Oil Spill Challenge

Hopefully this video speaks mostly for itself.  We’ve been looking at non-renewable resources.  Today we discussed all the things oil is used for, and how our lives would be different if we didn’t have it.  (Many seemed surprised to learn that their great grandparents–or perhaps mine–would have grown up in a world largely devoid of plastic).  Then we talked about some of the challenges of oil including spills.

Four oil spill crews took on the challenge.  I was super-impressed today with the universal focus and cooperation, the inventiveness (check out the gadgets!) and the impressive lack of water on the floor afterward (at least until Mr. Teacher tried to clean up at recess and spilled water everywhere).  I assured them their parents would be happy to let them duplicate the experiment in the bathtub or swimming pool, but ask first.

You may note that I still can’t manage to keep my fingers of the microphone, but I would add that I’m not the only one–I didn’t do most of this filming! 🙂 

Inquiry Project

Hello folks at home,

Probably you have already had a look at the possibly-slightly-overwhelming duotang of information that came home about our Spring Inquiry Project.  If not, here is a PDF with some of the information, and ask your child where the duotang is!  Inquiry Project Introduction

It would be very helpful if students arrived on Monday with that duotang and a couple of inquiry question ideas so that we can hone those over the course of the week.  Please also send me any questions you have.  Feel free to share those here if you think others might benefit!  This project is a bit of an experiment, so I’m really extra open to feedback!


Energy Transformation

I used to worry if Science experiments or design activities didn’t work out easily.  The students would get frustrated, I would feel like a failure.  “We’re not learning anything!”  Gradually I accepted that maybe the frustration was part of the learning.  Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb in one afternoon.  Mary Anderson spent a whole year perfecting the windshield wiper!  So now when things don’t work right away, I am much more willing to stand back and let the students struggle and adjust and improve their designs.  And they are (usually) very happy to fiddle away!  (Lesson, again:  “Teacher, get out of the way!”)

We’re looking at energy transformations.  Ask your child for an example or two.  (You’re looking at one).  Today I had two little activities I wanted to try, the first being a simple spool “tractor”.  (Thanks for the spools, people).  Nobody could make theirs work at first, but gradually, gradually…some success…some sharing…some arguing…some cutting of this and replacing of that…eventually we had four or five that worked pretty well.  Design takes time.  Back at it tomorrow:  coffee cans, elastic bands, nuts and bolts, maybe some other stuff…

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Brain Awareness Posters

Hello people!  It’s a beautiful day, so I hope you and your brains are outside, but in case anyone is wondering, below is the poster contest we will be working on this week.  Students should arrive Monday with a topic in mind, and if they had some information, materials or layout ideas that’s great too but not necessary.  Many students already had topics in mind that were not listed below, and I know at least two students have already been working away at this.   We’ve done posters before, so students should understand that they do not need to create a massive report so much as present a clear, eye-catching message with some supporting information.   They might take a “Did You Know?” approach or a “Be Aware!” approach.  The posters will be completed on a big piece of white bristol board we’ve been provided.

This is all a culmination of our monthly visits from the “Brain Reach” team and preparation for our May visit to Queen’s Neuroscience Laboratories.

By the way, here is a video we watched with Megan and Madison on Friday during our discussion of “Attention”!  Watch it with your child and see if you can spot the trick!

Field Trip to Nunavut

Really interesting exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre yesterday.  A series of drawings, all made in the early 1960s by Inuit living traditionally in remote communities in the high Arctic, demonstrated a people who were utterly in tune with their landscape.  (And pretty good with a pencil too!)  I think we all found the drawings pretty captivating.  A people on the edge of relatively late but massive impact on their communities and culture.

Great bunch of kids along today–so engaged.  Thanks to the moms who made it to help out in the pouring rain.

