Seniors and students bond through storytelling project

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
~ Betty Friedan, writer/activist/feminist

It’s true that youth learn from their elders.

Grade 11 students at Innisdale Secondary School are learning with local seniors as part of a school project – and the seniors are learning too.

Eleanor Alexander’s social science class interviews members of the 55+ Club at the Allandale Recreation Centre. The students prepare questions and interview the seniors to learn about changes in social institutions such as the family, schools and the workplace. Four weeks later, the elders visit Innisdale to watch students present their reports. They also have a chance to chat, share stories and socialize.

“It’s heart-warming to see the interaction between youth and seniors – they definitely learn from each other’s stories,” says Eleanor. “There always seem to be bonds that form during this project and the smiles that come from it are priceless.”

This activity, which has been happening for the last six years, is part of the Introduction to Anthropology, Psychology & Sociology course at Innisdale. The course provides students with opportunities to think critically about theories, questions and issues, and develop an understanding of the approaches and research methods used by social scientists.

Choose Kind: What I learned from deaf/hard of hearing students and the movie “Wonder”

Last Wednesday, I was honoured to join a group of over 100 Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) students, staff and parent volunteers at a special screening of the movie Wonder. Based on the New York Times bestselling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome who starts middle school for the first time. August encounters bullying, new friendships and ultimately teaches those around him that it’s ok to be different and that it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts.

The students attending were deaf/hard of hearing, so this version of the movie at North Barrie Cineplex was specially ordered to be open captioned for students. What’s the difference between open captioned and closed captioned? Open captions are always are in view and cannot be turned off, whereas closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer.

I spoke with Rebecca Flowers, a Grade 5 student at Portage View Public School, about the book and the movie. I was able to communicate with Rebecca via her Interpreter, Kendall Salazar, who used American Sign Language to ask Rebecca questions.

Student holding "Wonder" movie poster
Rebecca shows off her “Wonder” movie poster

“I read the book as well, but liked the movie better,” said Rebecca. “My favourite part of the movie was at the end when Auggie got his award.”

Some of the SCSDB’s Hearing Resources Teachers (HRTs) accompanied students on this special field trip. HRTs are centrally-based special education staff that provide assistance to all schools and support students with hearing loss throughout the SCDSB. The Hearing Resource Team is available for consultation with students, parents and staff.

Melissa McKee is a Hearing Resources Teacher who helped organize the movie trip.

Before the movie began, Melissa encouraged the students to use captioning and advocate for it. She told students: “What makes us different is what makes us awesome, just like the characters in Wonder.”

The movie was heart-warming, inspirational and is a must-see for all humans. And bring the tissues – it will bring you to tears. Numerous times.

Choose kind. Embrace different. Be a wonder!

~ Melanie Rumley, Communications Officer

28 Hyde Park students travel north to Moosonee to create bond with Indigenous students

Twenty-eight Grade 7 and 8 students from the Free the Children Team at Hyde Park Public School in Barrie are returning from a trip that they’ve been planning for months, and it’s one that they’ll never forget.

The purpose of the trip was for the students to learn about truth and reconciliation directly from people vs textbooks. Moosonee Public School has a student body comprised of 98 per cent First Nations or Métis background, and many would have family that experienced residential schools.

To prepare the students, guest speaker Yvonne Morrison, Education Officer with the Indigenous Education Office in Barrie (as part of the Ministry of Education) came to visit the Hyde Park students and gave them a sense of what life has been like for Indigenous youth in northern communities. Yvonne hails from Moose Factory, Ontario and shared her knowledge and experiences.

The teachers and students at Hyde Park had learned that resources were lacking at the school, so significant fundraising took place in order for the students to bring much needed sporting equipment and books to Moosonee. The students also took it upon themselves to have special commemorative Orange Shirt Day t-shirts made to distribute to the students and teachers at the school.

Shannon LeBlanc, Grade 6 teacher, and Sheena McRae, Grade 8 teacher (now Student Success teacher), at Hyde Park Public School were involved in the initial planning of the trip and will continue this relationship with Moosonee Public School to ensure connections and learning continues to take place for years to come.

“These kinds of ongoing and long-term projects are great examples of how to put reconciliation into action,” says Alison Bradshaw, Principal of Indigenous Education, Simcoe County District School Board.

Kathy Whitley, Principal of Hyde Park Public School received a touching letter this week from one of the teachers/parents from Moosonee:


Linus woke up this morning and put on his new orange shirt (though he said he was perhaps not supposed to bring it home) and it reminded me of why this day is so very important.  Because a little girl was not allowed to wear her orange shirt at residential school and all that had transpired in those places, we remember the kids and support the survivors.
The shirts are BEAUTIFUL!  

I can’t thank you enough for all that you and your school have done for our community.  It touches my heart, both as an educator that deals with the fallout of residential school daily and as a parent.

Please thank the kids and the teachers for their support.  I had an amazing time at the feast, especially chatting with your students.  They are remarkable kids.  
The commitment of your teachers is amazing.  They are quite forward thinking and obviously hardworking.  They put the kids first and that is evident.  

Please do come again.  I feel it’s bridging these gaps that is fundamental to understanding.

My heart is truly full!  I am headed to school today with that and THAT is a great way to start a day!  

-Sam (aka Shelley) Hamilton

We are very proud of the teachers and students for doing their part in learning and participating in truth and reconciliation. You have made an impact in Moosonee!

Goodfellow PS students build Habitat for Humanity models

Goodfellow Public School in Innisfil recently partnered with Habitat for Humanity Huronia to build model homeless shelters that may be built for communities in the future.

Students in Mme. Bojmelgrin’s and Mme. Prim’s Grade 6 and 7 Extended French classes used skills learned in math, language and science to create three prototypes that were presented to Humanity Huronia’s Construction Manager, Robert Cikoja.

Cikoja was so impressed by the students’ ideas that he offered to work with the school to build models of the mobile homeless shelters. The models may eventually be built in large scale to help local communities.

Goodfellow PS students and the mini shelters they constructed.

Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help families build strength, stability and independence through affordable home ownership. The organization’s simple premise is that no matter who we are or where we are from, we all deserve to have a decent life.


Gifts for our Tiny Teachers

Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration 2017

On May 29, the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) celebrated our sixth year of Roots of Empathy, a unique program that brings a Tiny Teacher – a baby in their first months of life – into elementary classrooms. The 2016-17 school year saw Roots of Empathy in almost 30 SCDSB schools, led by volunteers, SCDSB staff and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) Public Health Nurses.

This year we celebrated the remarkable contributions of all of our Roots of Empathy instructors, families and babies with a picnic at the Education Centre. Hope Park, a volunteer instructor who has been facilitating the program in the SCDSB since 2012, was honoured for five years of service with the program. Director of Education Steve Blake and many SCDSB superintendents of education were in attendance to meet and thank our little ones and their families, and acknowledge the power of the program and the work of all of our Roots of Empathy Instructors.


Roots of Empathy is an international evidence-based program that started in Toronto. By observing the growth and development of the baby and the attachment between the baby and their parents, students in Roots programs learn to be more caring and empathic global citizens. Since 2000, the program has been evaluated in numerous independent research studies, which have shown that children who participate in the program demonstrate decreased aggression and increased social and emotional understanding, empathy, knowledge of parenting and pro-social behavior (e.g. sharing, helping and including). This program supports our board’s work to ensure equitable, inclusive, safe and caring schools.

For further information, please contact the Roots of Empathy key point persons for the SCDSB, Stephanie Ross and Denise Cole, at