Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Judy Duncan’

5-reasons-why-blogging-is-so-important-to-your-website

It was about six years ago they started.

And here we are, as we are approaching the mid-point of the 2016-17 school year, and so many of our school leaders continue to share their thinking through their blogs.  While the internet is littered with well-intentioned and abandoned blogs from educators, and education blogging may have lost some of its excitement from just a few years ago, so many in West Vancouver are using their blog to tell stories to their community about their school, tackle big issues in education, and let people know a little bit more about themselves.

Here is just a sampling of what is being shared in West Vancouver:

One of the district’s most regular bloggers, West Bay Elementary Principal Judy Duncan took on the #oneword challenge in her latest post and her focus on voice:

One of our intangible objectives is for students to appreciate and to become accustomed to having and exercising their voice.  As adults that will benefit them individually and, in turn, all of us collectively. This should move us to ensure that whether through sport, music, language, drama or art, every child and every person has a voice in 2017.

In his latest post, Caulfeild Elementary Principal Craig Cantlie shares some of his thinking with parents as they make the often stressful “what school should my child attend” decision at this time of year:

Does the learning at Caulfeild Elementary (iDEC) look like it did when you were growing up? Probably not, but neither does the world. Our students learn the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, but more importantly the relevant and purposeful use of those foundational skills. Taking those skills and connecting them with the conceptual understandings behind our science and social studies work makes for powerful learning across the grades. Our students are creators, collaborators, communicators and critical thinkers – all of which will serve them well, whatever their future holds.

Scott Slater, Principal at Bowen Island Community School tackled communicating student learning with his recent post, a topic that is one that is being widely discussed among students, staff and parents and Scott asked the important question about whether the changes are just different or if what is being done is actually new.  He looked at a number of areas including core competencies:

The reports continue to include information on a child’s social and emotional development. In the opening comments, in Core Competencies (for intermediate reports), and in other fields, teachers share information on the child’s social and emotional development. Schools share the role with parents of supporting a child’s well-being and development of personal and social skills. In the opening comments, teachers also refer to an aspect of our school goal of students developing their learning character so parents will find comments related to a child’s development of Responsibility, Openness, Ambition and Resilience (ROAR)

Communicating student learning was also on the mind of Chartwell Principal Chantal Trudeau and she focused on the importance of the student reflection:

One of the most important changes this year is the addition of the student reflection piece. Teachers have a few different options to include their students’ reflections into the report card. At the primary level, it can look like a “happy face” worksheet or a few sentences in the student reflection box on the report card itself. At the intermediate level, many students have written a reflection letter which is an insert added to the report card. I have enjoyed reading the students’ self-reflections whilst reviewing all the report cards going home today. I am very impressed by their meta-cognitive ability, thinking about their thinking and learning. Knowing yourself as a learner is a great thing, at any age. It is wonderful to see that our students know how they are doing, and what they need to do to improve and why.

Also looking at communicating student learning is Cedardale Head-Teacher Jessica Hall.  Her post collected feedback from students on the new reports:

The range of experience with new reporting practices amongst my students is broad and in trying to bring about some collective understanding, I sparked up a conversation about the “new” report cards. I wanted to know how students have perceived this change of not having letter grades listed on their report cards. Grade 6 students immediately expressed a sense of relief over not being labeled with a single grade. In a conversation with one Grade 6 student, he explained that the language in the new Communicating Student Learning Document was more descriptive than a letter grade. He stated that in general, the word “developing” has a less negative connotation and that he liked how the Core Competencies provide explicit examples on how to improve learning skills. A Grade 5 student articulated the first moment she understood that ‘communicating ideas’ is a learning skill. She explained that the Core Competencies have helped her identify and value her personal learning style as the “presenter” and that she prefers working in groups, where she has the opportunity to “share her ideas in classroom discussions”.

Hollyburn Principal Kim Grimwood focused her most recent post on executive functioning and ways that parents can support these skills.  She reminded us of the important of the eight executive functioning skills (and then what they had to do with making waffles):

Impulse control: helps us to stop and think before acting.

Flexibility: allows us to adjust to the unexpected.

Emotional Control: helps us to keep our emotions in check.

Initiation: allows us to take action and get started.

Working Memory: the ability to hold information in mind to complete a task.

Planning and prioritizing: helps us decide on a goal and make a plan to reach it.

Self-Monitoring: allows us to evaluate how we are doing.

Organization: helps us to keep track of things both physically and mentally.

Rockridge Principal Jeannette Laursoo used a recent post to update the community on the various ways students have been contributing:

Rockridge’s students have been busy contributing to both the local and global communities. To highlight just a few of the initiatives, the Blush Club collected warm clothes and blankets for those less fortunate,  the Umoyo Club fundraised by selling cookies to benefit Nyaka Orphanage in Uganda, and our community made a difference in the lives of teens by donating backpacks filled with essential items to Convenant House.  We thank everyone for their generosity and support.

And a final sample of the recent posts comes from West Van Secondary Principal Steve Rauh who paid tribute to retiring teacher Bruce Holmes, and included a number of comments from students in his post:

“A student once came in crying; Mr. Holmes took the time to cheer them up and help them.” – Madison Duffy

“I have been in Holmes’ class since grade 8. Not only has he taught me woodwork, but he has also taught me a lot about life.” – Gabriella Langer

“He likes to take you out of your comfort zone.” – Ashley Kempton

“We really like his sense of humour; he loves to gossip and threaten to give wet willies.” – Nicole Torresan & Alexa Harrison

“I appreciate how he never turns down any student ideas no matter how absurd or impossible they sound. He will always stick with you to help you see your ideas come to real life.” – Jesse Diaz

In re-reading these posts, and others from across the district I am reminded there is no one model for blogging.  I find that the range of topics, and approaches is reflective of the various leaders in our schools.  Selfishly for me these blogs are a great way to stay connected to the thinking and work in our schools.  And I know, especially in an era of fewer print publications (an issue I have lamented in the past) these posts are a great window into the work of public education.

Whether you are a current student or parent, or a perspective one, or someone interested, curious or passionate about education, we have so many great leaders publicly sharing their thinking and acting as great models for students in the modern world.

HERE is a link to all the West Vancouver Schools websites that host the school blogs.

Read Full Post »

words

As the 2015-16 school year comes to a close I want to share the comments of my colleagues in West Vancouver who have been addressing their students moving on – both from elementary to high school and from high school to the post K-12 world.  You can feel the power of the relationships coming through . . .

Principal Judy Duncan at West Bay shared with her grade 7’s just how important elementary school has been for them and what challenges are ahead:

As you embark on the next leg of your learning journey, continue to do your PB (Personal Best). Continue to strive for excellence. Continue to follow your passion and seek that which makes you happy. Join clubs and teams at high school and make new friends, while holding onto the friendships you have developed at West Bay. Get involved in school life. Continue to develop communication skills, collaboration skills and that ever so important emotional resiliency.

