Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team Vol. IV

When the time finally rolls round to assemble this final LEARN blog post of the year, most educators we encounter tend to be dazed, confused – often struggling to understand what the heck just happened over the past school year.

Are the exams done yet? Did I get all my marks in correctly? Have I cleaned out the moldy lunches from the staff room fridge? Is my classroom reset for next year? Did I wish everyone a happy summer vacay? Am I allowed to go home now??? Please? Well, if you’re reading this post, all these questions should be settled, and the summer sun beckons you to loaf out! Yes, get outside, away from the books, papers, pens, white boards, chalk, overhead projectors, iPads, lunch boxes, school bells, urinals, after-school meetings, cafeteria smells and of course your beloved classroom/school/office. It’s time to celebrate solitude, relaxation and a ton of wonderful sunshine. Time for self-care… These recommended books should fit into the summertime plans pleasantly.

Julie Paré Photo par Mathis

Théo la Tornade par Anna Llenas

Vous êtes le parent d’un petit garçon plein d’énergie comme le mien ou l’enseignant.e d’un.e enfant qui bouge beaucoup en classe… Théo la tornade est un incontournable pour vous! La juxtaposition de collages, de dessins et de peinture rend les illustrations remarquables et l’histoire d’Anna Llenas profondément touchante.

“Five days, Four lost hikers, Three survivors” Kerry Cule

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

I recently read this work of fiction by fellow Canadian, Lansens, and I couldn’t put it down. When 18 year-old Wolf Truly gets stranded on the top of a mountain with three women, they start off as strangers. Their lives become entangled as they band together in an attempt to survive. I would characterize this book as a combination between a coming-of-age drama and man-vs-nature survival story. Check it out!

Shelley Armstrong

A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans

A captivating read for all animal lovers; this remarkable true story lends a unique insight into how one lone black wolf unexpectedly steals the hearts of a few lucky Juneau residents and their dogs. Hoping these incredible encounters into the unchartered world of wolves will warm your heart.

« When you were too small to tell me hello, I knew you were someone I wanted to know. » Carolyn Buteau

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

The Wonderful Things You Will Be is a thoughtful, quiet story that imagines all of the things that both babies and children will grow up to be  including creative, clever as well as brave and bold. This charming picture book is guaranteed to appeal to readers of all ages… especially parents and grandparents.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

I will probably read this book another few hundred times over the summer, as it is Jacob’s favourite. Apart from the fun truck sounds (Beep beep beep goes Blue!) and animal noises, Little Blue Truck teaches the importance of friendship, kindness and teamwork. When everyone works together with Blue, even the largest tasks can be accomplished.

Dianne Conrod

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

Based on real incidents in the late 2000’s, The Boat People provides a fictionalized account of a cargo ship full of Sri Lankan refugees arriving in Canada. The story is told from three alternating perspectives: a refugee man separated from his young son; a political appointee to the role of adjudicator who decides whether the refugees, suspected of being terrorists, will be welcomed or deported; and a young lawyer of Sri Lankan descent who is assigned to the case despite her preference for corporate law. A spirited discussion was sparked in my book club this month about the real events, their relevance, and the layered characters developed by Bala.

Michael Canuel

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

I enjoy most every type of book, but I make a real attempt to read good literature.  This book falls into that category.  A Man Booker prize winner in 2006, it incorporates two tales that deal with migration and culture clash.  One character is an undocumented Indian worker in the States trying to find a way to simply survive.  The second character is an Indian girl who was raised in the Soviet Union at a time when India and the USSR were particularly friendly, but who, after the death of her parents, is returned to India to live with her aging grandfather. Their personal narratives touch on themes relevant to us all on both a personal and social level.  The language and imagery are outstanding and the descriptions captivating. As an audiobook, the reader is simply perfect.
Paul Rombough
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

An old reading tradition of mine was to try and get through one great (and often long) book over the course of a summer. Being quite a slow reader, and tending to take my time on each word, long voyages were the only times I could get through essentials like Ulysses, Moby Dick and Anna Karenina, often squinting over pages blasted into brightness by a Spanish sun, or dimmed into shadows on the midnight train platforms of France. But on one such journey, I remember running out of words almost immediately, as I screamed through the Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece 100 Years of Solitude in only a few days. A classic for those of my generation, it is a must-read if you’re young and haven’t had the chance already. From the first pages, this wonder of magic realism will take you for a ride through history, family, and language that you will never forget.

Dannielle Dyson

Bannock, Beans and Black Tea: Memories of a Prince Edward Island Childhood in the Great Depression by John Gallant and Seth

If you were playing “when I was your age…” against John Gallant, he would win hands down, easily. He did it all, walked to school in bare feet, and for miles in the snow everyday, while surviving on little else than boiled or raw root vegetables. These true stories told to Seth, during long car rides with his Dad, are transformed into this collectible art work of hand-written short vignettes and classic Seth illustrations. This memoir is not for the faint of heart, but for fans of young characters with a tenacity of purpose.

