Food in our school, food in our community

Work Oriented Training Program (WOTP) students at St Michael’s in the town of Low jumped into action and took over food preparation for their school two days a week after a local restaurant that provided school meals ended that service. The class also made sandwiches daily for several students who are undernourished.

As if that was not enough, the class wanted to support seniors in their community. They took some of the by-products (such as chicken bones for making soup) and made meals for members of the community who are shut in or less mobile.

The project was fully integrated into the curriculum and taught practical skills like procedures for safe handling of food and working in a professional style kitchen.

Their teacher, Billy Boudreau, commented, “The students are more engaged by projects, especially those that require much hands on work. This project helped to allow for that to happen.”  The students also learned the “value of giving back to the community and making healthy choices.”

Among the greatest successes were “the students’ personal feeling that they had accomplished something real, and the fact that students who come from lesser means were able to get a lunch.”

This is a great example of service learning; students identifying an authentic need, coming up with a solution, all the while learning and making a contribution to their community.

Grand Plants

Julie Leduc and the Primary Cycle 2 students at Riverview Elementary in Verdun learned that “students can, and will, get their hands dirty for a worthy cause!”

Through the “Grand Plants” project, the students fostered a love for plants and then spread that love, like the seeds of their plants, to their grandparents, who were invited to the school to be involved in the project.

Ms. Leduc felt that not only would the project strengthen inter-generational ties, but it would also integrate French language arts, science, arts and citizenship. The project gave students a greater understanding of…

  • the importance of plants
  • the easiness of growing planting
  • how to help plants grow
  • the impact of global warming
  • the need for inter-generational ties and activities.

Student’s were in awe and amazement by how well their plants grew. Another success of the project was seeing the students enjoying the time spent with their grandparents at school and working on the project.

While it’s not always easy to coordinate schedules and find the time to get everything done, students were engaged.  For instance, “some students, who were previously afraid of worms and compost (“Yuck! That’s sheep’s poo”!) began to take interest in how soil becomes more nutritious for plants and were excited to find worms when we turned the soil in the community garden outside.”

Interested in learning more about school-community gardens in the CLC network?  Contact Ben for links to lesson plans and grants.

Slice of Life

Slice of Life is a story of how a local artifact can get students and the wider community to talk about their history and reflect on the changes over the past century locally and globally.

It started with a 2 inch thick slice of tree from a towering pine, cut down outside Pope Memorial Elementary School in the town of Bury.  Students counted the rings and determined the age (109 years to be exact).

Next, their teacher Jocelyn Bennett read a book about a thousand year old tree and what had happened during that time period.  French teacher Celine Carbonneau asked her students to bring in artifacts from that period and wrote about is in French, later presenting to the community.  This inspired the students and community to research the history of the town and vote on the most significant town and world events over the past 109 years.

You can see pictures and read more about the project and how the community got involved in an entertaining article by Rachel Garber in The Record.

Inspiration can be found in the strangest places.



Music Through the Decades

Music through the decades is a wonderful service learning project addressing the authentic community need of reducing isolation of seniors from the Mary- Elizabeth Residence in Châteauguay while being integrated into the music, math, English and French curriculum.

The project was lead by two teachers from the New Frontiers School Board, Moira Lemme from Centennial Park Elementary School and Melissa Ianniciello from St. Willibrord.

The project started with students interviewing seniors and taking notes about music they loved throughout their lives.  The students took the information back to the classroom analyzing the results with surveys, bar graphs and answered questions using the information.  Perhaps not surprisingly, some students less engaged by math, “took the assignment very seriously as we were analyzing data. They wanted to understand – what the averages were and most common answers”  Ms. Lemme noted “Projects like this lead to better understanding for students, especially typically lower scoring students who can make connections and be excited about the work they are doing”.

The project didn’t stop there, students responded to what they had learned by working hard to put together a set of songs that would appeal to seniors.

Let’s not pretend inter-generational projects like Music through the generations are not without some challenges, even with the support of a great CLC Coordinator like Anthony Spadaccino.   Ms. Lemme mentioned the difficulty in finding time to visit the seniors and the arranging transportation logistics.   After some back and forth with the seniors home, it became apparent the seniors did not want to leave their home to see the show in the school gym.  So instead, the class brought the concert to them (with a cold buffet, props, and costumes).

Reflecting on the concert, The most popular songs were Brown Eye’d Girl and Can’t Help Falling In Love. The students brought the seniors potted flowers and presented cards saying “thanks for having us” and “have a good summer”.

A lot of work went into this project, and we have a few clues that the event was successful for the seniors and students.

