For Water: Learn. Adopt. Protect. Walk.

Just a little less than a year ago water connected my class and I to Josephine Mandamin.

As of today, one hundred and sixty six classes from around the Great Lakes, across Canada and throughout the world have committed to learning about, adopting, protecting and walking for a body of water in honour of Nokomis, the original Water Walker.

Classes who have joined the Junior Water Walkers have taken up their own water inquiries and, like Josephine always suggested, are “going with the flow” as they let the the four pillars: learn, adopt, protect and walk guide them in their inquiries. Since Josephine was Anishnaabe and followed many sacred customs, traditions and ceremonies around water walking, Junior Water Walker classes are also connecting with and establishing relationships with their Indigenous community knowledge keepers as we work to protect water and honour Josephine, who recently passed away at age 77.

For World Water Day, I wanted to share our Junior Water Walker journey, resources and ideas and invite other classes to join us.


This pillar simply encourages people to learn about water; how it is the giver of life and the one thing that connects us all. Through the inquiry process, students will come to understand that water is precious and needs to be protected. 

Paddle to the Sea At the beginning of the school year, I read Paddle to the Sea to my students. It’s a book written in 1942, about an Indigenous boy who carves a small wooden replica of himself in a canoe and sets in in the headwaters of Lake Superior. The books follows the path the canoe takes, through the five Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence, to its eventual destination, the Atlantic Ocean. This books gives students a historical reference to the Great Lakes and helps them understand just how important the lakes are. We also did a collaborative book study with other classes living on the Great Lakes. As well, the National Film Board’s classic film is another great resource.

The Water Walker A full length documentary film by naturalist, artist and film maker Bill Mason takes students on a canoe trip through the many rivers and lakes of Ontario’s wilderness. Mason also pays respect to and recognizes how the Anishnaabe people, who lived along the Great Lakes thousands of years before the European explorers arrived, keep their waters clean and pristine.   

Blue Gold I use this Google Earth Voyageur Story which allows my students to take a virtual, current day trip through the Great Lakes to have the realize just how great the Great Lakes are but  also to understand that they are at risk.

Google Earth Google Earth is also a great resource to help students explore any body of water from a global to local perspective. This incredible tool gives students a chance to explore water ways virtually.

Fort William Historical Park I took may students on a field trip to our local Fort William Historical Park to learn how important the Anishnaabe people were in the fur trade and about many of their traditions and customs. My students also understood the importance of the Great Lakes as the trading highway for the fur trade and the development of Canada.

Anishnaabe Scrapbook My students learned about the various Native cultures throughout Canada but taking the perspective of an Anishnaabe choild living on their land prior to European contact. As they created their digital scrapbooks, students also gained a strong understanding of how water and their relation to it had an impact on the Anishnaabe people.

The Story of Us  In Canada, Truth and Reconciliation has become an important and integral part of our curriculum that can be woven through many different subject areas. The Story of Us, school friendly versions (view at your own discretion), has helped me tell the story of Canada, how water brought the Europeans to Turtle Island (North America) and forever changed its people. 

Jill Heinerth Visit  Our school community had the privilege of welcoming Canadian Geographic in Residence Explorer, Jill Heinerth to our school. She shared her experience as a world renowned cave diver and her concerns about water. My students also viewed her documentary “We are Water” and explored her website, full of incredible learning resources. 

The UN’s Global Goals  The UN’s Global Goals are an invaluable resource and one that every teacher should be familiar with. Goal 6,  Clean Water and Sanitation and Goal 14, Life Below Water  have been incredibly useful in our learning.

The Water Walker Book After all of our learning about water, in early December, I was fortunate to have Joanne Robertson, author of the Water Walker, visit my class again. Through Joanne and her children’s book “The Water Walker”, my students in this year’s class we introduced to Josephine Mandamin.

Unfortunately, due to Josephine’s failing health, she was not able to visit my class with Joanne. However, prior to the visit, at sunrise, I met Josephine, her husband Andrew, Joanne and Tesa Fiddler (our Board’s Native Resource Teacher) at Mission Marsh conservation area where Josephine held a short water ceremony. She smudged our copper bucket and drew water from Lake Superior to pass onto my class as they committed to becoming Junior Water Walkers. I am so grateful for that morning spent with Josephine. Under her direction, the water was carefully transported back to back to my class in the copper bucket and is now frozen in my freezer in mason jars awaiting of water walk in May.