Bowen Island Community School Principal Scott Slater reflected on his own grade 7 farewell experience at Caulfeild Elementary School and also about the important roles that both skill set and mindset play:

Your education is partly about skill set – writing skills, reading skills, being able to make use of numbers to solve problems. Your education is also about mindset – how you approach change, how you think about new situations, meeting new people and how you greet opportunity.

At Hollyburn, Principal Tara Zielinski also picked up on the importance of mindset:

You are Thinkers.  You are metacognitive and can explore various ways of knowing and understanding.  You have a ‘growth mind-set’ and acknowledge that making mistakes is sometimes the way we learn and grow.  You make connections between various subject areas and appreciate that our world is forever changing – for the better.  You have ideas to continue to support these positive changes.

The message from Chantal Trudeau Principal at Pauline Johnson, her final address at the school, as she transitions to principal at Chartwell, was focused on integrity:

At the core of a successful educational experience is the virtue of integrity. Make the right choices for yourselves. Knowing your needs as a learner is key to your success in high school and university. Surrounding yourselves with supportive friends is also crucial since it’s much easier to face new challenges when you have a strong network of support, which include your parents and close friends. If you make integrity your core value, you will be able to stay focused on your goals.

Cathie Ratz at Westcot Elementary passed along some advice to parents of soon-to-be high schoolers she once received:

Some of the best advice I ever received as a mother of three beautiful and socially motivated daughters was from a colleague and mother of four.  She told me to never miss an opportunity to tell my girls how much I loved them and also never feel the need to be quick with an answer to their social requests.  “ Let me think about it”  has saved us many a battle and given my girls time to make up their own mind as social plans developed and more often than not changed.

Jeannette Laursoo, Principal of Rockridge Secondary bridged the elementary and secondary school worlds, sharing with the grads comments she found on their grade 7 report cards and how five years later the same attributes hold.

You “continue to be an active participant during group discussions by listening to the opinions of others and contributing your own thoughtful ideas.”

 

You “enjoy challenges and are eager to learn”

 

You have “taken responsibility for yourself as a learner.”

 

You “treat all members of your classroom in a kind, caring, and respectful manner.  You have a strong sense of what is fair and deal with issues in a way that meets the needs of all involved.”

 

You “continued to tap into your creativity both technologically and imaginatively.”

 

You have “demonstrated a willingness to try new things and are comfortable taking risks in your learning.”

 

You have “continued to be a confident leader in the classroom and in the school.”

At West Vancouver Secondary, Steve Rauh focused with the graduating class on their solid relationships:

One of the things that I commonly share about West Vancouver Secondary School is that the students have an incredible amount of pride and respect for themselves, their school, their community, and their world. I expect that you will carry these attributes with you wherever you go.

I trust that you leave here with a series of strong and powerful relationships with both the students in your classes and the adults in the building. Hopefully you have known and felt how we have cared for you and that we have always had your best interests at heart above all else.

Our Secretary-Treasurer Julia Leiterman had the opportunity to address the graduates of Rockridge representing the district, and also as a parent of a graduate:

So if I asked any parent in this room what their greatest hope for you is, I wouldn’t come back with a laundry list of careers.  I can guarantee that the #1 hope we all share is that you are happy.  That’s it – we just want you to have a happy life.  This is not an end goal, it’s how we hope you will live every day.  My sister shared a pretty simple recipe for happiness that works for me, and it only needs 3 ingredients:

  1. Someone to Love
  2. Something to Do
  3. Something to Hope For

So someone to love – don’t be afraid to open your heart.  Honest, loving relationships lived with integrity will bring you great joy.

Something to do – get busy, get working.  Work is not a dirty word; it is the key to finding purpose in your life.  It doesn’t matter what work you do, just throw your heart into it.

Something to hope for – never stop learning, and exploring.  Never stop dreaming.

 

For me, in addressing graduates at our high schools I stressed the important role that graduates play as advocates for public education:

And we, me and everyone else in this room will count on you – to be unwaveringly committed to a strong public education system – the system that has served us well in this room and is the answer to the question about how we build a better world.  At a time when so many in our world are looking inward and dividing people, you need to remind people that it is education that brings us together in a world of fewer walls and stronger citizenship.

We have amazing academic achievements in our community.  It is interesting to see what our leaders are most proud of – it is not the marks they have earned but the people they have become.  I am blessed to continue to serve as Superintendent in West Vancouver. We have something pretty good going here.

summer_break-2

Read Full Post »

Sentinel

It is always nice to connect in with the many other bloggers in West Vancouver Schools. Over the last five years I have continually found the themes that emerge from what others are writing to be very instructive about where we are going as a school district.

Here is a collection of some of what my colleagues have been writing about recently.

Like many in our district, our Bowen Island Community School Vice-Principal Laura Magrath has been thinking and writing about the changes in curriculum.  A recent post of hers focused on the increased emphasis on competencies:

The Core Competencies in the new BC curriculum provide a framework to use – adults and children alike – to build our confidence in key areas that apply to each and every task we face in life: Communication Skills, Thinking Skills, and Personal and Social Skills. If we use this framework, we can make any opportunity – and the choices within this opportunity – more meaningful and relevant. We can focus on “what are the best skills for this task?” rather than an unknown and ever elusive “being our best selves.”

A focus on competencies can ground us and help us determine the importance of and value in our decisions. But we can’t focus on all aspects of the competencies all of the time. Choosing a competency and clearly articulating the area we are focusing on ahead of the task can provide a sense of confidence prior to beginning, and a specific area to reflect upon and to document our progress.

Cypress Park’s Vice-Principal Kim Grimwood recently wrote about the subject area that gets discussed and debated more than any other – math.  Of course it is not a black and white issue as she pointed out in her Balancing Act post:

A recent blog about math educator Dan Meyer states that “so much of teaching math through a computational lens asks students to find the right equation and plug-in numbers. It doesn’t ask them to be big thinkers; but it’s precisely the experience of grappling with a problem that sparks curiosity, motivates students and develops the patient problem-solving that is so lacking in much of the population.”

Along with our students’ ability to think big, we also need to make sure that we are providing them with strong procedural skills. In education, we often see large pendulum swings between what seem like opposing ideas and theories.  However, in the case of mathematics what research is telling us is that we need a balanced approach between conceptual big ideas and procedural knowledge. Students are most successful when procedural and conceptual approaches are combined.

We want our students to be creative, big thinkers, and this means giving them the foundational skills to approach these problems.

All teachers and administrators have growth plans in our school district.  Craig Cantlie, principal at Caulfeild recently shared his question and thinking on his blog:

How can we redesign schools to better meet students where they are as learners across all disciplines? 

