Would you want to be a space tourist?

We read an article about some recent ventures into space (or at least the upper atmosphere). There have been many headlines about some of the world’s wealthiest individuals making these short excursions and plans to make similar trips available to customers seeking such a rare (if expensive) opportunity.

Sending a celebrity on one of these trips, William Shatner, the famous captain from the classic sci-fi program, Startrek, surely helped get a lot more publicity. Shatner himself marvelled at the experience and how seeing the earth from that perspective underscored our planet’s fragility and the importance of protecting it.

Star Trek William Shatner SpaceX Crew 1 capsule window view

Another well-known figure, Prince William, has been outspoken against the investment in space tourism when there is so much to be done to protect our planet. The remarkable investment of effort in the 1960s leading to a successful moonshot does seem like a model of the kind of unified and concerted effort needed right now to solve issues related to climate change. Maybe the Earthshot Prize backed by Prince William will encourage and inspire helpful innovations.

The Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge at the opening of 2021 Earthshot Prize

It has been interesting to hear some student’s perspectives on this topic in class, and it will be interesting to see some of them here along with ideas from other readers. We welcome your replies.

Choosing what we remember


Aboriginal War Veterans monument

Remembrance Day is a powerful occasion and also a difficult one. I am proud to honour the many people who have given their lives and made such great sacrifices. But it is also uncomfortable thinking about how much we have asked and continue to ask of our veterans. Considering the stories of Canada’s Indigenous veterans raises additional complexity & discomfort but also stirs and inpires pride & admiration.

I hope that the fascinating and powerful stories of individuals like Tom Longboat, Alexander Decoteau, Frances Pgahmagabow, Tommy Prince, William Cleary & Joseph Roussin will not only open our eyes to the contributions and sacrifices so many Indigenous Canadians have made for all of us but also help us get better at taking the time to look at and learn about each other and each other’s stories.

An Inspiring & Compassionate Canadian


November is Inspirational Role Models Month (officially in the U.S., but that’s no reason not to observe it elsewhere). While it was still October when we had our Terry Fox Run and our class watched the CTV movie, Terry, if I’m thinking about inspriational Role models, this inspiring Canadian is among the first that comes to mind.

Looking at all that Terry did, there is no doubt that his actions and achievements are awesome; that they inspire awe. But what awes me most (even considering how amazing his efforts and achievements were) is the way his actions embodied compassion.

Terry was able to identify with and understand what other cancer patients were feeling, maybe uniquely able to do so. But it is neither his sympathy nor his empathy that I find so inspiring. Terry not only felt along with those suffering from cancer and their loved ones, he took action to help with that suffering. Beyond that, he not only took action himself, but he created a path and enabled others to join his journey so that everyone could work together and be part of the solution to the problem that he and so many others were facing.

With his compassion, Terry showed everyone how much he cared. His compassion helped him to connect and unite people to work together. I would argue that it was his compassion that made him able to achieve what so many refused to believe was possible. And as we look around at the ways so many people today seem so divided, maybe Terry’s compassion is something for us to look to again for inspiration to think, feel & act with others in mind. If we do, maybe we can find ways to work together to accomplish what right now seems almost impossible.

Who are some of your inspirational role models? What is it about what they say and do that you find so inspiring?


Revisiting King’s Dream

During the middle weeks of January, as we’ve been considering some of Martin Luther King’s words and the work he did with others in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. While most students had heard some things about Dr. King before, not everyone had had a chance before to listen to his speeches or study the actions he took (nor those that were taken against him.

Reading and listening to his actual words was challenging, though the combination of different sources and experiences seemed to help by giving us a few ways to connect to his work. The dramatization Our Friend Martin provided another accesssible way for us to learn about and THINK ABOUT King’s impact and the issue of race as we follow-up on Black Shirt Day and as we move into February, Black History Month.

Our Friend Martin

After spending time in class sharing some reflections of that program and what it made us think about, I’ve invited students to post some of their reflections as comments here.

(almost) Full Circle

updated for June 19th

Look for more Did you know… facts and a message from our Elders.