Kristine Thibeault

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys

This is a (not so) oldie, but a goodie! A 2002 National Bestseller by Canadian author Helen Humphreys, The Lost Garden is a beautifully written coming of age story set in the English countryside during the Blitz. A tribute to both writing and gardening, this book is poetic, short and oh so sweet… and my vote for a perfect summertime read.
Natalie Dahlstedt

SISU – The Finnish Art of Courage by Joanna Nylund

I picked up this book to have a deeper look at my genetic roots. SISU (pronounced see-zoo) is something everyone has that must be cultivated in order to live by it. By doing so, you can face life’s adversity with courage and determination, increase your well-being and concentration, communicate with confidence, solve conflictual situation efficiently, develop endurance to reach objectives, raise kids so they are good with resilience and act with integrity while defending what is dear to you. Happy reading!

Audrey McLaren

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This author’s writing style is what I loved the most about this book, although the story is just as compelling as the hypnotic style in which it’s written. Ann Patchett is one of those writers whose words take you to another place altogether. I’ve also read “State of Wonder” by her, an absolute nail-biter, and I plan to read everything else she’s read.

Thomas Stenzel

The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

This book is for those of you who miss the honest reflections and comments about food, travel, politics and life that made “No Reservation” and “Parts Unknown” such interesting TV series, this book of “Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps,and Bones” will provide the same but in written form.

Michael Clarke

Des Choses Fragiles by Neil Gaiman

This summer, I want to improve my french by reading one of my favourite author’s collection of short stories. Neil Gaiman has captured the essence of gods, old and new, so this book should replenish my imagination. Just the sort of chill vibes I need to decompress and disconnect from reality (read: the news)

Chris Colley

Meathead by Meathead Goldwyn

In an effort to fuse my two passions; science and BBQ, I’m all over this gem! The science of flame, smoke and meats… Yum! Let the BBQing begin.

Teachers leading the way with reconciliACTION

June 21st is National Indigenous People’s Day.  I’m taking this moment, four years after the release of the final report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools to reflect on the role of teachers, students and schools in responding to reconciliation and highlighting a new resource to use in the upcoming school year.

In April 2013, I had the opportunity to attend events in Montreal as part of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commision on Residential Schools.  As a non-Indigenous person, I had become more aware of the history of residential schools in Canada during the previous year and mostly through the work of dedicated teachers using the Project of Hope resources and participation in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, a participatory storytelling exercise of reconciliation.

A refrain that strongly resonated with me was that the story of residential schools is one of the stories of Canadian history.  I had not learned about residential schools in my formal schooling. It was later that I was introduced to this long, dark chapter in Canada’s history. It is not something that is easily overcome as a nation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) outlined Calls to Action, to  “advance the process” of reconciliation.  As educators, Call to Action 62 speaks directly to our work in schools and with students.  It outlines recommendations including “Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools”.

It is evident that six years later more work needs to be done, and I was contacted recently by Justin Boehringer, Education Associate of the Legacy Schools program, an initiative of the Indigenous led education organization the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.  Justin shared with me a new set of resources for teachers and students to learn about the residential school experience and participate in education for reconciliation.

I had a great conversation with Justin and wanted to share some of the highlights.  My hope is that you will register as a Legacy School and use the resources to bring the lessons into your school and classroom.

We, the teachers have the power to respond to the TRC call to action and ensure the next generation knows about the history of residential schools, as one example of racist policies towards Indigenous peoples which must be addressed to create true reconciliation.


I started off by asking Justin how Legacy Schools got started?

Mike Downie – Downie Wenjack Fund

“Legacy Schools got started with Canadian music icon Gord Downie’s book, The Secret Path [a graphic novel and album]. He was working on a book about the story of Chenie Wenjack, a boy who ran away from a residential school in the 1960s.  It was the first death of a residential school student that made national headlines back in the 60s.  Gord Downie heard about it later in life and it  moved him to create this legacy project –  to help with Indigenous education across Canada”.

“The Legacy Schools program, is encouraging schools to use the book, The Secret Path to teach students and staff about the Residential School system and Indigenous education, encouraging them to take some action for reconciliation”.


What impact have you seen among the teachers and students that participated in the Legacy Project?

Not just students, but teachers have been able to take their own learning and their own path in Indigenous education  They are using the tools to create a reconciliation action. Usually learning takes place using a text book…by becoming a Legacy School, the idea is that learning can happen by taking action, getting out into the community.  It’s creating the connection between the schools and community that is a huge benefit for reconciliation as a whole.

I asked Justin what he meant by community and he explained that “community means local Indigenous communities in the local area of the High School or non Indigenous communities. It’s really teaching and helping both of those communities come together”.

