Dean Burry Visit






Today we had a visit from Dean Burry!  Who is Dean Burry?  He is the composer who composed Carnival of the Dinosaurs, which was the big piece performed by the Kingston Symphony when we went a month ago.  After finishing our own dinosaur project, we thought he might like to come and talk about dinosaurs and being creative and stuff like that.  And he came!  (It turns out he lives right here in Kingston–only since last June).

I like connecting with community members like this.  Most people like hanging out with young people who are interested in what they do, and it’s great for the kids to glimpse people’s passions.  Dean is clearly very experienced doing so through his work with the Canadian Opera Company, and from being a dad.  He was very generous with his time and the kids were, as usual, very engaged with great questions and comments.  He loved their dinosaurs, of course.  (If you haven’t had a chance to come and see them, they are up in the hall). Really, a bunch of people sitting around talking about dinosaurs and music is going to work out.

That’s all.  Just cool.

Home discussion: the Heavy and the Light

Hello, happy Earth Week.

I wanted to share with you at home a video that, with some hesitation, I presented to the class today.  In observing Earth Day and Week, I like to engage students with something inspiring and energizing–some sense that they can participate in caring for our planet.  The kids are usually right there with me–almost like they know this drill.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental firebrand below, has challenged me (and all of us, including the world’s leaders) to act with much greater urgency–and honesty.  She strips bare the notion that our individual choices can save the planet.  She knows we need big systemic change, and we need it yesterday.  Her message is very heavy, and I am not sure our 9 and 10 year olds were fully ready for it or for her.  But on this Earth Day, I couldn’t think of anybody who is a better voice to share.   Check her out; she pulls no punches.  But I wanted to let you know, as sometimes we hit heavy stuff in class and I don’t always know what kids carry afterward.




And on a lighter note:  Abbott and Costello.  A couple of weeks ago, during Joke Week, we watched “Who’s on First?” the single greatest comedy sketch of all time.  Brayden went home to try and find it and stumbled across another great sketch of theirs.  Today in our math class (we’re circling around to the various operations right now) he and I presented it so we could figure out how can 7 x 13 equal 28?  We watched the video twice and tried to find the mistakes–hopefully it reinforces our own mathematical thinking.


On Greek Dinosaurs and a Scholarly Symposium

Last week was our Paleontology Symposium–which has become one of my very favourite projects ever!  In the middle of a unit on Ancient Greece and the etymology of Greek in English, why (a concerned parent might reasonably ask) are we doing a project on dinosaurs?!  There’s an, ahem, evolution here I’ll try and explain.  The first question to answer, though, is why are we bothering to learn about Ancient Greek?  This is easier for me to answer.

English is a soup of languages–to an extent perhaps unique among the world’s languages.   Elements of Old English, Latin, Norse, French and Greek are present throughout.  And one of the wonderful things that English does that can be confounding to those who don’t understand it but valuable to those who do is include markers of those languages in its spellings.  We’ve been noticing this all year.  Way back, we saw how words with an initial <wh> or <kn> digraph–are marking their Old English origins.

Greek has a huge presence in modern English–we’ve previously touched on how words with a <ch> digraph pronounced /k/ or a <ph> pronounced /f/ are very often marking Greek (or, properly, “Hellenic”) origin.  Check out “school” or “phone” and you’ll find this is true.  We learned that before the universe, the Greeks believed there was “Chaos”.

Understanding even a couple of dozen base elements of Greek origin can unlock many hundreds of English words.  This deepens our understanding of familiar words and helps us unlock the meaning of new words we encounter.  Our trip to the Kingston Symphony a few weeks ago was timely as a launching point to delve deeper into the Greek presence in English.  Symphony, we learned comes from an element meaning “together” and another we already knew meaning “sound”.  Choreography is literally “dance drawing,” which I think rather poetic.

Some Greek base elements, copyright Real Spelling.

I provided the students with a list of Greek base elements from Real Spelling, and asked them to see if they could connect them to words they knew.  (Try it yourself with the picture to the left).  As they came into focus, students began to see that biology is the “study of life”;  that a hemisphere is “half” a “ball”; an astronaut is a “star sailor” and a photograph is a “light drawing”.   As we discussed the new word symposium, students quickly made connections to other words.  Sympathy is to “feel together”:

At this age, students will now encounter a greater number of words rooted in Greek and Latin.  Knowing these and other Greek bases will help them comprehend new words and make connections.  At least they will know to look.