Our Whole School Becomes Junior Water Walkers!  With so much “water talk” and learning going on in our two oldest grades the younger classes and teachers became interested in joining the Junior Water Walkers initiative! Our older students made presentations to the younger ones to tell them all about Josephine Mandamin and what it means to be a Junior Water Walker. This has prompted every class in our school to undertaken their own water inquiries!

Water Life Sadly, Nokomis Josephine Mandamin passed away on February 22, 2019. Primitive Entertainment made “Water Life”, a water documentary featuring Josephine available for free for all to view learn about water, the need to protect it and the incredible Water Walker we know as Nokomis.

Connecting with a Water Walker I have been in contact with Andrew Mandamin, Josephine’s husband and he has recommended a local water walker. I will be making contact with her to have her help us make decisions about our water walk in May.


This pillar encourages classes to decide on a body of water in their community that they will adopt, help to protect in some way and eventually walk at during our water walks on Fridays in May.

Our school community is still deciding on the body of water we would like to adopt and help protect. We are thinking that we’d like to have our two original Junior Water Walker classes in grades 5/6 and 6 research possible water ways in our community to adopt. The thought is that we’d have the older students do persuasive presentations to the rest of the school community and have the kids vote on the body of water which we’ll adopt, thus giving them a voice and ownership.  With that said, I need to insure the water that I have frozen in my freezer from Nokomis is honoured and returned to an appropriate water source. I’m not sure if it needs to be returned to Mission Marsh on Lake Superior or if it can be return to a river or smaller lake. There’s still so much to learn!


The idea of this pillar is to have kids understand how they can help to protect their adopted body of water which will lead to the protection of water in general.

Eco Superior Visit Our school community invited Eco Superior, a local community partner to help teach every student in our school about water conservation and protection.

M.A.D for Water Fair Our grade 5/6 and 6 classes have a tradition of hosting a M.A.D (Make A Difference) Fair in the spring each year. Our older students showcase their Make A Difference Projects science fair style, to share what they’ve done to make a difference from the local to international level. This year, their will be a water focused theme, where our oldest students will focus on making a difference for water. Many details are still being ironed out but the intent to have our eldest students inspire our youngest ones to become water stewards and protect water.


On one of the five Fridays in May, Junior Water Walker classes will walk together at their adopted body of water. Going to the water source is meant to be impactful and meaningful. As with every pillar, Junior Water Walker classes are encouraged to connect with Indigenous knowledge Keepers.

Our Walk On May 3 our entire school community will walk at our adopted body of water. We still are not sure which body of water we’ll adopt or the details of our walk. What has been established is that Joanne Robertson, author of “The Water Walker” and Josephine’s close friend will join us. As well, we will be reaching out to a local Water Walker for guidance. Tesa Fiddler, our Native Resource Teacher will also join and guide us as she always has. Eco Superior has also expressed interest in joining us on May 3.

So there you have it! Although not a complete list of the steps and resources in our Water journey, I think it’s helpful to share and have other classes interested in, or already involved in the Junior Water Walkers know that each journey will be different, as it should be. What Josephine has told me is: “If it’s for the water, it’s for good”, “Go with the flow” and “Just do it.”

Thanks to each and every class out there for join us in honouring the incredible woman we have all come to know as Nokomis and for protecting the resource that connects us all…. Nibi….Water.

Happy #WorldWaterDay

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“Awesome Adventurers”

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 9.30.00 am I am proud and humbled to be a National Geographic Education Certification mentor. I recently wrote a message to my Mentee Group, which I’ve called “The Awesome Adventurers”. I figured I’d share the message on my blog as it’s a bit of an update about what is driving my learning and “adventurer mindset” as of late.

What are YOU passionate about? What is driving YOUR passion for




Hello Awesome Adventures!

Welcome to our group space! I’m excited to be your mentor and to learn with you! I can honestly tell you that being a National Geographic Certified Educator has had a huge impact on my teaching career. The opportunities to learn, connect, explore and lead are endless!

A bit about me: I’m a grade 5/6 teacher in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I’m blessed to teach with an amazing staff who are all my close friend, including my wife, who is our ELKP teacher. I’ve been teaching at our school for 24 years and am in the process of moving  out to a portable, we call it “The Cottage”. You can check out my “old” learning space here-

and my “new” learning space here-

Apart from getting excited about going to school each and everyday to help my students find the adventure in learning and teaching them that THEY can make a difference, I’m currently particularly passionate about two initiatives; “The Junior Water Walkers”- and  #MADPD-

The Junior Water Walkers is an initiative started by my students last year in honour of Josephine Mandamin. Josephine has walked around the five Great Lakes, a total of 25 000 kilometers,  bringing awareness of the need to protect nibi (water). She is now 76 and her health is failing. My students are taking up her cause; learning about, adopting, protecting and walking for water and are inviting other classes to do the same. To date, 150 classes from around the Great Lakes, across Canada and throughout the world have join us! I invite YOU and your students to join us too!