I don’t have the answer; but I’m curious to find out. I know that some schools around the world report out curricular outcomes on a formalized K-12 continuum. That’s interesting to me. At our school we have a host of clubs that are driven by student interest – what if these were during class time? We are investigating how to connect literacy and numeracy more with the maker movement. We possess the digital experience to now leverage the use of technology in student learning to a greater degree and our teachers have begun moving away from textbooks and more to Khan Academy and Discovery Education in math and inquiry to allow greater personalization. We are connecting our HOPE (Me to We) Committee members with the local high school students and outside agencies such as Startup Skool and Women Leading Change to provide relevant and meaningful learning opportunities. We are exploring opportunities to change our learning environments to be less designated classrooms, and more flexible and purposeful learning spaces. In this space the teacher role could change from “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side” to be more an “activator” of learning. A role of asking more questions that provoke debate, exploration and further drive curiosity and learning. This is interesting to me.

Ridgeview Principal Valerie Brady recently wrote about the importance of preparing students for all parts of life and giving students more than just academic tools:

Our job as educators is to prepare students for success in school and in the real world beyond school.  Teaching students to read and write is only the beginning.  A focus on success in life means that,  beyond teaching the three Rs we must also teach character, emotional intelligence, responsibility and an appreciation of the complexity of human diversity.  We must also teach the virtues of grit – tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to never give up.

While grit is a hot topic in education as of late, Ridgeview staff look to the research to expand our understanding of how grit is defined in the research and how to nurture grittiness in our young students.

While it is very important that students enjoy learning and want to come to school, the teaching of grit means that students will experience, and perhaps embrace some frustration and discomfort.  To prepare students for the real world, we must teach them how to respond to frustration and failure.  This is often a sticking point in education…while it is necessary for students to experience frustration and even failure as they move through their schooling years…. finding a balance between allowing children to experience frustration and rescuing them from this experience is necessary to developing grit.

Westcot Principal Cathie Ratz shared her thinking on kids playing with Pokemon cards . . . and it probably surprises some that a Principal would encourage and embrace these kind of passions:

Our students don’t just getting excited about anything.   Tapping the interest and passion of our students,   creative teachers leverage the interests.  Over the years I have seen Egyptian God trading cards, Flat Stanley travel around the world and the creation of new worlds to ‘teach’ mapping and government studies. I recently read about a teacher Joel Levin on twitter @MinecraftTeachr  who has embarked on a Minecraft journey  that is truly inspiring.

So, unless Minecraft, Transformers, Battle Bots, Littlest Pet Shop and whatever else begins to trend among our students seriously begins to interfere with  their healthy functioning  I want to take a little time to obsess along with them, just a little, and share in the interest and maybe leverage it all a little.

Happy playing!

West Bay Elementary School has been a leader in our district’s self-regulation work.  A recent post from Principal Judy Duncan reflected on her current thinking in comparison to her own school experience:

Three words come to mind when I think of my own experiences in school — conformity, uniformity and rules.  We sat in rows, were quiet for the most part, worked independently at our desks, memorized material, and weren’t allowed to wear jeans or hats. We were all treated much the same, all followed a long list of well-intentioned rules, and were given little choice as to how to demonstrate our understanding.
Today at West Bay and all the schools in our district, individuality, self-expression and different learning styles are embraced and celebrated. Educators are viewing student behaviour through a self-regulation lens and students are the beneficiaries. They feel empowered to make decisions for themselves as to what tools and strategies they need to ensure they experience success in school and in life. Students have greater choice, feel their needs are understood and respected, and are confident to be themselves — and they are appreciative. We are not finding gum stuck under desks and there is no argument from students when asked to remove hats on certain occasions. As my colleague Kim Grimwood, Vice-Principal of Cypress Park notes, “Students are learning how to be responsible with the choices they are afforded.”
 It is also the secondary school Principals blogging, including Rockridge Principal Jeannette Laursoo who recently used her blog to pass along the advice from a recent PAC Meeting speaker – Brett Stroh – who spoke on gaming:
One of the things that Brett said was just because one’s child is spending a lot of time playing games, doesn’t necessarily mean that one needs to be overly concerned.  “Just because they are playing a game on a Saturday for 5-6 hours doesn’t mean that there is necessarily an issue, and it’s time to hit the panic button.  One needs to also consider how the child is doing with school, family, friends and sports.  In other words, how is the rest of the world going for them (apart from the regular ‘drama’)?  Is gaming having a negative impact on or causing conflict in these areas of the child’s life?  Is the child spending a significant amount of time obtaining or thinking about the game, or recovering from its effects?
There are many ways we are trying to tell our stories in West Vancouver.  One of the ways our school principals and vice-principals often use is through their blogs.  It is an incredibly exciting time in education, and many of the ideas and practices are quite different from even a generation ago in our classrooms.  Whether it is face-to-face or digitally, we will continue to reach out and connect – starting conversations in our schools and communities.
It is great to be a member of the West Vancouver Schools digital community – our collective thinking and sharing makes all of us better.

Read Full Post »

Students at West Bay Elementary School

Students at West Bay Elementary School

I walk into almost all of our schools in West Vancouver and very often the first thing people want to show me or talk to me about is the changes happening around the library.  Or more specifically, schools are taking great pride in their learning commons spaces that are developing.  While the physical spaces are exciting, the changes to our mindsets are far more powerful.  We are not destined for new schools in West Vancouver anytime soon but the rethink of the library has been both a symbolic and concrete shift in how we think about space and how we think about learning.  The school library – a centre piece in schools – is now the modern hub for learning.

I like the library metaphor from Joan Frye Williams (shared in this blog from Joyce Valenza):

Our libraries should transition to places to do stuff, not simply places to get stuff. The library will become a laboratory in which community members tinker, build, learn, and communicate. We need to stop being the grocery store or candy store and become the kitchen.  We should emphasize hospitality, comfort, convenience and create work environments that invite exploration and creativity both virtually and physically.

The library as a kitchen – I love it.

And just what does this look like?

A couple weeks ago I was at West Bay Elementary for the opening of their new space.  Recently, I have been to other formal and less formal tours at unveilings at a variety of schools including Eagle Harbour Montessori, Bowen Island Community School, Cypress Primary, Irwin Park Elementary and West Vancouver Secondary.  There are many elements all of these spaces have in common.  One immediately gets the sense that the primary goal was to draw more students in to do individual and collective work. There are spaces for silent study, but also other areas that often look more like a coffee shop than a traditional library.  In listening to West Bay Principal Judy Duncan, describe their vision for their space, she said, “We believe the library is a hub of our school, a space where learners of all ages gather to learn through conversation, collaboration, independent study and purposeful play.”

Our work in West Vancouver, both with spaces and mindsets is not happening in isolation.  We have been influenced by the work at universities, like this work at the University of British Columbia, the work at other schools in BC, like this work at John Oliver Secondary in Vancouver and the work at public libraries, including the efforts of our own local library – the West Vancouver Memorial Library.  For my thinking, a particularly useful document is Facing the Future – A Vision Document for British Columbia’s Public Libraries.  It’s author, Ken Roberts, the former Chief Librarian of the Hamilton Public Library, argues that “there is a growing realization that physical libraries are becoming  even more important community spaces, places where people gather, share and learn from each other.”  In short, the shift that public libraries are facing is the same ones that schools are facing and we have a lot to learn from and with each other.  The BC Teacher Librarians’ Association, an amazingly thoughtful and forward-looking organization have also produced a document to help schools in the midst of the transition.

