Take Me Outside Week is Coming

Wild About Outdoor Learning celebrates and encourages people of all ages in British Columbia to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved in activities to prompt their general well-being, physical health, mental health, learning about nature and caring for it.

Take Me Outside Partners

Wild About Outdoor Learning is fully in support of the upcoming

Take Me Outside is one of the partner groups in our network making a difference in the lives of Canadian children. TMO believes in a future where spending time outside learning, playing, and exploring is a regular and significant part of every student’s day. Take Me Outside works collaboratively with other organizations, school boards and individuals to encourage children and youth to spend more time outside through various projects and initiatives. In 2021, 8,900 educators and nearly 400,000 learners across Canada joined in on Take Me Outside Day.


A week of activities, speakers, and events

OCTOBER 17 – 21, 2022


Wild About Outdoor Learning Society

OCTOBER 17, 2022 – Eventbrite ONLINE SESSION

HOST A WILD ABOUT OUTDOOR FESTIVAL IN YOUR COMMUNITY Postponed until a later date / Stay Tuned









By registering for the Take Me Outside for Learning Challenge, you will also receive 20% off  Take Me Outside educator apparel, 5% off at the Outdoor Learning Store, along with a chance to win many more prizes from TMO and partners!

Be sure to tag @takemeoutside @wildaboutvan @BCLiteracyCoun1 #getOUTdoors #getINvolved #TMO #TakeMeOutsideDay2022 when you post your outdoor leaning endeavours on social media.

Thanksgiving and Reciprocity

Pacific Spirit Park

Some books are better listened to than read.  Particularly when they are read by the author, and it seems like that author is talking directly to you.  Braiding Sweetgrass is one of those books.   Not a book to listen to in one sitting but a book to savour over time.  It is like sitting down to visit with either my maternal or paternal grandmother.  The pace is slow and the stories just seem to unfold out of pauses in the conversation or between cups of tea.  

Robin Wallin Kimmer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass (2015) was just talking to me about thanksgiving and the relationship with reciprocity.  She is sharing the teachings of the elders  taught in Indigenous cultures for thousands of years yet carelessly lost due to the inability of settlers to identify wisdom.   The relationship between thankfulness and reciprocity was lived by my grandmothers.  You accept what is given to you with love and respond not only with gratitude but with a desire to reciprocate.  I am thankful that both my grandmothers gave their love, their stories, their baking and meals without any conditions or strings attached.   There was never any doubt that they were on my team and wanted the very best for me.  Reciprocity was entwined with good manners and judged a fair expectation by the receiver.

Somewhere along the way the concept of thanksgiving and reciprocity became divorced from one another. Unconditional giving that had previously come from a place of love morphed into giving because it was the surest way to demonstrate superiority or buy favour, or influence, or silence.  The giving came with a cost.  Perhaps the cost of the gift replaced the sense of reciprocity that had previously existed.  Or perhaps the narrative of entitlement was assumed because it was easy. 

Robin Wallin Kimmer peels it back to the giving from nature that is still unconditional and our responsibility to reciprocate.  We can be thankful for our bounty but it is our responsibility to look for the conditions that allow to sustain the bounty.  We are seeing the repercussions on nature of over-taking, over-hunting, over-fishing, over-harvesting, over-reliance on fossil fuels., over-consuming, and waste.  Imagine the change in the world, if each time we took from the environment, we took some reciprocal action to give back.

My involvement in Wild About Vancouver, and its new iteration as a provincial non-profit called Wild About Outdoor Learning Society is spawned by thankfulness for my home.  Growing up in Vancouver, raising my family in Coquitlam, and my work as an educator in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Vancouver has given me appreciation for farm culture, the suburbs, and city life.  Recreational interests have taken me all over Beautiful British Columbia.  While we bemoan the rain for a good chunk of the year in Vancouver, our water is instrumental to every facet of our lives.  We most often pause to feel grateful during the plentiful options for recreational activity.  I am so thankful for the water in the oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and snow on the mountains during ski / snowboard season.     It takes me aback when I see brown lawns, dried up ponds, and smoke from rampant fires in areas suffering from a lack of water.  

There are no shortage of individuals and groups that have considered the many possible ways for us to limit our consumption and take action to repair the damage that people have done to the environment.  Wild About Outdoor Learning Society as goals to familiarize people in British Columbia with ways to engage with the environment, be thankful for all it provides, and opportunities to give back. 

Wild About Vancouver, a grassroots movement started in 2015, has foraged some great partnerships.  Some are specific to Vancouver, and some have a greater reach.  Friends of False Creek aspires to restore the waters of False Creek to pre-heavy industry conditions.  Imagine being able to swim in False Creek!  Sea Smart uses education and positive actions like shoreline clean ups to make a difference in the environment and in the minds of our young people.  OceanWise aspires to protect and restore our world’s oceans with programs to help ships avoid whale collisions, shoreline clean-ups, and by selling sustainable seafood.   Year of the Salish Sea has joined with 90 other countries to protect 30% of their land and ocean by 2030 to coincide with the 2021-2030 United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.  

There are lots of ways to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved while giving back.  A good addition to  the conversation on #Thanksgiving.  

