Celebration: Two Weeks in

It’s a strange feeling to be writing October on the board but yet, after a prolonged strike, we only have two full weeks of school under our belts.

Usually two weeks into a school year means routines are still being practiced and set, schedules are not fully organized, new staff are building relationships with the students and “school stamina” is steadily increasing.

While this is all happening in my classroom, it also feels like we are all a little ahead of the game. Is it a typical beginning of October? Not quite. But for a variety of reasons, we have hit the ground running and I couldn’t be prouder. Maybe, it is my excitement to be back and fully immersed in all of the learning. Maybe it is the exact same thing for the students. A lot has to do with the fact that I have again looped a class of students from a 2/3/4 into a 3/4 so that 17 children were in the room last year. Whatever it is, we are back in a big way and this is what I celebrate: our enthusiasm, our passion and our commitment to learning.

I thought at first that I was going to highlight all of the academics we have so quickly embraced, but as I was selecting pictures, I realized that our strength and our growth is always such a balance of learning, community and joy.

As I often do, I will let these photographs tell our stories.

Our week began with an all day field trip up Grouse Mountain into the rain and the clouds. Despite the weather, the kids were troopers.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

On the mountain, our experiences included time in art galleries and a session in the Feast House with an artist. Students were respectful, curious and engaged.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for ThatOur first classroom art activity was a Picasso inspired cubist self-portrait project. I love the playfulness it brought out in the children.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

Finished portraits are bright and beautiful. These two portraits are not only stunning, they are also of two new friends in our classroom ūüôā

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

One of the best parts of our week is our gratitude circle where everyone shares small and large things that we feel grateful for. Always, it is a lovely exercise in sharing and listening.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

I have been taking individual photos of everyone in our class for a photo project we are working on. Of course, with a camera we can capture all of the energy that is who we are as a class community. Some of my many girls reveal their personalities. Oh yes, girl power.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

We have leapt fully into the land of 3 and 4 digit numbers – building, comparing, ordering, representing. Math is busy and messy with students and materials everywhere – just how we learn best!

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

Within the first few minutes of Reading Workshop, these boys have staked out prime reading real estate. They are doing all of the things we have been talking about when we ask what independent reading looks like: find a comfortable spot, have a collection of interesting things to read, build stamina, etc.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

We welcomed a lovely guest to our room Friday morning and some of us wanted to share some favourite picture books. The image is a little blurry because it is an action shot. These girls didn’t just read the books, they acted them out! Love the spontaneous enthusiasm.

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

A new year and a new grade means new writer’s notebooks and the introduction of felt tipped pens. Using the pens was a recommendation from Colleen Cruz¬†in a session some of my staff and I attended last fall here in Vancouver. As you can see, they sure allow the ideas to flow across the page!

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

Some more busy little writers sharing ideas and the excitement of our new pens!

Celebration: Two Weeks in There's a Book for That

Two weeks in and wow, we have much to celebrate!


Thank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I treasure this #celebratelu community.

Celebration: Best lines

celebrate link up

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

This week I am celebrating how amusing and amazing my students are by sharing a few of the things that made me laugh or made me pause.

1. My class had the opportunity to go to the forest and participate in outdoor games with some high school students who are taking an outdoor education course. It was less than a 25 minute bus ride away but for some of my students, a completely “other” world. In our pre-trip discussions about what we might see, one child predicted elephants . . .

There was a mixture of fear

“I’m scared – of the dark, the prickles, the bugs, the dirt . . .”

And huge excitement:

“I’m ready for the trip! I packed my nopulars so I can see near and far.”

Nopulars (binoculars) do help with that! All children had an amazing time! Within seconds of sitting back on the bus, I heard, “Can we come back here?” multiple times.

Celebration: Best Lines There's a Book for That

2. As we continue to study the ocean and all of the amazing sea creatures that live in its waters, I have the chance to read aloud many fabulous nonfiction titles. Friday, we started reading Here Come the Humpbacks written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Jamie Hogan

Celebration: Best Lines There's a Book for That

One of my students was fascinated that whales are also mammals and that the baby whale rolls when it is born and breaks the umbilical cord attaching it to its mother. All morning she kept telling me:

“I really love talking about the hunchback whales.”

In the first few pages of the book, the author explains that the male humpbacks have scars on their skin from past competitions. This sparked an interesting conversation.

“What competition? Races?”

“No. They are competing for the girl whales.”

“Why do they have to have competitions? Isn’t there enough girls to go around?”

3. I found a book at the public library this weekend that I just had to bring in and share with my class: Wild by Emily Hughes

Wild - Celebration: Best Lines There's a Book for That

After reading the book aloud, I admitted that I really loved the book and wished I had a copy for our classroom. One child remarked:

“You really should buy it. Otherwise, you might go a little crazy.”

4. Right now we are reading the novel The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Celebration: Best Lines There's a Book for That

This is a seriously beautiful book to read aloud and there are many moments of silence where we just allow for space and thinking. If you know the story (as I know so many of us do), we are at the part when the baby elephant, Ruby has arrived. Students have needed to talk a lot about how the older elephant Stella has felt about the baby coming. When Stella announces that she can hear a baby elephant coming because she can hear her crying, Ivan tells her that she is just hoping. “No,” Stella says softly,”Not hoping. Not at all.” It took the children some time to get what this meant. Slowly, through discussion they recognized that Stella didn’t want a baby to come and experience the captivity that the animals at the Bg Top Mall experienced.

The next day, I knew it had really sunk in when we read this part:

“Relax, Stella,” I say. “It will be okay.”

“Ivan,” Stella says, it will never, ever be okay,” and I know enough to stop talking.

I paused. The class was quiet. One voice piped up

“Stella doesn’t want the baby to feel what they feel. . . to feel locked up and sad.”

We all continued to sit in silence for another few moments until another child prompted, “Okay, you can read now.”

This book’s magic is in these multiple moments of understanding and compassion that we quietly share.

I celebrate spending each day with children who make me smile – for so many reasons. What are you celebrating in your week?

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!”

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 

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!