Tag Archives: Anti-Bullying

Refilling the Well in the Creative Process

8 Nov
Clearwater Lake--TheThird Clearest Cleanest Lake in the World

Clearwater Lake–TheThird Clearest Cleanest Lake in the World

In my novel, The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach, the mentoring elderly woman artist, Cassandra Beech, takes twelve year old Munro and Alison to paint at the sand cliffs. After they paint for the morning, she takes them for a walk on the shore and tells them not to speak, but just to listen. What Munro hears is the sounds of rolling waves, of wind rustling in the clifftop trees, of birds and gulls. The passage in the novel goes on:

“So the three travelled down the cliffs and along the beach, listening to the slapping waves and the crying gulls, all the while being absorbed into the beautiful dream of the day….Finally, the Beech Nut turned around and made her way back to Munro and Alison. Munro felt exhilarated, filled to the brim with everything around him.

The Beech Nut spoke to her two young apprentices. ‘That,’ she said, ‘is one of the most important parts of painting—of making art of any kind. When we pour our creative energy into our work, we have to take time to be refreshed. I call it refilling the well.’(74).”

During my visit to Joe A. Ross School, where I taught my novel, The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach and students engaged in anti-bullying activities from my accompanying guide, I was so fortunate to have my well refilled. Friends from my visit to the Pas last year, Barb McLeod and Tim Williams, invited me out onto Clearwater Lake for a picnic and picturesque ride on their pontoon boat. Like Munro, we were absorbed into the beautiful dream of the day…

Looking into the Water from the Boat

Looking into the Water from the Boat

Following the Shore

Following the Shore

Shoreline Down from The Caves

Shoreline Down from The Caves

Tim steered the boat toward The Caves (otherwise known of as The Crevices), a unique provincial tourist destination, deep crevices that formed when rock masses split away from the shoreline cliffs. To leap from rock to rock, up one boulder and down another, amidst high cliffs and slices of rock, all the while peering into cool dark recesses leading into the earth, is an exhilarating experience.

Passing Close to Shore

Passing Close to Shore

Back on Land, The Sun Sets on a Lovely Excursion on Clearwater Lake

Back on Land, The Sun Sets on a Lovely Excursion on Clearwater Lake

Tomorrow, I will share with readers more about the creation of art at Joe A. Ross School…

Art to Enhance Learning

6 Nov
A Student's Creation of Cubist Art, from Joe A. Ross School in The Pas, Manitoba

A Student’s Creation of Cubist Art, from Joe A. Ross School in The Pas, Manitoba

When I work with students of any age, I draw comical figures on the board. A class that has seemed resistant to learning will immediately shift into openness. I believe this happens because the right brain offers a rest, a vacation, a happy excursion away from the over programmed left brain. I can literally feel the relief of visual learners—often a large portion of a classroom—when I bring in the visual art element. I explain to students that when I write, if I reach a writer’s block, all I need is to draw to release some new ideas.

Jane, Lisa, Becky, Jack, Mr. McLean, Nicholas, Mrs. McLean

Jane, Lisa, Becky, Jack, Mr. McLean, Nicholas, Mrs. McLean

I draw on the board in order to model drawing for students. An aspect of my novel for young people, The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach is that the main character, Munro McLean, is ridiculed in school for his advanced knowledge of art. In order for students to understand Munro—and to understand the art theme in the book—we Google famous artists and art movements—Picasso, Da Vinci, Reubens, Cubism, and more. Students embrace this increase in knowledge of art and of the theme of art in the novel. I was so delighted when I was explaining Cubism to students at Joe A. Ross School in The Pas, Manitoba, when a student handed me her visual comprehension of the idea, shown above.

Munro, The Beech Nut, Alison, Al, Mike, Dean

Munro, The Beech Nut, Alison, Al, Mike, Dean

As well, students draw the characters in order to underscore their understanding of the novel. I project or make a drawing of the characters that students can then use to create their own drawings. Of course, students are more or less skilled at drawing, so when I model how to draw, I help the less advanced artists. I stress that we all draw differently and at different speeds, and that we must respect our own progress. Practice improves artistic ability. Students at Joe A. Ross engaged wonderfully in the process of exploring the characters through drawing.

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Creative activities enhance learning, as all educators know. I was delighted to find that when teacher Myrna Ducharme taught The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach at Joe A. Ross School last year, she had students engage in watercolour painting in order to encourage them to experience the world of art so loved by the character Munro. Student paintings were beautifully done, and students’ understandings of Munro as an artist increased substantially.