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Each student was asked to do a sketch of some detail from one of the drawings and then incorporate that later in a drawing of their own.  When we returned to school, I asked the students to turn their drawings into an “exhibition” of their own, each accompanied by a description.  They worked so seriously on this task!  While some of these actually made me laugh out loud (in a good way; in an appreciative way) I think they all reflect how much they got from the original drawings.   Still experimenting with the best method, here it is, a PDF you should be able to open:

Nunavut Life

And finally, here is a link to a classic 1949 NFB film called “How to Build an Igloo” that we watched this morning.   There’s some old fashioned language in this film, but I do think it remains a fascinating document.  It was a great opportunity to talk about “tone” in reference to Aboriginal people, and the hinted-at assumption that a modern or European life was the natural and superior goal of these people.  Mostly, though, I think the film depicts a people whose ingenuity allowed them to thrive in a climate that Europeans were ill-equipped for.

Agnes Etherington Art Trip: slight change

Hello folks at home,

For your information, we are not going to walk to the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre on Thursday.   Because of the high probability of rain, we are going to make this a public transit adventure.  This morning, we went through the online exercise of trying to figure out what information to put into the computer to find out exactly what bus to take to get us to where we needed to get at the time we needed to get there.  It was very interesting, and successful, I hope!

The good news is, it doesn’t cost us anything!  I was preparing to ask for another couple of dollars per student to take the bus, which I really had hoped to avoid.  But it turns out they’ve just changed the fares on Kingston Transit to FREE for people under 14 years!  This is very exciting for us downtown schools as it will definitely open up other free trips!

I still have only one parent volunteer joining us at the gallery.  If there was one other who could accompany us on the bus ride that would be great.

Gould Lake Too

Hey folks, if you haven’t seen the post before this one, it exists, and has some nice pictures of our Gould Lake Trip as well as some deep thoughts from yours truly.  But here is the real story from those that lived it.  We are experimenting with Google Docs and Google Classroom.  This was a shared document that I created that the students could simply cut and paste their own writing into. Kinda cool.   It is another example of how I am a slower learner than they are.  🙂 


In  Gould Lake we hiked near water and on hills and then we made fires.  And with them cooked hot dogs and marshmallows.  Then me and some friends went to the stream then used flint and steel then hiked back.  Then we ate and then left.  THE END.

Gould Lake Field Trip by Ryan

On Thursday, March 30th our class went to Gould Lake, as soon as we got to school we were getting ready to go. We got on the bus. I think all of us were pretty excited now. The bus ride was probably about 35 mins. When the us parked we got out. The people who worked there greeted us. We sat down on the picnic tables and discussed what we were going to do. We got a few minutes to prepare, then we set off to hike.

I wondered where in the woods we would stop. The one man named Shawn showed us some scat (poo) and he told us by looking at it closely, we could figure out what animal did it. Like if it had lots of fur or bone, then it was probably a coyote or some kind of predator, because that would mean it ate an animal.

Eventually, we were walking and Shawn said we were going to go to a little pond where deer liked to hang out, so we might see one if we were lucky. When we got down to the pond, we saw a tree that had been chewed on by a beaver, and had collapsed because of it. Everybody kept walking. We soon reached a large hill that was very steep, and hard to walk up. We finally got to the top, and we saw a big stack of wood. That was the emergency wood, in case they were staying out all night, then it would burn all night. Right beside that there were pits where we would build the fire.

The first thing we had to do was place our birch bark that we had collected earlier on the pan in the pit. The next thing we had to do was collect tinder that was as thin as our hair, and put all of it on top of the birch bark. Then we had to keep adding sticks that were slightly thicker, pencil width, finger width, then marker width. Shawn then used a lighter and the fire started.

We had to add wood constantly to keep it going, and cook the hot dogs at the same time. Everybody had 2 hot dogs and then we let the fires burn out. Shawn and Katie showed us how to get sparks using flint and steel. Everyone got a chance to try. Then we set off.

When we got back, we hopped on the bus and drove back.

Gould lake.     by Graeme

Today I got my school stuff and went to school. When the bell rang I went into Mr. Caldwell’s class everybody came except for Peyton we went outside to where the bus is with the other class. (Ms. Rochforts class.) we went inside the bus I sat with Abdul we had a 45 minute ride.

When we got there the two classes split up. Somebody explained that we should not litter or destroy animal homes.

We went on a hike and we collected birch bark and we looked at animal poops and Sean explained things about animals. We were hiking to go to a campfire site because they were teaching us how to make a campfire.

