Archive for October, 2009

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storytelling

October 28, 2009

We’ve had some interesting assignments in the past few weeks of school and I’ve been finding the “nature story” one to be one of the most challenging because I really don’t have a very good feel for what storytelling is actually like in the grades classroom.  I vaguely recall mention that personifying animals and plants doesn’t fit but that’s about it!  I didn’t realize that until I’d half written a story about a wise old owl who shows Pippin the insides of a tree and explains how it grows.  After looking at a few books I decided to make another attempt and I actually found it to be rather fun.  In some places I opted for some weak rhyming as a way to help me remember what to say.

I’ll relay my story to my classmates later this today but since this blog is as much about documenting things as it is anything else, I thought I’d share what I came up with:

Today’s story is about a young girl named Pippin.  She loved being outside – splashing in puddles, skipping through the grass, jumping in the leaves, climbing tall trees… One of her favourite places of all was the enchanted forest.  In fact, this is where you would find her almost every day after school.

In this forest…

mushrooms, mosses, needles and ferns

Are on the ground at every turn.

The trees stand up so wide and tall,

Sun and rain rarely touch the ground at all.

Old man’s beard hangs from the trees,

And birds fly about so happy and free.

The wise, old owl sleeps away,

In his secret hideout during the day.

Rabbits and deer scamper on the ground,

Squirrels chase each other up, down and around.

Pippin loved to watch the creatures play,

And ask them questions to hear what they’d say.

On one such afternoon she asked aloud:

“I wonder why the grass is green, and why the wind is never seen?

Who taught the birds to build a nest, who told the trees to take a rest?

O, when the moon is not quite round, where can the missing bit be found?

Who lights the stars when they blow out?  Who makes the lightning flash about?

Who paints the rainbow in the sky and hangs the fluffy clouds so high?

Why is it now, do you suppose, that father won’t tell me if he knows?”   (I borrowed this poem from Jeannie Kirby.)

Just then, Pippin caught sight of a fluffy, brown squirrel.  She followed him under a log, across the creek, and half way up a tall, straight tree.  Pippin watched as the squirrel jumped from tree to tree.  When she lost sight of the squirrel, she started climbing down.  As she landed on the ground she realized she was right beside a giant old stump.

The middle was hollow, but around it were rings of light and dark reaching all the way out to the bark.  she wondered if maybe the tree had been growing in rings before it had been cut down.

A little deeper into the forest there was another tree which had blown down in the wind.  She had hopped over the log the day before but now there was sawdust and the forest floor in it’s place.  Beside it she was the cut end of the tree and noticed that it had rings too!  With great excitement she counted every ring on this smaller tree and found that it had one hundred and seventeen rings!

Further down the path Pippin came across a pile of firewood.  She counted the rings on a smaller piece and realized that it had as many rings as her mom’s age – thirty eight.

“Wow,” she exclaimed to the forest, “maybe trees don’t stand still after all”.  Excited with her new discovery, she said good day to the plants and animals of the enchanted forest and ran the rest of the way home so she could tell her father what she had just learned.

Pippin told her father about how he squirrel had led her to a giant old stump with so many rings of dark and light.  How the smaller log had been cut to reveal (how many?) one hundred and seventeen rings.  And how the one piece of firewood had thirty eight rings.

Her father told her how trees grow rings every year as they grow up, up, up and a little bit out.  In fact, big, old cedars like the ones the wise old owl sleeps in can be hundreds of years old.  Middle sized ones like the one that fell across the path would have been saplings (baby trees) when her great, great, great grandfather was a boy.  And that the smaller tree would have started growing the year her mother was born.

And so it was, that the squirrel and the trees of the forest helped Pippin learn another secret of the earth.

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paddling song

October 26, 2009

Last week each of the classes in grades 1 through 8 performed for parents and friends of the school. It was meant to provide insight into what was happening in each of the grades and what I got to see of it was great.

I was most struck by what the grade two class did. Their performance was a bit of a medley but their first thing is what stands out the most because it’s so similar to what I’ve been planning to try with my classmates when they pretend to be in grade 2 later today.  (The television poem from last week was someone else’s interpretation on the same assignment.)

In the performance at the school the children went on stage carrying sticks with fabric on the bottom and they kneeled down in two rows as if they were in a giant canoe. Then they started tapping their sticks in time with the song they sang – “My paddle’s keen and bright, flashing with silver….

Some people consider the verse those children sang to be part of one of my favourite songs from back when I was around the same age. The verse I know best goes like this:
“Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose, wanders at will.
Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more, boom ditty boom boom, boom ditty boom boom, boom ditty boom boom boom.”

I hadn’t thought to kneel down as if in a canoe but I will stick to my plan of teaching the rhythm in a circle and then learning the words from there. The context – learning a song that helps keep us in time as we paddle – is the same.

I still can’t get over the fact that the grade two’s at the school here did something so much like what I’m going to try out with my mock grade two’s today. Hopefully it all goes well!

On a completely different note, here’s a photo of my recently completed recorder case.  It took me a week to get around to ?finger knitting? the cord….
completed recorder case

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a weekend full of inspiration

October 25, 2009

My apologies for not having any photos for these past few posts.  I’ve been leaving my camera at home more often than I would like but the activities I’ve been doing aren’t so conducive to photography and I certainly wouldn’t want to post photos of others without their consent.

Photos or not, I think it’s worth sharing what I was up to on the weekend.  I went to a grrrrreat coffee house on Friday night.  There was music from the decade before my birth, songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager, some original songs and some others I had never heard before (but have in the rotation now).  It was a fun night and it got me thinking that I really need to play more than the recorder.  I like being able to sing while I play which is why I have the lyre, but without the sharps and flats it’s hard to play much more than old folk tunes.  I think when I go back home at Christmas I’m going to have to pick up the guitar again.