Wild About Outdoor Learning Supports Take Me Outside

Wild About Outdoor Learning celebrates and encourages people of all ages in British Columbia to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved in activities to prompt their general well-being, physical health, mental health, learning about nature and caring for it.

Wild About Outdoor Learning is fully in support of the upcoming

Take Me Outside is one of the partner groups in our network making a difference in the lives of Canadian children. TMO believes in a future where spending time outside learning, playing, and exploring is a regular and significant part of every student’s day. Take Me Outside works collaboratively with other organizations, school boards and individuals to encourage children and youth to spend more time outside through various projects and initiatives. In 2021, 8,900 educators and nearly 400,000 learners across Canada joined in on Take Me Outside Day.


A week of activities, speakers, and events

OCTOBER 17 – 21, 2022













By registering for the Take Me Outside for Learning Challenge, you will also receive 20% off  Take Me Outside educator apparel, 5% off at the Outdoor Learning Store, along with a chance to win many more prizes from TMO and partners!

Be sure to tag @takemeoutside @wildaboutvan #getoutdoors #getinvolved #TMO #TakeMeOutsideDay2022 when you post your outdoor leaning endeavours on social media

Missing the Mark

Vancouver Art Gallery

“Missing the Mark” is a phrase that has been incorporated into our lives and readily understood.  The concept of “being close but not quite there,” has its roots in archery.  Your arrow has almost hit the bullseye, but it is still a little off the mark.  It is a rallying call to continue the practice.  An encouragement that the goal of hitting the centre of the target is possible.  For Canadians, it could serve as a catalyst in our work towards truth and reconciliation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was brilliant for two reasons. The first reason is that it allowed the truth about the experiences of the Indigenous people who initially welcomed colonizers on arrival from Europe. Initially some mutually beneficial relationships were developed. At the Vancouver Art Gallery, beadwork by Attatsiaq, is on display. She was a Padlirmiut Inuk from the vicinity of Arviat, Nunavut (formerly Eskimo Bay, Northwest Territories). The glass beads perceived of as worthless by fur traders were valued and combined with wool flannel cloth, musk ox and caribou teeth, cotton and sinew threads, and caribou skin, to create intricate and enduring artwork. The art was obviously appreciated because much of it can be found in museums all over the world, most often without the name of the artist. Early historical documents express the willingness to accept glass beads as a lack of intelligence rather than appreciating it as a difference in world view. This so called primitive culture that had already met their basic needs and was able to focus on artistic expression. The colonizers came from a worldview in Europe that people wanted to escape, yet they di not understand the need to change for the better. These conflicting world views worked to the advantage of those with the weaponry to take what they wanted despite treaties or unwritten agreements.

beadwork by Attatsiaq

Much of the focus of Truth and Reconciliation has been focused on the horrors of residential schools.  Certainly, for many, there has been a lack of awareness of our history of the cruelty inflicted on children to eradicate difference in the population.  The colonizers brought a worldview that was transported from Europe.  Incidentally a worldview that had many people were flocking to escape.  Yet they set about recreating it in the “New World” with a new bully in the playground.  The travesty of justice for the Indigenous people began long before residential schools.  It began when people adopted the stance that informal and formal agreements need not be honoured.  It began when the perspective that one worldview was superior and was beyond incorporating new learning.  A missed opportunity to learn from Indigenous people who had survived on this continent for thousands of years was lost and the devastation of the environment guaranteed. 

In our society, it has become readily apparent that hearing information based on facts does not result in accepting truth.  The truth seems to have gotten lost because the conversation has gotten lost in a quagmire. It has become focused on our responsibility for the “sins of the father”.  If truth is perceived as an accusation or a guilt inducing exercise, people seem willing to do anything to discredit it.  The focus becomes on who to blame for the situation or how my truth is worse than your truth.  Treatment of Indigenous people, persecution of Jewish people, internment of the Japanese people, the Chinese Head tax, and racist policies have been put in place by governments, but they have been facilitated by the citizens of countries.  People may claim they didn’t know what was happening but when your neighbours or their kids disappear, someone had to notice.  When poverty, suicide, homelessness, and death by drugs impacts people with a specific profile, something is amiss.  Yet, collective guilt is not the goal.  Collective action motivated by a worldview that values divergent voices and possibilities for new learning will be far more enduring.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came out with 94 actionable items.   Kevin Lamoureaux refers to these recommendations as the “The Roadmap home” in his TEDx (University of Winnipeg) talk. We must be acting from a place of truth.  However, there is more than enough data that shows that we missed the mark in the formation of Canada.  I’m proud of being a Canadian.  I have benefitted from living in a democracy where there is a willingness to respect, accept and learn from opinions different from one’s own.  Yet, to quote Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  

It is the responsibility of Canadian citizens to hold our democratically elected governments feet to the fire, to take on the actionable items that are going to make the biggest impact.  It would seem readily apparent to me that clean water, dealing with the opioid crisis through adequate treatment programs, housing and education would be the primary targets for funds.  One walk in the downtown east side is all that is needed to identify that we have a crisis requiring immediate action.   Indigenous people may incorporate other priorities.  But government responsibility is to ensure equity of access.  

