Monthly Archives: September 2010

Springbank Park – Terry Fox Parkway

Springbank Park is absolutely gorgeous. It is located along the bank of the Thames River in London, Ontario. There are landscaped gardens, playgrounds, a small theme park, and over 30 kilometres of trails.

A lot of weddings are held at the Civic Garden Complex. In fact, one was taking place just as I started my run this weekend. I hope you enjoy this visual tour of my route.

I started my run right here, ran across the bridge and down the hill towards the riverside trail.

 I don’t normally like running on cement. I much prefer dirt trails but I can appreciate how accessible this park is. It’s easy for people to push strollers, walkers, or wheelchairs along. You can often see people rollerblading or biking as well.

The trail looks like a road but it helps to keep people to the right so bicycle riders can zoom by the hikers with ease.

This section of the trail is dedicated to Terry Fox.

This park has an amazing view. I so love running here.

It was a little chilly and overcast this weekend but it was a nice day for a run. It always is.

This is Springbank Gardens, an outdoor venue perfect for weddings or other celebrations. It has a covered dining area, a stage, a huge dance floor, and spectacular views.

The trail continues across this bridge. If you look to the right you will see a viewing platform that I circled around on my way back down the trail.

This is one of several leash-free dog parks that are sprinkled around the city. They always seem to be quite busy.

Signs of autumn are all around. The leaves are changing colour and falling from the trees already. It still felt like summer for the most part last week too.

I’ve now circled my way around the small trail and have come to that viewing platform I mentioned earlier.

It is dedicated to Tim Dupee.

I thought I’d have to run the exact same trails on my way back but I found this nice off-shoot trail.

I so love running through nature. I much prefer dirt trails to concrete ones. The best part was that this small trail led directly back to the Civic Garden Complex where I parked the car and started this run.

All in all, I only ran 5 kilometres of this 30 kilometre trail. At that rate, I could come back here 5 more times and present you with different imagery each time. I just may do that. Until then, you can enjoy my other visual running tours.


Teaching Tip – Using Video in the Classroom

There are some amazing videos that you can bring into the classroom to further your students’ knowledge or reinforce what was taught during a unit of study.

I limit the amount of video that I use in class, however. I believe that students are over-exposed to video as is, and that if we decide to use video in the classroom, we should do so sparingly. 
One of the best ways I have found to use video is at the end of a science unit. 
The public library has quite a few educational DVDs and many of them come with a teacher guide as well. 
I use this video as part of my Grade 4 science unit on light. I show it to them at the end of the three week unit. 
Before I show it to the students, I write down 20 questions on the board from the Teacher’s Guide. The guides are very informative. They give you background information, pre-viewing questions, and questions to answer during and after the film. 
I read the questions to the students and instruct them to take jot notes as they watch the film. I expect them to answer at least 3 of the questions during the film. I tell them that they can get bonus points for answering more than 3 as well. This keeps the students actively involved in the process. Many of them are excited to answer as many questions as they can.
At the end of the video, I ask if anyone in the class got the answer to question # 1. Someone always seems to be able to answer each question and the student who does so, takes pride in the fact that he or she was able to. 
We continue in this way until we answer all 20 questions. I then discuss how we were only able to do this as a group. Working together, we accomplished more than we could have alone.
I have found this a very effective way to use video in the classroom. You can find many useful DVDs from the Library Video website. They also have worksheets and teacher guides that are very informative.  Of course, this is only one company that offers educational videos. 
The first time I do this with the class, I pause the film when the answer to the first question appears. I model how to take a jot note on the board and allow students time to copy it down before restarting the video.
So far, I haven’t had to buy any videos for my teaching so this really won’t cost you a cent. Your school or fellow teachers probably already have some that you can use. And of course, the public library is a great resource. 
Well, I hope you’ve found this Teaching Tip useful. There are over 70 in the archives right now and there will be another one here next week. If you’d like to share a tip, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about. 
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Nikita Sequel is Brilliant!

Le Femme Nikita has an interesting history.

First it was a 1990 French film written and directed by Luc Besson. It was originally titled Nikita but it was released in North America as Le Femme Nikita.

I was first introduced to it on video cassette. I still have it.

In this film, Nikita was a drug addict and just a punk teenager. After killing a police officer, she was captured by a secret government agency and trained to become an assassin. They faked her death and she was essentially trapped into doing their biding.