Tomorrow, I will share some of the younger students activities….

Raising Anti-Bullying Consciousness

5 Nov
A Student's Experience of Bullying is Like the Realm Below the Surface of a Lake--Expansive and Largely Unknown

A Student’s Experience of Bullying is Like the Realm Below the Surface of a Lake–Expansive and Largely Unknown

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

When teaching students about bullying, we ask ourselves, what do students already know? They have all experienced the bullying scenario, as bully, bullied, or bystander. So often, bullying happens at home, with parents and siblings involved, while at the same time, bullying goes on among peers. A student’s experience of bullying is like the submerged iceberg or the realm below the surface of a lake—expansive and largely unknown. Our job as educators is to grow in our own understanding of bullying in our lives so that we can help students to bring to the surface of consciousness their own experiences of bullying in order to enact change.

Short-Listed for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

Short-Listed for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach Novel Study and Anti-Bullying Guide makes this process of growing self awareness thoughtful and joyful, given that students become experts on the bullying actions of the characters in the book. To gain understanding is a life-enhancing process.

The Grade Six students at Joe A. Ross School engaged in several activities meant to enhance their understanding of the bulling scenario in The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach and in their own lives. One such activity involved brainstorming their understanding of bullying definitions, including bully, bullied, bystander, witness, as well as physical, verbal, and relational bullying. After students came up with their definitions, we expanded on more ideas and wrote those down. Then, students illustrated scenes where Munro was being bullied in order to underscore the concepts visually.

Involved Learners

Involved Learners

Classroom Reading with Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon

Classroom Reading with Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon

Immersed in the Story

Immersed in the Story

Teacher Crystal Ross and Students

Teacher Crystal Ross and Students

Students with Author

Students with Author

Student Illustrators

Student Illustrators

Busy Creating

Busy Creating

Involved Artists

Involved Artists

At Joe A. Ross School, students created admirable artwork, each drawing advancing students’ knowledge of characters in the book. The facial expressions on some characters reveal personality, while clothes reflect 1970’s fashion.

Wonderful Student Art

Wonderful Student Art

Tomorrow, I will share more student art…

Creative Anti-Bullying Immersion

3 Nov
Pillars Representing the Stages of Human Life from Infancy to Old Age

Pillars Representing the Stages of Human Life from Infancy to Old Age

In my post yesterday, I wrote about how I visited Joe A. Ross School in The Pas, Manitoba, and the architecture of the building beautifully embodies concepts significant in Cree spirituality. In such a meaningful setting, I was privileged to teach enthusiastic students from Grades One to Six.

Vibrant Sky and School

Vibrant Sky and School

A highlight of my visit was that students in the three Grade Six classes began my novel, The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach, and the accompanying Novel Study and Anti-Bullying Guide, with the help of three skillful teachers, Crystal Ross, Myrna Ducharme, and Michelle Edwards. Together, over the two weeks we engaged in a variety of activities. We read the first five chapters which immediately engaged students as every kid has experienced the bullying scenario, whether as bully, bullied, or bystander, a major theme in the novel. A big plus is that the book is humorous, which draws in more young readers, and there is social intrigue and romance, always captivating themes.

Teacher Myrna Ducharme Reads The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach to the Class

Teacher Myrna Ducharme Reads The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach to the Class

More Students Involved in  the Reading and Listening Process

More Students Involved in the Reading and Listening Process

The World of Big Water Beach Comes to Life in the Mind's of Students

The World of Big Water Beach Comes to Life in the Minds of Students

The following synopsis will give blog readers an idea of what these Joe A. Ross students read in these chapters. The first chapter of the novel sets the stage for the bullying theme as we discover that the main character, Munro McLean, has been bullied all through Grades Five and Six, and that he has been called a nerd, dork, and geek, and has been thrown around, ridiculed and generally made miserable at school.

Teacher Crystal Ross and Students Immersed in Novel

Teacher Crystal Ross and Students Immersed in Novel

In the next chapter, we discover that Munro is popular at Big Water Beach, a great relief, but in order to stay popular, he has to avoid Cassandra Beech, an elderly woman who is a hermit and an artist, nicknamed The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach, and her grandniece Alison, who have decided they want Munro to create art with them.

Attentive Readers

Attentive Readers

In the following chapters, as Munro’s typical beach life unfolds, with swimming lessons, a game of Truth or Dare, a dog show and more, we are introduced to the fun-loving kids of Munro’s peer group, who we discover have a dark side, in that they begin to pick on Alison, the outsider. Munro, on the other hand, starts to secretly hang out with the Beech Nut and Alison to make art, and tension deepens and high antics increase as Munro madly tries to keep his life as an artist with the Beech Nut and Alison separate from his life within his peer group.