Truth and Reconciliation cannot be treated as one day that you have a day off, wear an orange shirt.  It needs to be actionable.  For some people that action will be to listen to the stories.  For some people it will be to become more informed.  Not to embrace guilt but to incorporate new learning into our own worldviews. Taking a look at the 94 recommendations is a good start.  Once we are knowledgeable, action is imperative to help Canada to meet the mark in becoming a place of equity, justice, and pride for all Canadians.   There is work to be done.

A Celebration of Outdoor Learning at Tatlow Park

Tatlow Park

Kids anxious to play on the playground and in the trees, tennis players, Green Party candidates, birders, book club members, dogs and their owners, people out for a bike ride and fans of Tatlow Park came together to celebrate the role of the neighbourhood park in learning and celebrating outdoor possibilities.

Audrey takes her people for a walk.

This event was funded by Neighbourhood Small Grants in the West Side Vancouver area. (For more information, follow the link). It was inspired Michael Levenston from the City Farmer Compost Garden on the Arbutus Greenway who identified the need to focus on positive memories and things happening at this park on a daily basis.

Michael and Justin from City Farmer

The event began to take form when I shared a blog about my experiences in Tatlow Park where my maternal grandparents were caretakers from 1965 – 1976. Sharing the stories led to others reflecting and sharing their own stories or Tatlow Park and the stories of the neighbourhood parks that had mattered to them as children. The idea of a community celebration to share stories and laugh and eat came into focus.

Carrie Froese, organizer, and Janet Fraser, incumbent School Trustee and great supporter of schools and all things outdoors

Participants were invited to bring a blanket or chair, a picnic lunch, their favourite park activity, and a park story to share. Tea, juice, fruit and packaged treats were provided. Nate Sheibley, long time volunteer with the Bike Kitchen, set up a bike station to provide information on bike maintenance.

Bike Maintenance 101

Justin Lau from City Farmer set up an information station complete with a worm composting bin. It was a highlight of the event, particularly with the kids, educators, and teacher candidate, Larkyn Froese. Justin was pleasantly surprised at how many people were already composting at home.

Worm composting rocks!

I set up a Bird Watching Station with good binoculars and the field guide made all the difference. John Patrick was there with his camera and expertise to document the birds that also attended the event.

Orange Crowned Warbler
Black-Capped Chickadee
American Crow

Parents with young children were most enamoured with Tatlow Park because it was close to home, had lots of shade trees and clean washrooms. Saulina, former teacher at Gordon, brings her young daughter to Tatlow Park every Saturday from the East side to experience “this quiet oasis so close to the ocean”. One set of parents shared their love for this park, partly because it was the first place their 3-year-old would go to the bathroom away from the house. The slide and the sandbox with the community toys are a regular part of their routine after preschool each weekday. All the kids love the playground and the great climbing trees. Tao arrived at the park with an armload of toys to leave for kids to play in the dirt with at the playground area. His Mom, Monica, shared that this was a long-established tradition. Other kids would leave “community toys” for other kids to play with and they would do the same. It always generated excitement and taught the concept of sharing.

Denise shared her memory of the excitement generated when a Hollywood movie was shot in the park in 1969. Many of us went home determined to see “That Cold Day in the Park.” Brad shared the story of his profoundly romantic proposal story on the bridge close to the ocean 37 years ago! My friend, John, unearthed a picture of us taken in the park as preschoolers. His sister, Kelly, relishes the time spent in the park with her daughter doing the very same things she had done as a little girl. The swings were favourites with all of us. I remember having a goal of swinging over the top bar of the swings in a full circle but stopping when it felt like I just might.

Four Generations of our family have Tatlow Park Stories

Planning the event was really quite straightforward.  Because the event was for under 50 people, a license from the city was not required.  Faith Greer from Kits House was very helpful and made the process of applying for a Neighbourhood Small Grant seamless.   It was very much like planning an event for family and friends.  There were many more locals, tourists and visitors wandering through the part en route to the Seaside Bike Path, the tennis courts, the playground or out for a stroll who were able to participate as well.  It was helpful to have some signage to lead them in the right direction.   Fortunately, the weather was sunny, warm and it lured people outside.  We put the tables to good use but never needed to put up easy up tents graciously loaned to us by Alona Ben-Yacov, Director of Spare Time Clubhouse.  

Wool socks! Best prize ever!

About 40 people actively participated in the sharing of stories. The draw prizes were appreciated but not really needed to get people to share their stories. City Councillor Michael Wiebe was one of several men who shared stories of playing Capture the Flag with the stream as the divider between territories. In fact, this experience has been his catalyst for supporting the Stream restoration plan from the storm drains on MacDonald Street, through Tatlow Park and down to the ocean.

City Councillor, Michael Wiebe, Carrie, and aspiring City Councillor, Devyani Singh

There was one woman who had lived by the park for 40 years and was disappointed not to find any familiar friends at the park.  She was most interested in information about the Stream Renewal, plans for the playground upgrade and an opportunity to give her input.  My information was limited to what was written on the signs.  A speaker and a table with more background knowledge would be something to consider for future events at parks undergoing change or new initiatives.  