Three years later a Hollywood remake entitled Point of No Return hit the theatres.  It wasn’t as dark as the original French film. It had elements to it that led into what would become the television series.

I think this series really shined. It tweaked the story just enough to make it fit perfectly into a weekly action / drama series. It premiered in 1997 and ran for five seasons.

In this version, Nikita was wrongly accused of the crime that landed her in jail. She was homeless and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She ends up imprisoned in a secret agency simply called Section.

She doesn’t want to do the things that Section wants her to do. However, if she doesn’t comply, they will simply kill her. She manages to complete her anti-terrorist missions without having to go against her morality. She often butts heads with her superiors but ultimately gets her way.

I really enjoyed this show. When I first heard it was being remade this season, I was a bit skeptical. I wasn’t sure that they could do it justice.

I watched the first episode and was really intrigued to see that this wasn’t a simple remake. It took the best elements of the French film and combined them with the television series. Nikita, here, is once again   the messed up teenager taken in by Section. However, this story takes place two years after she has escaped from her captures.

Nikita has vowed to take down Section and seems to be a one-woman army, completely capable of enacting such a feat.

We are only three episodes into the series but I am completely sold on it. I love how they’ve twisted the Nikita mythology just enough to make it appeal to both new and old fans.

In this series, Section is corrupt and only seems to be getting worse. Nikita is smart and one step ahead of them.  As they hunt her, she is working methodically to take them apart piece by piece.

If you live in Canada and haven’t seen any of the show yet, you can catch all the episode on

I love how this new series is essentially a sequel. It is quite stylish and well-written. I like the casting as well. I don’t watch a lot of television but so far, this is the best thing I’ve seen this season. Go check it out!

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I Learned Something From a Comic (Again)

“How come boys have buttons on one side and girls have buttons on the other side?”

What a great question.

I’ve often wondered why this is so as well. Although, I’d never considered researching it myself. Who knew that I’d finally discover that answer while reading a comic book?

It seems you really do learn something every day.

I think we are so far removed from previous eras that I find it difficult to imagine having someone else help me to get dressed. I also can’t imagine carrying a weapon of any kind with me. It makes me thankfully that I live in this day and age.

The above panels are from the excellent series Y: The Last Man. It’s a great comic and definitely a Recommended Read. 
There are two more graphic novels left for me to read in this series. I’m really enjoying the story. And so far, it has taught me about proposals and now tailoring. Wow! Who knew comics could be so educational? 

Doors Open London

Doors Open London is one of the best weekends of the year. For two days every year, the city throws open its doors so you can see exactly what this city has to offer. You can explore historic sites, tourist attractions, and points of interest absolutely free of charge.

Last year, I got to nine sites. This year, I was able to get to 12. It was a lot of fun. Here are some the highlights.

Dutch Canadian Society of London and District

Traditional Dutch culture is alive and well at this site. I was impressed to see these dancers in their wooden clogs. They marched with precision and not only did it look great, it sounded cool as well. At the end of their half-hour performance, they invited us on the dance floor to try it out as well. It was a lot of fun!

It’s the 50th Anniversary of the club this year as well. The building was actually built and paid for by its own members. Interestingly enough, you don’t have to be from the Netherlands to join.

The Jet Aircraft Museum

Here you can see aircraft being worked on and in the process of being restored to flight status. They had two CT133 T-Bird’s for up close viewing and they even let kids sit inside the cockpit. There was quite a line-up for that honour.

The JAM mission is to combine the creation and operation of museum housing: aircraft, historical artifacts, records and salient memorabilia, while simultaneously keeping representative historic aircraft in the air whenever and wherever major aviation events are held across Canada and at appropriate international centres.*

The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Lots of history here. It’s amazing to see how many scientific and medical breakthroughs happened right here in Canada.

Among the famous laureates housed in the Hall of Fame are: Sir Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best (discoverers of insulin), Dr. Roberta Bondar (first Canadian female in space) and the Honourable Tommy Douglas (the father of Medicare and CBC’s greatest Canadian)*

The Delta London Armouries Hotel 

It’s amazing to see an old army hall and parade square transformed into a luxurious hotel. It think it’s great that the old building was not demolished and was instead transformed this way.

I went in the elevator and was really surprised to see that this building had twenty floors. From the outside, it simple looks like a two-story castle. Seamlessly built onto it though, is a skyscraper.