#MADPD is a personalized professional development “unconference” that Derek Rhodenizer and myself organized three years ago with one intention; to encourage teachers to share one thing that makes a difference in their classroom. Because it’s a virtual conference, anyone can attend and anyone can present, for free, from the comfort of their home. We are anticipating that we will far exceed the hundred plus presenters and thousand of participants from last year. Perhaps you’ll consider joining us on May 5th!

Apart from teaching, learning and sharing I love cross country skiing (our ski area is 500 m from my house), cycling, hiking, fishing, camping and traveling. My two most important connections are my wife, Cheryl and nine year old son, Kai. They are always at the top of my priority list and keep me balanced and focused on the most important thing in life…family!

Well, that’s my story. Please take a moment to share a little bit about yourself. Don’t worry about being as verbose as me. I’m waiting for a flight and it’s delayed by an hour so I find myself with a bit of unexpected time on my hands!

Enjoy this National Geographic Education certification and feel free to reach out at any time. I’ll leave you with a little video that I called “Paths”…






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NOW What?

I love the dead of winter in Thunder Bay! The snow has finally accumulated, I get to cross country ski every day,  and it’s cold! The snow and cold weather also me bring so many opportunities for teaching math to my students!

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The weather created an opportunity for us to estimate, measure and convert units between mm, cm and m, collect and analyze data, calculate mean, median, mode and range, choose appropriate graphs and make conclusions and predictions.

Weather is also a common denominator. Everyone loves to talk about it, especially when it’s -33 Celsius in your part of the world! Weather helps us learn more about other people and places in the world. I looked forward to consolidating our learning with an activity I had done before with much success.

So I tweeted out the temperature in Thunder Bay, using our class Twitter feed and asked people to reply with the current temperature in their part of the world:

I also retweeted using my own professional feed to my PLN:

AND I reached out to my many friends who are Google Earth Education Experts via an ongoing Google Hangout chat:

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To be honest, I was hoping for about twenty responses, which would present some pretty interesting data for my kids to work with for their Friday afternoon math lesson.

By 2 pm we were literally overwhelmed with data!

My students dutifully went to work trying to manage the data, with the end goal of finding the mean, median, mode, range and then graphing the data.  I was impressed with how they were working together to find strategies to help them manage the overwhelming amount of data that had been collected. After an hour of work, it was time to pack up for the end of the day and a well deserved weekend.

At this point, most students had created a Doc, had split screened between our Twitter Feed and their working document and were listing the name of the city and temperature in the order it had been sent to us. Some students decided it would be efficient to order the data lowest temperature to highest as it came in.

Regardless, by the end of the day, my students weren’t even CLOSE to finished managing the data AND the data was still coming in, AND it still is! But, my kids are used to work sometimes being left undone, with questions still remaining. Learning IS messy!

So… NOW what?

What do I do as a teacher? Prior to this crazy idea, my students proficient at managing data with up to ten values. Now they’re dealing with over one hundred values, with positive and negative numbers and three different units of measure: Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin (thanks Donnie)!  I certainly isn’t fair, efficient or realistic to have them continue to work with the data in the way that they normally have in the past. I have more questions than answers:

-Do I have them work with only a smaller data set? Break kids into groups and have them work with the data according to time. One group work with data collected from 8am-10am, another from 10 am-12pm, etc.?

-Should I break them up according to region in the world?

-What about using Google Forms and Sheets to work with all of the data using a more efficient means? Can/should I have the students us sheets to calculate mean, median, mode and range? Is this possible?

-What about Google My Maps? It would be cool to have all of the people who responded pinned to their location with the temperature on the pin?

-Is there an efficient way to get all of the data from the Tweets to a Sheet?

-What about Google Earth? How could my students integrate this platform to display their data. Layers?

-Should I just let my kids figure all this out themselves? I think they’d be pretty innovative and creative, but what learning/platforms would they be missing out on that they haven’t already been exposed to?

What would YOU do?

Please respond in the Comment section so we can all learn together.



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Ideal PD?

Close your eyes. Visualize the conditions that allow you to learn best. Now think of your typical PD session. How successfully does the session meet your learning needs? If you could design your own PD for one day, what would you do? How would the day look? Most importantly, what would you learn?