Susan, Book Club member, discovers Tatlow Park

Although Diane grew up in the area, this was her first time to this hidden jewel in the city.  She joined her Book Club picnic and discussion of Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd. by Jonas Jonasson in the park on Saturday.  She relayed her observation of a squirrel who ran across the lawn, up a tree, across one wire to another wire to another tree that he stopped in to look around.  Obviously a familiar route! A park in a city is not like life in a forest.  It provides a hybrid experience between man-made and nature.  But it gives us outdoor experiences, a sense of community, and glimpses of nature that show its resilience, its adaptability, and its beauty.  And it makes our lives better.  

Another great day in the park!

Tatlow Park Celebrates

Tatlow Park – Bridge close to Bike Path

WHEN ?            

Saturday, September 24, 2022           11:00 am – 3:00 pm

WHERE ?         Tatlow Park.    Directions

WHY ?              

I was fortunate for Tatlow Park to be a mainstay in my growing up and adult life.  This is a community celebration of the activities, stories and the learning we take away from life in a neighbourhood park.

WHO ?            Everyone is welcome!

WHAT ?            

Bring along a picnic lunch and your own cup for tea.

Bring along your neighbourhood park stories and the activity you like to do in the park.  To date there will be a bird watching station, a bike station, a book club meeting, A City Farmer station, some tennis players, some crib players, some Wild About Outdoor Learning Society, some B.C Literacy Association members and a station for you to record your story in print or on camera. 

There will be a prize draw for all those people contributing park activity ideas and stories to the book or online. #TatlowParkCelebrates

Grants Available for Community Building Events

This project is funded by Neighbourhood Small Grants in the West Side Vancouver area.  For more information, follow the link. 

How It All Started

Michael at City Farmer on the Arbutus Greenway inspired this event. He expressed how much the community needed some positive Tatlow Park stories after the tragedy of the past year. I wrote a blog post about my memories about Tatlow Park which resulted in the sharing of more stories. It got me thinking about how many other people have stories about Tatlow Park and their own childhood parks. Faith Greer, Community Service Coordinator, was instrumental in stepping me through the process of applying for a Neighbourhood Small Grant. The goal is to share and celebrate the happy  stories of this park and other neighbourhood parks to be available for all. Following is the original blog post.

What Defines a Neighbourhood Park?

Carrie Froese in “The Monkey Tree” – Safe Zone during games of tag and a good place to read

Many years ago in Buffalo, New York, I had time to kill while waiting for a bus to take me to Youngstown, Ohio to visit my step-grandparents.  I got on a city bus and got off at a local “park” that had ‘lake” in the name.  It turned out to be a relatively small gravel area with an extremely large puddle of muddy water in the middle, some trees on the perimeter, a set of swings, a bench and a surprising absence of birds.  I was shocked that this would be called a park.

Sunday dinners at my maternal grandparents’ house are some of my first memories.  My Mum had one brother, two sisters, and when tallied, there were ten grandchildren.  On Sundays, everyone was invited, in fact expected to come for dinner.  Friends, and neighbours were also welcome.  My grandmother was a good cook and lived by “throwing another potato in the pot” to stretch meals to accommodate anyone who would walk through the door.  Boards or perhaps old doors were put on top of the table, hidden under tablecloths, when there were not enough leaves in the table to accommodate the group.  TV tables were for delighted kids when more space was needed.  In a pinch, you’d just put your plate on your lap.  

Keenan Family dinners in Tatlow Park house 

Summer was the easiest to accommodate our rambunctious crew.  The baseball game of “scrub” was halted, and we’d picnic on blankets outside.  Then we’d be off to play in the massive “yard” that included climbing trees, monkey bars, swings, a stream with a pond surrounded by a rock wall, two wooden bridges over the stream, tennis courts, a path around the perimeter to roller skate or ride bikes and a diverse range of trees with prickles, red ants, and long whip branches.      Sometimes a blanket was set up and my cousins would share their large collection of comics while sucking on homemade popsicles.

Bill and Edna Keenan – Tatlow Park Caretakers – 1965 – 1976

Go play outside!” was the refrain of my Nanny, Grandpa, aunts and uncles.  

And when we did, we learned all about working together on collaborative projects, solving fights, making new friends, and noticing the animals, plants, and trees around us throughout the different seasons.  We learned that death is part of life and that respect was required to mark the occasion.  We reminded each other to never touch a dead thing with your hands.  Disease existed and you had to take care.  Strangers were potential friends but you always travelled in a pack for safety. We learned what rain smells like and the feeling of sun on your skin when you’re sitting quietly in a hiding spot.

We learned that risks need to be calculated.  Roller skating down the “big hill” at the end of the park took skill.  So did jumping to the rock in the pond or climbing the big trees.  We also learned to watch the direction of the wind carefully if you were going to fly a kite in the park and that a high tangle meant saying goodbye to the kite.   

We didn’t go outside to exercise and take care of our physical and mental health or to develop relationships.  We played tag, hide n’seek, baseball, climbed on monkey bars and trees, roller skated, rode bikes and ran from each other, ran to the monkey tree, and ran to get dinner.  The outdoor activity was fun in the park in the midst of the tumultuousness of all of our lives.  Any physical health, wellness or development of relationship was a fortuitous by-product.  