The photos below give a sense of some of the uses of the new space at West Bay, and what we are seeing across our district as we make these shifts.

Individual and group work.  Technology is present but not the focus.

Individual and group work. Technology is present but not the focus.

LC3

Students working before school

LC4

Students working at lunchtime.

 

LC5

Activity during instructional time

For more on the specifics of this particular transformation, Principal Judy Duncan has blogged about Transforming Learning Spaces to Meet Today’s Learners.

At the recently held Ontario Library Conference, I made the argument that we can get hung-up on the money when it comes to learning commons spaces. But it is first about mindsets – we need to embrace new ways of learning and find ways for our space to reflect these changes and be the gathering places for our all our learners.  The thinking around the learning commons is symbolizing the shifts we are seeing with learning throughout our schools.

 

Read Full Post »

story-4

As regular readers know, I blog in West Vancouver as part of a rich community of teachers and administrators who are regularly sharing insights into their school, their profession and their work.  The blogs, from teachers and administrators, give a wonderful window into school life.  They are as diverse and varied as the topics which we spend our time on each day in schools.  Here is a recent sampling of what those around me have been writing.

Steve Rauh, the Principal of West Van Secondary blogged about our district-wide keynote presentation from Paralympic Champion Josh Dueck:

From his opening slide with the formula Passion + Perseverance = Possibility, Josh shared with us his personal pendulum story of hope, loss, love, despair, love, and hope again. I cannot remember hearing or seeing a more inspirational story or person who brought themes of recklessness, intuition, passion, ego, regret, humiliation, persistence, determination, and possibility.

For West Bay Principal, Judy Duncan, her latest post is all about looking ahead to the remainder of the school year and key topics at her school including their new learning commons, fresh ideas around communicating student learning,  IB self-study, self-regulation and a focus on the communication competency:

Teachers work passionately to facilitate rich learning opportunities for students and we work together with determination and enthusiasm to affect positive change within the school.  I am optimistic 2015 is going to be another wonderful year, full of noisy learning, quiet contemplation, continued collaboration and an abundance of creative thinking. High five for our Top 5, but let’s keep moving!

At Irwin Park Elementary, the students have also been setting goals for the remainder of the year – that are posted around the school.  Principal Cathie Ratz reflects on what she sees:

  They tell a story of Irwin Park students wanting to be better listeners, better self regulators, better readers, writers, eaters, swimmers, skiers, brothers…  The goals are realistic.  In most cases students identified a plan to meet their goals and in some cases personal supports to help them stick to their plans.  I wonder about self esteem and self control as predictors of success. Need there be an esteem vs control debate?  Does feeling good lead to a complacency that may interfere with the discipline needed to achieve success? Worthy debate?

It is always a hard decision for parents to decide what to do when their child isn’t feeling 100%  Two of West Vancouver’s most experienced Kindergarten teachers Christy Campbell and Andrea Daudlin, the writers of The Self-Regulated Teacher share their words of experience:

Sometimes a sick child may still wish to come to school. But in the classroom we are very close to each other in proximity. The children are playing at Centre Time quite close together. They sit close together while eating at the tables. They still hold each others’ hands. Because our supplies are shared, including crayons, scissors, gluesticks and pencils, a sick child at school increases the risk of spreading infection to the rest of the children in the class.

Your child will enjoy their school experiences much more when they return to school rested and healthy!

At Hollyburn Elementary, Principal Tara Zielinski has tackled a topic that is always on the front burner with teachers and parents – testing!  Her latest post looks at the use of data in schools.  For her, the key is how the information will be used:

Should we test?  Absolutely.  However, we must be focused and intentional in what and why we are testing.  More importantly, we must be prepared to use the outcomes to enhance our students’ skills and be flexible and reflective as we navigate the strategies employed to respond to our students’ specific and individual needs.

Bowen Island Community School Head Teacher Laura Magrath used her blog to share her reflections on the challenge of learning to reflect.  Reflection is a key piece of the new curriculum proposed in BC, and Laura points out it should be included in all classes:

Reflection needs to happen multiple times throughout the learning process. Reflection while we are actively learning provides us with feedback that can alter our learning journey. For example, when shooting a basketball, I get immediate feedback that can be utilized. Not enough arc, I hit the rim. Next shot I think of the arc and overcompensate. I get immediate feedback again as I hit too high on the backboard. I try again and get the feedback of: Swish! Nothing but net. This kind of reflection-feedback loop should occur in our all of our classes.

Laura’s Bowen Island colleague, Scott Slater, who in his first month as Principal of the school, sees his school as a moving school, differentiating from the school as potentially a wandering school:

It is best, however, for schools not to wander.  Implementing change in a school requires a significant amount of time, energy and inertia, and if not done well or without follow-through, innovation too often feels like adding to practice rather than evolving practice, of increasing workload without increasing student achievement.  A wandering school means that broad changes may be made, but likely not deep ones.

Ridgeview Principal, Val Brady, tackles the issue of evaluation, assessment and reporting with her latest post.  There are shifts taking place with how teachers and schools communicate with parents on student learning at the same time we there is a shift happening with curriculum.  So, in some ways report cards are still the report cards we all remember from school ourselves, but increasingly there is a a focus on areas of competency:

Report Cards are intended to provide clear, meaningful comments from your child’s teacher and highlight strengths and areas for improvement.  Beyond commenting on basic skills, progress reports will highlight student progress and development in key competencies areas, Inquiry Learning and student self-awareness as represented in the Ridgeview Learner Profiles

Cypress Park Vice-Principal, Kim Grimwood, has taken on a more personal topic with her latest post – a topic many parents spend a lot of time considering – video games.  For her video games are not simply either good or bad:

I think we need to take a more balanced approach.  One day, when I think my children are ready, I will probably purchase some sort of video game system for our family.  I will do this for many reasons. Firstly, I’m sure my children will have fun and enjoy passing time by playing video games. Secondly, I believe that many games can build important cognitive skills and develop my children’s understanding of technology.  Thirdly, I’m not above wanting my children to not feel ostracized for not having what their peers have (within reason of course).

Of course, this is just a small sample. You can check out all of our bloggers  by visiting our school sites here.

There are so many wonderful ideas being shared.  Hopefully this sampling will give you one or more “must reads” to add to your regular list of those you follow and learn with.

Read Full Post »

West Van Image

Checking in on what our leaders are writing about gives a great sense of the current topics and issues percolating in our schools.  In the age of encouraging our students to be public digital writers, we are so  fortunate to have a number of our leaders modeling the way.  What is so interesting is that the ideas from our schools are influencing each other and one feels the diffusion of new ideas and practices.

Bowen Island Community School is one of many schools in our district looking at the shift to learning commons.  School parent, Tess McDonald, recently wrote a guest post on the shift that is taking place.  The parents are clear partners in the shift.