When I first moved to Alberta it was mid-way through the hockey season so I took advantage of the extra time in my schedule and picked up a guitar.  I really like finger-style guitar and figuring out how to play songs I like by ear.  I started to learn some finger style but found it so confusing so mostly I would figure out how to pick the melody and strum the chorus.  The last time I did that was 4 years ago though!  Somewhere in the house there will be the notebook where I wrote out the lyrics and some of the notes of some Corb Lund and Johnny Cash tunes.  So yeah, Friday night has reinspired me to get more musical.  And the poem about the television can only help!  I didn’t have a tv that first winter in Alberta and I often wish I didn’t know that I could watch shows on-line.  Life without the tv is so much sweeter but for some reason I keep losing sight of that!

The other thing I did on the weekend was Contra Dancing.  I went to one when I was doing my Waldorf intensive in the summer and was inspired to look and see what is offered in this city.  Sure enough, there are regular dances and the folks who turn up are welcoming of novices.

Some of the steps come from square dancing (I think that’s the correct origin for do-si-do) and country dancing and as you move around, switching partners all the way through, the sense of community and shared experience grows.  It helps that there is lovely live music to dance to too!

As with my first dance I wore my birkenstocks.  They’re a little tricky to dance with but at the end of the week I’ll be meeting up with Kevin and in addition to some great time together I’ll also get to pick up some necessities such as dance shoes!

In closing, I’m so happy that I had a social weekend and found extra inspiration to get playing music, turning off the “tv” and dancing.  And I’m also looking forward to spending the coming weekend with Kev!

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great poem

October 23, 2009

We’ve been introducing things to our classmates as though they were our students in grade 1, 2, 3… or 8 etc. this week. It’s been a great learning experience and I just loved one of the things in the song/verse category today. This one was aimed towards a class of grade eights and I thought the imagery was so powerful that I had to share it. Our “teacher’ did a fantastic job of fully embodying this poem and it’s a shame you didn’t get to witness it yourself.  In any case I hope you’ll enjoy Roald Dahl’s “Television”
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

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staying active

October 18, 2009

Once again, I’m finding it challenging to get in shape.  I made so much progress earlier in the year but it all slipped away over the summer.  There were busy days and no access to a pool or bike when I was at my intensive and then when I got home I was so worn out and had so much to do to get ready for school when I wasn’t working.

I’m back to wanting to get and stay fit again – yay!  One big thing in my favour now is that I’m walking 3-5 km a day for school and with going to the library and shopping I’m sometimes getting closer to 8 km in and all of it is with a fairly heavy pack.  I need to be prepared for changes in temperature so I pack a lot of clothing.  Then there’s lunch and all the nibble times in between.  It shocks a lot of people but my 35 L pack is usually quite full.  All the better for my bones although the same might not be true for knees.  In any case, I’m enjoying the walking for the most part but can take the bus when my knees are really unhappy.

Another great surprise when I arrived here is that there is a pool nearby.  There are also other recreation programs available and at the present time I’m doing yoga one night a week.  I’m loving that.  The swimming part has been the most challenging.

There are good pool times but the way lap swimming has to be done here is taking some adjustment.  Instead of up one side of the lane and down the other they do up one lane, down the neighbouring lane here for “safety reasons”.  Up the sides and down the middle has worked at every other pool I’ve been at and besides, how can this massive loop swimming be good for anyones shoulders?  I think I’m at the point where I can accept this begrudgingly but then there’s the change room.  It’s not very big but with 20 or so women in the pool and 4 showers, the 8 or 9 hooks in that area are full even when there’s no shower in use and today the one bench in the empty (no people) change area was completely covered in stuff.  I’ve “shared” a hook before and people don’t like it but then others have their stuff spread across 3.  It might be a cultural thing, I don’t know, but it was so hard not to pull stuff off and throw it on the floor or today.

My new plan of attack is to try all the swim times that fit my schedule and when I find one where there isn’t such a fight for space I’m going to stick to it.  Otherwise I think it’s going to be awfully hard for me to get in the water at all.

It’s time for me to go for another walk where I’ll get back to thinking about the story I need to write, illustrate and memorize….

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a great week!

October 15, 2009

My “turkey” weekend was great – time relaxing around the house, getting together with friends, catching up on sleep and getting started on a non-school related book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

It was challenging to get back in the rhythm on Tuesday though as we started school earlier than normal so that we could experience spacial dynamics.  Was it ever cool!

Tuesday was really different. In addition to spacial dynamics we split wood for making stools in our wood work class and made our own knitting needles in handwork class.  We also learned a different way to cast on. It was an exhausting day and thankfully I had yoga that night so I could work some of the kinks out and relax.

The rest of this week has been going well too.  Yesterday was lecture heavy but a surprisingly good complement to Tuesday and then today we had a bit of a mix with some heavy discussions, drawing and painting.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

I hope you’re having a great week but before I disappear for another few days here is a photo of my knitting needles. I’ll try to remember the camera next Tuesday!

handmade knitting needles and the start of my recorder case

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artsy evening

October 8, 2009

We had a big paper due today but as we’re finishing our block tomorrow it felt like I had such freedom in what to do tonight.  I had the house to myself and was feeling tired so I watched more online shows than I should have while also getting some other things off my to do list:

Making and writing thank you cards

cards

Finishing my first Waldorf doll – a baby really.  Our teacher actually sewed up the bodies and the skin fabric; we stuffed and did all the sewing that is visible on the outside.  There’s more of that hand stitching that it looks – gathering at the hands, feet, waist and neck and then of course making the hat.  It didn’t take that long but having to wait two days to be able to finish it up was surprisingly difficult.  I’ll take sewing over essay writing any day!

Waldorf baby

Have a great turkey weekend!