Knowing What I Remember

My mother, with my son Eli before she fell ill.


On my first day after arriving in my new country of Denmark we stumbled upon a Jazz festival playing tn the park.   As we walked down the path my husband nudged me and whispered “hey, doesn’t that lady look like your mom”.

To say that seeing my mother on that beautiful sunny day was like a kick to the gut, or a punch in the face is such an understatement as to be obscene.  I had just gulped down a pot full of boiling water. My body abandoned. The world tilted. Sound evaded. I disappeared. And then.  I walked right past my mother.  I didn’t stop or look back.

Because of course, the thing is, my mom is dead. And I know that she died. I remember the year of her dying.  Or, rather, I remember that it took her a year to die.  I am, in truth, not clear about the details of that time. There was the hospital. I can’t imagine I will ever not remember the hospital.   Nurses, doctors, family.  Always circling around my mother, as she remained stubbornly oblivious, then raving, then begging, then resigned.  Then dead.

The timeline of her year of illness is lost.  There are events to mark the passing of time that year: she entered hospital around my oldest sons’ birthday in April (I was pregnant.  Did she know?); she was in a coma at my cousin’s wedding in the summer (my belly round with my growing baby); she was conscious and could almost swallow soft food at Christmas (I bought toys to give to my boys from Grandmama in the gift shop of the hospital); and she was well enough to travel to another cousin’s wedding. July 7th, 2007. The trivia that remains when the heart is overflowing.  Then we learned the cruel and illusory nature of remission and how my mother’s was to be short lived.

I can’t remember where or how she was when my second son was born somewhere in that year.  As an afterthought, I realize I don’t remember anything about the events surrounding my second son’s birth with any clarity either.   I can not tell you his actual birthdate.  Or if he cried when he was born.  Or if I cried. Nor can I remember the date my mom died. My mind simply refuses to remember that time. It was the fall.  He was born in the fall. She died in the fall, one year later. There is that.

And yet, some things remain horrifyingly vivid. Even after almost seven years.  There was that time on the phone with my sister, standing in my mother’s kitchen, soon after we moved my mother into palliative care, and I was screaming that I didn’t know how my mother was doing today, but that she had better die in the next two weeks because my maternity leave was going to end at the end of the month and I would have to go to work, and I-can-not-take-it-if-she-isn’t-already-dead-when-I-go-back-to-work. She Has To Die.  I wish… well I wish that if it can’t be that I never said that, that I never meant it with all my heart, I wish that at least I didn’t have to remember it quite so clearly.

I remember always tumbling over a precipice. The blood of the wounds the ragged rocks cut into my flesh.  My baby grew in my  womb, to the staccato of a terrified heart.   Later I nourished him with milk made from the adrenaline rush of never ending hysteria. The nightmare state of trying to dial the phone and always getting the wrong numbers.  For more than I year I could not remember a phone number.  The PIN number for my bank card. My address.  There was simply too much in my brain, and something had to go.

I remember crawling into my mother’s hospital bed with my baby and nursing him to sleep.  I remember that the nurse came in, and then she left us.   What was she thinking? I remember family and friends circling around my sister and I and holding us in their love.  I remember laughter.  The incredible number of people from my mother’s life who took the time to come and visit her – even when she wasn’t conscious.  She was never, ever alone in her torment.

At first I remembered  that my mom had died every day.  And then as time went by, the between-the-remembering-time became more frequent.  And it would sometimes be a week or more between the remembering.  Then something would happen, usually with the boys, or at school, and I would go to pick up the phone to tell my mom about it and then I would once again remember. My mom died.  A year ago.  My mom died three years ago.  My son, who was a baby when she died, (he slept in my friends arms through the funeral), has grown up during those years.  He is almost eight years old.  I hardly ever try to phone my mom anymore.  Not because I remember that she has died more now, or better, but simply because I am out of the habit of sharing the moments of my daily life with my mother.

And so it was that on that day, exhausted from jet lag, and floating in the cloud of moving to a new country, seeing my mom-not-mom changed everything for me.  Because in that moment, I went from remembering that my mom has died, to knowing my mom is dead.  Somehow my remembering changed from the process of dying to the state of being dead.  It may seem like such an obvious thing, and such a long time coming, but the mind and heart do what they will.  And for me, it has taken seven years before the shock of knowing that my mom is dead has settled to stay in my heart.