After the concert, Ms. Lemme was proud to say she had received 4 calls from seniors at the residence “to thank us for our show, the flowers and the snacks!”  She also said the

“students wrote a journal today about their experience and many of them noted that they felt really good doing something for their community. They also loved learning songs that they don’t hear every day. (A few also said their parents were happy to hear some classics when their child practiced at home)”.  “I was very pleased! The kids were happy and the seniors seemed very happy!”

Top 10 reasons to participate in Blue Met’s- Quebec Roots

Every fall I send out information from the Blue Metropolis Foundation inviting teachers and students to participate in their free social and educational programs.  The programs support student writing and photography about their local community by pairing classes with professionals.

It is an amazing opportunity for teachers and students to engage in authentic writing and be part of an anthology that features students from across the province.

This year, i’ve taken a different approach- Let the students promote the program with their own words.

Let’s hear directly from Secondary 1 & 2 students at Grosse Ile CLC on the Magdalen Islands.

Learning is Fun!                 

In the fall of 2013, we began the Quebec Roots: My Community, My Values project. We did research on our islands by reading, but most importantly by interviewing the older people in our community. We found out that they had a lot to share.sand1

First of all, we learned that the older generation liked to talk and they had many stories to share. They told us of heroism of our ancestors and how they helped save shipwreck victims. Some of them even died doing this. We learned the names of many shipwrecks and how many of us came to be here. We learned about the way fishing was fifty and sixty years ago, the difficulties they had and how they overcame them. They were very smart and innovative! They had no technology like fishermen do today.

Secondly, we learned that it takes a lot of hard work to become published writers. We had to learn to interview and to take proper notes. We had to learn to write precisely and descriptively as Monique Polak told us. “Take me there!” Every word is important. Choose the best ones. We had to write, revise, edit, rewrite, and then revise, edit and rewrite again. Most importantly we had to learn to accept criticism for our work.

Our ten top reasons of why we should participate in Blue Met are:

  1. It makes learning fun.
  2. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to do different things.
  3. We learned a lot about our own community through listening to the older generation.
  4. We become more aware of issues that we hadn’t given much thought to before, such as erosion.
  5. We learned to appreciate the natural beauty of your community, to see it through someone else’s eyes. (We didn’t see clotheslines or the patterns of the sand as anything spectacular before!)
  6. We realize that our community is interesting! We get to show others how we live.
  7. We get to show off our community to other parts of Quebec.
  8. To let people know we exist. (It’s not easy to find us on the map!)
  9. You get to learn about photography.
  10. We get to take ELA outside the classroom!

Fresh ways to make the outdoors your classroom

As the days grow warmer, there are more and more opportunities to take your classroom into the outdoors or plan outdoor projects and activities. 

It’s more important than ever to get our students outside: children are spending on average only six minutes playing outside a day, as this eye-catching graphic from The David Suzuki Foundation shows. Meanwhile, they spend an average of six hours a day in front of a television or computer. 

The Outdoor Classroom Project shares that outdoor classrooms and activities improve physical development, promote an active lifestyle and let students release pent up energy. Not to mention, as little as one hour spent outside can make students happier, have higher self-esteem and develop an appreciation for nature.

This is especially important for students living in urban areas. For the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural communities.  Nestor Kelba, the general manager of Calgary-area Kamp Kiwanis, put it best when he told the Calgary Herald: “Touching, feeling and seeing nature helps students develop a fondness and a good feeling for the outdoors, which can’t be taught in a classroom.” When students have the opportunity to get out into nature, it concretizes curriculum material about the water cycle or food chains.

Resources and ideas for moving your classroom into the open air are abundant. When browsing on Pinterest, there are endless photos to provide inspiration. In our last newsletter, we included a list of outdoor activities from The Inspired Classroom to get ideas for activities, but the website also has a blog post all about teaching outdoors. It provides  outdoor activity ideas for teachers in all subjects. Lastly, posted an article listing 16 outdoor classroom activities, titled Outdoor Classroom 101! If your school has an outdoor classroom, even standard every day lessons can be moved into the fresh air.

There are over a dozen CLC Quebec schools with outdoor classrooms. If yours isn’t one of them, there are several programs to help you get started. The TD Friends of the Environment Foundation has teamed up with Focus On Forests, a  national forest education program, have created an outdoor classroom development guide to help teachers get started. The Friend of the Environment Foundation also offers a grant to schools and community organizations that need help funding the outdoor garden construction. The grant can be used for all different types of environmental projects, so it is definitely worth checking out.

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.