The Plot Thickens

The Plot Thickens

An activity that the teachers and I used was to allow students to draw ten pivotal characters in the novel. When students draw and visualize the characters, they engage more with them and can see them in their minds’ eyes more easily. Some students are visual learners who relate strongly to having the chance to draw.

Character Images are Projected and Students Immerse in Drawing

Character Images are Projected and Students Immerse in Drawing

Concentrating on Artwork

Concentrating on Artwork

Teacher Michelle Edwards Joins Students in Art Activity

Teacher Michelle Edwards Joins Students in Art Activity

In my next entry, I invite you to come with me to my lodgings during this Northern visit, a little cottage on the shores of the third clearest cleanest lake in the world, Clear Water Lake….

Northern Experience

3 Nov
Evening Sky and Forest near The Pas, Manitoba

Evening Sky and Forest near The Pas, Manitoba

Since September, I’ve been travelling to different schools throughout the province of Manitoba in Canada with Artists in the Schools, collecting blog ideas along the way. NaBloPoMo offers a great opportunity to commit to sharing the creative and anti-bullying experiences of students with whom I worked, while simultaneously providing readers with glimpses of the people, culture, and beauty of this part of the world.

Through the Manitoba Arts Councils Artists in the Schools program, I teach in schools throughout the province. As I enter through the doors of a school, I am prepared to find a distinct teaching culture made up of the educational mandate, the school ambiance and experience, and uniquely interesting people—administrators, teachers, and students.

The first school I visited this fall was Joe A. Ross, in the Pas, where I taught for two weeks at the kind invitation of Principal Karon McGillivary. In a display case at the entrance of the school, a plaque celebrates the highly regarded Cree man for whom the school was named. The plaque reads as follows:

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“Joseph Albert Ross was born on April 9, 1939 at the Pas. He was married to Cecelia Jebb on August 29, 1960. They had two sons, Glen and Mike, and one daughter, Lana. They also raised four foster children, Roger, Keith, Kenny, and Phyllis. Joe was a man for all seasons. He especially enjoyed the traditional life of hunting and trapping. During his later years, Joe spent much of his time in meeting rooms where he laid the foundation for Opasquiak Indian Days as well as played a key role in education on reserve. Joe was the Education Administrator for the Pas Indian Band (now known as Opaskwayak Cree Nation). This School bears his name because of his endless efforts—including enthusiasm and determination. He was especially concerned with the number of aboriginal youth dropping out of school. He knew and understood the difficulties that came with a limited education. He knew that by dropping out, youth were limiting their choices in life. Joe passed away in 1985. He had given his all for this school long before the first cornerstone was laid. In a way, Joe did help lay it’s foundation. The school was his dream. Joe was an exceptional man who had vast knowledge about many areas of life. Joe was a leader of many talents and abilities, a family man who earned the respect of many people, and an innovator who would have been pleased to see this beautiful school that promises so much learning…for so many people.”

Walking toward Joe A. Ross School on a Beautiful Fall Day

Walking toward Joe A. Ross School on a Beautiful Fall Day

Shortly after I arrived, Rosina McGillivary, Cree music teacher, brought me on a tour of the school to show me how the architecture beautifully embodies concepts significant in Cree spirituality. The entrance to the building has pillars that represent the stages of humanity from infancy to old age. The building itself is shaped like an eagle with wings to soar. The front doors face East, the direction of the rising sun and beginnings in life. So began my two weeks at Joe A. Ross School, about which I will continue to write over the course of this week…

Like an Eagle with Wings to Soar

Like an Eagle with Wings to Soar

Don’t Hide Your True Passion From Your Friends

18 May
Driving down the misty road leading to Scott Bateman School

Driving down the misty road leading to Scott Bateman School

Dear Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon,

Hi, my name is K.C.M.C.L. Thank-you very much for coming to Scott Bateman Middle School.  Thank you for all the valuable lessons on bullying and all the wonderful drawings you did with the class.

Drawing on the Whiteboard--Baby Nicholas Between his Parents

Drawing on the Whiteboard–Baby Nicholas Between his Parents

My favorite part is when all the boys told the truth about [their] lies and became friends with Alison and the Beech Nut. My favorite character was Nicholas. I loved it when you wrote baby talk for him. My favorite part is when he yells out “Munwo.” The valuable lesson I learned is don‘t hide your true passion from your friends and don‘t lie about who your friends are.