There has been much talk about personalized PD lately. I have been fortunate to have  the opportunity for a lot of professional development in my 24 year teaching career.  My PD has literally been all over the map.  Some of my PD has been initiated by others for me but most of my professional learning has come as a result of me going and looking for it. Regardless, I can honestly say that I always take something away from each PD opportunity because I go with an open mind and make it a goal to take away one thing I might try in my classroom the next day. Some PD has been epic, earth shattering, career changing while some has been well….meh.

I now find myself at a point in my career where I have the opportunity to facilitate professional learning for teachers. I must say, it’s not a opportunity that I take lightly.  I am still learning, still changing, still evolving. I’m also the Chair of the Teacher Development Committee for my Provincial Teacher’s Association (OECTA) and the co-founder of #MADPD,  so when Derek Rhodenizer tweeted this tweet, you may understand why my interest was peaked.  It reminded me of a blog post I wrote a couple years ago, which I called “Genius Day (for Teachers)?”  I followed with a tweet of my own…

The response was overwhelming! I encourage you to check out the thread! Obviously it’s a hot topic, particularly because the Ford government has recently cancelled funding for the TLLP (Teacher Leadership and Learning Program), a very popular teacher directed Professional Development opportunity for Ontario educators. 

So what does ideal professional learning look like for teachers? Who better to ask than teachers. Personally for me, it entails freedom of choice to work on and engage in a topic that I’m passionate about learning. My professional learning usually starts with a question and with it, others follow. I need time to think, move, talk, work, eat, play, laugh, drink coffee, collaborate and share. I need others to inspire me and I want to inspire others.

Ideal professional development looks different for everyone. Below is a wordle that was created from responses to the question: “List one to five words that would best describe your ideal PD Day”.

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Being responsible for creating opportunities for professional development is a daunting task and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Teachers want and need to learn. But they don’t all want and need to learn the same things, in the same way, at the same time. The days of canned, one-sized fits all, sit and get  PD are over. Or at least, should be over. Or moving towards being over.

When you look at the above Wordle, what do you notice? If you are a facilitator, how are you meeting the needs of your, I hate to call it….”audience”. If you’re a teacher, what are you waiting for? Go and get the kind of PD you’re looking for! The opportunities to learn are all around you!

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For Nokomis

This is the story of an incredible woman, five teachers, thousands of students and how water connected us all.

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In the year 2000, a 60-year old Anishinaabe woman sat across from an ogima and listened carefully as he shared a prophecy. He told her that by the year 2030 water would be worth as much as gold. And then he asked her: What are you going to do about it?

After almost 3 years of contemplation the lady answered ogima’s question. She walked. By the year 2008 and 25 000 kilometers later, this incredible woman had circumnavigated all five Great Lakes, bringing awareness of the need to protect water.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017. Five educators would meet met at Google headquarters in Seattle Washington with an incredible opportunity to leverage the power of technology to make a difference. Our team proposed  to use Google Earth to take students on a voyage down the Great Lakes. The story would help our children understand that the Great Lakes were great BUT they were also at risk. One year later, “Blue Gold” would become the first ever teacher authored Voyageur story to be launched on Google Earth.

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In early May of this year, my son and I were walking along a small lake which empties directly into Lake Superior and we passed an elderly Anishinaabe woman, who carried a copper bucket and an eagle head staff.  As she passed, Kai and I wondered who she might be, why she’d be walking with a copper bucket and what might be in it.  The moment passed and the opportunity to ask her was lost. A few weeks later, amazingly, we got our answer.

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Through sheer coincidence, or perhaps, fate, we found Nokomis Josephine Mandamin on the cover of a children’s book, titled “The Water Walker” and we learned her story. This incredible woman had walked the same journey our Google Earth story aspired to take students on. Ironically, we shared the same community, at the head of Lake Superior, in Thunder Bay and I had known NOTHING about her. I wasn’t going to let her pass me by again.

I invited Nokomis to my classroom.

Josephine and my students launched into the Blue Gold Voyageur story. Together they journeyed down the Great Lakes; around our Sleeping Giant, through canals and locks and over Niagara Falls. I’m not sure who was more in awe, Nokomis or my students. But I can tell you for certain, when Josephine shared her own personal experiences of walking around those same 5 Great Lakes, it was my students who were awe struck.

And then my students spoke.

They knew Nokomis would no longer be able to carry on her walks due to her recent diagnosis of Parkison’s disease. My wonderful students, my difference makers, told Nokomis that they had a plan to become Junior Water Walkers. They were going to learn about, adopt, protect and walk for a body of water. They were also going to invite other classes from around the world to do the same. I’m proud and humbled to tell you that, to date, we have 126 classes, committed to walking in honour of Josephine and for water.

