You Need Space to Write Your Own Adventure

Have you heard that some authors, when writing, use different coloured sticky notes to plot out their stories? They jot down ideas then make a timeline all around their writing space. Imagine miles (or kilometres) of neon pink, yellow and orange squares snaking around the walls of your room!

Well, author Kris Yang had a similar experience when writing his choose your own adventure book called, “Triton’s Adventures in Minecraft”. Every week, he had to compose two different endings to his chapter, which then often branched out into two additional endings.

The only way to keep track of all of his plotlines was to print the drafts out and tape them together to see where they matched up and to make sure there were no holes or omissions. In the end, Kris’ story took up a lot of space, as it slowly spread across the room page by page.


It took at least a year to complete his book. Kris’ advice to other writers is, “If you would like to write a book like this be mentally ready because it is quite a challenge.”

Kris kept himself busy with a variety of other writing during his choose your own adventure project. He researched and wrote a poem for the Royal Canadian Legion’s poetry competition taking several weeks to carefully compose it. The result…his poem won first place in the Junior Poetry Division both municipally and regionally. It went on to compete at the provincial level where it fared very well.

His poem is featured below. Research, diligence, old photographs, patience, paper, sticky tape, rhyme zone and the thesaurus helped Kris to achieve being both a winning poet and author of a unique choose your own adventure book within the space of a year. The teaser for his newest novel is, in his own words, “About a kid who goes to a new boarding school where ‘stuff’ happens.”

Paying My Respects

By: Kris Yang

Bodies never found

Maybe buried in a mound

Three thousand five hundred ninety eight

Took the hand of fate

On the ridge at Vimy.

Trapped in no mans land

Our heroes could not withstand

Seven hundred thirty three cut clean

They died at the scene

Battling at The Somme.

Raiding from the sea

They were ordered not to flee

Five thousand fought on France’s shore

Witnessed too much gore

On the beach at Dieppe.

Each year for one day

Our heartfelt respects we pay

To the warriors who fell for us

Whose bravery we discuss

On Remembrance Day.

I wonder what I’d do

If I were twenty-two

And had to face a war

Do things I might deplore

To protect my home.

As the bagpipes play

I silently pray

For those who bore the pain

So Canada could attain

Safety, peace and hope.






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Playful “Hungry for Science” Ideas for National Poetry Month!

It’s April and what better time to turn your thoughts to poetry as the cherry trees begin to blossom and people around the world experience an awakening as they sit, dreaming, their faces turned skyward under them. For my friends in Australia…well, you’ll have to wait a few more months…but enjoy the change in seasons all the same.


April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate why not read, write or engage your senses with the language and lyricism of haiku, cinquains, sonnets, free verse…the list is enormous. Why not take it one step further, publish your work and hold a poetry café for a few friends and family?

Recently, at my Spring Break Camps at the VSO School of Music in Vancouver, we had the opportunity to publish some “Hungry for Science: Poems to Munch on” inspired writing.

Our young authors read “An Elephant in the Classroom” and then built accordian books to take home. They wrote and illustrated their own stories or poems. The process is easy and the materials simple, the result…a class full of proud and creative students, with 100 different approaches as to how to get the elephant, unstuck.


Materials: Construction paper or paper that has a strong consistency


Glue sticks

Crayons, markers, pencil crayons, pencils, erasers

Link to how to make accordian books:

This is only one of the ways to make accordian books. My method is even simpler and has just a thicker paper cover, 8.5 by 11 paper folded in half (landscape style) and glued at the outer edges to create the accordian flaps. These papers are glued to the thicker paper cover and students write and illustrate inside. Extra hint, students can use a combination of collage and illustration to create pages in the book instead of just drawing them all.

This simple approach to publishing will have young writers and artists blossoming in no time!

For more details, give me a shout or send some samples of student publications, I am happy to highlight them!




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Planting Creative Seeds with “Hungry For Science” and the VSO School of Music

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are the seeds of today.” Chinese proverb.

In one of the final days of Spring Break Camp at the VSO School of Music we gardened our minds and used our hands to create works of art for our windowsills.

Scary Mary, of “Scary Mary’s Garden Tour” fame made an appearance. The kids loved that her horticulture was a fun and colourful version of ‘horrific’ (thanks Peggy Collins) and wondered if they could also grow zombie faced roses!

We acted out the poem, becoming different kinds of sharp toothed plants in Scary Mary’s garden. We brainstormed symbols of gardening and drew them on the board. We talked about the children’s experiences in gardens and the importance of nurturing seeds and the things they need to grow.


On to art! Using some of the symbols that we brainstormed, students used acrylic paint to decorate plant pots. You could even tie a math lesson in here (patterns). They were left overnight to dry, then we loaded them full of soil and some ‘secret seeds’.  I didn’t tell them what kind of plant would grow (mountain flowers), only that they would have to take care of them and see what popped up!

Materials: Terra cotta plant pots with trays, seeds (preferably fast growing), acrylic paint, paint trays or paper plates (for mixing paints), various sized paint brushes, water, cups, paper towel, plastic table cloth, if possible paint bibs,

What creative ideas will you plant?





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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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