Tatlow Park has a special place in my heart.  My husband knew it when he proposed to me on the bridge.  As he was on bended knee, my first impulse was to grab the ring.  I’d dropped and lost many things into the stream below that bridge as a kid.  I stared at the ring on my finger and then noticed that we had an audience.  Everyone in the park had gravitated towards us to watch the proposal and share in the excitement.  Because that’s what neighbourhood parks do.  They build community.   

Dandelion Dreams is the section of my blog devoted to myself as a writer. The name is inspired by my favourite piece of art by David Klassen.

Back to School for Teachers:  Building Classroom Culture

I loved Back to School throughout my career as an educator.  I loved buying new school supplies.  Choosing new posters.  Back to school clothes shopping.  Fresh bulletin boards. Welcoming students to a new school year.  I was a big believer in tapping into student excitement to be back and involving them in creating an inclusive culture.  The concept of “inclusive classrooms” has become a buzz word in education and too often void of meaning.  It is worth the time for educators to think through what that means and plan deliberate steps, so all students feels like they belong the minute they walk into the classroom to start a new school year.  

Learning Names 

My first job was in a Grade 2 classroom in the Abbotsford School District.  Sandy Murray also taught Grade 2 and we did a lot of our planning collaboratively.  At her insistence, we used singing games to learn the names of the students in our two classes.  Although music was not my strong suit, the song experience games provided an excellent avenue to use repetition and practice for us to pronounce student names correctly and the language for kids to say when their name was not being pronounced quite right.  The class would sing:

“Hickety, tickety, bumble bee, can you sing your name for me?”

The child would sing or say his / her name.  The class would repeat the name.  Then the student would have the chance to respond with a yes or no.  We’d repeat the child’s name until we got it right.  Several students had unfamiliar South Asian names so sometimes it took several times.  The follow up was using the child’s name throughout the day and checking that it is being pronounced correctly, as well as encouraging the students in the class to do the same thing.  This process would be repeated when a new child joined the class later in the year. 

The message to students that each one of them was important and we cared enough to get the correct pronunciation.    

Although when teaching older students or adults I didn’t use singing games, I discovered it was equally important to learn names.  We came up with other names games to accomplish the task.  When I was teaching teachers in China, it became part of morning English language warm up.  Investment in class was higher and behaviour was better once I had learned names.  It is hard to develop a relationship with students if they are part of the anonymous masses.  

Respectful Classroom Environments 

I had a Grade 9 English teacher who would regularly say,

“People, everyone should have their hand up!  Even *Kevin has his hand up.”

She always got a laugh and Kevin got derisive sneers.  The obvious implication was that Kevin was not too bright and even he had the answer.  The less obvious implication was that it was completely acceptable in that classroom to target and ridicule other students.  I certainly wasn’t taking any risks in my learning in that class, and neither was anyone else.  All Kevin’s energy was directed to his reptilian brain with survival as his modus operandi.  

Respectful treatment of students is required for teachers to cultivate respectful environments.   That is easy on good days when students are following classroom rules and able to self-regulate their own behaviour.  This is less so in the face of blatantly unacceptable behaviour.  If the teacher or principal treats a student like he is a bad or naughty kid, then so will the rest of the class.  That child will be excluded from the group and likely receive fewer birthday invitations.  

From pre-school to university, there is a jockeying for social power.  I have a daughter and a son, so it was interesting to watch the difference between their worlds.  In my son’s world, the focus was on activity.  You didn’t have to be the best at the activity, but you had to show up to be accepted.  One day in middle school, my son went snowboarding with friends.  One of the very athletic kids was making fun and ridiculing the newest snowboarder.  He was shunned by the group until he agreed to stop being suck a jerk.  It was a tougher go in girl world.  Girls were fully aware of the power of gossip and exclusion.  Modelling by a mother or an older sister often provided the scaffolding for the “mean girl” that enhanced their social power and ability to impose misery.

The hit or the shove is more obvious and usually noticed by teachers.  We know by now that the old saying is just not true:”

“Sticks and stones will break my bones,

Words will never hurt me.”

Words scar.  Exclusion alienates.  They must be identified, discussed, and an action plan must be implemented with the involvement of students and parents.

A Focus on Self-Regulation Strategies 

Expecting conflict and behaviour challenges in the classroom will help you to prepare you intervention. Students do not generally come to school wanting to wreak havoc or annoy the teacher or lash out at their peers.   However, many students do come to school with an inability to manage big emotions and cope with stress.  All students need to develop an ability to identify the emotions they are feeling and strategies to cope with them.  In some cases, children are coming from homes with well-meaning parents who have intervened to prevent the child from developing these skills.  Parent do not do their child any favours when they try to remove all stress and conflict and prevent the development of coping skills. 

There are many tools and published programs that are available to teach self-regulation strategies.  Starting the year by having children in the class create a bank of emotions, situations that prompt these feelings, and coping strategies is powerful.  The diversity of emotions, situations that prompt them and coping strategies is always interesting and informative.  My students always knew that exercise or a pot of earl grey tea was one of my coping strategies when the going got tough.  