The elevator ride was stunning as there was a glass wall allowing for some great views. As I zoomed up, it seemed like I was blasted through the ceiling of the old armouries and hoisted into the air to get a nice glimpse of the downtown core.

Attic Books

I’ve actually shopped here before. I love used book stores. I didn’t even realize that this store had historical significance. I thought it was just old. Silly me.

This three-storey red-brick commercial building, with arts-and-crafts facade and interior details, also boasts hardwood floors and dramatic tin ceilings. Built in 1875, it has hosted merchants and craftsmen for over a century. It is now Attic Books, a meeting place for local historians and a major source of local history publications, both new and used.*

London Model Railway Group

This scale model railroad was amazing. I have never seen such a huge set-up before in my life.

This is not like the toys we used to play with either. I learned that every single railroad spike, tie, and rail was laid by hand. That must have been a lot of work since the entire display is 40 by 100 feet. There is over 5000 feet of hand-built track too. Wow!

The model features steam and diesel engines pulling passenger trains, freight trains and coal drags. There are also three circus trains, scratch-built as the say, along with an operating Trolley Line and a narrow gauge mining RR. Three scratch-built operating lift bridges, each different, scale replicas of many London Buildings, some long gone, are preserved in O scale miniature including London’s C P R station. The layout requires at least 8 Engineer’s, conductor’s and Brake men, along with a dispatcher to operate!*

And much, much more.

There are 50 different sites on the bill, but no way you could possible visit each and every one. I zoomed from one site to the next all weekend long and only managed to fit 12 in. Even so, I had a great time.  Doors Open London is always an amazing event. Hopefully next year I will have a camera phone so I can live blog the whole thing. That would be cool. 

*from Doors Open London website

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Be Enthusaistic!

Jumping Over The 3rd Largest Pyramid In The WorldImage by Anirudh Koul via Flickr

Here are the two most important words a teacher should live by – Be Enthusiastic.

Enthusiasm is like a yawn, laughter, or Chicken-pox. It is contagious. You can pass it along to others.

That is why we need to give it our all when in front of the classroom. We need to be excited about the material we are presenting. We must share a passion for learning with our students.
In this aspect, teaching is like acting. We need to convince our audience that what we are doing is genuine, has a purpose, and is worthwhile. This is where enthusiasm comes in.

Students are smart. You cannot simply act enthusiastic. You have to BE ENTHUSIASTIC! Students will know when you are being fake.

So how do you get enthusiastic about subjects or topics that you have to teach?

1) Find something that excites you.

You can find something in every unit of study that appeals to you. Let the students know how you feel about it and why you love it. If it’s a subject that doesn’t really interest you. dig through it until you find one thing about it that does.

2) Find something that will excite your students.

Remember, just because you think or feel a certain way doesn’t mean your students will. They will often have different interests and passions. Tap into this if you can.

Even math?

I never liked math as a student. I find that this is the case with most people (adults too.)

But I get excited about math.

If a student answered a question in way that I had never considered before, I share my enthusiasm right there. I say, “I love math because there are so many different ways to answer the same question!”

I show the students how learning math facts in actually quicker than using a calculator and I try to race against them to prove it.

So the teaching tip for this week is BE ENTHUSIASTIC!

Believe me, it pays off in dividends!

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Feeling Guilty for Being a Man

Take Back The Night 2004Image Grant Neufeld via Flickr

Last night I went downtown to support a friend who was marching in Take Back the Night, an annual event held in cities throughout the world. In it, women come together to stand up and speak out against sexual violence.

The event was held in Victoria Park in downtown London, Ontario. I got a great parking space where I could see a stage. I was also fairly close to the bandshell. I thought this was a perfect location in case the dreary weather we had been having all day would again rear its ugly head.

Unfortunately, the event didn’t take place on the stage or the bandshell. Instead, they had a very small, amplifier for a single microphone and everyone just congregated on the other side of the park right beside the fancy entrance way.

After a few speeches and a slam poetry reading, the women marched together from the park, to the downtown core, and back towards the park.

The women chanted in unison as they marched and cheered to break the silence and to feel safe from violence this one night of the year.

Men are not allowed to march with the women but are allowed to stand beside them by either waiting at the park, or marching along the sidewalks. I felt like should not march. I’m not sure why. Instead, I stayed behind and waited for their return.

The cold, dreary weather might have kept a few people away. I heard several women comment on how small the crowd was this year. This was the first time I ever attended the event in any city so I had nothing to compare it with. However there were dozens on women out in full force, with signs, posters, t-shirts with all sorts of sayings related to the cause on them.