Inevitably, we discover that dinosaur is “terrible lizard” and triceratops is “three horned face”.  The world of science, we learn, draws heavily on Greek and Latin to name things.  (This would have come naturally to early British naturalists, as they all read Latin and Greek).  All dinosaur names are Greek in origin.  And so, the obvious way to get us studying the Greek is to invent dinosaurs!  (See how logical this is?)


For the last few weeks our set of highly-motivated paleontologists have been preparing to unveil their latest “discoveries” at an international symposium.  You will see that this is some high-quality scientific writing, well organized into paragraphs, and polished by peer editing and revision.  To say nothing of detailed, labelled scientific diagrams.

And of course, boundless imagination!  Watch for the dinosaur that gets smaller as it ages; the dinosaur that is made of rock; the one that lives in a volcano; the one whose egg forms between its mother’s horns; that has fingers on its tail; that communicates with its fins…and so on!  As one student exclaims in their paper: “You never know where your imagination will take you!”

I hope these pictures convey how seriously they took this project:  from the reports they produced to their earnest discussions.  Please peruse their work here, but also plan to come and see it as it goes on display later this week.

But here’s the thing I am not sure I’ve ever experienced before:  After delegates had discussed their discoveries in their groups of four, I invited them to go around reading the reports of other delegates, maybe take some notes.  So up they got and it was a few moments before I realized it was almost completely silent in the room.  I hadn’t asked them to be quiet–hadn’t hollered at them or anything, I swear!–but it was so quiet!  After a few moments, I grabbed the camera again and made this little video.  Play it on full volume for the right effect:

No Chaos here! (And no wine, either, in case you were wondering.  Our “drinking together” only ran as far as juice boxes).

Why are these students working in such a quiet, focused way? Because they are scholars!  As my friend and mentor says, “Nothing motivates like understanding.”  I believe that is evident here.  In any case, it was delightful to see them take such pride in their own work as well as their peers’.  I look forward to our next symposium!  (And stay tuned for Latin!)



(that’s Latin)

Your child may have come home Friday telling you that on the very same day as our scholarly symposium, their teacher taught them how to snatch a penny off their elbow before it hit the ground.  (And that he may have broken the world record for the number of pennies snatched in one go).  The truth is that this is the truth.  It was the spontaneous follow-up to a very interesting Light investigation we did in Science just minutes before.  Hopefully, in addition to dazzling you with their improved elbow agility they also demonstrated the bending of light using their penny, a cup and some water.  If not, please send the penny back for remedial work.  Behold the dignity of the true scholar and athlete:  


A Carnival of Dinosaur Music

For goodness sakes! I am an infrequent blogger at the best of times this year, but there’s no excuse for this post being unposted–I just forgot to hit the “publish” button!  This is from several weeks ago, the students’ responses to our trip to the Kingston Symphony.  Though late, I share this now because their words are so great (we wrote these to send to the Symphony folks) and because it all ties well to the post I’m working on from this past week. 

In particular, I note how amazed the students were to hear the idea of a symphony (from Greek sym, “together” and phone “sound”) come alive.  They were agog that these actual humans could work their instruments together to duplicate the Jurassic Park theme.We were delighted by the production of composer Dean Burry’s work “A Carnival of Dinosaurs”.  We had read the poems he’d written for each dinosaur but it was wonderful to hear the music that accompanied each as he read them on the stage.  


Dear Kingston Symphony, thank you for letting us come, listen and watch the show. I found the show really fun and interesting. My favourite song from The Circus Of Dinosaurs was the Finale song because I thought that the bird sounds were really cool! I was wondering what instruments you used to make the bird sounds. I noticed that the Maiasaura song was pretty calm where as the other ones were more adventure like or active. I was surprised when in the Parasaurolophus song some of the Brass instruments made the honk sound, I found it funny. I also enjoyed the Jurassic Park Theme because it made me think of watching Jurassic Park movies with my Dad.