At one point a very frustrated teacher delivered four fighting boys to my office.  I had just finished a meeting and my big tea pot and cups were still on the table in my office.

“Is the tea for us?”

“Would you like a cup of tea?” I replied.

“Yeah, I would.”

“Do you have sugar?”

“Yes, and milk, too.”

That sealed the deal.  The teacher came to check on the boys because they had been so aggressively fighting.  In my goodbye speech when I left that school, the teachers recounted,

“I walked into that room and there were my boys, sitting drinking tea and talking about their feelings.”

In my debrief with the boys, we had a lot of discussion about the calm down strategies they could add to their repertoire.  Was it the Earl Grey Tea?  Taking some time to calm down?  Having a chance to express their feelings?  In four out of four cases, they decided that all of them would go on their lists.  

When students are escalating, directing them to their calm down strategies creates a different focus and provides them with something to give them a feeling of control.  It also gives the teacher the ability to compliment the student on the ability to use their calm down strategies.  This doesn’t mean you don’t deal with the problem.  That needs to happen but problem solving needs to come from a place of calmness and in private away from an audience.  My four fighting boys were involved in choosing the consequences for their inappropriate behaviour.  They were more severe than I would have assigned.  All the parents were on side because their child explained the resolution process during the parent-child-principal meeting.

It is instructive for students to learn that everyone gets upset and that calming down is the first step to dealing with the problem.  It also allows for problem solving to be moved to a private place to avoid further embarrassment.  

I always provided a separate desk and, in some cases, a few extra desks that students could choose to work. Making the choice to work in a quiet workspace was a student choice, sometimes at the recommendation of the teacher.  Choosing a quiet workspace becomes a self-regulation strategy and replaces the archaic tradition of the student desk beside the teacher.  This labels the child as problematic, isolates him / her from the group and undermines the child’s belief in his/ her ability to control his/her behaviour.  

Differentiating Between Helpful and Hurtful Behaviour

“I was only telling the truth!”

I have dealt with this response in preschool, elementary school, middle school, secondary school, and in my own life.  It is often paralleled with,

“I’m being a good friend.”

The most helpful response I have used, “Is it helpful or hurtful?”

Truth or versions of it can be used as weapons and too often are.  This often plays out as reporting something hurtful someone else has said, most often in confidence.  Motivations are sometimes targeted to hurt due to jealousy or anger about another incident.  It never has to do with being a helpful friend.  Often, the intention is just to exert social power and ensure control.  

Children need to think through who they want to be in the world.  In the classroom or in social interactions, people need to understand that is a choice to make someone’s life a little bit better or a little bit worse.  For the students that chooses to hurt, they need to ask themselves why they lashed out.  For the person on the receiving end, there is also a decision to be made.  How do I want to be treated?  Is the person who repetitively hurts intentionally a good friend?  In school situations, social distancing is not an option but controlling the information you share is still under your control, as is expanding other friend groups.

Collaborative Learning 

I dreaded “group” work, particularly in university when the marks assigned made a difference to future aspirations.  My kids felt the same way about it all through school.  The kids that cared about the grades did the work, often for group members who were less able or less willing.  As we have come to appreciate portfolio assessment in the school system, this has improved somewhat, but only with careful planning.  The value of collaborating with peers extends far beyond preparation for the workplace.   Getting to know peers opens an avenue of support and learning in classrooms with respectful environments.  

The expectation that everyone will work by themselves, in pairs, in small and in large groups should be an expectation set up at the beginning of the year.  There should also be an expectation that everyone has skills, background experiences, strengths and challenges that help all of us to learn and grow in some way.  That growth could include patience, empathy, or knowledge.  There should also be an understanding from day one that everyone in the class deserves to be treated with respect.  The decision to make someone’s day a little bit better by a small kindness not only makes a difference for the person but also for how you feel about yourself.  

“I hate that kid” or “Oh no!  Not her!” is not acceptable language in respectful classrooms.  It is hurtful, not helpful.  Teachers must assume responsibility for functioning in the group.  Members must have clarity around roles and responsibility in the group.  In some cases, the roles and responsibilities will need to be taught.  Active listening is a skill to be developed for the group to function.  If a group member is not functioning in the group, they require support in self-regulating.   This is the responsibility of the teacher, not the group members.  Assigning a mark based on the work not completed by one group member is the reason that cooperative groups continued to be reviled in some school and work contexts.  

Seating Arrangements 

Seating arrangements are easier once you have established a respectful environment in your classroom.  I also found it was helpful to have seating arrangements that change and some student choice in the process.  I usually created groups of four because they lend themselves to the “Think, Pair, Share” and Think, Pair, Square” strategies for concept development and discussion.  The following guidelines are helpful:

Choose a friend you can work with?  Some friends are for giggling with on the playground.

Choose someone you don’t know very well.

Choose someone you think you can learn something interesting.

Choose someone outside of your friend group.

You decide on the guidelines with your students.  I tried to put one person on their self-selected list in their groups.  Groups changed at least every month.  Every student was placed in a group.  Every student understands they will be working with every child in the class.  