I think this is the part where I am to draw some conclusion, a life lesson, something that I have taken away from my experience that can be generalized, summarized, shared. But I have nothing.  This is it.  It is not in my nature to find inspiration in suffering – my own or others.  I rage.  I rant.  I remember.  I know. I know what I remember.

Happy Deathaversary Mommy.  I love you.


LEMAY, Yvonne (formerly Tschofen) Born in Trochu, Alberta, June 5, 1940, Yvonne died of cancer in Edmonton surrounded by loved ones on September 16, 2007. She will be remembered for her dedication to her family, friends and community, her generosity and sense of humour, and her profound compassion. A devoted teacher, with a passion for her subject matter and genuine love for all her students, Yvonne touched countless lives teaching English and Mathematics at O’Leary, St. Joseph, St. Mary, College Saint Jean, J.H. Picard, Archbishop McDonald, and Louis St. Laurent schools in Edmonton for 38 years, from 1960 to 1999. Her commitment to her community led her to serve as a board member and chair of the board of the Western Catholic Reporter (1999-2003), a member of the University of Alberta Senate (1998-2004), and a member of the executive of the Federation des Aines Franco-Albertains. Her greatest love, however, was her family. She is mourned by her daughters Monique Tschofen and Kirsten Tschofen Pelletier, her grandsons Max Kronby, Eli Pelletier and Ezra Pelletier, her sons-in-law Matthew Kronby and Heath Pelletier, and her friend Larry Arthurs. She will also be deeply missed by her extended family who gave her so much joy, including her sister, Helene Kalbfleisch, her sisters-in law Marilyn Lemay, Maxine Lemay, Lidia Lemay, Helen Lemay, Robin Lemay, Elaine Tschofen and Liesel Cleveland, her brothers Rene Lemay, Bernard Lemay and Georges Lemay, her brothers-in-law Dale Kalbfleisch, Wilfrid Tschofen and Kurt Cleveland, and her many nieces and nephews-Paul, Natasha, Tania, Marc, Robert, Michelle, Nicolle, Colette, Daniel, Andre, Denise, Michael, Aline, Christopher, Tara, John, Paul, Cory, Carla-and their families, as well as by the father of her daughters, Detmar Tschofen. She is predeceased by her brother Marc Lemay, her brother Dennis Lemay, her mother Yvonne Lemay and her father Ambroise Lemay. The family is most grateful for the compassion and care provided by the staff of the University of Alberta Hospital, the Glenrose, the Cross Cancer, Norwood, and unit 9Y at the General Hospital, and for all the family and friends who have showered her with their love, laughed with her, and helped her.


The Mystery of the Burning Truck


On Friday afternoon we took a break from unpacking, and went to see a Family Friendly updated version of the Barber of Seville being presented free in parks around the city as part of Copenhagen Opera Festival.  When we got there, there was a large truck on fire, and lots of Danes standing around watching.  Some men in women in uniforms were standing around watching the smoke billow out of the front part of the cab. They boys wanted to know what was happening, but I wasn’t sure.  Was this a real fire?  Was it part of the show? I didn’t want to answer them because I didn’t want anyone to overhear me being dumb and not understanding why the truck was on fire. A mean lady jabbed me in the bum, and then gestured for me to sit down, which we did.  But it didn’t really work as everyone else was standing.  We went to stand over somewhere else.  Then some musicians started playing music.  I think they were the ones in the uniform looking at the fire. I’m not sure, I couldn’t see that well. The Danes really are very tall. And also, I’ve noticed that lots of them have grey hair.  I wonder if that is because we are going to lots of places where grey haired Danes hang out, or because they are less likely to dye their hair?  Then a man started singing, and weaving throughout the audience giving out cards.  Oh GOD! Please don’t let him come to me!  I won’t understand what he is doing and everyone will know that I’m illiterate.   The smoke lessened.  No one sat down.  The boys couldn’t see anything so they sat on my feet.  I could see some of it.  I liked the ideas that the stage was the back part of a semi truck and thought about how clever that is. I couldn’t understand anything. Except “Ukelele” (it helped that he was holding one up), and “tousin tak”. Why isn’t anyone sitting down?  My feet are Kylling me  (the Danish word for chicken, I am so funny!) and this is supposed to last an hour!  There was a man in a Hawaiian shirt – the barber I assume. There was another man in a suit with his shirt unbuttoned to his belly button.  I think he was going on a date. Then man beside me had his second Very Large Beer. There was a woman in pink.  There were some other people too. I think they were signing very nicely.  And they must have been very funny because everyone around me was laughing. I laughed too, not because I though anything was funny, but because it seemed rude not to.  And I wanted to fit in. At one point one of the men dressed in drag, and was chased around by one of the other men.  They went off stage and threw their clothes back on stage and made very loud explicit sounds.  Family friendly?  The man beside me finished his Very Large Beer, and lined it up with the other three large cans. When had he finished these other two?  How thirsty can he be?  Will he have to pee?  Should I move away?  If he gets beligerent I will beat him with my purse.  I have three apples in there and they are very heavy.  Then the man and the woman got married and rode off on a scooter. Everyone was walking away, so I knew it was over.  So, was it a real fire, and they valiantly continued because “The Show Must Go On”, or was it somehow part of the show? I don’t know.  The mystery is Kylling me (tee hee hee).  Don’t giggle out loud in public.  It calls attention to yourself.

