Your seal of approval?

This year is Canada’s sesquicentennial (try saying that quickly three times, or even once!) celebration. People, organizations, and businesses are signaling the year-long event in many ways; Parks Canada, for example, is making 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Passes free to all Canadians, providing access to national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas all year.

One Vancouver restaurant, Edible Canada, already known for highlighting Canadian cuisine, is paying special attention to foods that are uniquely significant within Canada for this year’s special anniversary, and they don’t seem shy about raising debate. They have decided to put seal on their menu, citing its historical and cultural significance and its sustainability as a food source.HarpSeals Some, however, including the Vancouver Humane Society, have expressed their opposition to the restaurant’s move, calling on the public to ask the restaurant to change their menu.

People have many reasons for the choices they make about the foods they consume: nutritional value; health; moral concerns; beliefs connected to Faith; cost & availability; environmental impact; sustainability; concerns about practices in agriculture and animal husbandry, concerns about over-processing and even fraud.

We are likely to make different food choices for ourselves for different reasons. Maybe we can’t (and maybe we shouldn’t) make those choices for others. But maybe people mostly make choices only between a set of options that are made easily available to them. Maybe talking about the reasons some folks object to certain menu items while others do not can prompt us to pay some attention to the choices we make and the reasons why. If we listen and if we put some critical thought to a headline-getting topic like this, maybe we can have some productive discussions about other issues too.

Would you order a dish made with harp seal at a restaurant? Should it be on the menu? Your thoughtful ideas are welcome.

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Is Cole OK?

baby sparrows like those Cole sawWe’ve hit a very powerful series of events in our story, and our main character, Cole, has had what may be a life-changing experience. That is, it may change his life IF he lives. When we left him, he had broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a bone sticking out of his arm and his chest ripped open. Even in that state, he told Garvey (his parole officer) that he was OK.

What do you think? Is Cole OK? Why or why not?

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A timely story about the brain

This morning, there was a fascinating piece on the radio about the effects of deep breathing. I use breathing myself to help lower my heart rate, settle my nerves and focus my awareness in important or stressful situations, so this story resonated for me personally. Its relevance to so much of what we are working on at school and especially the topics we are exploring in our class made me realise I HAD to share it with my students.

We try to help kids (and colleagues) use knowledge about our brains to be better at understanding emotions, recognising and regulating stress levels, and at understanding and solving problems. Being in the middle of a novel whose main character frequently experiences (and is overcome by) the physical and emotional effects of anger & stress, we have a perfect opportunity to apply this story from the radio to our discussions about our novel. It also helps us work on questions we’ve been exploring in health, PE, science & math. I will be curious to see how we are able to use the information we are finding out about the body and the brain (e.g. about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) to help us connect our learning in class to our learning out in the rest of the world and to our understanding of ourselves and others.

If you’d like to listen yourself, you can find the story at

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Which stupid animal?

fir0002 | [GFDL 1.2 (], via Wikimedia Commons

fir0002 | [GFDL 1.2 (], via Wikimedia Commons

We recently read some very intense scenes in our novel, Ben Mikaelsen’s Touching Spirit Bear. On page 64, while Cole was facing the bear with the spear he made, he “…hesitated to glance over his shoulder. No one was watching. He could easily back away from this bear and not a single human being on the planet would ever know.” So why didn’t Cole back away?

Even after the violent attack, as Cole lay near Death’s door, he bemoaned his bad luck to have happened to end up with a “stupid bear,” the same bear he had referred to as a “stupid moron” for not knowing that Cole would try to kill it. Is Cole so incapable of thinking about someone else’s point of view, someone else’s feelings, that he is doomed to a lonely, angry existence for the rest of whatever life he has left? Is he even capable of thinking about his own feelings?

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Meet Cole Matthews

This is a picture of the kind of bear our character, Cole Matthews, said he would kill if he saw one. Cole is a pretty angry, selfish person it seems. He continues to blame others for his situation, and his first thoughts seem to be about what has happened to him rather than about what he has done or can do.

What is your reaction to Cole so far? Please leave a comment, and remember to include evidence from the text in to support your opinion.

Kermode bear

By The original uploader was Jackmont at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Hey! That looks cool, but…

Some of my students asked me about a Web site they’d been on recently. They seemed pretty excited about it and about the cool but inexpensive gadgets they found for sale, but they also seemed a little unsettled. It looarborealcephalopodked good, but was it reliable? Was it real? Were the good deals honest, or was it some kind of scam?

I felt bad that I didn’t have time for them to show me what had them abuzz with excitement and at the same time leery. They filled my bucket, though, by asking those questions. We’ll be asking a lot more of them as we develop our literacy and critical thinking.

In the mean time, they reminded me of a very interesting site with some information about an endangered species, Octopus paxarbolis, from the temperate rain forests not far form here. I thought we ought to find out more about what we should do to try to save this critter and protect the area’s biodiversity. Theses students are showing they’ve got savvy; now it’s time to get good at using it.


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