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To learn more about the Junior Water Walkers please visit our webpage and consider joining us!

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In response to “Best of Both Worlds”

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Doug Peterson is an edu blogger. I probably read his blog more than any others. It might be because he blogs every day! But the real reason is because he shares such great content. I’ve used many of his ideas and tips in my own classroom. My “Snowflake” eight day learning journey was the direct result of one of his blog post “Coding Snowflakes”.  Doug also writes a Friday blog “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” where he highlights great blogs written by educators fro across the province. Recently, Doug joined with Stephen Hurley of VoicEd Radio for a weekly podcast on TWIOE.

Doug recently wrote a blog ” Best of Both Worlds” which got me thinking. I posted a message on his blog, which turned into somewhat of a blog of my own. For what it’s worth, I figured I’d share it. Thanks Doug, for the inspiration.

Doug, I think I’m more of a blogger than a podcaster, but through some encouragement from Derek Rhodenizer, I have tried the podcast as well.

I like to blog because it allows me to think and reflect and chronicle some of my own learning journeys within my classroom. I also blog with the assistance of my students, where they play an active role in writing and editing. Together, we think, reflect and write before hitting publish. There’s a sense of safety in this method as we are in control of what is being shared with the world. I enjoy sharing what both my students and I have written with the world and use Twitter as the conduit.  It’s always great to hear what others think of our posts. This has certainly helped my students understand the power of social media and has created many incredible connections for my students with classes throughout the world. I can’t tell you how pumped and overjoyed my students were when they listened to you and Stephen talk about what they are doing in the classroom (think Junior Water Walkers, The Snowflake and Shut the Box). It’s simply something I never dreamed of only a few years ago.

I have tried my own podcast a few times and have been a guest on a number different podcasts. Noa Daniel’s P3 was one of my favourites.  I do enjoy the experience as it’s a great way to connect, converse, challenge my thinking and push me out of my comfort zone. My podcasts are anything but perfect and there’s many time when I wished I had said more, less, or had chosen my words differently. Then again, as I’ve been learning…learning IS messy and it’s never going to be perfect. I’ve found that it’s really hard to commit the time to schedule a podcast with someone else. Derek and I have been dabbling with a “slowcast” or “pocket podcast”. We’ve been using Voxer to have an ongoing conversation that we’ve been wanting to have for some time. Eventually, I suspect Derek will publish it. I’ve enjoyed this conversation with Derek as it has given me time to reflect before responding.

I’ve also created a podcast series with my class. That’s been great fun! It’s kind of an “off the cuff” series. We podcast when we’ve had an “ah ha” or feel we want to quickly share our thoughts and conversation beyond our classroom. In fact, we ended up podcasting with Mr. Rhodenizer as well as Mr. Shreffler’s class from Florida. I do know that the parents of my students really enjoy listening to their kids’ discussions as well!

I also have found that having kids podcast (or voice record) their writing or math thinking has been a game changer in my classroom. Tools such as iMovie, Quick Time, Photo Booth and Flipgrid has been amazing to help my students get their ideas down in a different format. Flipgrid allows kids the opportunity to respond to one another as well. In fact, I’ve done workshops in different cities and have had teachers give feedback and input using the power of these same tools. Now that I’m thinking about it, platforms such as D2L and Google Classroom allows my students to share their writing with one another as well as their parents. In turn, they can comment and engage. In essence, they are helping to push one another’s thinking and incidentally, making one another better writers.

And then there’s platforms such as Google Hangouts. I use this type of platform all the time to connect, meet and share with educators from all over the globe. Sometimes the meeting are recorded for sharing and sometimes they’re not. M.A.D PD is an example of how technology has been used to allow people to share and learn together regardless of geographic location at zero cost. Stephen Hurley has continued the conversation beyond the single day in May when we host MADPD and is now engaging presenters in a “MADPD Spotlight Series” where on every Saturday morning though out the year he is interviewing one presenter and digging deeper into their M.A.D idea. And so, the conversation continues. Within the classroom my students have used Google Hangouts to connect with explorers, scientists, conservations, photographers, etc, etc from all over the world. Sometimes our conversations are private, one to one experiences and other times they’re recorded with many classes participating and engaging. My students have presented about being in a “connected classroom” to teachers spread over 5 countries using Google Hangouts. Come to think of it, I’ve presented a keynote virtually, when I wasn’t able to attend in person, due to unexpected circumstances.