The Salish SUN - aka The Eye of the Storm; Heart of the Salish Sea Walk of the Planets
As we round the clubhouse turn, to use the horse racing metaphor in thinking about nearing the end of the school year and the transition to summer, it seems natural to think in terms of completing a circle or a turn of a spiral. Now, we certainly don’t need any particular reason to think about and look to the teachings & understandings coming from Indigenous Peoples, but connections with the symbolism of circles and the approach of National Indigenous Peoples Day seem like great reasons to take inspiration from the fine work prepared by Burnaby School District’s Indigenous Education Program.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is coming up on Sunday, June 21st. We shared a few Did you know… facts in school Tuesday, and it seems well worthwhile to raise some of them here. (We’ll add to the list through this week.) Did you know:

  • Since 1996, National Indigenous Peoples Day has been held on June 21, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.
  • According to Statistics Canada, there are over 60 Indigenous languages in Canada.
  • In the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, over 1.6 million people in Canada identified as Indigenous, making up 4.9 per cent of the national population.
  • British Columbia alone is home to 60% of Indigenous languages in Canada. In our province there are 34 distinct languages involving 61 dialects.
  • Not all Indigenous peoples do Pow Wows, potlatches, smudges or sweats.
  • There are 634 recognized bands in Canada and 3,100 Reserves. The band refers to the people and the reserve refers to the land.
  • Elders are very important members of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities. The term Elder refers to someone who has attained a high degree of understanding of First Nation, Métis, or Inuit history, traditional teachings, ceremonies, and healing practices.
  • Indigenous cultures pass knowledge from generation to generation through oral traditions.
  • There is not one culture for all Indigenous nations. Each nation has its own culture, customs, beliefs, traditions, and world views.
  • The name of the maple tree in many Coast Salish language is “paddle tree” as it is traditionally the preferred wood for making paddles.
  • Indigenous people used their knowledge of the land to develop safe trails that became the basis for many present highways.
  • Elders are always given preferred seating and served first at gathering and ceremonies of Indigenous people
  • The number four is very important to many Indigenous peoples; it relates to the four cycles of life, the four seasons, the four directions, and the four elements.
  • The Sto:lo have the belief that the cedar tree was once a kind and gentle man who always gave to the people.
  • The number of cultures and languages of Indigenous peoples in BC is greater than the cultures and languages in Europe.

In thinking back (as well as forward), you should remember our lessons from Mr. Roberts on Coast Salish art and the wooden animal figures we planned (and still plan) to paint. The symbolic use of circles & ovals in this artwork that are suggestive of cycles found throught the world make revisiting this artwork more tahn appropriate right now. We watched the video below in class and began experimenting with the forms again to practise creating designs that might fit a spindle whorl.


Watch the video, check out some examples of contemporary Coast Salish arrt from Salish Weave Collection and experiment with your own circular spindle whorl design.

Spindle Whorl (Sulsultin), 19th century, 05.588.7382

Use your OneDrive folder and the hand-in form to share a copy of your designs (or your drafts) with me. Did you know some of the facts for National Indigenous Peoples Day above? Do you know or remember other information from our work with Mr. Roberts or about other Indigenous artists? Do you know any more about why June 21st was chosen for National Indigenous Peoples Day? Leave a comment to share your ideas.

Battleship with Cartesian Coordinates

We have our class meeting online today. Activities this week have had us getting some practice finding and plotting ordered pairs on the coordinate plane. We’ll try more today by playing a version of Battleship together online where I’ll try taking on the whole class! I’ve prepared a Word document with a grid you can either print out and keep beside you or keep open on your screen in a separate window to keep track of where you’ve placed your ships and hits/misses. We’ll review placing coordinates and discuss how the game will work once our meeting starts, but players can begin planning the layout of ships on their battlefields. I plan to draw rectangles on my grid to show my ship placements. I’ll show and example below before we begin (but not EXACTLY my ship placements; you don’t expect me to give up all my secrets away, do you‽).

Batttleship Sample Ship LayoutYou can see that I have place my carrier so that it covers (2,8), (3,8), (4,8), (5,8) & (6,8). If my opponent calls any of those coordinates, my carrier will be hit, and if they eventually call each and every one of those five coordinates, my carrier will be sunk! Be sure to be careful about the difference between the x and y axes. You might want to do a little review & practice here or with one of the other recommended activities. See you soon, and good luck!

We had a good turnout for our Battleship game using Cartesian coordinates. Playing over a live online meting with a mix of pencil & paper as well as digital documents and with different players taking shots (at me!) in turns made the game play a little time-consuming. In the end though, many student ships were hit; a few were sunk, and I was left with only a handful of ships still afloat.

I was glad to see people make the switch from the letters & numbers of the original pencil & paper game to using ordered pairs with relative ease. I breathed a sigh of relief a few times when a student would choose to explore a new area, allowing one of my damaged ships to survive. Others were less forgiving and made sure to find every available target once a hit had been made.

When we have more time to debrief, I’ll be interested to find out what students found tricky about playing this version and especially, how they thought through their strategies for ship placement and choosing targets. (Why wait? GO ahead and leave me your thoughts in the comments!)

For a little entertaining review of plotting Cartesian coordinates, here is a video and a rap on the topic from math teacher John Silva (Mathodman).