Libraries are turning into Learning Commons; places with flexible furniture that can be moved around to accommodate small or large groups. They have books on movable shelving that doesn’t block the natural light, areas for creating multimedia presentations, listening to guest speakers, using technology that may not be in every home, and yes, reading. There is a librarian but he or she isn’t wearing tweed, but an imaginary super suit! This person is an expert about books and writing, and finding information, and connecting people to the right source, and helping them see bias, and questioning ideas. This person is ready to help you create and question and connect too. (Here is where I admit that, after reading Seth Godin’s blog post on the future of the library, I wanted to become a librarian. It is here, if you are interested).

Another district-wide effort has been in the area of self regulation.  In classrooms and schools across the district the work on Stuart Shanker and others is coming to life.  Cypress Park Vice-Principal, Kimberley Grimwood, has been a leader with this work and recently described what it looks like in the classroom:

We have embraced a number of programs and practices to help teach our students about emotions, mindfulness, and social thinking. In addition, the IB program integrates many self-regulated learning components each and every day.  Specifically it helps to develop the cognitive domain and reinforces reflective practices to allow students to continue to develop their ability to be metacognitive (to think about their thinking). You may see students taking a moment to breathe along with our MindUp chime, or express which zone they are in according to the Zones of Regulation. Or, they may tell you how their engine is running thanks to the Alert Program.  While self-regulation is not a program or a lesson plan, it is a lens through which we are viewing students’ behavior and through which we are teaching them to view their own behavior.  No longer is a behaviour good or bad, but rather we want to understand why, and provide students with tools and strategies to make good choices and to be successful learners each and every day.​

Lions Bay Principal, Scott Wallace, used the blog of the primary school to describe the seemless transition that takes place for young learners between all the different offerings in the school.  It is a true community hub:

Lions Bay Community school is a shining example of quality early childhood education.  Nestled in the woods along Howe Sound, the outdoors provides a perfect backdrop for a child’s self-exploration.  In fact, all three facets of this learning environment; the Before/After School Program, facilitated by the North Shore Neighbourhood House (NSNH); the Preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, supported by a parent run Board; and the Primary school, part of the West Vancouver School District, are all interconnected.  Each unique program draws on the same philosophy that a child should learn to explore their natural environment and ignite their curiosity.  The adults that assist the children at each level are committed to fostering the child’s sense of wonder and provide opportunities and resources to investigate their questions.  For children and parents this seamless organization provides for optimal learning.

There is a lot of interesting work taking place with assessment and reporting in our district and around the province.  While student-led conferences are not new, they have definitely moved more mainstream over the last couple years.  Ridgeview Principal Val Brady makes the case for why they can be so valuable:

Students should be included and actively involved in the process of evaluating their own learning and sharing their perceptions of their progress with their teachers and parents. When students are meaningfully involved in this way, they deepen their understanding of the learning and evaluation process and they grow in their ability to take ownership of this process.  Student ownership of learning results in student empowerment…a powerful motivating factor in the learning!

West Bay Elementary has been looking at assessment and reporting.  Principal, Judy Duncan, described the work of her staff in a recent post, outlining the different factors that they have considered as they have looked at drafting a new report card:

When the West Vancouver School District invited school learning teams to apply for innovation grants, a group of teachers jumped at the opportunity to explore a more comprehensive way of communicating student learning.

What did our team consider while drafting a new report card?

·     The shifts in the province and how other districts are responding

·      The IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) requirements to report on the five essential elements (knowledge, concepts, transdisciplinary skills, Learner Profile traits/attitudes, and action)

·      Recently released B.C. Draft Curriculum documents

·      What was missing in the current report card

·      How to report on the breadth and depth of the learning in a clear, comprehensive manner

The full post explores the comprehensive and inclusive approach the school has taken to looking at the reporting issue.

West Van Secondary Principal Steve Rauh recently described how students are using technology in powerful ways to stay connected, even as they travel the globe.  We can all be a “digital fly on the wall” as students are engaged in learning around the world.  Rauh, in citing several examples of students on trips using blogs and other digital tools to stay connected compares it to his experiences as a high school student:

I also remember being fortunate enough in my grade 12 year to participate on a school athletic trip to Europe. A privileged experience for many youth both then and now, and quite often one of the most memorable experiences of their high school journey. I also remember on that same trip diligently selecting and purchasing several postcards along the way to mail home to my family to show my appreciation for their support, as well as to update them on our travels. The final memory I have of this tale is of leaving that stack of postcards, duly filled out, addressed, and stamped, on the overhead luggage rack of a train somewhere between Munich and Berlin; they were never seen again, and their existence questioned when I returned home.

It is not just school leaders that are using their blogs to share what they are seeing and learning.  West Vancouver School District Secretary Treasurer Julia Leiterman focused on aboriginal education recently with her blog and the power she has seen with First Nations learning in our district and how it has had an impact on her:

I can’t fix the old wrongs, and I don’t know whether our work in the schools will inspire our First Nations students, or whether they need inspiration in the first place.  I hope I’ve been using the right words, but I don’t even know enough to be sure I’ve been politically correct here. What I do know though is that I’m grateful that our First Nations neighbours have agreed to partner with us, because thanks to their willingness to share, what I finally, truly feel in my heart is respect.  And that’s a good start.

Huy chewx aa.

So the quick scan of the district – some themes emerge – ones reflected in these blog posts, but ones I see alive in so many of our classrooms and schools.  This sampling nicely summarizes the new work that is taking place.  I am seeing a shift to learning commons, self-regulation, strong early learning connections, powerful efforts around assessment and reporting, new ways of using technology to stay connected and a commitment to aboriginal education and our partnership with the Squamish Nation.

It is an exciting place to work!

Read Full Post »

I have previously written posts on Principals as Blog Leaders (here), highlighting the blogs from our district leaders and leaders in each of our schools. I have profiled the 17 BC superintendents in Superintendents as Blog Leaders (here), who blog to keep their community current. More recently, I have shared a post featuring our dashboard initiative (here) in West Vancouver, and efforts to give students their own digital learning space. There has been amazing energy around students as blog leaders, and many of our principals and vice-principals have blogged about their experiences, including Judy Duncan, Principal, West Bay Elementary (here), Chris Parslow, Vice-Principal, Gleneagles Elementary (here), Scott Slater, Vice-Principal, Bowen Island Community School (here) and Chantal Trudeau, Principal, Cedardale Elementary (here).

That energy and excitement is spreading. Last week, I spoke with a gentleman with grandchildren in two of our schools. He told me that each child had a blog to show him and were genuinely enthusiastic about what they were doing. It was also the first time they had shown him their writing, and he commented on how they were so engaged, and how he was even able to connect through the technology.

Our Director of Instruction for Technology and Innovation has already covered the student blog-a-thon (here) and a summary from our Digital Literacy Support Teacher (here) gives a comprehensive overview of some of the work taking place with our Grade 4-7 students around digital writing.