From, Wylder


Dear kingston symphony when i saw your performance i was amazed by how much musicians were their playing the violins and the tuba’s when the themes were coming into play and when that happend I loved it and I want to play a tuba when I grow up also I  always wanted to become one of the 70 people. I noticed that the footprint one was a lot longer and I loved it. (Brayden)

Dear Dean Burry i like your dinosaur carnival because when people play it with instruments you really hear how the dinosaurs stomp like at the symphony.Whenever the drums were hit it would sound like the dinosaur is stomping VERY loud.And when the flutes were playing it sounded like a warning that the dinosaur is giving us to stay away.  And the trumpets were warning that the dinosaur isoming. And the pipes sound like a warning that it will hurt you if you go near it. The violin it makes the dinosaur sound scarier same as the cello. And it looks like the conductor is hitting the dinosaur.


ASHI BUDDHDEV  Kingston Orchestra  

Thankyou for inviting us to the Symphony. I really enjoyed all the cool music you guys were playing. I was surprised by how focused all of you were,you were playing really nice loud high notes and small quiet soft notes. I noticed all most string instruments were at the front and tubas and other instruments were at the back. I wonder how long it took to practice all of the music,it was a lot. For me it was kind of hard to see the other instruments at the back so my suggestion is next time  make a way where we can see all of the instruments. My favourite part was when the kids came and started dancing and the T rex part. Because it is my favourite dinosaur. I enjoyed your Performance this morning,Thanks.


IRENE CHOI Dear kingston orchestra symphony,

I enjoy all of the orchestra but most things that I enjoy the violin because it sounds really good and when I was 1 grade I learn the violin for two years.(but actually I forgot almost everything to do with violin.^.^” )I was surprised about conductor because  I was wondering conductor how could conductor do moving a stick with seeing sheet favourite music is

Something that we moving body. Thankyou for inviting our class there. I was fun and I was wondering how orchestre is doing so I was fun to learn how orchestre is going on. I have really fun there because I was first time to see the orchestra in canada than you show me orchestra. Thank you for inviting me and show me orchestra.thank you

               Sincerely Irene choi

Dear Kingston symphony It was a pleasure to be at the show. I really enjoyed  everything including the jurassic park theme and the carnival of the dinosaurs. Evan mitchell how long does it take to learn to be a conductor you must be born with it. To the symphony players you are born with a talent for music that you will always have. I love how focused you are when you play. And the detail you put in the music so no matter what you do never give up. Last but not least is the one and only dean burry your carnival of dinosaurs is magnificent my favorite poem was the t rex it must of took years to write each poem in particular you can do anything you are stronger then a t rex, sharper then a maiasaura and louder then a diplodocus. And don’t be afraid to be you no matter what anyone thinks of you.         

                       Sincerely lily deschamps.

Dear kingston symphony,

Thank you for inviting us to your limestone education symphony. I  liked the music a lot, and wished it could go on forever! My favorite part was the ending, it was really fast, then it got slower and softer then it got super loud ,then the violinists did another part then it ended. I was surprised because I thought that it was going to end when everyone got super fast but soft but instead of ending like I anticipated it got louder and slower. I noticed that the people playing the french horns, symbols and bassoon were closer to the back and the string instruments were closer to the front. The double bass   wasn’t in the front or in the back it was sort of in the middle.

How many pages does an average musician get of music in a symphony?

                                                           sincerely, Imani Dube


Dear kingston symphony,

Thankyou for the amazing , beautiful and interesting music, but I do have one suggestion. You should raise up the brass ,percussion and woodwind instruments on a stand because I really want to see my favorite instrument the french horn.     

My most favorite song was the velociraptor because it was very true and the symphony really impersonated the velociraptor .

You are the best and only symphony I have been at.

Sincerely Olive girard

Dear kingston symphony

Thankyou for having me there I had a great time.

My favourite piece of music was the part about the velociraptor .

It was cool. I was surprised by the cymbals–they were extremely loud!

I noticed that you were all wearing black. The music was fantastic.

My suggestion is that the people in the back were up high so we could see them.

The Jurassic park theme songs sounded JUST like in the movie.

I really enjoyed all the music.

by : kylah


Dear Kingston Symphony,

I honestly loved all your music for the dinosaurs. It was very hard to choose which one I liked the most but if I did it would be the Footprints because I think it has an instrument that I play, I don’t really know the name of it but it’s in the shape of a frog and you play it with a small rod looking thing.

I’m wondering if Diplodocus is said Dip-low-dock-us or how you pronounced it Dip-lodo-cuss but it was awesome anyway.

