History and Storytelling at Hopewell Avenue Public School

I went back to school yesterday -- back to my son's school, Hopewell Avenue Public School, where for all the years between Senior Kindergarten and Grade 6, I seem to have been there almost as many days as Jacob.

We did a lot of stuff together at Hopewell, Jacob and I. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings every second week, he was responsible for the pizza announcements over the p.a. system.  He would sing them, a different parody for every announcement in his boy soprano: 

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

There's pizza tomorrow -- 

It's only a day away.

The announcements became so popular that, from the age of 6 right up until he left the school at age 12, he was known as "The Pizza Man."

When he reached grade 6, Jacob had a remarkable young teacher just beginning her career, and full of interesting ideas on ways to different kinds of education experiences into the classroom.  Celyne Brunet continues to be highly innovative: every year she tries something new -- most recently a joint project with Carleton University's architecture program to teach her students how to build structures.

Back when Jacob was in her class, we worked together on a school musical based upon the travels of Anthony Henday among the Cree and Blackfoot -- the first time a Hudson's Bay Company employee had explored inland. We adapted various songs from the period, and the entire class of some 30 students took part. To the tune of Alouette, for example, the casts of French fur traders sang:

How we paddle

All day how we paddle

How we paddle

All the way from Montreal.

The musical proved such a hit that for the next two years, subsequent classes of grade six students would produce and perform it for the school.  But in the meantime, I was discovering that I loved writing this kind of historical piece for young people.  While we were working on the first production, I told Celyne that I had also started writing down some of the stories I would tell Jacob on our way to his hockey tournaments -- stories about a young boy who finds himself face-to-face against his father at the Battle of Lundy's Lane.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to bring those stories back to Hopewell School when Ms Brunet invited me to give presentations on the history of Canada to the grade 7s and ideas on how to bring stories to life for the language arts classes in grades 5 and 6.

Through this blog, I hope to share some of those thoughts and lessons in the coming weeks and months, but at the outset, I want to say that it was a great privilege to be back at Hopewell, working with "Madame Celyne" again, and absorbing some of the energy and enthusiasm of her students.