So, in short (hold on…..this is really long!), I agree with you! “At this point, I can’t see dropping one for the other. I think they complement each other nicely.”
In fact, I think they build off one another and will continue to move us all forward, bringing us to other platforms and allowing us to be comfortable trying them.

By the way, my students’ biggest complaint, at first, is not liking their voice or seeing themselves on camera.

We have to teach them to love themselves just the way they are!


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Updates! Nokomis and the Junior Water Walkers

Hello Junior Water Walkers and Friends!

I just wanted to provide you with a few updates and thank each of you for your support of the #JuniorWaterWalkers, a collective effort of classes throughout the world to continue Nokomis Josephine Mandamin’s water walk.

As you know, Josephine has Parkinson’s disease and has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Please assure your students that Josephine’s heart is warmed knowing that so many children care about nibi (water) and want to “do something about it”.


To date we have seventy two classes signed up to be Junior Water Walkers! WOW! Just WOW! We are rapidly closing in on our goal of 100 are we’re thinking that we’ll far exceed it!

As discussed with Josephine, how you and your class proceeds with the Junior Water Walker is totally up to you! We simply ask that you follow the 4 pillars: LEARN. ADOPT. PROTECT. WALK. As well, please make every effort to try to involve the Indigenous community in your area, whenever possible.

Please continue to share what your class is doing using our #JuniorWaterWalkers  hashtag and on our Google+ Community.  A simple introduction from your class and a note on which body of water you are “adopting” would be great! It’s simply beautiful to see all the classes taking care of water!

My class and a few others will be taking part in a water walk through the Great Lakes of our own using the book “Paddle to the Sea”. If you’re interested in joining check out the link: “Let’s Paddle to the Sea”.

Please consider challenging another class (or more) to join our  Junior Water Walkers to honour Nokomis and protect water. Here again is the Junior Water Walkers website. Please share via all types of social media.

FINALLY…. THIS JUST IN!  As I was writing this post, Josephine contacted me about setting a date and planning for our global Junior Water Walk in the spring!!! We have Friday, May 24th 2019 set as the tentative date! We look forward to Josephine walking beside us and with all the other Junior Water Walkers throughout the world!

On behalf of Nokomis Josephine,



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Let’s Paddle to the Sea!

Learning is a journey.  The sharing of stories is probably the greatest source of traditional learning.  Story telling comes in many forms; oral, written and video. Today, the ability to share stories has never been easier, thus the opportunities for learning are endless!

As a young student, I fondly remember watching the National Film Board’s Paddle to the Sea. It’s a story about a young Anishinaabe  boy who carves a wooden replica of himself paddling a canoe. The story follows the journey of the little canoe through the Great Lakes to its eventual destination; the Atlantic Ocean. The video connected me to the Great Lakes and opened my eyes to a world beyond Thunder Bay and Lake Superior. I loved the film, but couldn’t access it beyond the one day we watched it at school. Over time, I forgot about the story.


Fast forward almost 40 years to a gift shop across Lake Superior from Thunder Bay to Wisconsin and  Big Bay State Park, This is where I rediscovered “Paddle to the Sea” and an unbelievable learning journey was  set in motion. I shared the book with my young son and eventually, with people I was connected with throughout the world. Read more about the incredible journey in a recent blog post “Blue Gold”.

Part of the Blue Gold journey included reading “Paddle to the Sea” with my class and sharing our learning though our class blog and Twitter feed.  Mr, Chidiac’s class from Waterloo, Ontario joined us in sharing their learning. You have to check out his blog post that chronicles our collaborative learning journey. It really is amazing what we can do in classrooms today!

So, the point of this post? Let’s Paddle to the Sea together!  On November 12th, join Mr. Chidiac, myself and our classes as we journey back in time to journey with Paddle down the Great Lakes to the Atlantic ocean. Along the way we’ll meet many incredible people and visit some amazing places! There are many cross curricular connections and you just never know where our learning will take us!

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In this shared doc you’ll find many ideas and resources that I like to use while reading Paddle to the Sea. Please feel free to share yours! If you’re on Twitter, share your class learning using the hashtag #Paddletothesea and on our Google+ Community!

If you’re interested in joining us, add you class to this form so we can add your pin to the map and connect with you!

We’re looking forward to paddling with you!

Mr. C and TheMADClass

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Blue Gold

This is the story of Blue Gold.

Version 2

It is also the story of Nibi.

It is my story. It is my father’s story. It’s my son’s story. It’s my students’ story. It’s my friends’ story. It’s Nokomis Josephine Mandamin’s story.