I really liked how you actually got Dean Burry to say his poem instead of somebody else and If I could do it when I was there I would’ve gotten his autograph. Most of the puns in the poem song thing where funny put maybe in the song part you could have done the parasaurolophus part  a tad bit quieter.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again I really loved the show and I’m fascinated by all the instruments, especially the bass violin. It was very well put together

Sincerely, Lenore

Dear Kingston Symphony, I enjoyed the music a lot, thanks.

I especially enjoyed the jurassic park music alot and the poem. My favourite dino in the poem was the Diplodocus. I also really liked parasaurolophus, it was really funny. At the start I thought someone had messed up. But after it kept happening I realized you were doing on purpose to make it sound like a toot.

I was really surprised that you would add that in.  

It would have been funny if you did the noises with another dino.

I noticed that all the string instruments were in the front of the stage then it was the wood winds then the trumpets and stuff like that…why?  

I also noticed that all the big stuff was at the back…why?

Maybe you could put the wood winds, brass and percussion up on the steps. So then we could see all the instruments, because one of my favourite instruments is the flute but i couldn’t see them. Thanks again for letting us come!!!!!   

                                         sincerely annie mastorakos

AVA MCGEEDear  Kingston Orchestra, I enjoyed seeing all of the dinosaurs. I was surprised how many instruments there were. I noticed that you were all dressed in black and that the conductor would point at you when it was your turn to start playing your instruments. I wonder how long it took you to learn all of those songs. My favourite piece of music was the Jurassic Park song. I liked that one because I LOVE all of the Jurassic Park movies and out of all the songs in those movies that was my favourite song.  I loved all of the songs they were very beautiful. THANK YOU FOR INVITING US TO THE CONCERT!!!!!

                                                       Sincerely Ava

Dear kingston symphony,

I only really liked the first part because I knew it.  The others were too quiet or too loud. I wonder why the conductor has to tell them what to do when they have the sheet of paper in front of them.  I wonder why he moves his arms fast and slow at different times. It was nice meeting the man with the cello after. He was cool. DYLAN

Dear kingston symphony your music is the best. the best part was the jurassic park music, it sounded soooooooooo good!  And it sounded realistic too and it was short. And thank you for having us there and the instruments that was cool!

By MYLES!  When is our next field trip?

ISLA SANDERS Dear Kingston Symphony.

I enjoyed the music.

And i really enjoyed the music from Jurassic park.

My favorite dinos were the Parasaurolophus ,Elamosaurus and the Maiasaura.

I especially enjoyed the Parasaurolophus it was very funny because every 10 seconds the trombone would make a toot sound. I noticed that all of the violins were together and all of the flutes were together and so on .

Maybe next time you could put the drums, Xylophone, french horn , tuba, and the other ones up a level so that we could see them better.

Thankyou for having this great opportunity.!!!!      

Sincerely Isla Sanders


Dear Kingston Symphony,

I wasn’t there but I liked Jurassic Park When we were listening in class .

I liked it  because I like the Jurassic  Park movie.

From zander

MADDY THOMPSON Dear kingston symphony, Thanks for inviting us to watch you guys play I thought you guys did really good and it was really cool. I really liked the carnival of the dinosaurs my favourite dinosaur was the parasaurolophus because i thought it was funny and i really liked the T rex because T rexes are my favourite dinosaur because they have small hands and i think thats cute. I think that Dean Burry did really good at writing the carnival of the dinosaurs I noticed that all of the musicians were wearing black and Evan Mitchell was wearing balck too. I thought that Evan Mitchell was really good at conducting the musicians and he was really good at acting like they messed up on the parasaurolophus but it’s supposed to be like that.
SAMER AL MADANi  Dear  Kingston symphony

I like the songs and I like what is the conductor  in his hand and I like the song stegosaurus when he started slowly he started fasterjI wonder why he showing hem

What to do in his hand I wonder how they can move his faster


Dear Dean Burry. you are very funny. And I enjoyed everything about it .

MOHAMMAD HASANDear Kingston symphony,  

I loved seeing the dinosaurs!  I liked the music and I liked to  go  home on the school  bus. I enjoy the  scary T-Rex song.


Dear symphony,

I Love Your music!  Could you send Centennial Public School (Mr Caldwell’s class) to come again?  Me and my friends love your music.


NICHOLAS NOURY kingston symphony I like when you did the Jurassic Park Theme song and when you your doing  Jurassic Park Theme song it was really accurate. I noticed that you are all in black.