I often remind people who are looking in from outside the district with skepticism, envy (or both) at our technology use, the ultimate goal is not to have students blog, it is to have students improve their literacy skills and have the ability to be digital writers, and to do things that would not be possible without the technology.  It is about students creating content to hyperlink to the world, to embed photos and video with text.  It is about students publishing, and then to have the opportunity to receive feedback on their work, review, edit and republish. It is about students producing work not only for their teacher, but for the world. It is about students having their own space to be creative and connect in new ways.  It is, ultimately, about students having greater ownership of their learning.

Twelve months ago, I never would have imagined writing about hundreds of West Vancouver students blogging as a way to share their learning.  It is so exciting to see the new learning students are creating, the teachers that are guiding them, and the parents (and grandparents) who are engaging with them. A slide I often use in presentations simply says, “The Kids Have Tasted the Honey”. Having seen the work presented by so many students this past fall, the viral nature of the growth of digital writing, that quote is so true.  This month, the challenge for students across the district is to publish 5,000 posts (see all the monthly challenges here).

I do want to highlight and celebrate some of the students’ digital writing. As our student blogs are on an internal system, I have copied the text of a few of them when they wrote about their neighbourhood:

Grade Four

Jenna, Westcot

I live in wonderful neighbourhood in West Vancouver close to my school. I live in a cul-de-sac. My neighbourhood has some trees in the background and is open and sunny.

The view from my neighbourhood is wonderful; you can see pretty much see the whole city. I get a view of downtown, the ocean, and the rest of Vancouver. It is very pretty in the night because I can see all the lights and the city looks like it is shining.  When there are fireworks I can see them quite well, and it looks beautiful. The fireworks look like a spurt of colour bursting out of the sky. I can also see the sunset from my neighbourhood. I love seeing the pink and purple sky in the morning and evening. I love the views I get from my neighbourhood.

In my neighbourhood, we sometimes encounter wildlife. During the spring we sometimes get black bears. They would either take someone’s garbage and eat in our yard, or poop in our yard. When we had a plum-tree they would come into our yard and eat all the plums. We have a big grassy yard so I guess the bears like it. Once a black bear tore down my neighbour’s shed and they had to call the police. They did not turn on the flashing lights but, just seeing the stripes on the police car, the bear ran away. I also get a lot of crows in my neighbourhood and they usually perch themselves on the roof or on the electrical wires.

 My neighbourhood is very close to my school. This is convenient so we do not have to leave my house really early. Also, on snow days or warm days we can walk to school which is really fun.

We have wonderful neighbours and we like to go over to their house and play badminton or tag.

This is why my neighbourhood is such a wonderful place to live.

Lauren, West Bay

I have a really cool neighborhood. My street is on a beach. I really like going down to our beach in the summer because the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks is really soothing. I also like living near the beach because I can watch all the boats sail along the coast. It’s really nice sitting on the couch watching seals bob their heads up and down. Once I even saw whales! Can you believe it? Speaking of animals, we see quite a few animals on our street. For instance we have a “Block Deer”. A deer that is so comfortable he walks through the tables of our annual summer block party. Amazing right? On my street it usually smells okay but for a few days now and then it smells like skunk. My family has named the skunk Kyle. We even tell stories about him. We have quite a good time with it. A few days ago there was a baby bear on my street. He was an orphan because his mom was taken away earlier in the season. Luckily he was saved by my neighbors, who found him up their apple tree and stayed at the bottom until the rescue center came and took him. They named him Apple. My favourite animals of all on my street are the raccoons because they’re so cute when they put their paws on the living room window. Watching animals is not the only thing I do in my neighborhood. There are lots of kids. In the summer we like to ride our bikes together and on Halloween after we go trick or treating our street throws a fireworks party and we all watch. I love my neighborhood. It always makes me feel welcome.

 Grade Five

Nicole, Caulfeild

In my neighborhood, we have a glorious view of the water. We are able to see ferries and cruise ships gliding by gracefully. One time we had spotted a Disney Cruise! We could see the water slide hanging off the side of the boat. It was a very cheerful and magical boat.

The wild life around us is amazing. Every morning during the frosty winter you will hear a woodpecker pecking against some sort of metal heater that we have on the roof. The woodpecker has a cherry red mohawk, and a slim black body.

Another type  of wildlife around us are geckos. They look like they have gradient patterns on their backs which make them interesting to look at. Some of them we’ve seen are emerald green and a night black. During figure skating camp in the summer every time we came home there were two gecko’s in between the rock wall of our garden. One of them is a baby gecko and the other is the mother. Their colours were amber and grey. they were not scared of anyone who walked by or looked at them with interest.

One night during the summer we spotted a black bear strolling up the sidewalk beside our driveway. We think it was a cub because it was quite petite.

Another type of wildlife we have around are chipmunks. When me and my family are swimming in our pool,​ you will see tiny chipmunks fighting over a tiny pine cone. (probably because it has fresh seeds inside it.) Although, when the pool is completely calm you see the reflection of them on the glassy water.

In our neighborhood, there is a rocky beach just down the street called, “Stearman” At that beach when I was little I used to collect only one type of shell which is kinda like a mini conch shell. Stearman beach also has a water fall going down the center of the beach leading into the ocean. It is a gorgeous rushing waterfall. Also at the beach I can feel the gritty sand squishing between my toes. It is very ticklish! The water is very cold in the Pacific Ocean so I don’t like going in it very often.

Sherry, Chartwell

My neighbourhood is a fantastic place to live, because it small, quiet, and very peaceful. There are never car crashes, babies never scream, and our leaves don’t make any crunching sound when we step all over them. The only time there is ever any noise is when someone comes to mow our lawn.

Our neighbourhood is very lively. To the North of our house are the Lion Mountains, which have just been showered with mounds and mounds of white, fluffy snow. To the East lies a pretty little park called St. David’s park. Sometimes in the summer, I even go blackberry picking there during late August, when the berries are ripe. To the South is downtown, where I can see the Seabus going back and forth between the two towns, and where I can also see the blazing fury of red, pink, purple, orange, and yellow when I’m watching a breathtaking sunset. To the West is a kind family of Iranians that sometimes help us plant and take care of our garden. Our entire family is very grateful for their time and effort towards our flowers.

Sometimes we get interesting surprises from the wild.  Birds, raccoons, and squirrels come to our neighbourhood to seek out food. Lot’s of mornings I have even woken up to the pretty sound of robins and sparrows chirping outside of my bedroom window.

During the spring, there are often flowers that bloom and grow early, like bluebells, dandelions, roses, and cherry blossoms. When it rains, the dewdrops reflect off of the sun, causing it to look like little, miniature rainbows sparkling in the sunlight. In the summer, there are even more beautiful flowers, and this tie the flowers are all the colours of the rainbow. In the autumn, the leaves turn red, orange, and yellow. When they fall, I often stick them in my scrapbook so I won’t forget that specific fall. And finally, in the winter eventually everything gets covered in a thick blanket of white snow, and the bright red and green holly sticks out of the astonishing white landscape.

My neighbourhood is a great place to live all year round, and I wish that the whole world were as peaceful and beautiful as it is. We have such a great neighbourhood that we should all work hard to protect and cherish it.

