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Friday, February 15, 2013

FAE Makes the News

Innovative programs popular with parents and students at NIDES

"ENTER, (eCademy of New Technology, Engineering and Robotics), all the kids that could re-register for next year have re-registered, so they're all coming back that can," says Jeff Stewart, principal of Navigate powered by NIDES' (North Island Distance Education School). "At Fine Arts eCademy (FAE), about three-quarters of the parents so far have responded to the re-registration, so there'll be some spaces for new students next year but not a huge number.
"So if that's a measure, things have gone very well."
Piloted in September, each program uses students' natural interests to help them learn; FAE is offered to kindergarten to Grade 9 students and uses fine arts, while the Grade 6 to 8 ENTER program uses science and technology.
The programs feature three days per week of in-class project-based learning, and two days of distributed learning, (previously called distance learning), through Navigate. FAE is based out of Navigate (located at the former Tsolum Elementary School site), while ENTER is based out of Aspen Park Elementary School.
Grade 9 FAE student Dale Hollands attended another Comox Valley school before starting the FAE program at Navigate this year. She said she struggled in school before but really enjoys it now.
"It was just a busy class and it was difficult to learn, I have some learning disabilities so it's difficult for me to learn kind of the way they were doing it, but this way it's easier for me, and I get a lot of questions so it's easier for me to ask them," she says.
"I really enjoy our class and how it's like a family, and the different things we do at school."
Stewart adds the school wasn't expecting that feeling of family and interconnectedness to be such a large part of FAE.
"The social emotional piece around the children is a part that we hadn't anticipated as being so big, but it's absolutely huge," he says. "So that sense of belonging, that sense of being nurtured, that sense of interconnection between the kids and the faculty, because all the teachers know all the children, they don't just have their own class."
Multi-age classes, parent-teacher-student meetings every six weeks to look at each student's progress, teacher collaboration, and community integration are all important aspects of the programs.
Parent Advisory Council executive member Gesa Ward already re-registered her two children in FAE. She says the personalized learning and the freedom of the program are what attracted her.
"It gives us more breathing space so it's not rush, rush, rush all the time," she says during the FAE grand opening celebration and open house this week. "I've seen kids that were so shy that suddenly were up on stage singing and have no qualms about it. It's freedom to be who you want to be."
She says most of the parents she talks to are really happy with the programs, but some have struggled with the distributed learning aspect.
Stewart agrees the distributed learning part of the programs needs to grow, but he says the school is working on it and things are coming along well.
He also notes the Ministry of Education recently completed a quality review, and it was impressed.
"They were very big on the programs — they said, from their words, 'This is the future of education,'" recalls Stewart.
For more information on the programs including how to register, visit

Happy, healthy & motivated to learn

Wow, love this!!

When 13 year-old Logan LaPlante grows up, he wants to be happy and healthy. He discusses how hacking his education is helping him achieve this goal. 

Valentine's Day


Not only is today Valentine's Day, this week is also National Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week.  So, I have been busy making lots of hearts in all sorts of ways.  We started the week with a heart for each teacher and staff member with a quote about teaching or appreciation, along with some home made chocolate heart cookies and Hershey kisses.  They were chuffed!  They also have in the front foyer, a large heart to collect non perishables for the food bank.  How awesome is that?

Then of course, were the Valentines themselves.  Well, after spending the whole day at school helping with the celebrations, and then coming home to a sick husband, homework, dinner and Tae Kwon Do, I still managed to read to them, "Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life", get them all to bed, and bake a rather large batch of cookies.  By the time they were all cooled, iced, and bagged, it was 2am!!  But at least the kids went off with their baskets of goodies in the morning.  Lest we not forget our own family, the kids got chocolate laptops, and Nick a CD from Phillip Phillips  His hit "Home" is the theme song for the kid's school.  Ah, also some cava which was to go with a romantic dinner, but the poor boy is still recovering from the stomach flu, so those plans have been postponed.

Every year in Cumberland, a group of unknown individuals get together to create hearts of inspiration. Then in the wee hours of Valentine's morning, post them all over town.  This year was no exception.  Above, some of their wonderful creations. Click on the photos to enlarge them.  You will be able to read the quotes then!
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Fine Art eCademy February Celebrations

 Helen Austin
 Issie and her class on the marimbas.
 Max being goofy while he does a bio on Helen Austin.  Notice the iPads, their research tools!