Building classroom culture is complex and will require your effort throughout the year.  However, these six considerations will make an immediate difference in your classroom.   They will impact how students see themselves and how they see others.  They will also cement parental support if the rationale is communicated to parents prior to classroom conflicts.  Learning to deal with people in a respectful way is learned behaviour.  The pressures of covid and modern-day politics have lent themselves to several interaction patterns that are not respectful.  You will need to be vigilant to ensure that respect is the cornerstone of your classroom.  It will take time and talk.  It will be worth it!

*Kevin – name changed to avoid this unfortunate student more embarrassment

Family Tradition at the PNE

Classic Roller Coaster Fun

As a kid growing up in Vancouver, the annual Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) was greeted with great anticipation and excitement.  It had something for everyone from kids to grandparents.  Buying tickets and lining up to win the PNE Prize Home was the first requirement for my mum, her siblings, and my Nanny Keenan.  As was crossing your fingers to win the show home!  Candy apples, cotton candy, the Petting Zoo, stuffed animal wins from the games in the breezeway and looking through the trade show were also standard fair.  

It did in fact take YEARS for me to finally get out of the Kiddieland and reach the line required for me to ride the rides I longed for.  Although my mother was never a daredevil, the old wooden roller coaster was part of her youth so we would ride it again and again.  All of her siblings had summer jobs and connections at the P.N.E.  Often, we’d travel to the PNE in a large Keenan family pack and break off into groups and then reconnect for horse or dog shows, or meals.  My Auntie Myrna had Coke Booth connections so my cousin Darlene and my sister worked at the Coke Booth, and it was a meeting spot that everyone could find.  

I considered the Ferris wheel in the realm of “calm” rides so when I’d babysit my younger cousins, I take them down on the bus and we’d take our breaks on the ferris wheel.  Their Mom, my Auntie Peggy would have a fit. Her youthful memory was of my Uncle Al and his brother Alfie rocking the little buggy until she felt like it was going to tip.  I didn’t rock cart.  I took my babysitting very seriously!

Part of the fun of the rides was the thrill of “danger.”  I have clear memories of my sister being terrified on the Double Ferris wheel. A ride we had picked out to be very calm for her.  Darlene, and I made faces instead of screaming because my sister sat between us, eyes squeezed shut, praying for our survival.  My friend, Armando, made is very clear he would NOT be riding the Zipper with me again and could not believe it was my favourite ride.  Instead, we ended up nauseous on the Spider ride.  Another closed in upside-down contraption ride had to be put in reverse because my cousin Ryan conveyed enough legitimate terror.   One of my most fun times at the P.N.E. was when my cousin, Darlene, took me to the P.N.E. for my birthday when we were in high school.  We were ride compatible and ran the whole night from ride to ride, screaming at will. 

My husband is also a fan of fast and wildly exciting rides.  It may have been a prerequisite for marriage.   Once the kids came along, we’d flip a coin for who would “win” and get to take Larkyn to the kiddieland rides while the other would take Tyler to the fun rides with the height requirement.  It didn’t take Tyler long to figure it out.

“The winner is the really the one who gets to go on the good rides with me, huh, Mummy!”

Today we are heading out the PNE once again. Dancing to Chicago tunes, hot mini-donuts, Skeeball, Whack-a-Mole, duelling pianos, the Show Home visit and a new cell phone case are on the list of musts. Good fun. Can’t wait! More memories to create!

Dandelion Dreams is the section of my blog devoted to myself as a writer. The name is inspired by my favourite piece of art by David Klassen. It was previously known as Sunday’s Child. Too many of us were born on a Sunday.

Introducing WILD ABOUT Outdoor Learning Society

Wild About Outdoor Learning Society

Wild About Vancouver has split its seams. The work and networks of WAV (pronounced “wave”) now extend well beyond the boundaries of Vancouver, British Columbia. What started as a grassroots movement in 2015 spearheaded with the zestful enthusiasm of Dr. Hart Banack, and a team of outdoor education advocates, has morphed into an incorporated non-profit society in British Columbia called Wild About Outdoor Learning Society. It has retained and expanded its original mandate to encourage people to #GetOUTdoors and #GetINvolved in their local community. Wild About Outdoor Learning Society has adopted educational, environmental, recreational, and charitable goals to educate and support the people of British Columbia. Wild About goals are based on the body of research documenting the many ways that time spent outdoors positively impacts health and wellness, as well as environmental outcomes.

City Farmer Compost Garden on The Arbutus Greenway Bike Path

Wild About Outdoor Learning Society has four goals that are deeply entwined and articulated in our constitution.  

  1. Wild About Outdoor Learning will provide options and support personal engagement in accessible outdoor opportunities for people in British Columbia to fully participate to advance their learning, physical, mental health, and environmental engagement. 

2. Wild About Outdoor Learning will provide opportunities for people to build community through actively participating outdoors in social activity. 

3. Wild About Outdoor Learning will heighten the potential for environmental stewardship by educating and engaging British Columbians, outdoors and on the land.   