Grade Six

Eva, Pauline Johnson

I have lived in my neighbourhood as long as I can remember. My neighbourhood is quiet and remote, but if you scratch the surface you will discover many exciting things. By reading the next couple paragraphs, you will find out lots about my neighbourhood. You’ll find out about the people and the hill and the view from my neighbourhood. You’ll find out that there are good and bad aspects to my neighbourhood. When balancing the good with the bad, my neighbourhood is a pretty nice place to live.

There are not many kids in my neighbourhood but there is an interesting collection of adults that live near me. There is one guy that carves native designs in cedar. He has carved a canoe out of a cedar log, a whale on his front door and he even made an eight meter totem pole that stands in his front yard. There is also a guy who has a red corvette that makes a lot of noise in his garage. There’s a really nice family that lives next to me. Their kids have grown up but they have a really cute dog named Millie and a playful bunny named Bruno who keep me company sometimes. I also have a war veteran as a neighbour who lives with his wife. They are really nice people. The whole group makes up a diverse set of neighbours

My neighbourhood is far from the city on top of a huge hill. There’s up sides and down sides to that. The down sides are that it’s hard to walk home and you are kind of cut off from the community below. The up side is that you get a nice view of the city and the ocean and sometimes you get so much snow that you can’t go to school.  Way up here, we can enjoy all that nature has to offer.  We get the birds chirping in the morning, we get the bear cubs in the spring and in the autumn we have trees bursting with colour. All this gives us a great advantage over living downtown.

My neighbourhood has an amazing view of the city. From up on my hill, we are so high that we are above the fog and can see the fog lying on the city below . Also we get to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the lights of the city at night, the dark rain storm clouds and we can clearly see the lighting storms. The only thing we can’t see is the fresh snow on mountain because we are actually on the mountain side.

You just read about the up sides and the down sides of my neighbourhood. I hope you think that the people are cool as I do.  I think if you saw the view and the nature you would find it magical. I hope you enjoyed reading about my neighbourhood.

Sarah, Pauline Johnson

My neighbourhood is fun and vibrant.  I will tell you all about living somewhere where you can walk to the ocean and why I’m lucky to live in my neighbourhood. I will also tell you about a wonderful park and my memories there, plus my place in Whistler.

In my neighbourhood there’s a park named Westridge Park. There’s a nice tennis court, it seems like nobody ever plays tennis there except for me and my mom. In Westridge Park there are tons of trails to walk around in, my friend and I like to collect all the BB’s while we walk. There are also creeks and streams, on a hot summer day I walk over to Westridge Park with my friend and splash each other with water. The waterfall is awesome; I love hiking up it but believe me it isn’t easy.

I think that I’m lucky to live in my neighbourhood because there are nice people and lots of activities to do. I’m lucky because I live pretty close to the ocean; it’s about a 20 minute walk. It’s a nice walk winding through the streets. When you think about it we’re lucky because there’s clean water and fresh air. Everybody has to go to school, but in some countries they don’t even have schools!

I have a cabin in Whistler as well. Our family loves to ski and we go up there every weekend in the winter and sometimes in the summer. I love Whistler because it’s pretty much always snowing. It’s nice to wake up when it’s snowing and drink hot chocolate getting all excited for the day ahead. I feel lucky to have a place at Whistler because on the drive there, there’s a Tim Horton’s, who doesn’t like a timbits on a long drive?

I told you all about Westridge Park, why I’m lucky and my cabin at Whistler. I hope you enjoyed reading about my neighbourhood, and just think about… do you feel lucky to live where you live?

Kate, Pauline Johnson

Bark! Bark! I sit up and look at my clock it’s 5:30 in the morning and I am once again woken by the sound of barking dogs. I try to go back to sleep but the noise continues. My house is right beside a dog park so in the morning I sometimes awaken to the sounds of barking, growling and once in a while it even sounds as if two dogs were fighting. You have to agree it’s not the nicest thing to be woken by. As I said my house is beside a park and in that park there is a high school. How come kids in high school are always throwing parties? What I’m saying is that in the morning I’m woken up by dogs and at night I can’t sleep because they are doing fireworks as loud as someone’s heart beat after watching a terrifying movie! Let’s say I sometimes have trouble concentrating in school the next day when I can’t stay awake! If you read on you will find out everything about my neighborhood. 

I have talked about how I see and hear lots of dogs. There’s one dog that constantly shows up in my front yard without an owner. Its name is Ellie you’re probably thinking I’m talking about a stray dog but Ellie does have an owner. Since my house is situated right beside a park I have seen a lot of animals some of which have even been inside my house. One animal that I see and hear a lot of are raccoons. One time at 8:30 at night I was reading my book when all of a sudden my cat starts to hiss and my dog is running around downstairs chasing something. I wait in bed thinking of all the possible things they could be chasing. At that very moment I knew that a raccoon was once again in our house. The sly raccoon had gotten through the cat door and had begun to eat the cat’s food. The raccoon had definitely underestimated my cat and was soon chased out by my cat Tommy. I doubt that raccoon will ever come back. Another animal that I see around my house is an adorable barred owl. I don’t see him very often but when I do it’s so fascinating because I know most people haven’t seen one in their natural habitat. When there in their natural habitat they’re so happy and they will do their birdcall and everything. Why go to the zoo when you can see one in your own backyard? The last animal I’m going to write about is bears. I have never seen the bear that lives in the dog park but he’s almost always there (unless he’s in hibernation) but about three weeks ago my mom told me that the bear had been captured. Anyway when the bear was still here he would eat all of the berries and he even went through some of the garbage cans. Of course he did this all at night and if the next day someone went to go pick some berries and they found that they were gone they immediately knew they had been eaten by are neighborhood bear. 

Imagine it as a beautiful, sunny, warm summer day what should I do? Go play soccer in the park with a bunch of my friends go swimming in the creek. Around my house there are so many things to do. I already told you how I live beside a dog park and that in that dog park is a high school. It’s not like my house has a wonderful view of the ocean but I still love where my house is. It is on a dead-end street we never see cars unless they accidentally turned on to our dead-end street. Which means it’s a fantastic place to bike, scooter, roller blade or even play a game of basketball, soccer or any other sport without having to watch out for cars. A lot of parents worry about their children going on to the street to play but no one in my neighborhood worries about their children getting run over by a car since no cars come down our street. Because I live beside a dog park whenever I want I can go and play soccer in the dog park on a grass field with real goals that are actually the right size. It isn’t very fun playing soccer with the size of nets that 5 year olds play with. In the summer blackberries, huckleberries, salmonberries and lots of other berries lots of people don’t even know what salmonberries are! Most people think they are a type of poisonous berry. I think I learn lots more than the average person about nature just by living beside a dog park.

