West End Phoenix Assignment

Update January 4th. This is a reminder. All students are invited (but not required) to submit a story next week for The West End Phoenix. Submissions are due January 9th at 9am. I am re-posting the assignment here.

Our assignment from the Editor is in! All Elementary students are invited to create a story submission of maximum 100 words for The West End Phoenix. We will be doing a pastiche piece that mirrors their regular feature Pet of the Month. The concept of a “pet” can be loosely adapted to fit. For example, they have profiled deceased hamsters, sports mascots, a feral Parkdale alleycat and Tickles the creepy crawlie as seen above. Children can also submit photos or illustrations if they wish. There is no brief beyond that. In fact the whole point is to write freely and no, you do not have to “own” this creature.

Space is limited obviously but everyone is invited to go through the process of preparing a submission for publication in the next issue of The West End Phoenix. We will be sure to publish all submissions here on the blog. Dave Bidini, Editor in Chief, has requested all material to be turned in the first week of school so I am setting a deadline of Wednesday, January 9th at 9am for all submissions to be handed in to our Deputy Editors who will spend the morning preparing it for delivery. So start up your typewriters and get after that story! Holly

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Model UN Working Group December 30 2-4pm

Model UN delegates are asked to attend a Working Group to prepare position papers which are to be submitted by January 23, 2019. Our country is Congo Brazzaville. When preparing your research, please do not confuse this with Democratic Republic of Congo. Here is the complete list of committee topics:

DISEC G-102 The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East

DISEC G-99.E Prohibition of the dumping of radioactive wastes

ECOFIN ENV 19.D Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind

ECONFIN ENV 19.F Convention on biological diversity

SPECPOL 52.A International co-operation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

SPECPOL BG-62 Implementation of Declaration on Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

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Have a Peaceful Holiday. See you January 7th.

Peace is not something you wish for. It’s something you do, something you are and something you give away. John Lennon
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WW II Communication Fair

Each year, we participate in the Supply Line program with the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. They ship a traveling trunk of a full officer’s kit along with a story (which we dramatized like a radio program) of a soldier called Will Van Allen. We use the artifacts in many different ways in the classroom to help tell the story of the experience of war. This year, we created an extension lesson about Communication in World War II. We set up stations around the room for ciphering, mapping, data encoding, Morse code and semaphore signalling and a mock art department to pump out propaganda posters. The children were divided into two groups and given the afternoon to solve a series of 12 challenges using all these different modes of communication. Here are some shots of them at work.

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Join us Thursday, December 13th for Music and Dance

On Thursday, we will showcase the music and dance programs at The Orchard. The casa children will lead with two original compositions by their music teacher, Jennifer. Next up, we’ll be treated to three pop and classic tunes that bear no resemblance to Christmas music you might hear in a mall, courtesy of the Elementary choir led by Nick Arseneau. Finally, the afterschool Limon troupe have spent the term preparing an original dance piece that is quite stunning. After the performances, Holly will share some of her experience in Ghana and introduce you to the new project we have begun work on there. We hope to see you in the gym at 4pm.

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Poetry Recitations – Why Do We Do That?

We get asked quite often why the children are made to do poetry recitations every Monday morning. I suppose from the outside, it might seem conventional and rote. So here is a story about one of the recitations we heard this morning that may help to explain a bit about why we do it and how it provides a basis for enquiry. One of our students in Upper Elementary recited The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens. It’s a challenging poem. At first, she didn’t understand the content or the context. We spoke as a group for over an hour about contemporaries of Stevens, such as William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, and looked at examples of poets and visual artists who were literally trying to reframe the structure of experience through art. I explained that the inspiration for the poem may have come from Pablo Picasso’s Old Man With Guitar which was exhibited near Wallace’s home in Connecticut in 1934 (two years before the poem was written) and immediately, the children began to talk excitedly about how they could see the poem in the words as I read it through again. The student to whom the poem was assigned is writing her critical reflection now and a small group have asked to do some studies of Picasso at the AGO later this week. So it seems a lot more can come from recitations than simply memorizing if you dig below the surface and that is in fact, the experience we are trying to provide for our students of all ages.