They explained that we need to put the birch bark on the bottom and tinder on the top and they told us to put more firewood on it at a time. They got us all in seperate  groups they were groups of 5. So 5 people in each group. I got together with Ryan, Abdul,Jayce, and Khaled.

We started to find tinder. At the start we could not find that much tinder but we found this tree that had lots of tinder. We collected a lot of tinder. Then we went back to our sand pit and we told sean we were ready to start a fire. Sean got us a pan and we put the birch bark on it and we put the tinder on the birch bark. Sean lit the birch bark on fire and moments after that the fire went out so we started again. he lit the fire and moments after that we were ready to cook.

I took a hotdog and i cooked it some of it was a little ashy but it was still really good. I took a bun and I put it on the bun and ate it. then everybody else started cooking. I cooked a marshmallow and it was good.

Then once we were done cooking they showed us how to make sparks using flint and steel. Me and Khaled were really good at it.

we went back to the bus and went to school.


Today I went to Gould Lake and I ate poisonous oil with hot dogs.I felt SICK.So I drunk 572 ml of water,it didn’t really make a difference.I wish I could of fished.Lunch was pork sausage patty from Edan,it was really good!Then,I without  knowing I ate the poisonous hot dogs and marshmallows.Then, we try to make fire with flint and steel.Carlos cut his finger by trying the flint and steel.I cut my finger too also, Ethan did.When Akira tried,and one of the spark went on me and Carlos´s hand,Carlos was screaming.After that accident,we went back to the bathroom cottage kind of thing…I went to the bathroom after Nate.When I tried to open the door,it was locked from outside.Yuma–>[Oh I know who did this!] I climbed on to the bathroom wall and when I tried to jump over the wall… The door opened.????–>[Hee hee hee] Yuma–>[Aagh!] I sat beside Akira I was thinking of the UFO we saw on the way here.On the way back to school,Akira was singing PPAP to Khaled I was just chillaxing.When the bus got to school,me and Abbu went home everybody else went back to class.                                 THE END

Gould lake by Presley

Yesterday, Thursday March 30th 2017 we took a 35 minute bus ride to Gould lake. When we arrived we separated into are different classrooms since another class was there with us. My class got to hike up in the woods and make are own fire. Are hike was long and beautiful, there was ponds, streams and a waterfall (but it was small).  We climbed up a big hill and stayed up there to eat.  To eat we made a fire so we could roast marshmallows and make hot dogs. The objects we used to make the fire was birchbark, (which we collected on our hike) we also needed tindre and many different shapes and sizes of sticks. To make the fire we had to first rip the birchbark into many different layers. Then we ripped the many layers of birchbark and crumpled it up, then we placed it on a pan the instructors gave to us.  Once all the birchbark was crumpled up on the pan we had to find tindre and place it on the birchbark, when that was finished we had to take tiny sticks and place it on the tindre. Next we took bigger and bigger sticks and placed it on the little sticks. When we were done that the only thing left we had to do was ask the instructor to light the lighter on our fire. Then Wed had to keep “feeding” the fire with sticks to keep it going we also had to blow on the bottom of the fire to keep it going. Once it was big we took marshmallows and hot dogs to roast them. It was really neat and fun.        

Field trip to gould lake by Abbu

I had lots of fun at gould lake. On the ride there it was kind of bumpy and the road was going up and down, I was so excited I couldn’t wait until we got there. A few minutes later we reached the place and 2 guides were waiting for us. Their names were Sean and Katie. We had a little break and went on a hike through the woods. While we were hiking we found some traces of animals. branches were bitten off and we found feces on the ground. On our hike we found a little waterfall and the water was clean so we could see through it. Minutes later we reached our spot. We were learning how to build a fire. Soon we were cooking hotdogs, roasting marshmallows and enjoying our lunch. We discussed different ways to build fire and some of us went downhill to the river. To build a fire first we had to put a bit of Birchbark crumpled up and in the middle altogether. Then we put a bit of tinder on the top and then you put little sticks and slowly put little bit bigger and bigger sticks until you reach the sticks thickness as thick as a marker. Now you can light up the birchbark and gradually put sticks and blow on the fire from the side so it will get some air. The lake was frozen and it was sort of cold but the sun warmed us up. It was time to head back now we were in the bus again and I was ready to hit the bed.


