Find Your Inner Explorer

In my lifetime I have travelled across Canada, hiked for three weeks in Yukon and Alaska, backpacked across Ecuador, explored the beaches of  Hawaii, lived amongst the locals in Newfoundland, visited countless incredible cities in Canada and the United States and called Europe home for five summers.

Travelling, adventure and exploration is in my blood; it makes me who I am. I believe it has made me a better person; a better husband, dad, son and teacher.

When I heard of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions, there was absolutely no question that I would apply! THIS was a professional development opportunity of a lifetime!

I’ll never forget the day when my principal walked into The Cottage (it’s what we call my portable classroom) and told me I had to take a phone call in his office. National Geographic was calling to tell me that I’d be travelling from Seattle, Washington to Sitka, Alaska aboard The Quest via The Inside Passage for a two week adventure of a lifetime.

In March I travelled to National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC where myself, forty-four other Grosvenor Teacher Fellows and National Geographic and Lindblad staff would meet for a week of invaluable learning. Not only did I glean invaluable knowledge and skills in photography, videography, public speaking and leadership, I gained an incredible network of like-minded educators. Through a National Geographic online community and a more informal What’s Apps conversation we keep in touch  on a daily basis to share and support one another in the classroom and follow along in one another’s adventures.

In early May, myself, Alisha Lindsay and Kerry Hynes were the second group of Teacher Fellows to embark on our expedition. The first group had just returned from The British Isles.  Since our return, other Grosvenor Teacher Fellows have headed to, or are waiting to go to the High Arctic,  Central America, Antarctica and the Galápagos Islands.

The intent of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is to allow teachers to travel to remote regions of the earth and then bring their learning back to their classrooms. It’s a responsibility and opportunity that none of us take lightly. In the two weeks leading up to my expedition I had my students become my travel agents. I gave them my itinerary and each student picked a place that they would become an “expert” on. The built presentations on the various places I’d be visiting such as Victoria, Petersburg, Misty Fjords and Glacier National Park. They reported to their classmates and myself what I might expect to see and experience, any environmental issues associated with the location and “big” questions they might have. They built their learning into a Google Tour and called it Mr.C’s Voyage. Passage to Sitka! My travel agents did a great job preparing me for my expedition.

While aboard The Quest my students followed my journey carefully and virtually learned along side me. It was my turn to build a Google Tour; “Passage to Sitka” which allowed my students (and family) to join me through pictures, video and text. I also attempted to blog and provide updates through my Twitter feed.  An unexpected role that I took on was that of a teacher ambassador. I had countless discussions with staff and guests aboard The Quest about education today and how both teaching and learning has changed and evolved. I had the opportunity to do an evening talk on my “Connected Classroom” which was well received and created further conversation and inquiries. I’m happy to have remained connected with many of the staff and guests and have even brought some of them into my learning environment upon my return.

Speaking of my return. My colleagues were anxious to have their students learn about my travels as well and asked if I might share my expedition with the school community. It was an opportunity I was pleased to accept but also one that I didn’t take lightly. This was a chance for me to impress upon my whole school community. What message did I want to get across? What did I want them to learn? How would I take a half an hour on the second last day of school and turn into something that would be of value to our kindergarten to grade 6 students? I didn’t just want to entertain them with pictures and videos of whales, sea lions and bears. I wanted to inspire them.

I decided that I wanted to encourage each of them to find their own Inner Explorer. I didn’t want them look at my expedition aboard The Quest and see exploration as out of their reach. I wanted my school community to realize that I first boarded an airplane when I was thirteen and not again until I was twenty-seven. I wanted the kids to understand that my explorations began as a young child in my own backyard. I wanted them to know they didn’t need to board a plane or boat or travel in a car to explore. They had their feet and likely a set of wheels to seek adventure. Opportunities to explore are simply all around them and their wonderful city of Thunder Bay and surrounding area is a great place to start. I also wanted this message to come from others as well, so I asked my fellow Grosvenor Teacher friends to share stories of their first adventures.

On Thursday, June 27th at 2 pm I shared the following video with my school community.

I’m hoping every one of our students will find opportunities to explore this summer and I look forward to hearing about their adventures in the fall.

I’d love to hear how you create a sense of adventure and exploration in your classroom and how you encourage your students to explore.

Happy summer!


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A Day (or three) in the Life of this Grosvenor Teacher Fellow

I’m still trying to comprehend this opportunity that has been bestowed upon me. You see, I’m currently traveling aboard the National Geographic Quest with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. Alisha LindseyKerry Hynes and myself are in the midst of our expedition from Seattle Washington to Sitka, Alaska via the Inside Passage. I could never have dreamed of a more powerful professional development opportunity that will tremendously impact both my students and myself. In fact, the impact has been immediate.

To help prepare for my expedition, my students became my tour guides. They were responsible for becoming the expert on one of the fourteen locations I’d be visiting on my expedition and presenting their findings to their classmates and I. My students were excited to take on this role and dove into their learning. We created a Google Tour of everyone’s presentations and my students began sketchnoting their learning.