Then one of the boys had to go pee, but where do you find public bathrooms?  None of the places we walked by looked like they would have a bathroom.  There didn’t seem to be any trees around either.  We tried at the train  station.  There was a bathroom! With a line up! I was a heroic mommy and asked if they would mind if my boy went before them.  They smiled.  I assumed that meant yes.  There was a sign on the door.  They were all pointing at it and talking about what it said.  I could read “SMS” – that means text, but it was a very long message. So I asked what it said.  They explained that it said you have to pay 5 Kronner to use the bathroom, by sending a text to the number, but that we would just hold the door open for each other and then not have to pay.  We waited a long time.  I was worried the boy would pee his pants, but he didn’t. How do you spell relief? PEE. 

More resources!

Last week I listed five resources for Alberta teachers.

Here are some more.

1. Learn Alberta is filled with great resources.  Here is another I forgot to mention last week.

Planning Guides to use for many Math units! To access them follow the steps below!

math planning guides

2. Wonderville 

Wonderville is a great place for students to explore curriculum linked science concepts.  There are games, activities, videos and comics for children, teachers and parents to explore. Click on the teacher tab to filter results by grade!


3. Glenbow Museum Online Exhibits

The Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta is divided into 9 themes:  Uninvited Guests, Mounties, Railways, Ranching, Politics, Newcomers, War and the Homefront, Oil and Gas, and Post Haste.  Student Resources include fun Knowledge Hunts to help the children explore each of the theme areas, glossaries, and web links.  Teacher Resources include a guide on how to use the site, assessment and evaluation, and information on inquiry based learning.

You can choose to follow the projects outlines, or as a place for students to research topics related to Alberta’s history.


Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life is a comprehensive tool to learn about the way of life of the Blackfoot people.  It is divided into six themes: How we lived with the land, How we lived with the Buffalo, How we lived with other people, How we lived with our Families, Our world, and Traditional Stories.  It also includes a teacher toolkit.

It is best viewed with Flash, but there is an HTML version as well. It is also available in English, French and Blackfoot.


4. CORE – Collaborative Online Resource Environment

I am a new user to CORE, which is just being launched, so I will just repeat what the Frequently Asked Questions says: It allows you to search, access, and use high quality digital learning resources like videos, animations, and websites all in one place.

Alberta teachers can access CORE using their regular credentials. In addition to using resources, teachers and students can also comment on a rate resources.

Discovery Education

You can access Discovery Education Canada through CORE, where you will find high quality videos, lesson plans, digital tools, professional development and assessment tools related to science, technology, social studies, math and language arts.

I am new to Discovery Education as well, but am very excited about the potential I see!

5. Calgary Science School: Connect Blog

Check out this blog for lots of great posts about lesson plans, teaching and learning using inquiry, technology, assessment and more. And, while we are the subject, consider attending InnovateWest May 23 – 25 at the Calgary Science School.

Have a great weekend!

Five Resources for Alberta Teachers

image from

image from

If you are a teacher in Alberta you are lucky, because there are many great resources out there to support your teaching.  Here are five of my favourite.

1. Learn Alberta

You can access many resources on this site with out a log in. But, if you have a district log in number you get full access to some of the best resources out there.  This site hosts teacher resources, students resources, lesson plans, videos and interactive tools all linked to Alberta Curriculum.