On Thursday March the 30th my class went to Gould Lake. We hiked around the woods, it was about 2 kilometres and we saw scat. When we got to our destination we built fires and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows it was an awesome experience.

By W. Akira McLaren.                                                                                                                                 

On March 30th we went to Gould Lake.The ride was very bumpy but on the way there I saw a UFO!!! When I saw the UFO I saw two streaks beside it at first I thought it was an airplane but then as I was watching it suddenly a blue circle appeared and it flew inside it and it disappeared!! The only things that I thought it was a meteorite or a UFO but I didn’t see fire so it had to be a UFO!!

The things that I liked about it was that we got to roast hotdogs and marshmallow. We got to go hiking and see cool things.We also got to see deer and doe poo. I am happy that we got to make a fire and see a waterfall. The things I liked the most were a rock with moss two inches thick. There was also a tree that had fallen over the river.

by Ethan

At Gould lake it was really fun.I wish we found some animals but when we found the moose skat it made up for it.the coyote skat was cool to,also hiking was fun to. The best was when we made the fire, we had to collect a lot of firewood but it payed off when we had hot dogs and marshmallows :).On  the hike back it was warm , but very nice out.I was tired on the way home but I had a basketball game when we got home so on the bus I just relaxed.That was my field trip to Gould lake.

                                                 Gould lake trip   By Khaled

In Thursday our class and grade six class went with us to gold lake on a  big bus.  We get to and  they put are class in a group and the other class into a group.  then they sad for us informations like don’t throw food on the ground .And then we walked for long time then we stopped and talk about animals three times . and then we get to a high heel and then we learned how to make a fire. We made fire in groups and then we start cooking on the fire for like a pure then we come back to school and from school to home.

Gould Lake Trip

By Olivia

Yesterday on Thursday, March 31 our class went on a field trip to Gould Lake. The bus ride was 35 minutes. When we were almost at Gould Lake there were big hills and it was really fun. When we got there we had a snack and then our guides talked to us about being careful and not disturbing nature. Then we each got some birchbark for fire building later.

Next we went for a hike in the woods. We stopped several times to get the group back together. We also stopped at a mini waterfall. It was beautiful. Then we kept on walking until we came to an area where there were pits filled with sand. Our guides explained that they were for building fires. We divided into groups and each group shared a pit. We were given a pan to build our fire on. Our guides showed us how to make a fire. First we crumpled bits of birchbark and put them in a pile in the middle of the pan. Then we put really thin, tiny sticks called tinder on top of the birchbark. Next we put on bigger sticks and even bigger sticks on top of those. The tinder was hardest to find. Then one of the guides lit the birchbark. Then we got to roast marshmallows. Both of mine caught on fire but they still tasted good. Most people had hot dogs too but I didn’t because I’m vegetarian and I didn’t want a veggie dog. After eating we went down by the water.

We also got to try lighting a fire with flint and steel. We used cedar bark and rubbed it and ripped it until it was fluffy and soft. Then we tried to make sparks and land them on the cedar bark. I was bad at it.

Then we walked back and rode the bus back to school.

                                                     Gould lake Field trip by Abdul

On Thursday march 30th our class and Ms Rochefort class went to Gould lake. At first we all waited in our class I came tiny bit late, but since everybody  takes their back packs in the class I thought they all left and I missed the ride but I walked in the class and every body was there.

Then Mr Caldwell told all of us  to use the bathroom for the last time. Everybody  lined up and we went to the bus and drove there I sat with Graeme we played I spy and talked for the whole ride we got there had a quick talk and then we went for a hike.

We got an area were Sean and Katie dug holes  with sand in them we had metal plates and there were groups of five me  Ryan,  Khaled, Jayce and Graeme were a group we made a fire so we could roast our food on the fire
When we were done we hiked back to the camp and we got on the bus.