So often, it’s just schools doing things on their own, or there is sometimes a disconnect with the school and local community.  We really encourage, the connection – bringing in members of the local indigenous community into the school, to be part of the reconciliation action.  Whenever doing some sort of reconciliation, the local Indigenous community can join the members of the school in that action.


What kind of support can Legacy Schools offer teachers that get involved?

The most tangible support is the Legacy Schools Toolkit, which includes a copy of the Secret Path book and lesson plans to help teach about residential schools and Indigenous education.

We provide support for actions these schools can take.  We provide support in helping them come up with ideas, helping brainstorming how to get from the ideas stage to the action stage.


From your experience, what are some lessons learned when starting a reconciliACTION?

The biggest lesson is about learning about local Indigenous history in the communities of the schools, rather than a textbook.  When you can get in touch with a local community and have elders share oral history that you will never find in a textbook. Without this opportunity, some of this stuff will never be learned by the non Indigenous community, because oral history is only really shared through elders passing it down through the younger generation, so if it’s not taught to the younger generations, there is a risk of it being lost forever, so through our Legacy Schools, we’re really encouraging that connection, helping that history stay alive.


What is your hope for the Legacy Schools, one year from now, five years from now?  What are you dreaming about?

Currently we’re in over 700 schools across Canada, obviously the end goal would be, to be in every school in Canada to be a member of our Legacy Schools program.

The goal right now is to increase the engagement in our program, encouraging more schools to use this tool to teach about Indigenous history, to teach about residential schools history and showing that one boy’s story can represent the story of thousands of other students.

The end goal is to create an awareness, to normalize Indigenous education and make it an everyday aspect of the school rather than a one-off unit.  Having schools take reconciliation and doing action towards it, rather than just talking about it.


Secret Path Week

If you’re interested in becoming a Legacy School, register now so you can be included in the next shipment of resources in September.  The resources can be used to participate in the Secret Path Week (October 17-22, 2019).

The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund would like to inspire Legacy Schools to use this week to answer Gord Downie’s call to action, to “do something” by creating a reconciliACTION.  A reconciliACTION is any meaningful action that aims to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the spirit of reconciliation through education, awareness and understanding.

All Legacy schools are asked to participate in Walk for Wenjack during Secret Path week, which culminates in a live concert.

During the lead up to Secret Path week, LEARN will host a webinar to talk about Indigenous Education in Quebec and share reconciliACTIONs.  If you are interested in the webinar or becoming part of LEARN’s Education for Reconciliation community subscribe to LEARN’s Ed4Rec newsletter here.


Walk a Mile: A story of entrepreneurship and the Arts

Entrepreneurship is a way for individuals to be fulfilled, express their values, bring their ideas to life, gain control of their lives and contribute to their community. Entrepreneurial spirit is forged and evolves throughout one’s life in accordance with one’s personality, experience and environment

Nathan Gage and his James Lyng Secondary three students knock another project out of the park with “WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES” – a student-curated exhibition that showcases customized shoes, designed and painted by James Lyng High School students. I attended the vernissage and struck by how it made me reflect upon what symbols I would put on my shoes and I can’t remember the last time I went to an art show that left me with such an impression.

Embedded in each of their shoes are symbols which were chosen by the students to tell stories from their lives. Each pair of shoes is accompanied by a short film featuring students explaining the meaning behind their symbols.  The exhibition was conceived and carried out by Secondary 3 students in their Entrepreneurship class. This large-scale, interdisciplinary project involved classwork carried out in five different classes at James Lyng High School.

To help make the project happen, the class wrote Vans Shoes and received a donation of 24 pairs of white sneakers.

Participating students brainstormed meaningful symbols which they would later integrate in their shoe design. After writing about each symbol’s relevance, the students were provided with a new pair of all-white Vans sneakers. Students drew, stitched, painted and stenciled their symbols to create their customized shoes.

In March 2019, the shoes were showcased in a multi-media show curated by James Lyng’s Entrepreneurship class at the school’s Up Next Art Gallery. Each pair of shoes was accompanied by a short film in which the student artist tells the stories behind their symbols.

The students presented a short documentary chronicling the process of conceiving, organizing and curating the show which you can see above.

To complement the customized shoes, a large-scale mural, painted by students under the supervision of local artist, Haks, enhanced the gallery walls.

“It’s not just the fact that you get free shoes. It’s that you get to create something that no one else has, and you can do whatever you want on it,” says Secondary 5 student Keshaun Jarvis.

“It’s about how you feel at the end of the day. It’s a representation of what you think and what you feel.” Student organizer Colby McLean-Ross adds, “It was a deep and meaningful project. Thinking of what to put on the shoes was my favorite part, and now that I have the finished product, I really am proud.”

Walk a Mile was a local winner of the Osentreprende competition for Secondary Cycle 2.  

Strap on headphones and check out James Lyng’s music label website – featuring music by their students.

Images from the documentary