooping in to eat our lunch crumbs.

Mr. M and Sergio watching the bird on the edge of the rock

Mr. M and Sergio watching the bird on the edge of the rock

We finished our day sitting on the grass in Deep Cove. Everyone got to share their favourite part of the day and how they were feeling out of 10. Some highlights of the day included: “climbing a mountain,” “seeing a waterfall,”  “singing a song together,” and “being out in nature.” A beautiful day. Rain and mud didn’t make it any less wonderful!

Our circle on the grass

Our circle on the grass

Riding home in the vans . . .

Sergio: “I’ve climbed two mountains now.”

Ms. Gelson: “Really? Which ones?”

Sergio: “I just climbed one now. And when we went with them to Cypress in the snow.”

Read about our other mountain adventure here.

Thanks again to the Take a Hike students and staff for taking us to “mountains” we never thought we’d climb!

Snow shoes, mountains, and wet feet!

Division 5 got to put on snow shoes and hike up the mountain at Cypress with staff and students from John Oliver’s Take a Hike Program.

Let's see how wet we can get before we even put on snowshoes!

Let’s see how wet we can get before we even put on snowshoes!

Snow shoes on and up we go!


A beautiful way to spend a Monday! We learned there really is snow on those mountains we often see from school and no, this is not the North Pole!

Lots of white! Gorgeous!

Lots of white! Gorgeous!

Some other important learning: Each tree is surrounded by a hole. If one of us gets stuck down that hole, someone else might too. Of course we all had to try that theory out!

Around those trees? Holes!

Around those trees? Holes!

On the climb, it got hot! Layering is key! And thank goodness for juice boxes and water bottles!

Steeper than it looks!

Steeper than it looks!

Best way down? On your bottom!



Eventually we had to walk. Some of us had more snow in our boots than around our boots. Many wet socks, cold toes and rosy cheeks. But big smiles persisted! No crying, lots of laughing and this question repeated: “Can we come here again?”

Down to the vans. What a day!

Down to the vans. What a day!

Best post field trip conversation:

Sergio: “It was so great. I saw heaven.”

Catriona: “Sergio, it actually wasn’t heaven.”

Sergio: “Well we were above the clouds.”

A big thank you to the staff and students from the Take a Hike program who took us on a winter wonderland adventure on a beautiful February day full of sunshine!