Day Three: Full STEAM Ahead: Hungry for Science Encourages Young Engineers!

It was day three at the VSO School of Music Spring Break Camp and it was jam packed with fun!


We read “A House Like That” by Kari-Lynn Winters. This poem in “Hungry for Science: Poems to Crunch on” really lends itself to movement, discovery, experimentation and building.

Beginning with some drama warm ups, we created different structures, such as the ones mentioned in the poem, using our bodies; a great activity for building teamwork and collaboration. We then used vocal sounds and body movements to build a machine incorporating elements of drama such as extension, expression and levels. See full set of instructions at:

A true highlight was building our own take home structures using common household and craft materials and of course, marshmallows. I loved watching how each student created something completely different! They were faced with all kinds of obstacles and questions that they had to work through themselves.

They had to name their creation, discuss its uses, make it freestanding, so pieces had to balance, think of symmetry and so much more. Each student did a presentation at the end, introducing their structure to the rest of the class.

You can make your own rules for this activity! It can be done in groups or as individuals. You can provide criteria such as you must have triangles in your structure or that each group/participant is given the same, limited amount of materials and must build from there.

Materials could include: modeling clay, toothpicks, marshmallows, Dixie cups, paper, wooden skewers or popsicle sticks, glue…


Enjoy the process! And try not to eat all of the marshmallows!

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Using Crayon Resist and Math Poetry to Explore the Seasons: An Easy, Accessible Activity to Accompany Reading “Cycles” in “Hungry for Science: Poems to Crunch on”


It is day two of my spring break camp with the VSO School of Music. Invigorated and enlivened by the  smiles and enthusiasm of the young students enrolled in the class, I find myself inspired at the end of the day.

I am far from a visual artist but I do, as children do, like to play with art materials without having to be perfect. I found this activity to be relaxing, easy and inexpensive. Everyone could be a success!


First we read the poem, “Cycles” from “Hungry for Science: Poems to Crunch on”. We then explored, using drama and movement the kinds of things we liked to do in each season. We played versions of “Freeze Dance”, created tableaux and spoke in role to generate ideas. This led to a good brainstorm of activities and images that we associated with each season. I wrote these on the board, demonstrated how to do the crayon resist activity and away we went!

Materials:Crayons, watercolour paints, paintbrushes, water and water containers, plastic table cloth, paper towels, plain white paper or watercolour paper.

How to: After brainstorming images for each season, have students draw their image, in crayon on a blank sheet of paper. Make sure they colour heavily and leave some white space. When complete, have them paint over top of their image with watercolour. The paint should not really stick to the parts covered in crayon, it resists the wax. Allow them to dry and voila! Beautiful artwork!

Extensions: Have students write a math equation poem to go with their artwork. They can write this before they draw their pictures on the bottom of their sheet, preferably in marker or sharpie. An example might be: Sun + Sand = Beach!

Students can also create their own set of artwork by creating an illustration for each season.


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Hungry for Science Featured at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music

The science of sound and the lyricism of poetry are a great fit for young music lovers.

The VSO School of Music hosted full and half day exploratory arts camps for children this past week and I was one of the mentors!

I was part of a team of world-renowned performers and educators who were committed to keeping creativity and curiosity alive over Spring Break by designing a flexible arts camp for children in Kindergarten – Grade 3 with the VSO School of Music. Children explored the instruments and music of an orchestra in Sounds of the Symphony; relaxed and got centred in a Kids Yoga session; made foundational music skills fun in a Mini Music Makers session; learned about the science of sound through Storytelling; and heard what their voices were capable of with Singing Games.

Each of my sessions began with a reading from “Hungry for Science: Poems to Crunch on”. On day one we began by exploring the science of sound through movement. We read, “Hungry for Science”, “Ring Zing Pound” and “The SENSE-ational Brain”.

After learning the basics of drama and how to tell stories using their bodies with games like “Dance Party”, “Walk Like”, “Lead With” and “Step In/Step Out”, we built and played our own wind instruments. Everyone went home with their very own, custom designed kazoo!

Here’s a link to a video on how to make one out of elastic bands and popsicle sticks.

It was great to experiment with what happens when you force air hard though the instrument, what happens when you blow softly, to discuss sound vibrations and to find out how to make music (also known as noise in this case).

Stay tuned for more great “Hungry for Science: Poems to Crunch on” art and science ideas for your kids, yourself or your classroom! If you would like specific instructions on how to play the drama games, please contact me directly!