When I was in grade five, three girls would bully me at lunch because I sat in between them and there was one girl named M. who stood up for me. My Auntie is a teacher and I told her about your book and she is going to get it for her school to read. I loved the book. It was very good. Thank you for coming.

Sincerely,
K.L.

Artist and Students Draw The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach Cast of Characters

Artist and Students Draw The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach Cast of Characters

December 11, 2012

Dear K. C. M. C. L.,

Thank you for your kind letter about my visit to Scott Bateman Middle School and about your experience with The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach. I was pleased that you considered the lessons on bullying valuable! I was also pleased that you enjoyed my drawings because I love to draw.

I agree with you, that the happy ending in which the boys tell the truth and become friends with Alison and the Beech Nut is very satisfying. Also, it was fun to write baby talk for Nicholas. You really picked out important ideas about the book, that you shouldn’t hide your true passion from your friends, and you shouldn’t lie about who your friends are.

I was sorry to hear that you were bullied at lunch in Grade Five, but I was glad M. stood up for you! If the bullying ever happens again, you know that you can always go to a trusted adult like Mr. Popiel or the counselor, Mrs. Barb McLeod, for help, but it sounds as if it all worked out already.

Let your Auntie know that she can reach me through the Artists in the Schools website in the Artists in the Schools list of artists. I would be happy to come to her school!

Best wishes,
Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon

Transforming the Self and Society: Reading Tiktala for a UNESCO Event

14 Apr
Cover of My All Ages Fairy Tale, Tiktala, illustrated by Laszlo Gal

Cover of My All Ages Fairy Tale, Tiktala, illustrated by Laszlo Gal

In February 2013, I was invited Vincent Massey High School in Winnipeg, MB, Canada, by teacher-librarian Mona-Lynne Ayotte, to read from my all-ages fairy tale, Tiktala. My reading was a featured event in a school-wide celebration of both “I Love to Read” month and Vincent Massey’s ongoing participation in UNESCO.

UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO is “a specialized agency of the United Nations whose goal is to add to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the UN Charter.” UNESCO named “Four Pillars of Education”: “Learning to Know,” “Learning to Do,” “Learning to Live Together,” and “Learning to Be”—to which the addition of a fifth pillar was suggested, namely “Learning to Transform.”

I had been brought in through our Manitoba Arts Council’s Artists in the Schools program (Arts Smart) to teach creative writing at Vincent Massey, when it occurred to my kind and enthusiastic host teacher, Mona-Lynne Ayotte, that Tiktala is an ideal book to share at a UNESCO event, given that one of its central themes is that of transformation.

Vincent Massey Newsletter

Vincent Massey Newsletter

Prior to the event, Mona-Lynne created a superb newsletter that offered thoughtful write-ups on “Life changing books,” my anti-bullying novel, The Beech Nut of Big Water Beach, “If you could Change the World,” “The Making of Tiktala,” “Protecting Mother Earth,” and more.

I share here the full version of the speech I made (in condensed form) to the wonderfully attentive group of six hundred Grade 11 and 12 Vincent Massey students.

It began as a dream!

It began as a dream!

"The

The making of Tiktala

On Podium with Mona-Lynne Ayotte

On Podium with Mona-Lynne Ayotte

Presentation for Unesco Event at Vincent Massey

I am delighted to partake in your valuable, admirable UNESCO event. Thank you to Mona-Lynne Ayotte for her tremendous organizational work to bring this reading about, and to Vincent Massey teachers for making such an event happen.

Tiktala, my all-ages fairy tale, illustrated by the famous Canadian illustrator, László Gál, was a real heart’s project.

The story started as a dream and took five years from the beginning dream to the finished, published book. The original manuscript went from fifteen pages up to forty-two and back down to twelve and went through at least ten to fifteen rough drafts.

Along the way, a few people asked, “Are you still working on that story? Give it up!” But I persevered and kept going until I truly understood and had given form to the dream.

In the end, after all the challenges I’d faced, Tiktala was published in Toronto and New York. Tiktala was recipient of the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, the Parents’ Choice Honor in the U.S., and was placed on a list of Notable Books in the Area of Social Studies. Now, the book is sold in paperback by Fitzhenry and Whiteside and has been translated to French with Scholastic.

