The Brighouse Story Fence: Part 2: The Big Paint!


Joe in our woodshop prepping the wood.

What happens when you lay some groundsheets, pour some paint, purchase brushes and schedule 400 students to create in an outdoor studio? A “Paint fest!”

We were lucky that the weather held for us and we had beautiful, sunny days to paint the final versions of our community fence artwork.

A splash here, a dash there and smiles all around. Primary colours were mixed and painting shirts donned. This was the busiest, most tangible and most exciting part of the Story Fence Project thus far. For weeks, students had been asking, “When can we paint?” Now students lined the tables in a flurry of creativity, all fully engaged in the joy of artmaking! From their blank canvases of wood emerged the story of their community. EVERYONE was an artist. We had themes such as Musqueam, Who We Are, Old School/New School, Habitat, Transformation and Farming/Agriculture. We learned facts and familiarized ourselves with the unique features of life along the river. I was personally inspired by the poems written collaboratively in the voices of the children that explained each segment and by moments where students, accompanied by their E.As, incorporated their handprints into the design, reinforcing the school motto, “Samuel Brighouse Elementary: Where Everyone Counts”.

Personally covered in paint from head to toe, I was as joyful and proud as each of the student artists through the weeklong painting process. Teachers, principal, vice principal and parent volunteers joined in. We kept the area pretty much spotless so the ‘mess factor’ did not impact the school grounds or building in a negative way. When the painting was complete and the artwork dry, it was sent to SD38 to be varnished and drilled. We now await its return before we move on to Stage 3: Hanging Our Outdoor Gallery! Stay posted! Thanks again to ArtStarts Artists in the Classroom grants and to the staff and PAC at Samuel Brighouse Elementary for making this happen!


Young artists at work!


Works in progress! Yes, we do have beavers, owls and snow geese in our neighbourhood!

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Canada Culture Days 2016!

This year, across Canada there were over 8000 events across the country.

Every year, I create an event for Canada Culture Days to celebrate the art of writing!  This year, hosted by the Richmond Public Library, Brighouse Branch, we had an exceptional time!  Check out the photos below of some of the poets that found their voices with a little text, a little glue, some magnets, scissors and crayons!


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The Story Fence at Brighouse Elementary: Phase One

The Story Fence is nearing its completion.  This is the story behind the story fence.  A huge shout out goes to ArtStarts Artists in the Classroom and to the staff at Brighouse Elementary, especially Mr. A who helped to make this fully engaging and artistic project a reality.

It began with a conversation, a winter garden and a vision.  I approached Mr. A with the thought that I could be their Artist in Residence and what this would involve.  He wanted something that the entire school could participate in and that would capture the voices and cultures that made up his community.  We were both staring at the community garden at the time.  It occurred to me that the fence was laid out like the pages of a picture book.  “Why don’t we make a story fence?” I suggested.  “It could tell the story of the community and beautify your grounds.”

Several meetings with staff and PAC later, we submitted our application with fingers crossed.

The Story Fence is a full school infusion project that involves many modes of learning and creativity, collaboration and engagement. Samuel Brighouse Elementary students and staff have built and planted a community garden on the grounds of their school. The Story Fence is a legacy project that will beautify the school grounds and tell the story and history of the community for the current generation and generations to come by adorning the chain link fence surrounding the garden with the ‘story’ of how Brighouse has evolved as a community since the mid 19th century. Thematically and visually it represents the past, present and future intertwined with community building. Students and teachers will all contribute on some level to the development, design, creation and mounting of the painted and weather resistant wood motifs on the fence. They will also help to write the story that will be depicted on the fence in words and images. There is opportunity for some to act it out or create a song or dance piece/flash mob that recounts the story on the fence. All will have a hand in designing and painting the images that will be cut from wood and then mounted. When complete, the fence will read like a picture book and will stand for many generations to tell the story of how Brighouse came to be and what its hopes and vision for the future hold.”

When we had finished our happy dances after receiving the grant, the real work began.  I had to collaborate with 15 teachers and include the work of 400 students, come up with themes and stories, cut the wood, have the students paint it and then display it on the fence.

Each class chose a theme and in my class visits, we wrote poetry (to tell the story of their theme) did research and designed panels with images for the fence.  We then measured and laid out on pieces of paper, our proposed design.  Step one was complete.



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Interviews With Young Authors

It has been my pleasure to mentor some young authors this past year, honing their creative writing skills and bringing their work to publication.  Ivan Sun and Andrew Li are both in grade three and Aaron Lu is a grade six student.  Today, we launch their anthologies, chapter books and novels!

Ivan wrote, “Ivanworks:  An Anthology of Great Literature”, Andrew wrote, “The Great Space Race” and Aaron, “The Rookie”.

What better way to celebrate than with an interview.  Below, Andrew and Ivan interview one another on being young authors.

Interview With Andrew

Ivan:  Andrew, what inspired you to write, “The Great Space Race”?