Hints for using this effectively:

If you use the Program of Studies search tool you can find resources for students and teachers by outcome!

You can save and organize your resources to your own page!  Organize the pages by Subject and Topic as well.

My favourite resources from Learn Alberta:

Critical Challenges were created in alignment with the Social Studies curriculum k – 12 and offers an overarching Inquiry Question for each grade, and then several sub-inquiries to develop the overarching question.  Each challenge includes: Suggested Activities, Outcomes Addressed, References, and Related Resources that include black line masters.  Even if you don’t do the Challenge, there are excellent resources to help you teach skills like this one for Considering Options. 

Explore Learning Gizmos offer simulations for science (and math) concepts. For example, the Gizmo for Germination allows students to experiment with different seed tips and manipulate variables to test their questions.  Each Gizmo comes with handouts that include background information, instructions on how to use the Gizmo, and follow up questions. See this example for Germination.

Mathlive tutorials teach math outcomes like Addition and Subtraction of Decimals.  Each tutorial comes with a cartoon mini-lesson, parent notes, teacher notes, and an assessment tool. Parent Notes provide a brief description of what students should be able to do, common mistakes students make, and ideas for more practice.

Mathematics Planning Guides is a step-by-step guide to help teachers plan mathematics instruction for specific outcomes.  It includes a description of the curriculum focus, suggests achievement indicators, outlines plans for instructions, and finally identifies ways to assess student learning.

The Learning Federation offers interactive resources to support English Language Arts.  In one example students conduct a survey an choose ingredients for a soft drink based on results.

2. Resources for Rethinking

Here is how it describes itself:

Resources for Rethinking is a project developed by Learning for a Sustainable Future. It provides teachers access to lesson plans, curriculum units and other teaching resources that integrate environmental, social and economic spheres through learning that is interdisciplinary and action oriented. We call this learning Education for Sustainable Development or ESD.

Each R4R resource has been reviewed by an experienced classroom teacher and matched to relevant curriculum outcomes for all provinces and territories in Canada.

Hints for how to use this site effectively:

You can search by province, grade, subjects or themes.

Don’t forget to check out the information about available funding!

You can sign up to receive emails as new resources are highlighted and about resources linked to special days throughout the year.

Here are a few of my favourite resources:

Learning for a Sustainable Future:

EcoLeague Action Project Recipes

These are “recipes” for action projects that provide students with high-qualitiy interactive experiences to understand and take action on environmental issues.  There are 9 to choose from, and they can be easily adapted for Elementary and up.  The best thing about them? There is funding available!

Green Learning Canada

Lessons, videos, resources for teaching about energy issues in Canada.


Students research an energy related topic, and create an eCard to share what they have learned, which they send to a community leader, family member, or other.

Science 7: Real World Ecosystems

Although directed at grade 7 science, I like to use this site for my grade 4 Social Studies.  They have a great section on Alberta’s Geographical regions that includes images, voice, and text.  Great for differentiating research. To get to it go to: A Ecosystems Basics, Alberta Ecosystems, Activities, Online.

3. Regional Consortium 

There are Consortium in each area of Alberta.  I am in Calgary, and have found the Calgary Regional Consortium Professional Development opportunities to be very high quality.  They are offered in all subject and grade areas, often by well recognized names in education (for example Barbara Mericonda), at different times throughout the day, including daytime, evenings and weekends.  They mostly have fees, but are generally well worth it. I make it a goal to attend at least two a year.

4. Twitter

Twitter is a great place to develop you Personal Learning Network.  For tips on how to use twitter see my previous post here.  Try following one of the following hashtags:


#bdedchat Chats are Sundays 7 – 8pm PDT

#cdnedchat Chats are Mondays 8 – 9 pm EST

5. Inside Education 

Offers high quality free classroom resources, class and field presentations, and teacher PD to support environmental and natural resource education in the classrooms.  A few years ago I went on a three day field exploration to Fort MacMurray to learn about Alberta’s Oil Sands.  We toured a mining site, and a SAG-D site and heard from business, government and non-profit organizations about issues around Oil Sand development.  AND it was FREE!

That’s all for my Friday night.  I know there are many more great places we can go to find resources to support our teaching.  What is your goto place?  Send me a comment, and we can add it to our list.