Though they were sad to see me leave for two weeks, my class knew they’d have many opportunities to follow along and learn with me on my journey.

And, now I’m here, one week into my two week expedition and my learning has been tremendous.

This morning, after breakfast and a beautiful black bear sighting, James, one of the many incredible naturalists, gave an extensive presentation titled “The Miracle Turned Monster- Ocean Plastics”. In the afternoon we joined him on a zodiac tour to look for and sample sea plastics, in the Klewnuggit Inlet. This evening he’ll share our findings with the rest of the guests.

Yesterday, the day started with Dall’s porpoises swimming off the bow of the ship and naturalist, Jill filling us in with invaluable pieces of information as watched and listened intently. Eric, Lindblad naturalist and photographer, shared a short presentation on how to make the most of our cameras on our smart phones. After breakfast Steve, another incredibly knowledgeable naturalist, taught guests about  bear behaviour, identification and safety.  We were then able to put our new knowledge into action with the sighting of three grizzlies off the bow of the boat!

After a hearty lunch, naturalist Jill shared an incredibly informative and engaging presentation on Inside Passage Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).  Guests then took part in two afternoon activities which included bushwacking through the British Columbia rainforest, sea kayaking or zodiac cruising. I went with the bushwack and followed with a self guided kayak tour. I learned an incredible wealth of information while tramping through the rainforest with  Eric, our naturalist, while on my kayak, I simply slowed right down and took in the beautiful scenery.


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After dinner  we were treated to a wonderful video presentation titled “Whale Windows” by renowned National Geographic whale photographer Flip Nicklin. Just as the sun started to set a pair of Fin whales graced us with their presence to cap off an incredibly wonderful day.


The day before last, I was invited to write the Daily Expedition report.

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I’m trying to soak it all in, to be present in the moment and absorb it all. At the same time, I feel a great desire and responsibility to share my experience with my family,  students and friends.  I wish they could be here with me. Luckily, the power of technology is helping me stay connected with them. My students are following along with daily updates to Mr.C’s Passage to Sitka Tour and my Twitter feed and I just got off the phone with family. Though they can’t be here with me, I’m doing my best to bring them along.

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Water Walking


There’s something special about walking by water.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent the better part of my life in, on or around water. Living inThunder Bay, at the head of Lake Superior, provides ample opportunity to experience water at its finest. Cascading over large slabs of granite, tumbling over waterfalls, trickling through a moss lined creek or lapping at a sandy shore, water does something for my soul. My understanding and respect for water came from my upbringing. My dad comes from a family of Scottish fly fisherman and for me, fishing was a religion and the water was my church.  It was at the water where I acquired a love and appreciation for our natural word.

And then, one year ago Nokomis walked into my life. On five occasions I was blessed with the opportunity to learn from her. She was an incredible woman, an Anishnaabe grandmother and a water walker. She walked 25 000 kilometers around the Great Lakes bringing awareness of the need to love, respect and pray for nibi.  Nokomis had such a deeper understanding and connection to water; one that we all can learn from. She was one of my  greatest teachers and I feel incredibly blessed that water connected us.

She inspired my class to become Junior Water Walkers, and, in turn 180 classes from around the Great Lakes, across North America and throughout the world are following in her footsteps.

Throughout the year Junior Water Walker classes have been learning about, protecting and adopting bodies of water in their areas.  You can check out the #JuniorWaterWalkers hashtag to see what many classes have done for water. I’ve also blogged about our learning here.

On Fridays in May, classes are now planning their water walk. Many classes have reached out to their Indigenous Knowledge Keepers to join and guide them on their walks.

Through Nokomis’ husband Andrew, I met three wonderful women, Sheila, Leanna and Kim who were mentored by Nokomis. In fact, I have come to realize that the last time I met Nokomis was the first time I crossed paths with Sheila and Leanna.

These beautiful women are the “For Love of Rivers Water Walkers” who are water walking to bring healing to our local rivers, where seven Aninashaabe teens have died. They will be walking on June 15 and I am honoured to join them. Together, I truly hope we can find healing.

In preparation for our school wide water walk, my teaching partner Melinda Shaughnessy, our principal, Tony Rizzo and our Junior Water Walker leaders learned so much from our new friends. Together, with guidance from Tesa Fiddler, our Native Resource Teacher and Joanne Robertson, author of The Water Walker,  we planned a walk that was incredibly meaningful and powerful while also respecting and preserving traditions, ceremonies and protocols.

It was a wonderful day where the For the Lover of Rivers Water Walkers” led our Junior Water Walker leaders, who in turn led the youngest of our Junior Water Walkers.  So much learning took place. There’s still so much more to do.


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Miigwech, Nokomis for teaching us all.

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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 ninety-three 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.

***Update: Our Water Walk was a resounding success on May 3rd! Read about our walk titled “Water Walking”.

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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