The story strikes many chords with the UNESCO Pillars of Education. In regard to the “Learning to Live Together” pillar, the idea that children should be taught to understand other people’s reactions by looking at things from other points of view is central. In Tiktala, the central protagonist, an Inuit girl named Tiktala, is transformed into a seal specifically so that she will learn to view the world as a seal—the animal she wants to carve. Another central aspect of the “Learning to Live Together” pillar is the spirit of empathy, teaching youth to look at the world through the eyes of other ethnic groups as a way of avoiding violence or hatred.

In Tiktala, Tiktala’s spirit guide, a seal named Tulimak, hates all humans because her first pup was clubbed to death. When she is put in the position of guiding Tiktala—a human girl who has been transformed into a seal—she learns that not all humans are destructive. Because she sees through Tiktala’s eyes, she is able to drop her hatred of all humans. When she does so, she frees Tiktala to act with tremendous empathy, so that Tikala saves Tulimak’s second pup from a sealer.

Attentive Student Audience At Vincent Massey High School

Attentive Student Audience At Vincent Massey High School

UNESCO’s “Learning to Be” pillar places emphasis on the importance of imagination and creativity, and on giving art and poetry a greater place in education. That Vincent Massey High School would invite a writer to participate in their UNESCO event gives validation to the importance of artists and art in education. Tiktala is a book about the development of the artist through a journey that promotes empathy and understanding. The Inuit elder, Iguptak, who sends Tiktala on her journey, places high value indeed on the place of art in Tiktala’s education.

UNESCO’s “Learning to Know” pillar emphasizes concentration, memory skills, and the ability to think, all of which are part of listening to and analyzing stories. When we come together as a group, to listen to stories and to discuss them, we enhance our ability to know.

“Learning to Do” is another UNESCO theme that applies directly to Tiktala’s journey, in that she must “acquire necessary skills” in order to survive as a seal. She must learn how to fish, how to eat as a seal eats, how to sleep in the ocean, how to escape predators, and more. She acquires these skills, learning to do as a seal does, so that she can move on to her next level of creation—learning to create beautiful soapstone carvings of the seals she has come to know so well.

More Students Listening to Tiktala at Vincent Massey

More Students Listening to Tiktala at Vincent Massey

The Fifth Pillar, UNESCO’s “Learning to Transform” permeates Tiktala. Tiktala is not only transformed into a seal, in an outer transformation, but she is also undergoes an inner transformation—to care about the animal she wants to carve. In the UNESCO view, we transform ourselves and then can transform our society. Tiktala does precisely that—she transforms herself into a caring, spiritual, and creative carver whose journey has enriched her immeasurably, and then she shares her journey with her father, who has been depressed and adrift, and now the light comes into his eyes.

There are at least seven themes in Tiktala: The Hero Journey; The Development of the Artist; Revenge and Forgiveness; Environmental Awareness; Parent/Child Relationship; Transformation; and, Human Creativity vs. Destructiveness.

The book celebrates the indigenous spirituality and world view, with Iguptak, the wisest woman of the village as a shaman who sends Tiktala on a vision quest in which she is transformed into a seal by a spirit and is led forth on her journey by a seal spirit guide. Tiktala further celebrates the human connection to animals.

In Tiktala, we find the hero journey, as identified by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In the hero journey, the people of a realm are suffering in some way. The hero leaves home and enters the Otherworld where he or she faces a series of tests which he or she successfully completes. The hero returns home with the treasure that restores balance and saves the world. Hero stories, myths, and some fairy tales from all around the world have this pattern. Tiktala leaves home, faces test upon test as a seal, and returns home as a changed girl who brings with her transformative light.

Words Create Change

Words Create Change

Tiktala is a story of the development of the artist and of learning to care about the thing you create. At the beginning of her journey, Tiktala doesn’t really care about seals. She has many reasons for wanting to be a great carver—fame, money to buy things, a wish for her father’s attention. This is often true when we set out on any career path! Only the experience of becoming an artist, a teacher, a carpenter, a parent, tells us what that career is all about. As Tiktala learns to care about her subject, the seals, she becomes a deeper artist capable of making great carvings. She no longer wants her father’s attention, but she wants to give something to him—the carving that reveals the beauty and meaning of her journey; she wants to represent the beauty of Tulimak and Aputi, her seal friends. In becoming empathetic and selfless, Tikala attains her dream of becoming a great carver.

Tiktala is available for purchase from numerous online booksellers, including McNally Robinson Booksellers, Amazon, and Chapters.

As well, I created a richly rewarding Teacher’s Guide to Tiktala, available through my Teachers Pay Teachers site, a great value for under four dollars.