How to Tell a Love Story

In his book Ecophobia David Sobel makes  powerful point about environmental education with children when he says:

Children must have the opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds.

It is this idea that has formed the foundation of my practice in general – if we want children to make positive contributions in any aspect of society, they need to feel connected to it on a personal level first.

Here is a powerful video that supports this idea, prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature:

Learning to Love the Land

winter sketching

What is our relationship to the natural world?

Over the past few years I have been exploring notions around Place-Based Education, Critical Theory, and Environmental Education in my own personal reading as ways for taking up this question with my students.

As I have read I have come to believe that powerful environmental education and active citizenship go hand in hand and develop in three parts:

  • LOVE:  Children need multiple opportunities to develop personal connections to place so that they may learn to love the world;
  • LEARN:  Children need support as they develop a critical understanding of how the natural world works, and the challenges and opportunities around environmental issues;
  • LEAD: Children need to be empowered to lead their communities to take steps to support a just world based on sustainable practices.

Every year I strive to provide multiple opportunities for my class to spend time outdoors.  This year I will be starting the year with an extended field-trip to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area as part of the Campus Calgary Program.  Each day for five days we will take the bus to our very own classroom at the Cross Conservation site and spend the day exploring the land, and coming to develop a sense of place.  Learning to carefully watch the natural world, to sit quietly, and to record our experiences is central to this program.

Given our early start day (September 16th – the third week of school!), and that I only work half-time, we only have a few days to develop what Cynthia Chambers calls watching the land.  Using our Visual Journal is a central part of our work.

Here are some guides I have the children glue into their Visual Journal before we start:

Looking at Objects

My Visual Journal Includes

Mapping Checklist

And here are some warm up exercises I will do with my students inside and outside to get them comfortable using their Visual Journals.

1. 10 seconds +

In this activity students choose any object in the classroom or outside to sketch (pencil sharpener, water bottle, a patch of grass etc).

I have them divide a blank page into four squares and label the boxes: 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes.  Children then draw that same object for that amount of time.

After the activity I debrief with the students about how much more detail they are able to observe and sketch when they take more time. A fun follow up is to then get the students to sketch their object for 10 minutes. Some students will find this very difficult, but the more they practice making careful observations, the easier they will find this.

2. Ten/Ten

Students divide their journal page into two columns.  Then they spend 10 minutes sketching (an object or a scene) on one side.  When the 10 minutes are up they write about what they have sketched for 10 minutes.  Having children write about what they have drawn is an easy way to engage reluctant writers.  Ask students to use the Looking at Objects sticker to help guide their writing.

3. How Observant Are You?

I then have the children do this observation/writing activity How Observant Are You, modified from Writing Well, by Milliken Publishing Company.

4. The Story of Recess

Children love creating maps! After spending some time looking at birds eye-view maps, and practicing making a map of our classroom together, I get the children to make a birds-eye-view map of our school yard.  I will usually prepare a simple outline showing the borders of our our school yard for those children who have difficulty getting oriented.  Once they have completed their map I have the children write “the story of recess” into their map, showing the places where they played, who they played with, and if/how they moved around the yard. Often the children will observe how the school yard place is divided into different areas for activities and grades.

5. Leaf Wonderings

In order to help my students make more detailed observations I will have them bring in a variety of leafs.  We will then try a variety of techniques to draw them in our journal, including doing rubbings, tracing and free hand drawing.  We will then write our observations and I wonder questions all around.  The children are excited to learn the vocabulary to describe the different shapes of leafs.

Here is an excellent video series by John Muir Law on how to draw flowers and leaves (for those of us who may not have the art skills ourselves!)

What do you do to get your kids outside?

NB Please see my resources page for other ideas!

Starting the Year as a Connected Educator

I have been teaching for 13 years now, and so I have planned for many start of the years. But this year is a special year for me, as this year I will be starting the year as a connected educator.  I am excited to start the year maximizing all the possibilities the Internet world offers for learning alongside my students.  My class blog is set up and running, we are registered for the 2013 Student Blogging Challenge, and Global Read Aloud 2013, we have a class Twitter account at @MrsTclass.  I am excited to find mystery Skype partners, and to work with experts as they arise.  And I will start the year working on Genius Hour projects!