The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens (Verses One and Two)


The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are 
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."


I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.

I sing a hero's head, large eye
And bearded bronze, but not a man,

Although I patch him as I can
And reach through him almost to man.

If to serenade almost to man
Is to miss, by that, things as they are,

Say it is the serenade 
Of a man that plays a blue guitar.
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Screen Printing in Maker Studio

The kids were screenprinting in Maker Studio on Wednesday. They learned the technique for creating a negative image, cutting it out of vinyl cling fling then adhering it to the screen to be inked. This child created an image of the River Thames with Tower Bridge at the end and a moon overhead. The image on the towel below is a young girl’s dream dog. This week, they tried transferring their images onto tea towels and next week they will make smaller images to put on cards. They should be ready just in time for the holidays!

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Today in Anatomy

We have been working on the body systems in Anatomy class. Last week, we completed studies on the circulatory system and this week, we made a model of a lung to show how the diaphram functions before sketching the respiratory system. Were were able to tie this in to our work in choir. The children just recorded Ahead by a Century for the CBC competition for school music programs. They were reminded repeatedly (or was it exhaustively) about this important muscle.

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Music at Orchard

The Orchard’s music program is rich and diverse. Beginning with the bells in casa, the children are introduced to the idea of musical form early on. The bells are actually two sets of eight bells, tuned perfectly to an octave ascending from middle C. The first set is a control set, arranged in sequence on the shelf so the child may strike each tone of the octave. Next they are shown a second set of bells that are out of sequence and have to be graded by ear. Jennifer supports this work in the casa with a music conference twice a week that focuses on vocal exercises and solfege movements. It’s a beautiful way to end the day.

The elementary music program, under the direction of Nick Arseneau, is a dynamic mix of theory, voice training, instrumentation and composition. Lower elementary students study ukulele and Uppers are learning band instruments. Each Thursday, at the end of the afternoon lessons, there is a half hour choir with both groups together. Right now, they are preparing a version of Ahead by a Century by the Tragically Hip for a CBC contest as well as selections for the Winter Concert on December 13th. Everyone in the school will take part in this event so be sure to mark it on the calendar.

Nick also teaches private lessons after school in guitar and ukulele.

We are pleased to share the gym with Little Music. Lenni Jabour and Julie Fader teach the Suzuki early childhood method to the youngest members of our school community four days a week. This is a parent and caregiver class and registration for the winter session will begin soon. More information can be found on their website at: http://littlemusic.ca



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A Distinguished Visitor

This morning, a red-tailed hawk perched outside the library window. The elementary children were so delighted. We stood outside and watched for some time before it flew off across the green space at the back of the school. A few of the children in Upper Elementary are amateur enthusiasts so they immediately set to work detailing what they know about the characteristics and habits of red tailed hawks. We’ve been studying taxonomy so they were charged with decoding the classification of the hawk. This put their knowledge of the species into context. Here is the result of the discussion we had:


Kingdom Animalia ….When asked to define it, they stared back in silence. Finally one spoke up to say “um not monera, plantae, fungi, archaeobacteria or what’s the other one, ah, two”?

Phylum Chordata…”That’s easy, it means it has a backbone”

Class Aves….”Birds!” several shouted at once without raising their hands.

Order Accipitriformes….”That means hawk in Latin” said one grade six student, checking her Latin dictionary to confirm. It does mean hawk in Latin it turns out but the classification also includes other diurnal birds of prey.

Family Accipitridae… This presented an opportunity for investigation so we hypothesized that it related either to wing shape or beak. It was the later (hooked beak) and also their morphology based on diet.

Genus Buteo…Finally, they were stumped so we looked it up. They learned birds of this genus are robust raptors with large wings and a particular stroke to their flight pattern.

Species B. jamaicensis ....Here is where we will go now in our investigations. We will diagram the bird we saw in watercolour from the reference photos we took and look at the characteristics and habitats of the red tailed hawk and their significance in mythology. 

Really, they amazed me today…both the hawk and the children.

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