Yesterday the Fine Arts eCademy had their grand celebrations and the kids were treated to a few special activities including: zumba dancing, 4Cats Art, and a visit from a very special guest, Helen Austin and  Originally from the UK, she now makes her home in the Comox Valley.  All I can say is wow, and please do take the time to look and listen to her.  The kids of course showcased their talents in song, on the marimbas and ukeleles.  As usual, they were just amazing!
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Name That Object "Two"

 Can anyone guess what this is?
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

BC Family Day


Parts of Canada have a new holiday. In BC it is called Family Day and observed on the second Monday in February. We were not sure what to do, but an inpromptue dinner Friday night, suddenly had us making plans to set sail Sunday for Tree Island and Henry Bay on the tip of Denman Island. We had a wonderful two days on TyDewi with our friends Penny and Megan, exploring the beaches, finding lots of shells, and enjoying good wine and conversation. There are not many who can say they could enjoy a beach day in February.

Issie and I stayed behind to make this house on the beach. Take notice of the bed and seaweed blanket; a bathtub made out of a sea shell; a fire place; table and chair. We then covered it all up to protect it from the elements, and even landscaped. We were pretty impressed!
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Kid's Toys


Issie has a good friend who has headed off to Mexico for the month for some winter sun.  She stays in touch with him via Skype calls on the new family iPad.  While outside, Max and his friend, remove the trampoline cover, now that the snow is gone, to give it a test run.  Today's toys and communication have become a lot more sophisticated since I was a kid.  What happened to good old fashioned play, board games, and fancy writing paper?
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Spring Has Arrived


We have tried to get out for regular Sunday walks with the family.  Last week, not far from the stables where Issie participates in the Stable Program, is a lovely walk along the Tsolum River and through the Exhibition Grounds.  The grounds are host to some major attractions including the annual Vancouver Island Music Festival and the Comox Valley Exhibition (promoting local farming for almost 140 years).  All was quiet now, except for the odd dog walker, some grazing horses, and a pair of chatty eagles.
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Name That Object

Hmm, what to do with a cold slice of pizza?  Ah, stick it in the oven of the woodstove to gently heat it.  Perfect idea, if you remember to take it out again!!!
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Max Home Sick

Max was feeling rather unwell one morning last week so we kept him home where he pretty much spent the whole day sleeping (he must have been sick!).  Issie, the caring big sister, got into her pjs on her return from school , to curl up with him and read him stories.  Aww!  Unfortunately, by the end of the week, Issie was full of cold too.  The price you pay for sibling love.
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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Blog Updates

Hi!  Sorry this has been somewhat dormant, but with the new year, I was inspired to get things up and running again.  I hope many of you find your way back to our blog as a way of staying in touch.  We often think of all our friends and family afar and wish we were better at remembering those special days.  Facebook helps somewhat, but I am not a huge fan, and often find it more of a distraction.  Email, phone calls, and old fashion snail mail are my thing.  Maybe it's yours too?

For now, please feel free to scroll down to view our latest entries.  It starts with Max's birthday and leads up to Christmas.  Remember to click on the collages for a closer view.

From us to you, wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2013.

Gesa, Nick, Issie and Max

Christmas at Home with the Wards

With all families, traditions develop over time. Ours is no different. My family come from Germany, as such we celebrate Advent, St. Nicholas and Christmas Eve. We visit friends, go for coffee, walk in the forest, and attend church service. Issie was once again Mary while Max donned a purple rob to bring a gift of gold. As when I grew up, we have a simple meal of fish and potatoes, followed by gifts. However, unlike when I was a child, when we opened all the gifts on the 24th, for our family, it is just one. Afterwhich we feed the reindeer, leave cookies and milk for Santa and listen to Daddy read "The Night Before Christmas".

Christmas Day we blend in Nick's family's traditions: stockings, Santa's gift, Christmas dinner, crackers, and cake, along with the rest of the opening of the presents.  We also bake, make home made gifts, visit friends and play games ("Killer Bunnies" anyone?).  We have had a magical and quiet Christmas, enjoying the much needed rest from our busy, overscheduled lives.
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Cumberland Snow Day

The first of two snow storms to hit in as many days.  This one happened on a Monday when regular schools were still in session.  Yeah, we had the hill to ourselves!  The one that followed, cut the power and shut the schools.  Everything was so lovely and quiet.  No phones, no computer, no hum of the fridge.  And a warm wood stove to keep the chill off.  Maybe we should have more of these days?
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Winter Sharing Performance