Last year I discovered these things bit by bit as the year progressed, and so introduced parents to the work we were doing as we went along (sometimes with varying amounts of detail).  This year I am ready to start the year right way using these tools, and participating in these projects, and I feel it is important to try to get parents on-board right from the start.

The first thing I have been thinking about has been the development of some sort of consent form for parents.  Our district does have an Internet Proper Use Consent Form for parents to sign, but it does not explicitly address the use of blogs, classroom twitter accounts, or Skype. I feel that parents needed more explicit information about how we will be using these tools in our classroom, as well as guidelines for Digital Citizenship, so that they can give informed consent.  By accessing my PLN(thank you to @Chelsea_OLeary for pointing me to @KLirenman’s blog )   I was able to put together the following 3013 Internet Parent Consent Form. I liked Karen’s idea about including information about why she is using the tools she is on her blog for those parents that are interested.  My next project will be to work on that.



Process for Entrepreneurial Adventure

For the last three years my class has participated in Entrepreneurial Adventure.  You can learn more about how I introduced it to my sutdents and parents here.  You can also see posts about it at my class website here.

In all we did one class venture, where we sold Christmas Decorations, and then seven groups of children created their own ventures.  We were able to raise $1280 to give to people living with Cancer, and to peopole living with Leprosy!

Here are the Animotos we made to tell about our different projects:



Make your own photo slideshow at Animoto.

Make your own photo slideshow at Animoto.

I have developed the following process for developing the ventures with my students throughout the year.

What do we want to do?

  • Do we want to sell a product, provide a service, or create an activity?
  • Who is our target market?
  • Conduct market research survey to determine:
  • Will our target market want to buy it?
  •  How much will our target market pay for it?

What rules or regulations do we need to follow?Is our product, service or activity safe?

ü   Do we need permissions for anything?

What is our budget?

ü     How much will it cost to purchase all materials?

ü     How much will it cost to make a single product?

ü     How much time will it take to make the product,      provide the service or lead the activity?

ü     What did our market research show our target market would pay for it?

ü     What is the maximum potential for profit?

ü     Is it a fair price?

How will we market our product, service or activity?

ü   How can we reach our target market?

ü   How can we convince people to pay for our product, activity or service?

What do we need to do and when?

ü   What materials do we need?

ü   Where will we get our start up loan?

ü   How long will it take us to make our product?

ü   Who will do what?

ü   What is our timeline?

How will we make our sales?

ü   Should we take pre-orders or use point-of sale?

ü   What other ways could we make sales?

ü   How will we keep track of orders and who has paid?

ü   What do we need for a float?

ü   How will we keep track of our money?

ü   When will we pay back our start up loan?

Questions for reflection:

ü   What difficulties did we encounter and how did we resolve them?

ü   How were we successful with our Entrepreneurial Adventure?

ü   What did we learn through our Venture?

ü   What advice do we have for other student Entrepreneurs?

Here is a copy of the planning sheets I use with my students as well.  I am thinking maybe this year I might translate them into Google Forms.

2013 Market Research Survey









Mapping and Place-Making

This weeks #clmooc is on mapping, which is a topic that is particularly important to my heart.  It is to notions of the significance of place that I allude to in the title of my blog – Somewhere From Here: Place-Making and Boundary Breaking.   I believe mapping can play a powerful role in helping students develop a sense of place, and I believe developing sense of place is essential if we are to help the young people we work with develop an ethic of care for the world they live in.  This is a longish post, and more about how I use mapping in my teaching than my own personal map (that is comming later).

touring vs visiting

In explaining what it means to develop a sense of place, Cynthia Chambers (2006) talks about the difference between touring and visiting: Touring, she says, involves a single visit or viewing with no obligation, while visiting a place requires a shared experience of place, with its associated sense of attachment,  obligation, and care.

Click here to see this Alberta Learning video of Cynthia Chambers speaking about developing a sense of place.


In other words:

Spaces become places when they are invested with meaning through our experiences (Ellis).  For example, a school playground will have a profoundly different meaning to a group of children playing during the lunch hour, than it would to a group of teenagers hanging with friends late on a Friday night.  Understood this way, place becomes both concrete material place, and socially constructed place.

What is important to take away from these notions of place-making is how we receive and bring meaning to the places we inhabit through shared experience, and Care for these places emerges out of our experiences there. To reiterate David Sobels words: If we want children to care for the natural world we need to give them opportunities for place-making, by letting them spend time there.