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Remembrance: Turning the Page to Peace

Some things you may not know about me:

-I cry most times when Canada’s national anthem is played

-I watch the television broadcast version of the Remembrance Ceremonies from Ottawa every year and have done since I was little. I also watch the ones broadcast in British Columbia. In addition, I attend the hour long school Remembrance Day ceremonies at Brighouse Elementary

-When Remembrance Day was an actual holiday in Ontario, my mother would line us all up in front of the robin’s egg blue clock in the kitchen, its electric cord hanging down, to stand in silence for a minute each November 11th, marking the time as it ticked away.

-As a small child, Remembrance Day scared me because there was so much talk of those who had died, it was a bit ‘scary’, especially in its silence.

Every year, I work with students to compose poems and essays for the Royal Canadian Legion’s writing contests for youth. Last year, two of them, Aaron Lu and Andrew Li went all the way to the provincial level for judging.

Most of my students were not born here, yet in living here they are part of our collective history, which includes remembrance. Most of them, when asked to compose on that theme, come up with a blank. “I can’t write poetry. I have no connection to that part of our past…” But I push.

I share my experience of visiting Vimy Ridge and the beaches of Normandy. I show photos of places, people and memorials. I ask, “What does remembrance mean to you? How do you remember? What do you remember? How do you mark November 11th?”

Using images, such as the one below of Memorial Hall at Canada’s National War Museum, or the statue called “Wait for Me Daddy” in New Westminster, BC, they ponder, question and write. They are always surprised by where their imagination takes them and how their words evoke emotion from others.

The Royal Canadian Legion, in hosting this contest every year, and by featuring the winners laying a wreath in Ottawa, are also evoking remembrance. They seemed to be looking for students to make their own connection, not only to wars of the past, but to peace.

This is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, an agreement meant to solidify peace and this theme has been poignantly incorporated into each and every Remembrance Day ceremony, from the artwork at Brighouse Elementary, to the words of Major-General Guy Chapdelaine (Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces) at today’s ceremony in Ottawa, ““Peace is more than tolerating one another, peace is recognizing ourselves in others and realizing that we are all on the path of life together. Lay down our own weapons of exclusion, intolerance, hatred and strife. Make us instruments of your peace that we may seek reconciliation in our world.”

Images below are of artwork created by Brighouse Elementary students for their Remembrance ceremonies.

I want to feature a poem by grade 9 student Nancy Lin this year, as she puts herself in a different time and place to share her own thoughts on war and peace. She is such a great talent and it is a privilege to be one of her mentors. On this day of remembrance, peace to all…

Memorial Hall – November 11th

By: Nancy Lin

I am in Memorial Hall, a place of quiet remembrance,

I wonder when the light will hit the headstone.

I hear the indistinct whispers of ones who have also come to witness this rare event,

I see the words that mark the lone artifact.

I want to place a poppy in the unknown soldier’s honour,

I am moved by the powerful silence.

I pretend I have met you,

I feel your presence as the light hits the stone.

I am touched by your contribution to our nation,

I worry that you think your courage went unrecognized.

I cry for those who knew you,

I am grateful for your sacrifice.

I understand the true meaning of remembrance standing here today,

I say a silent prayer for you and for those whose lives were also cut short.

I try to envision your last moments,

I hope that you’ve found peace,

I hope you know you are in our hearts,

I hope you know that light shines on you today.

In remembrance.


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Book Birthdays Galore!

This fall launches some fabulous new student writing. Ivan Sun and Andrew Li, two spectacular young authors, both now in grade six, are well seasoned.

The novels they wrote feature time travelling characters who get wrapped up in mysteries and mayhem everywhere they go! Here is a sneak peak at their books and some insight into their process. I am proud to experience them grow as communicators, as creators and to see how their imaginations and passion for stories guide their writing.

As for this year…that page, er…novel is yet to be written. Stay tuned!


Interview With Award Winning World Class Author Andrew Li

Written by: Ivan Sun

What inspired you to make a sequel for The Adventures In the Magical Book?

A: I felt the story was not over yet and I wanted to write another book with the same characters so they could continue with their adventure.

What made you choose different settings for your characters to travel to?

A: I chose these specific settings because every one of these settings had something significant that tied up to the characters there. They had to achieve something interesting or challenging there.

Since you stuck with the same characters how did they change throughout the book?

A:  Honestly they did not change too much but in the first book they had already experienced traveling through time and knew how to handle problems but in this book they faced new and harder challenges that required the assistance of other characters.

Was coming up with new ideas for different eras hard?

A: Coming up with new ideas for different eras wasn’t very hard because I always have lots of ideas in my mind. When I plan for a different era I keep track of good ideas but it was tricky to choose one at the end for my final idea. This idea for the new era must fit in with new characters so that I can create a good set of problems.

In your opinion, what was the most interesting era you wrote about?

