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.

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!

Intergenerational project celebrates Heart Month and Valentine’s Day


The month of February lent itself to an opportunity to connect Valentine’s Day with Heart Month, the fundraising campaign organized by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

To celebrate these two events, the Grosse-Ile and Entry Island CLC organized workshops where students crafted valentines and put messages inside promoting healthy hearts. The valentines were then delivered to local seniors, along with a heart-friendly cookie or muffin baked by the students. Each student-made valentine promoted the Heart and Stroke Foundation website, where seniors could find more healthy heart tips and recipes.

Grosse-Ile and Entry Island CLC coordinator Nancy Clark said someone approached her about hosting a card-making activity.

“I noticed the mini-grants–Heart Month in February and Valentine’s Day–so it was an idea to do the card making and healthy heart combined,” she said.

Participants included 15 students, plus their parents or grandparents. On Entry Island, the activity was a full day event. In Grosse-Ile, two sessions were held, along with a baking session. Participants also were involved in delivering the valentines and treats to seniors.

“Here, we are still a very traditional community,” said Nancy Clark. “We’re kind of stuck in the middle of modern and traditional life. For students to have a sense of belonging and understanding of who they are and their community, they have to have that connection with the elderly folk.”




Belle Anse Harvest Meal and Library Opening

On October 2, students, teachers, grandparents and community members of Belle Anse gathered in the basement cafeteria to cut vegetables grown in their own school garden and prepare a delicious stew.

Supervised by mothers and grandmothers, the whole school was thrown into action, peeling, chopping veggies and rolling meatballs.  What a sight!

While the stew was cooking, everyone went upstairs where different aged children gathered in small groups with a grandparent or community member to read a book from their reading level while teachers circulated.  It was really wonderful having adults and family members witness the wonderful work of the school.

Next on the agenda was the ceremonial opening of the new (when I say new, I mean the space was previously a storage room) school library.  The space was bright, freshly painted and filled with new books grouped by reading level.  The renovations were made possible by the hard work of staff and students, making the case that Belle Anse Elementary deserved an award from the Indigo – Love of Reading Foundation .

The ceremony included a ribbon cutting and a listen to a recording of a phone call where the principal Beryl Boyle was informed they had won a good sum of money to put their dreams into action.  You can hear the reaction by clicking here and looking for Belle Anse School. Listening can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

After the presentation, the students went outside for recess to work up an appetite.  When the time came, everyone gathered in the cafeteria.  A few words were said about everyone’s collective effort, from growing the potatoes to peeling them and then came delicious hot stew.  Yum!

I have to thank the teachers of Belle Anse Elementary and especially Principal Beryl Boyle.  I’ll proudly call her a principal leader, creating the conditions for a great school, sometimes behind a desk and sometimes by showing kids how to make a stew.  Thanks everyone!

Building School-Community Partnerships

The start of another school year brings me the opportunity to visit CLCs and speak to the whole staff.  Typically I show a powerpoint with pictures of books written and produced by students about their community or pictures of students releasing trout into a local river they raised from eggs.

I talk about how teachers who lead Community Based Service Learning (CBSL) projects are reporting increased engagement in  students,  contributing to student success.  I talk about the injection of vitality in communities where you have youth providing service to meet authentic needs.

We’re starting to see that projects which have  the greatest success are when the teacher collaborates with the CLC coordinator in finding the right community partner to facilitate students service to the community or community based learning. A great booklet was produced by the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN), pulling together lessons from a series of school-community focus groups.  Key findings include:

  • Partners and teachers should talk to each other before the project idea is fully developed to agree on common goals and design opportunities for links to the curriculum
  • Apply for funding together
  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities

I recommend visiting QAHN’s website to purchase the guide.  I worked out a deal with QAHN to provide a PDF version for interested teachers.  Please email Ben if you would like a copy.