While the link between place-making and care for the land highlights for me the need to attend to place in my classroom practice, it also raises for me (as Gruenwald says), some important pedagogical questions about whether and/how children can truly develop a sense of place through the abstractions and simulations of classroom learning (Gruenwald, 2003).

In communities that look like this:

This is my school community.

In outdoor spaces that look like this:

This is my school yard.
This is my school yard.


And indoor places that look like this:


It can seem overwhelming, if not impossible to provide children with opportunities to bond with the natural world within the context we live in – that is to say the extreme mobility, urbanization, consumer culture, and the alienation of suburban planning illustrated in this photo:

parking lot

But it is precisely because so many of us live in spaces that look like this that we must attend to place-making with the young people we work with. Gruenwald calls the process of “learning to live-in-place in an area that has been disrupted and injured through past exploitation”  reinhabitation and suggests that place-making has “significance in reeducating people in the art of living well where they are”.

While it is true that the understandings about the human relationship to the natural world that we receive through places that look like this may not at first glance seem to lend themselves to the development of meaningful sense of place and care for the land, the meaning-making aspect of places is multi-directional.  Our goal as educators always is to help children bring their own meanings to the places they live in, and in this way contest and resist the messages of subjugation, exploitation and control of the land that dominates much of the meanings we receive living day after day in places like this.

Mapping our way to Place-Making

sobels book

In his book Mapmaking with Children David Sobel provides excellent guidance for how to use mapping with children to help them develop a sense of place.

According to David Sobel the mapping experience should include a variety of information:

Sensory – what we saw, felt, heard, smelled, tasted;

Kinesthetic – routes we travelled, what we did, what others did;

Emotional experiences – tell about how they felt about it all.

Mapping with children:

Each year I plan several explorations of Glenmore Reservoir, a natural area to which we can walk from my school.

glenmore map

Before we set off the children are given a paper copy of the area we will be walking, and asked asked to write about each of the elements as they explore, and to tie them with particular places. I often get the parent volunteers to help with this part by being the group recorder.   We start at the east end of the green space, walk along the reservoir, and ended up at the west end of the green space on the map above.

Children are given a page with six boxes labled:

* I saw..

* I heard…

* I felt…

* I thought…

* I did…

* I wondered ,,,

And then given this task:

Draw a map of our trip to Glenmore Reservoir. Include: information from each of the boxes.  The route where you travelled.

Here are some examples of maps my students made following our winter visit:









map ex 1








map ex 2


You can see similarities in what they have included, like where we ate our snack, the ducks we saw on the reservoir and the shack we found in the woods. You can also see some begining maping techniques, like the inclusion of a Compass Rose, the use of blue for water, and the indication of start and finish points. What I like about these maps is that they include information about what they did in different places. The last map is an especially intersting example, as it doesn’t focus so much on the route as it does the experience.

How do you use maps in your classroom?

Cynthia Chambers:Who Are We? Finding Common Ground in a Curriculum of Place

David Gruenwald: Critical-Pedagogy-of-Place



Find 5 Friday – Introduction to Twitter

I have been lurking a bit in the Connected Learning Mooc (#clmooc) the past few weeks.  I haven’t had time to participate in their first two challenges as I finished end-of-the-year work with school.  Friday the challenge was to find and share Five resources that I have found helpful.  I am trying to get some of my colleagues into using Twitter for the PLN, and so I thought a collection of resources might meet both my needs!

Find 5 Friday: Using Twitter to develop your PLN

1. Anatomy of a Tweet Anatomy_of_a_Tweet-1gt75l8


2. How to Make the Perfect Tweet (and other social media):



3. The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags

Hashtags can be a confusing aspect of Twitter, as it isn’t analogous to anything else that we commonly use.  However, they are an important way to access relevant conversations, Twitter Chats, and groups. This is a good list to get you started.

4. 19 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter is not only useful for developing you PLN, but also has interesting potential to use in the classroom.  This list will be more, or less relevant depending on the age you teach, but again, it is a good place to start.

5. The 21 Day Twitter Challenge

I found participating a Blogging Challenge has been a good way to force me to explore and discover how to use blogs to its potential.  This Twitter Challenge breaks it up into do-able pieces and highlights some important utilities of Twitter.


I hope this helps, and welcome to the Twitterverse! Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.