A: The most interesting era I wrote about was the last era known as the American Revolutionary period because this era was a really challenging setting for my characters to complete their duties. I was also very interested in the history and people of the time.


Questions for Ivan      Responses written by Andrew!!!!!

Q: What made you choose to create new characters?

A: Well, I wanted to make my story more exciting and I wanted to add a twist to the plot, so I could add tension to the story and a create a mystery about the disappearance of the original characters.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: I really enjoyed writing novels; I mean books. I took writing this book as a challenge to try to make it better than the first book.

Q: What strategies did you use to make your writing more vivid?

A: I didn’t use strategies, I just simply used my imagination and sat down and finished writing the book chapter by chapter. I also substituted boring vocabulary for rich vocabulary.

Q: Which was your favourite part of the book?

A: My favourite part of my book was when I wrote the cliffhanger at the end of the story when they were in another parallel dimension. My favourite setting research wise was probably for the Underground Railway and for the first European settlements in Eastern Canada.

Q: After you wrote this book, did you feel like you could have done anything better in some places?

A: Yes, definitely, as a writer the more you write and the more experience you get, the better you become. Even if you consider me very good at writing, I will always have something to get better at and can never be perfect; that I believe.

Happy book birthday you two!




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Write On! A Summer Publishing Marathon!

For many years now, each July, I have designed and taught a course called Book Publisher through Summer at St. George’s. Eager young writers and illustrators sign up for a two week adventure into writing, illustrating, editing, designing and publishing their own books. It has become so popular that it attracts young people from all over the world, some of whom have been returning for more than five consecutive yearsIMG_6978

The rubber hits the road (or rather the pencil hits the paper) pretty fast here, as you can imagine, with only two weeks and three hours a day to plot out adventures for their characters or to research non-fiction topics that fascinate them. I am always amazed that we begin with a blank sheet of paper and end up with everything from books about forms of energy and cute puppies who stop bullying at puppy school to extensive novels about creepy spirits that inhabit abandoned factories and take over human bodies (shiver…)

It sure is a marathon though! A two week version of the 48 hour novel contest for kids! Some arrive full of ideas and some arrive with none. All leave with a sense of confidence, pride and a hardcover book that they created themselves.

This year, in July, we published 34 books! That’s more than a book for each day of the month! Our young authors had plenty of extra support. Ciara, Boyden, Mathias, Raj, Miya, Jamie and Reina, recreation leaders and volunteers were on hand to encourage, engage and inspire students. Much of the success of our marathon was due to them.

The diversity of stories and the mastery students had of language was amazing! There were stories about pixie like creatures who lived in trees and their adventures as they sought to save their homes from humans cutting them down. There were rags to riches stories about how a few magic fireworks can change your destiny. There were pig detectives and ghoulish mysteries. We even coined a new genre…traumance…the thing that happens when romance and trauma meet!

Below are some student designed illustrations and covers. To of my July Book Publishers I say, “Right on and write on!” I have no doubt that we’ll see some of these names on major literary awards some day soon.

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Hungry for Science is Here!!!!!

I love book birthdays!

It makes for an up kind of week with plenty of anticipation!

I was up every time I heard anything like a UPS truck approaching; up when my package finally arrived at the door and up when I took in Kari-Lynn Winters’ and my words paired with Peggy Collins’ vibrant illustrations in Hungry for Science Poems to Crunch On for the first time. Literally, I did a happy dance! Words, images and colours all leapt off the page!

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There were more ups to come! On Canada Day I surprised my friends by showing them some hot off the presses copies of Hungry for Science and they surprised me with impromptu readings, performed in character voices that had us all in stitches.

My favourite moment was when one of my youngest friends, a book lover, sat beside me and ‘experienced’ “Scary Mary’s Garden” for the first time. He squealed and giggled and curled himself up in to a ball to escape Mary’s hissing plants as they photosynthesized. His delight and suspension of disbelief were contagious. The energetic words of the poem brought out his sense of play (and mine too) as he acted out some of its stanzas, jabbing and prodding as if he were one of Mary’s zombie faced hybrids.

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So…if you need something to CRUNCH on this summer, if you have some budding scientists in your home, or are looking for ways to keep young readers HUNGRY for learning…then be one of the first to pick up a copy of Hungry for Science Poems to Crunch On by Kari-Lynn Winters and myself, Lori Sherritt-Fleming with illustrations by Peggy Collins,published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside.

You can purchase it, and its sister book, Hungry for Math Poems to Munch On in bookstores across North America as well as on Amazon or directly through Fitzhenry and Whiteside. It is LOADS of fun!

Thanks to Kristi Zahora for the great photos!!!!

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