Andrew:  Lori encouraged me to write my best and I chose space as my theme because space is very interesting and there are a lot of unknown things about it.  I could imagine my own planets and create them.

Ivan:  Why did you choose one obstacle to be a labyrinth?

Andrew:  A labyrinth is a very scary place.  You could be frapped in there forever.  It is a very dangerous setting and it keeps my readers interested because the characters are in danger.

Ivan:  Was it hard to write your book?

Andrew:  It was hard because I had to write thousands of words and edit it myself.  I had to write about a lot of characters.  I learned how to write longer stories and keep them interesting.


Interview with Ivan

Andrew:  Ivan, what was your favourite part of the book “Space Camp”?

Ivan:  My favourite part was when Adrian met Bloop De Blah Blah the president of all of the aliens.

Andrew:  Why did you write the book?

Ivan:  I wrote it to encourage readers to like adventures and to let their imaginations go loose.

Andrew:  Describe the main characters in the story “The Lost Necklace of Cleo Patra”.  Why did you choose them?

Ivan:  The two main characters are Grandpa and I.  We were royal mice.  Grandpa was the main character because he had magical hieroglyphic powers.  I was also a main character because I discovered the lost tomb of Cleo Patra in the story.


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In the ‘Zone’ at the Surrey International Children’s Festival

People got in touch with their inner poets in the Poet Zone, a concept I initiated this year at the Surrey International Children’s Festival.  We cut, pasted, collaged and created many brilliant works of found poetry, Todd Parr Style Portrait poetry and blackout poetry.  I got to work with Surrey’s Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar, a very inspiring woman.  In fact, there was inspiration all around…so much so that they are thinking of expanding the activity into a larger space for next year!  Thanks to everyone who made this happen!


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Newest Video From the Rainforest

It has been a month since I was in St. Lucia and was so moved by the work of OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation, the local people and Canadian volunteers whose goal it is to improve and inspire the world, one word and one book at at time.  This video, made by Jason Lupish captures the energy, the transformation, the joy, the wonder, the beauty, the collaboration and the connection that is created every time we open a book, every time the Rainforest of Reading is celebrated.  I am proud.  I am moved. I am humbled.  Enjoy.

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Spendosaur Finds a New Home

There are moments that touch us, move us beyond words, moments that propel us into action.  My time in St. Lucia at OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation’s Rainforest of Reading awards was filled with such moments, some of which are only being digested now that I am ‘home’.  I feel as if doors and windows that I did not even know were there have been opened.  While immersed in the culture of the Caribbean, where people harmoniously exist on and incorporate the natural resources around them, all I saw and felt was joy.  There was not a single complaint, no sense of lack.  There was a oneness.  People didn’t need lavish homes, televisions, computers, designer ‘things’.  They didn’t need thousands of dollars in the bank…they had the moment.  There were no dollar stores, toy stores or even a lot of grocery stores.  The connection here was one of hearts and hands working together.

I think Spendosaur will like it here.  Many of us brought books to give away, many of us gave away much more.  What is easy for us to access in Canada,was a delightful treasure in St. Lucia.  One parent even told me that her daughter loved the book we gave her so much that she slept with it under her pillow to sweeten her dreams.

A young boy named Quamy had  been ‘following’ me around at the Vieux Fort festival.  He had his hand waving in the air when I asked for volunteers to help Spendosaur roar during our presentation.  He lingered after his session, came back to visit at lunch and asked if he could play with Spendosaur.  Of course the answer was yes.  He flew around the grounds holding him high, smiling one of the broadest smiles I have ever seen.  He shared him with his friends, always followed by a troupe of admirers for ‘he who held Spendosaur’.  At the end of the day, he visited again and asked if I would be selling my toys.  I said no, but upon examining Quamy’s face, I knew he didn’t dare ask for what he really wanted.

“You really like Spendosaur, don’t you?”

“Yes, miss.”

I paused.  Should I give him away?  This Spendosaur who had been given to me by a dear friend and who had performed in many shows with me over the years?

“Then you should have him.”

Quamy’s face lit up.  He could hardly believe it!

“Thank you miss!  Thank you!”

Before he ran off to show his remarkable treasure to his friends, I told him that he would have to brush Spendosaur’s teeth, keep him cool and that sometimes he ate a lot.  It was like giving a child away in some respects, but the joy that it brought was immeasurable.  I knew I could get another Spendosaur in Canada, but that Quamy would not find one in his home.  He would treasure him, and Spendosaur would love his new life with a child and community that would treat him like a special celebrity.  This simple act made a difference.  What difference?  We may not know for years to come, that will be Quamy’s chapter to write.

Quamy appeared again moments later, seeing that I was folding tables and chairs.  He and his troupe of friends without even a request, began to help me, all smiles, all heart.  My own heart is full of such memories of the Rainforest of Reading, of the spirit of giving that was prevalent there, of the hope that one book, one action can make such a deep difference.  Thanks to all, especially Sonya White and Richard Clewes for making all of this possible.



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