At the end of each term, the kids come together in their pod and house groups to present to friends and family.  This term of course had a Christmas theme, and Lucy, the music teacher, did an awesome job putting together a festive program.  We laughed, we cried, we were overwhelmed at how amazing all the kids were.  We were personally impressed with Max's progress.  At the first sharing performance in the fall, he barely moved his lips, let alone arms.  This time, he was singing, he was animated, and he was smiling.  A testament to the great work the school is doing.  Issie of course was brilliant, she was born for the stage!
Max's group did a parody of John Cougar Mellencamp's, "Hurts So Good",  Issie's group sang Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You"...Justin Bieber!! (hence the Bieb cut out).  The final song was a beautiful song by the Weepies  I had never heard it before and just love it and wanted to share it.
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FAE Compass Week

What is FAE? It stands for Fine Arts eCademy, the new school Issie and Max started in September. Simply, it is three days face-to-face where they have a pod class (home room) with mixed grades (4-6); fine arts, drama and music; as well as house groups (grades K-9) on global education; and then two days home schooling (primarily for Math). The terms run on 6 week cycles followed by a Compass Week.

Compass Week participation is completely voluntary. Kids can sign up to whatever activities they wish to do. It is often an opportunity for them to get involved with something they would otherwise not get a chance to.  This time round, the kids took a science class and learned all about light.  They made colour wheels, kaleidoscopes, fluorescent water, and phosphorescent art and putty.  Pretty darn cool.  Max also worked Chef Laura, to make bread that would later be passed on to the Salvation Army to help feed those in need.  I was privileged to help, and found it a wonderful, educational and heartwarming experience.

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Christmas House Tours

Each year Anderton Therapeutic Gardens run a Christmas House Tour in the Comox Valley.  Residents open their homes to allow designers to come in and transform their beautiful homes into a magical, festive space.  We had a whopping seven houses to visit, which I very much enjoyed with my friends Rhonda, Debbie and Rhonda's mum Sophie.  This has turned into an annual tradition for us and I just wanted to share some of the beautiful designs we saw.  Apparently this year's house tour raised over $8000 that will help to maintain their community gardens that are focused on wellness.
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The Christmas Season Comes to Cumberland

Every year, the Cumberland Community Schools Society puts on a Santa's Breakfast - a major fundraiser which supports its hot lunch, after-school and community programs.  It is an event we are all proud to be a part of.  Many hours of planning and preparation by countless volunteers, all for three magical hours.  This year was no exception, with record numbers through the doors and a wonderful time had by all.  Check out the family gingerbread creations (Nick-lighthouse; Max - Minecraft; Issie-Hagrid's cottage).

To really get things off to an "bright" start, Cumberland played host to the start of this year's Light Parade.  We grabbed hot chocolates, met with friends, and enjoyed all the fantastic decorated trucks and tractors that came down Dunsmuir Ave.  We even had a dressed up boat and an illuminated being.  Where else can you see Santa snowboarding off the back of a cement truck?!  Only in Cumberland!

St. Nicholas Day soon followed on December 6th.  For the last few years I have made goodie bags for the kids' classes and handed them out after I read them the story of St. Nicholas.  Issie and Max requested this again, so I was up until the wee hours of the morning preparing 55 bags.  Thankfully not late enough to disrupt St Nick's visit, as we awoke to this rather fine table early the next morning.
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Max Turns 9

Max celebrated his 9th birthday on a beautiful autumnal day.  He had lots of fun over the week starting with his birthday table and a very generous money tree (to help save for a family iPad).  We purchased Tim Bits for his class, had his photo taken with the Gas 'n Go sign, and invited a a couple of  friends over after school, who helped unpack the HUGE parcels he collected from the post office (Hex Bugs proved to be a big hit - thanks Nana, Grandpa, Auntie Beth & Uncle Phil).  We ended the day with dinner at his favourite restaurant, "White Spot".  A few more of the Cumberland boys came over at the end of the week and we indulged with a Dairy Queen ice-cream cake, yum.  Max's final birthday treat will be a visit to the cinema to see "Rise of the Guardians" when it comes out.  Lucky boy!
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Friday, May 25, 2012

View from the Water (2)

We miss so much by traveling at speed. This area is so beautiful and more so when absorbed slowly and fully. The other day I stopped at the viewpoint going over the Malahat pass; how few of us who live here ever stop to drink in that view as we rush back from Victoria at 100kmh.

And life, like the scenery, seems richer and more rewarding when taken at a slower pace.

View from the Water

If you build a multi bedroom mega mansion on the far reaches of Salt Spring Island, and then put solar panels on the roof is that being green or hypocrisy?