For a man, I found it quite overwhelming. I can’t believe what some of these women have actually had to suffer through. I cannot image walking downtown and being afraid. It simply is terrible that sexual violence continues to occur.

I thought the cause needed a bit more awareness so I felt compelled to blog about it tonight. It would have been nice to see the women taking over the entire park, gracing the bandshell and stage area, and really making their voices heard.

I have to admit that I felt uncomfortable just being there. I felt guilty for being a man. But the truth is, I just felt ashamed that anyone could ever do such hateful, harmful, and selfish things to the women in our society. It really is sickening and needs to stop.

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Brother Ali Autograph

Brother Ali is one of my all-time favourite rappers. I first blogged about him last year just before this album came out.

I can’t believe that I actually got to meet him. He was a really cool, down to earth guy. It was quite an honour to interview him for the radio too. If you missed the interview, you can read it and download it here.

This is just one of the few autographs in my collection, but it is one of my favourites.

Thanks! Brother Ali.

Out With the Old (Cassettes & CDs)

I went out to buy some blank CDs this weekend and I had a really hard time finding any.

I went to a big-box electronic store and all they had were blank DVDs.

The next store I went to only had a small pack of coloured discs and they were rather expensive. I just wanted a cheap spindle of blank CDs. There were tons of DVD-R packages and they seemed to be reasonable priced, but there werne’t any CDs.

I guess people aren’t buying them anymore. I think most people download stuff directly to their computers and then to their MP3 players. I can’t do that though. I don’t have enough memory on my computer to store much in the way of music. That’s why I rely on CD-Rs.

I don’t want CDs to disappear the same way I never wanted cassette tapes to disappear.

This was my tape back in the day, The Sony HF 90 minute. I taped all my albums and cassettes so I could have travel versions for my walkman. Most albums tended to be about 45 minutes so I could easily fit two albums on one tape. That was awesome!

In fact, when I first heard that cassette tapes would no longer be manufactured by the major companies, I went out and bought a slew of them.

I bought my tapes just like this, in ten packs. I only bought Sony HF 60s or 90s though. They were quite simply the best tapes on the market, in my humble opinion. In fact, I still have quite a few of them left and they still play.

I like having music on a tangible product, tapes or CDs. But I think those days are over.

I’m not so old school that I don’t see the potential in this new digital age though. I wish I could have my entire music collection online and available to me whenever I wanted. However, my collection is so huge, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

So how about you? Do you use CD-Rs anymore? Do you still have some cassette tapes? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Colour Families

A few years ago I found a website called “Art Adventures” that was full of great tips, tricks, and lessons that were very easy to follow.

When I first discovered this site, I printed off these lessons and I’m sure glad that I did because the amazingly useful website is no more.

However, thanks to the magic of computer scanners and the blogosphere, I can share this great resource with all of you.

I also like the fact that I know my website is not going anywhere so I’ll be able to find this online now whenever I want to.

This lesson lets your students see how the colour families can be used to create moods, explore feelings, show contrast, and establish depth.

Step 1 – Have the students draw a landscape. For younger students, you can provide them with 3 coloring pages of the same scene.

Here is one scene you can use.

Step 2 – Print out or trace 3 copies of the landscape scene you want to use. It is important to have three copies of one scene and not just three different landscape scenes.

Step 3 – Review the 3 colour families.

Warm Colours are red, yellow, orange, and all the shades in between.

Cool Colours are green, blue, and purple.

Neutral colours are black, white, and gray. Tan and brown can be added to this family as well.

Step 4 – You now have three copies of one landscape.

a) Colour one of them using only Warm Colours. This means that you can only use shades of red, orange, and yellow. Even if the scene calls for water, you cannot use a cool colour.

b) Colour your second landscape using only Cool Colours – green, blue, purple.

c) Colour your last landscape using on Neutral Colours.

Step 5 – Compare the moods of the three pieces to see how the colour families work.

I like to have a class discussion at this point. You can discuss how these moods can still be maintained in a work even if all three families happen to be used in one picture.

Well, that is it for this week’s Teaching Tip Tuesday. 

Don’t forget to check all the great tips on the Table of Contents page. 

If you have a tip that you’d like to share, please write up a guest post and send it to me. I’d love to have you drop a comment or send me an email. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.