It is our story.

I have always had a strong connection to water. In fact, it is what connected my father and I. We spent many wonderful days exploring and fishing the creeks and rivers that flow into Lake Superior. The Black Sturgeon, the McIntyre and Cedar Creek were some of our favourites. It was on these waters that I learned about my dad and I learned about myself. Water also connects my own son and I; we continue to visit the same waters my dad and and did some 40 years ago.


As a young student, I fondly remember watching the National Film Board’s Paddle to the Sea. It’s a story about a young Indigenous boy who carves a wooden replica of himself paddling a canoe. The story follows the journey of the little canoe through the Great Lakes to its eventual destination; the Atlantic Ocean. The video connected me to the Great Lakes and opened my eyes to a world beyond Thunder Bay and Lake Superior.

Water also helps me to connect my class, to help them understand their place in the world and realize just how great the Great Lakes are. I now bring the story  “Paddle to the Sea”  to my own class. I also harness the power of technology to help my students track Paddle’s journey in  “real time” via Google Earth. In March, my students represented Lake Superior, from the perspective of living in Thunder Bay, during A Kids’ Guide to Canada’s Kids Meet the Great Lakes  virtual tour of the Great Lakes.

Although there was never a doubt that my students had a firm understanding of just how great the Great Lakes were, something was still missing. I always struggled to find a way to help my students understand that they were also at risk. It’s a hard concept to grasp when you live on the largest freshwater lake in the world. It seems so vast, so endless, so untouched.

Two chance opportunities allowed me to bring to my students the knowledge and understanding that I believed they were missing. Google Earth and a fabulous team of educators allowed me to bring Blue Gold to my classroom and Nokomis Josephine Mandamin brought Nibi.

My connection to Google Earth and National Geographic Education allowed me to visit Google Headquarters in Chicago and Seattle to participate in two “Hackathons”  and  eventually work with an incredible team of educators (Joel Charlebois, Afzal Shaikh, Jessica Walsh and Brooke Whitlow) to pitch an idea for a Teacher Authored Voyageur story which we called “Blue Gold”. Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 7.14.32 PMThe idea was to have students use Google Earth to take a modern day journey down the Great Lakes; to help them understand just how great the Great Lakes are, but also to realize they are at risk. The story ends with a call to action.  Our idea was voted the story “Most Likely to Change the World” and we learned it would become the first TAV to be launched on Google Earth. The launch would take place at ISTE during the last week of June! The team was excited to say the least! The rest of the team would be at ISTE for the launch, I however, would still be in my classroom. But I couldn’t wait to put the Voyageur story in the hands of my students and watch them navigate “Blue Gold”. What they would find within it would be sure to amaze, challenge and inspire them!

Amazingly, water also connected me to Josephine Mandamin.

It was a cool, overcast day in late April when my son Kai and I decided to take our exchange student Renaud (from France) on a short bike ride around a small lake that connects to Lake Superior via the Current River.  We wanted him to witness our Great Lake Superior and the giant that sleeps within it.

As we were riding, we passed a woman dressed in traditional Anishinaabe clothing, carrying a staff in one hand and a copper bucket in the other. I’m not sure either of the boysIMG_3366 (1) noticed her but she caught my attention for just a moment. We continued our ride, stopped atop the dam which connects Boulevard Lake to the Current River and eventually empties into Lake Superior. We showed Renaud the Sleeping Giant and tried to help him understand just how vast Lake Superior was. As we mounted our bikes and began to ride, the mysterious woman with the copper bucket appeared again. This time, as we passed, my son inquired about who she may be and what she might be doing. As we rode, I suggested that we could stop, turn around and  he could ask her the very questions that were on my mind as well. The moment passed. Opportunity lost.

And then it happened! On a Saturday afternoon in mid May I opened the Ontario College of Teacher’s Professionally Speaking magazine and this is what I found….

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Could this possibly be the mysterious woman Kai, Renaud and I had seen on that day in April? I had to find out. I needed to hear her story. I needed my child to hear her story. I needed my students to hear her story. We had to connect! So we reached out. Within 24 hours we had found The Water Walker.

Nokomis Josephine Mandamin’s story is simply incredible and inspiring. One day a wise ogimaa told her: “In your lifetime, the day will come when an ounce of water costs more than an ounce of gold. What are you going to do about it?” Josephine acted. Along with other women, men and young people, Nokomis has walked around all of the Great Lakes to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi (water). Nokomis is a difference maker. Personally, I compare her to a modern day Terry Fox.IMG_3367 (1)

Ironically, Josephine is from Thunder Bay. I simply cannot explain why I have not heard her story until now. But now I know, my child knows and my students know Nokomis’ story. I read “The Water Walker”, written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson. Nokomis loves Nibi and she wants to bring awareness of the importance of protecting it. My students and I were so inspired by her story that they made a video to share their thoughts and feelings with her. We have also podcasted about Josephine in our M.A.D (Make A Difference) Podcast series.