You have all heard how homelessness is an enormous problem in Vancouver in this paragraph I’m going to tell you what I think my neighborhood could do to help the homeless. My neighborhood hasn’t done anything to help homelessness and I think these are some ways my neighborhood can help. I have noticed how in my neighborhood lots of people go on vacation more often than needed even in all of West Vancouver I would say most people have traveled outside of Canada. I think if everyone in my neighborhood went on one less vacation they could give some money to buy homeless people a warm blanket and a pair of comfortable clothes. In the summer my neighborhood had a garage sale if we did that again but this time gave all of the money to a homeless shelter. It would make a big influence in homeless people’s lives. Because pretty much in garage sales it’s giving away objects that you don’t want, why not give it to a good cause instead. Another idea would be to every year everyone in my neighborhood could each donate 20$ to the North Shore Lookout shelter.

Thank you for reading my blog I hoped you learned lots about my neighborhood and in your neighborhood you can also try to make an effort to help the raising number of homeless people in Downtown Vancouver. If you ever want to see wildlife instead of looking in the zoo try finding them in their natural habitats.

Grade Seven

Mollie, Irwin Park

My neighborhood is the perfect place to live. Our hou​se is in a great location for our family. We live in a very environmentally friendly and green location an it is also in a private and quiet place.

Among all the neighborhoods in West Vancouver, I think mine is one of the best.  We live in the Bayridge area, close to Caulfeild Village. To begin with, we are close to many schools, including Rockridge, so I can walk home from high school if I go there. If I did not want to walk home, there is a bus stop right in front of our house! Also, there is a couple of elementary schools that I could have gone to including West Bay and Caulfeild Elementary Schools. Another great thing about my neighborhood is that it is close to Horseshoe Bay, so it is very convenient to go for a nice hike by the water, go for lunch or go to Bowen Island for the day. Lastly, there are lots of little things that are good about my neighborhood like we are a ten minute walk to the beach and we are conveniently close to the highway for going to Whistler on weekends. This is why I like the location of my neighborhood.

Something else that I love about where we live is that it is a very natural environment. We always see wild animals going in and out of our backyard! These animals range from bears, deer, raccoons, skunks and many types of birds. I like seeing animals in our backyard because it shows that we are still at the boundary of an urban forest and that West Vancouver has a wild side to it. Another thing I like is that we have many creeks in our neighborhood where fish come back to spawn in the autumn. Yet another quality that my neighborhood has is that we have two magnificent parks. They are both very natural, not used by many people and fun to explore. You can find secret stashes of blackberries and salmonberries, build tire swings and tree forts. These again are some of the many reasons why my neighborhood comes out on top for me!

Last of all, my neighborhood is so great because it is private and quiet. Also, our lot is great. First of all, we have one the largest properties on our side of the street, which is the north side. Not many people in West Vancouver can have as big of a property as us. My favourite thing about my neighborhood is that it is so quiet. There are never many cars going by at night or in the day so I can have really good sleeps and go for runs safely in the day.  Lastly, because of the size of our lot we have lots of privacy when we are playing outside.

I have listed a number of reasons why my neighborhood is the best. It is quiet and private, very natural and in a great location. It is amazing to think that all these things can be found in one location.

Sarah, Ridgeview

Rain drops cool, snow falls soft, but sunshine is a welcome break. Streams trickle and rivers roar, as away the ocean tides shrink, and as my skipping stone sinks. West Van is a haven of dappled light and shade. Forests hide squirrels, as garbage cans conceal raccoons.

In my yard, there are regular visitors, ones that I feed scraps of bread or leftover food. I always have an animal waiting outside for a meal.  Sometimes the seagulls fly up from the beach to join the crows and sparrows perching in the pines. No matter what small creature comes, they leave with full bellies.

Another great thing is all the remarkable trees that stand guard over the inhabitants of this outstanding place. The wispy white clouds and the sometimes dazzling blue of the sky inspire my poetry, and my writing. Crying seagulls circle over the sandy beaches, waiting for the moment when a scrap is tossed and when they all dive down, big feathery lumps. Here the heart is always full of the sound of the tide and the blue of the sea. The mind empties then sets itself free to wander through the maze of thoughts and to delve into your imagination. Inspiration is everywhere. The very wind calls me to join it, to spread my wings and soar, to leave the world behind.

 I learned to imagine at a young age. At night I would clutch a blue marble, waiting until it settled comfortably into my hand. I would close my eyes and see myself at a cliff with the world spread before me, and then I would unfold my wings and jump. In my dreams I would glide, free of all my worries, and I would remember how it feels to fly, so when I wake up I just have to close my eyes to leave the world.

West Vancouver is a place of beauty, of comfort and safety, of nature. I know how to embrace the wild, flow with it. I hoped that maybe one day I could do something to make it even better. May all the people who pass through come with love and leave loved.

Will, Irwin Park

I think that my neighborhood is the perfect neighborhood to live in for many reasons. People move here because it has so many benefits that other places may not have. Going to school in my neighborhood makes you loads of friends, and the neighborhood is a very kid friendly area. Each person is unique, and together they form an interesting and fun place to live in.

A morning in my neighborhood starts with rays of sunlight pouring through my window. The glittering blue of the ocean reflects off my canary yellow walls, creating an emerald glow. In seconds I am aware of all the sounds around me. The faint barking of our neighbors’ dog and the zoom of cars whizzing by are the two that I can always count on. I look out my window to see the ocean, reaching out with its long arms to the laughing shore. I have always said that the air is so much more fresh and salty due to the ocean, and anyone who has visited Dundarave will notice it right away. I look into our yard, and see the play fort which has doubled as a castle, a spaceship, and a boat. The fence behind it still has a huge hole in it from our bear encounter (that bear sure was grumpy!).

My neighborhood is full of interesting people with interesting personalities. I think that it is these people who make my neighborhood so great. But there are also funny animals that live around me too. One could write a book about the animals in our neighborhood! For example, at least once a week a random cat will roam into our yard, hoping for a can of tuna. We named this cat Minerva, after the cat shape shifting teacher from the Harry Potter series. Another good example would be our neighbor’s dog. Thanks to him I never need to set my alarm clock. At 7:30 every morning it sounds as though he is attempting to drown out a lawnmower!

One thing you will notice as soon as you come to Dundarave is that everybody is friendly and seems to know each other in some way or another. My neighborhood proves that it is a small world after all. You may find out that you sister’s friend’s mom is the aunt of your buddy in Grade One! It sounds confusing, but you get used to it after a little while.

My neighborhood is like the perfect place to live. As we live near the water, we always see the ocean glitter as you take a walk down the Seawall, and the sun cheers up even the gloomiest feelings. A lot of kids live in my neighborhood, so I have a lot of friends. In the summer we find the beach a perfect hangout, as the pier serves as the world’s best diving board. The adrenaline rush that the jump gives you is like nothing else. Hitting the water stings, but will go away when you feel the cool water on your skin. I think that the beach is the best thing about living in Dundarave.

Overall I think that I live in the greatest neighbourhood. All the amazing people are so nice, and so are the surroundings. The nature that surrounds the neighbourhood is bright and vibrant. People come to Dundarave just to take pictures of the scenery! Dundarave is like a patch of Heaven that fell down to earth, and I feel that I am so lucky to live there.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »