Dispatch from the Magdalen Islands: film project explores the spooky and shipwrecked

Grade 10 and 11 students at the Grosse Île and Entry Island CLC are delving into their island’s past with a folklore-centred film project. The island is considered the second-largest ship graveyard in North America, with around 500 documented shipwrecks – little wonder, then, that the students wanted to create a movie which revolved around the shipwrecks, and the ghost stories that surround them.

As CLC coordinator Nancy Clark explained, the students are “going to go to their families and to some seniors and get the local shipwreck stories, but there’s also a lot of ghost stories around the community, so they’re gonna be learning about the historical stories but then adding the folklore and then they’re making a shipwreck-ghost-horror movie which is completely fictional.” They then plan on submitting the movie but it’s going with the two themes. They will also be submitting to Festifilm, a contest for student-made movies.

Clark, who grew up in Grosse Île and attended the same school where she now works, says that while for the past two years the school has worked on incorporating  local history, at first students didn’t know about things she thought were common knowledge — something she thinks comes back to the change in how stories are told and transmitted. “When our ways of life change, so does the transfer of knowledge,” she said. “Just when I was growing up, my grandmother’s house was the centre of our social network and everybody would go there and tell stories all the time, but now if kids are more on their cell phones and their computers, they’re not getting the same storytelling atmospheres around them.”

Clark hopes such projects, in getting students to reconnect with their heritage, will create a sense of belonging and ultimately result in youth retention. She was one of eight students in her graduating high school class, and the only one to return to Grosse Île, something she attributes to her strong sense of home. “I think with our decline in population, with our youth and our incoming generations that we really have to give them that same sense, or there’s no reason for them to stay here,” she said. “There’s not a lot of jobs, you can’t go to a movie theatre, you can’t have things accessible like you would in a town or a city, so you’ve to give them a reason to stay.”

Students “GrEAU”-ing organic crops with hydroponic garden


At Mecatina School in Tabatiere, students have built a hydroponic garden using cost and energy efficient methods, in order to supply the isolated community with fresh produce. To see more photos, see the bottom of the article.

It’s hard to believe that only five months ago, GrEAU, the student-run business and hydroponic garden at Mecatina School, was just an idea.

“We started brain storming in early November,” said Christopher Wong, the Science and Technology teacher who supervised the project. It began when three of his students wanted to enter the Quebec Entrepreneurial Contest 2014. Their goal was to create a business that applied the technology and science concepts they had learned in class with their desire to improve their community.

Mecatina School is situated on the rocky coastline of La Tabatiere, on the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, where there is no access to the community by road. Goods and supplies are sent in by boat or airplane. When produce arrives, it tends to be old or harvested before it’s ripe, forcing residents to pay a high price for food with reduced nutritional value.

Wong’s students decided to establish an environmentally friendly hydroponic garden using GMO-free, certified organic seeds. By selling their crops at $2-$3.50, they would be able to support the business while offering the isolated community fresh vegetables and herbs at a lower cost than what they would normally find in stores. The sustainable and efficient business also helps decrease the environmental impact from the transportation of food into the village.

Every Friday on their free period, one of the students delivers over 30 heads of lettuce, 10 bags of chives, 10 bags of dill and 10 bags of basil to the two local stores in the community. The veggies and herbs are organic, fresh and delicious, and it’s usually only a matter of days before the product is sold out.

The success of GrEAU came after months of hard work. Neither the students nor Wong has worked on a project like this before, so it was a learning experience for everyone. A great deal of research, planning and labour went into the garden’s construction. The students worked for many hours after school and even on weekends.

The team received a $300 grant from the CLC Initiative and a $1800 loan from the Governing Board (which has since been turned into a donation) in order to purchase their supplies. Starting in November and finishing by mid-March, the team constructed a system where up to 600 plants can grow at once in a 48 square feet space.

Despite its success, construction of the garden wasn’t always smooth sailing.  Wong said that one day, when him and the students went to purchase wood in -30 degree Celsius stormy weather, they ran into some difficulty. “We were carrying the sheets of plywood and the really bad winds made them act just like sails,” he said with a laugh.

So, what about the contest? To the student’s and Wong’s disappointment, they didn’t win. “When I found out, it was around April Fool’s day so the kids thought I was joking. I had to show them the email before they believed me.”

While the contest loss was a shock, the students are still working hard at GrEAU. The group, which has gained a fourth member since starting, will be examining the acidity of the water in the near future. They also recently purchased shirts with the GrEAU logo. “One of the students works at the store where we sell the produce and he spends about an hour talking to people in the community about GrEAU every shift,” said Wong.

With the numerous ways GrEAU gives back to the school, community and the students themselves, it’s safe to say that everyone involved is a winner.

See GrEAU’s website here, for more photos, their proposals and additional details about the business.






Partnering with universities

I have just returned from the annual Coalition for Community Schools conference – an inspiring 3 day gathering of coordinators, directors, principals and researchers all invested in the idea that if we can organize all of a community’s resources around student success and lifelong learning, we will foster more vibrant and engaged students and communities.  One of the strong themes at this conference was the role that the university can play not only in supporting student learning, but also in facilitating opportunities to connect students with community partners.  The university-assisted community school model is spreading fast across the US and a strong feature of this program is community based service learning.

The Netter Centre for Community Partnerships spearheaded the mission to integrate university services with schools and community more than 25 years ago, and now they offer more than 75 different Academically Based Community Service courses for undergraduate students to connect with local schools and community partners.  In many cases, these projects involve undergraduate and primary/secondary students doing service-learning projects elbow-to-elbow in the community.

A great example of this is the Urban Nutrition Initiative, a program run out of UPenn that involves university students partnering with local high school and elementary students to build community gardens and then to harvest and provide produce to more than 10,000 students and their families in 20 under-served public schools in Philadelphia.  The UNI leverages the resources that the university can provide (knowledgeable undergraduate interns, financial resources, and teaching staff to co-develop educational programming with school teachers) to involve youth, seniors and other community members in the creation of sustainable food sources in inner city areas.  The internship program pairs undergraduate students with high school students to empower teens to explore and identify solutions to health disparities, promote healthy lifestyles through cooking classes, tending the gardens and operating produce stands at the local farmer’s markets.

In Montreal, our two English universities have community outreach centres, designated to put community partners in touch with the university, and to provide opportunities for university students to “give back” to their community.  McGill University’s Community Action Toolkit provides opportunities for undergraduate students to volunteer in a variety of community settings.  Many of these are schools, some in our CLC network!   Their homework zone programs and family spaghetti nights have enjoyed successful partnerships with the Riverview Elementary CLC for several years.  For more information on the CAT contact Anurag Dhir.

The potential that these collaborations have to support CBSL in our network is huge!   Concordia’s City Farm School has been partnering for several years with elementary schools in the Montreal areas to support their gardens.  Previously, we have partnered with the CFS to bring the Back-to-the-Roots program to our network via VC.  Concordia University recently opened the Office for Community Engagement as part of its commitment to collaborating with community partners.  If you need inspiration or help from a university partner, why not start there?  For more information, contact Eryn Fitzgerald, Community Relations Coordinator.

Screenshot 2014-04-01 10.47.39

As you may know, Pinterest is one of the fastest growing visual discovery tools on the web today. By simply registering, users have access to thousands of beautiful photos to inspire recipes, home decoration, fitness or beauty. All it takes is a click on a photo, and you are brought to the original website where the photo was posted. From there, you can find more information about the project or idea seen in the photo. It’s a useful way to organize items you find on the web, brainstorm ideas, and plan for events.

There is even a section on Pinterest for education-related posts. From literacy activities to craft ideas, hundreds of teachers are sharing their projects and photos on Pinterest every day. We thought, what better way to compile some of our favourite posts and resources than on a CBSL Pinterest account!

On the account, we will post not only the great stories coming from CLC Quebec, but also resources and project ideas from other teachers. If you see a post on Pinterest and would like us to add it to a board, or even write about on the blog, please send it along! And don’t forget to give us a follow if you are signed up.

You can check out our account HERE.