The “Water Walker” ends with a question, similar to one that I often ask my students….

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Nokomis asks…. “What are YOU going to do about it?”

To honour Nokomis and to help her protect Nibi my students and I had idea to become “Junior Water Walkers”. We would pick a body of water that we would “adopt” and work to help protect it. We reached out to Joanne to see if this would be an initiative that she thought Josephine would appreciate and this was her response:

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We were excited to share our idea with other classes and even more excited to learn that they would join us in adopting a body of water of their own!

My students and I just had to meet Nokomis in person! We invited both she and Joanne to our classroom. The school year was coming to an end and we were running out of time, but amazingly we found a day that worked for everyone. On Monday June 11 we would connect! While I was making arrangements to have Nokomis visit our classroom, Emily Henderson, Program Manager of Earth Education Outreach contacted me to ask if Google Earth could come to our classroom. Although I couldn’t be at ISTE for the launch of our Blue Gold Teacher Authored Voyageur Story a team from Google Earth wanted to visit  our classroom! The only day that could work? June 11.

On June 11 Nibi…. water…. Blue Gold brought us all together.

We are hoping that other classes around the Great Lakes, across Canada and throughout the world will be as inspired by Nokomis’ story as we are and join us in becoming Junior Water Walkers to honour Josephine Madamin, continue her walk and protect Nibi.

So we ask: “What are you going to do about it?

To add you class to the Junior Water Walkers map simply fill in this Junior Water Walkers form!

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My “New” Learning Space!

June 16

I’ve spent the last 22 years of my teaching career in the same classroom; I count the years by the number of class pictures on my wall. I have transformed it into a learning space that I am completely happy with.  It is an efficient and effective environment where my students are content, relaxed, happy and eager to explore, create, question and learn. I’ve recently been informed that I’ll be moving….to a portable classroom.

I’m not going to lie, at first I was disappointed. But as I’ve always said to my students: “When one door closes, at least two others open”.  I’d be a hypocrite not to heed my own advise. In fact, I’m  quite sure my new portable will have two doors!!! I’m looking at this  unexpected change as a new opportunity to grow, learn, collaborate, share and create an even better learning space for my students than the one that took me 22 years to establish.

I’ll be moving the furniture, desks, mats and equipment you see in the video above to my portable and hopefully, a SMART Board will be installed. A set of 10 Chromebooks have replaced the cart of Macbooks. I’m excited about some new ideas that I have for my new space. As we’ll only be one step away from the outdoors and space will be limited in the classroom, I plan on spending much more time having my students work, learn, play and collaborate outside. Thus, I’m hoping to acquire a class set of lawn chairs, a portable whiteboard and mini white boards for each student.

I’m reaching out to my PLN for your advise and experience with teaching in a portable classroom. What works? What are the advantages? What suggestions and tips do you have? How have you set up your “portable” learning space? Do you take advantage of the close proximity to the outdoors? Can you provide me with a picture or two of your classroom? Please take a moment to fill in this form to help me build my new learning space. I plan on sharing my learning journey and any input provided. If you don’t teach in a portable and never have, please pass this blog post onto someone you know who has! I’m looking forward to learning from all of you and thanks in advance for your help!


June 17

Well, it’s been 18 hours since I posted and the response from my PLN has been incredible! Thank you!

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Here’s some of my new learning, questions and thoughts…

I am now officially referring to my new learning space as “The Cottage” until my new class in September decides on a name.  I will be inviting my students to help co-create The Cottage and determine how they would like to structure their school day. More outside learning will definitely happen. I think I’ll keep the mats but also ask for a carpet. Wondering what teachers experience is with bringing personal furniture into the classroom (for example, a coffee table or a chair)? Lawn chairs and small student whiteboards are high on my priority list. I’ll want to bring in a portable blue tooth speaker. As many of you know, technology is an important component of my learning space. We normally share our 10 Chromebooks with another class to make a class set of 20 (minus 6 or 7 as we have classes of 27) for half the school day. Sharing was relatively  easy as the class we shared with was directly across the hall. Sharing of the Chromebooks will prove more problematic.

Suggestions? Ideas? Thoughts?




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