The trip to gould lake by Trinity

On march 30th 2017 we took a 45 minute bus ride to gould lake. When we got there we had a little talk before we went on the walk roast marshmallows and hotdogs. We also build fires  and went looking for sticks. My favourite part of the trip was seeing the waterfall and the river.

Eh k lu’s Gould lake trip.    April 30,2017      

On march 30 our class went to Gould lake. We met new people we hiked for a long time and saw amazing things like a waterfall. It was amazing it made me happy and it sounded like natural environment. Mr Caldwell also saw poop and held it. It was really gross but a little bit cool too.

We also made fires.  We used birch bark,sticks,a lighter, etc.  We also made other ways to make a fire. We cooked hotdogs and roasted marshmallows, it was delicious.We hiked back and said our goodbyes and went on the bus and went back to school.

A field trip by Seohyeon

I was so happy at the Gould Lake when we go and back. On the bus it was so fun because the road was bumpy so the road was going up and down like rollercoaster.  When we get there we ate little snack and we on hike through the wood with guides Sean and Katie.  It was a little scary because the hills was so steep and many branches so I thought I’m gonna fall but it was safe and we saw many deer poop. For second we found a place to build the fire but l was scared and excited because in south Korea we can’t build the fire in the wood and mountain the fire can get very big and burn the woods so we have to be safe.  But it was so so fun and the food was so delicious. We saw the river and its sound was big like the ocean. It was so good and Gould lake was my favourite field trip.

                        Nate Gould lake
What we did at Gould Lake:  We went for a hike and then built fires with birch bark. Then we roasted marshmallows and hotdogs.  Later, we tried flint and steel to start a fire.


Gould lake
I went on a big bus 🚌
Then we ate some food 🥘
We hiked for a mile
Got birch bark
We followed a trail of deer 🦌 poop 💩
We hiked for a mile they told us don’t litter we made a fire 🔥 we roasted hot dogs my friends and I ate rations marshmallows then we started all over again with the fire then we made it with flint and steel we got a fire again then we put it out covered up are trail back so nobody knows we were there we hiked the other way it was fun then we went to the bathroom 🚽 then we went on the bus got back to school then we went home
            By Edan chase

Gould Lake

Sorry to be slow in sharing pictures and comments about this trip.  My weekend was rather consumed.  

We had a fine trip to Gould Lake last week, and completely scored in the weather department!  I was so excited, because I used to work there and it is my favourite place.  I was hoping that because there were no leaves on the trees we might spot a porcupine or maybe an owl.  But with so many people there, the animals probably hide or fly away.  I did find a huge coyote scat though (no pictures, you’ll have to go and find it yourself) and it made me happy to think the forest has these beautiful animals living in it.   And most students quickly tuned their eyes to the forest, finding more than expected.  Yuma spent a lot of time studying fungus.  (Hey, Yuma, I just remembered we were going to explore that even more; remind me!).  Lots of kids loved the birchbark.  I spent some time with Trinity discussing bears and beech trees.  Alas, my camera died partway through the day.

An argument could be made against cramming into a bus, driving for an hour, then hiking for another hour just to gather wood, build a fire and cook hotdogs before turning around and heading out again.  But I think there is an argument for experiencing the land in all seasons, including when it is not quite awake.  I also feel there is value in our children being on this land:  The Canadian Shield; the huge granite slab that glaciers sprinkled with ten million lakes for beavers and loons to swim in; the land that the people who are of this place feel in their bones and culture.  Anishinabe.  Wendat.  Montagnais.  Cree.  Algonquin.  

As we study the cultures of those who were here before Europeans, as well as the challenges of those who came, I had hoped to convey the amount of work that went simply into eating.  (And we didn’t even have to catch our food!  Most of us didn’t even have to carry it).  Shawn, one of our guides, asked us to consider how we would be looking at the day differently if we weren’t heading home that afternoon.  This helped us to think about living on the land, as a human or non-human animal.   I hope there was a beginning glimpse for some of the skill it took and takes to live with and from the land alone.

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Note:  I’ve begun experimenting with “Google Classroom”.  Students can write and submit assignments online.  I’m still learning.  In the end, there was not so much time to finish these on Friday, but I’ll add them to this post as they appear.