4. Wild About Outdoor Learning will strengthen networking across the groups involved in promoting the value of time spent outdoors to create connections and structure collaborative activities between local groups including families, youth, Indigenous, seniors, new British Columbians, community organizations, schools, teacher education programs, and other allies. 

Wild About Outdoor Learning Society success will depend on the enthusiasts who share a passion for the outdoors to improve physical health, mental health, environmental relationships, and community engagement for the people of British Columbia.  As with Wild About Vancouver (WAV), Wild About will do what we can to network and support groups with like-minded interests and goals. 

The annual Tidal WAV (pronounced “wave) is a success that will continue and become a model for other communities to plan, promote and sponsor outdoor learning festivals in their own communities.  Perhaps Wild About West Van, Wild About Chilliwack, Wild About Prince George and Wild About ??? (Hopefully your community in B.C.)  Eventbrite sessions, TwitterChats, and face2face sessions will provide information and templates to facilitate fundraising, planning, and implementation of events for people in the community to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved in an outdoor learning festival.  

We will continue to encourage participation in adding to the lesson plans ideas for educators and provide educational sessions to support educators.  Last year Meg Zeni’s online session, Outdoor Play and Learning in the Rain, was well subscribed to and perfect for those of us living in the temperate rainforest.  Karen Addie’s session provided useful connections between books and science instruction.  The list of 100 books to support outdoor learning collated by the BC Literacy Association for the Tidal WAV 2022 also serves to be a helpful resource.  

We welcome and encourage mass participation in Wild About Outdoor Learning Society.  Our members and community partners will be vital in sharing out the information, networking opportunities, and educational events in their local community.  To serve on the board of directors, steering committee, or vote at our AGM, you will need to be a member of the Wild About Outdoor Learning Society.  Stay tuned for how to become a member.  

Congrats to Dr. Judith Scott for induction into Reading Hall of Fame

Congrats Dr. Judith Scott aka Judy Scott

The British Columbia Literacy Association is proud to announce that Dr. Judith Scott is one of five 2022 inductees into The Reading Hall of Fame. On December 1st, she will join the 136 living members in the RHF and will receive one of the highest honours bestowed on literacy scholars worldwide. Dr. Scott recently retired from the University of California – Santa Cruz in the Department of Education where she taught for 22 years. While at UCSC, she served as the Chair of Academic Senate Committees on Teaching and Career Advising, the Chair of the Indigenous Faculty Networking program, the Director of the Vocabulary Innovations in Education Consortium, and Principal Investigator of the Central California Writing Project. She has also been the Chair of Undergraduate Programs in Education, Graduate Director for the Ph.D. program, Chair of the Language, Literacy and Culture specialization as well as the Co-Director of a Professional Development Institute in California that served over 350 new and veteran teachers for three years, focused on English Language learning using teacher inquiry and coaching. In her spare time, she was the Principal Investigator of four large grants funded by the United States Department of Education/National Center for Educational Research and the State of California.

In Canada, the British Columbia Literacy Council proudly embraces Judy as our own. She was a well-loved member of the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University from 1991 – 2000. She was also instrumental in creating the Early Literacy Network of 52 school districts in B.C. and active in our International Reading Association chapter. Throughout her career, Judy has been known for her support of classroom teachers and recognized their pivotal role in putting research into practice. Her focus has always been on how to evoke a sense of playful discovery in the teaching and learning of words. We are thrilled for her work to be acknowledged and for her to take her place alongside educators such as Ken and Yetta Goodman, Rob Tierney, P. David Pearson, Shirley Brice-Heath, Annmarie Palincsar, Allan Luke, Vicki Purcell-Gates and David Olson.

An appreciation of the power of words has always been part of Judy’s life.  Her stay-at-home Mom was an avid reader with an exceptionally well-developed vocabulary.  Her Dad is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and use to read the dictionary on a regular basis to improve his vocabulary.  His parents instilled in him that proficiency in English was the way to success.  His time in boarding school in Oklahoma, where one of his seven siblings died, fueled a keen desire to create a better life for himself.  He recognized early on that you couldn’t change first impressions, but you could change minds when you opened your mouth.  Judy was a middle child.  With an older brother who became a lawyer and a younger sister who became a teacher, good communication skills were needed to survive.

Judy’s interest in words followed her into her graduate studies with Richard Anderson and her work with Bill Nagy at the Center for the Study of Reading.  Her work on vocabulary acquisition and blending vocabulary instruction with effective teacher education within the context of language, literacy and culture has received international recognition throughout her career, but this is a particularly note-worthy honour.  

Since retirement, Judy has pivoted into working as an educational consultant in the private sector. This has allowed her to focus on the work she believes will make the biggest impact. Her first children’s book, When the Mission Bells Rang, was written in consultation with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. It tells the story of colonization through an Indigenous lens using the voices of the animals in the Monterey Bay area whose lives were disrupted by the Spanish Missions along with those of the Indigenous peoples. The Mutsun names for animals are used in this story and underline the sophistication of the Amah Mutsun culture that had evolved in the area for thousands of years before the Spaniards arrived in the late 1700’s. The inclusion of the Mutsun vocabulary speaks volumes and underlines the power that words carry.

For more information go to:

The Reading Hall of Fame

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