Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What to do on a Saturday Morning?

Oh, of course, you could sleep in but is that really going to happen? 

If not, the best antidote to the Saturday-morning-wanna-sleep-in blues is a great plan to keep yourselves and the little ones busy.  Below are some ideas, some have been mentioned in other posts, others are new to this post.  Try one, try them all....enjoy.


There aren't that many Saturday morning playgroups but these are worth checking out:

The Hilson Avenue Java Jumpers - what a fitting name, I love it.  Led by the ever energetic Jenn Whiten this group meets every Saturday morning from 10 till 1 at Hilson Avenue Public School.  You guessed it, coffee is served, and this weekend they have the added bonus of hosting a performance of Hey Buster!, the local Dads turned cool kids band!  Registration is through Dovercourt at http://www.dovercourt.org/.

Mothercraft playgroup - a quieter version of what is often a very busy weekday playgroup, it also features more Dads than usual, providing a sometimes welcome change to the "mom" buzz and a chance for the neighbourhood Dads (and moms too of course) to get together.  It runs from 9 to 11 every Saturday except on long weekends and except on the last Saturday of every month.  It's located on the second floor of the Mothercraft building at 475 Evered Avenue.(2 streets east of Churchill and just south of Byron).  For more information and to check dates, visit http://www.mothercraft.com/

The Library

Family storytime at Carlingwood Library - Saturday mornings from 10:30 - 11:10 am - we went to this regularly for years; it's pleasant, it's low-key, it's free and who knows you might get to sign out some books for yourself while you're there.  Regardless you're guaranteed to find new kids titles, meet some other parents and perhaps start a post-library coffee tradition at Carlingwood Mall.  Check http://www.biblioottawalibrary.ca/ for more details and to confirm dates.  No registration required.


Another typical Saturday morning "dad" activity - parent and tot swim lessons at Dovercourt http://www.dovercourt.org/


Drumming?  Yes, drumming.  And not just any drumming, it's drumming with "Baobab Buds" at Baobab Tree on Piccadilly.  This is a new group for parents and tots that is running for 4 weeks starting on January 29th (that's this Saturday).  The cost is $60 for the 4 sessions.

The class is described as "A hands-on class for parents and children aged 12-24 months, exploring sounds, rhythms and movement through the lens of Ghanaian drumming dancing and singing.  It's  Taught by Baobab instructor Julia Walmsley."  If you're not familiar with Baobab Tree check them out at http://www.baobabtree.org/ - they're a terrific organization that successfully blends music and international awareness for all ages.


The Ottawa School of Speech & Drama has classes ranging from pre-school drama through to musical theatre for 8-10 yr olds, all on Saturday mornings.  While parents are welcome to stay for the preschool class it is not required.  Check out the OSSD offerings at http://www.ossd.com/

Infant Massage

Mothercraft is offering a 3 week infant massage course starting on Saturday, February 5th.  Registration is required so please contact Mothercraft at 613 728-1839 to inquire as to space. 

Cherish the Child also offers infant massage as well as Sing, Rhyme and Sign classes at the Milkface location on Churchill Avenue.  Their offerings include a Dad Zone-ly version of the class to give Dads equal time with baby.  Check their website for more info at http://www.cherishthechild.ca/CherishTheChild/Infant_Massage_Class.html

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pre-school, Kindergarten and "Regular" School Registrations

Preschools: Registration for various neighbourhood preschools begins in February and continues throughout the year. Check out these great options:
Monday, Jan 24 - Friday, Jan 28th - kindergarten registration week for the Ottawa Catholic School Board.  For more information see http://www.occdsb.ca/

Monday, Jan 31st - Friday, Feb. 4th - This is the OCDSB special Kindergarten registration week. See http://www.ocdsb.ca/ or your neighbourhood school's website. Registration can of course also be done at any later time but the earlier the better - it helps with school planning and hopefully helps you secure the program you are hoping for.  The sooner you register the more likely you might be to get your choice of morning or afternoon. 

Tuesday, Feb. 22nd - Monday, Feb. 28th - OCDSB registration period for middle french immersion programs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter, Hockey, Skating....Indoors

Note: for information on outdoor rinks see this earlier post: http://kitchissippikids.blogspot.com/2010/11/winter-hockey-skating-outdoors.html

When I go to J.A. Dulude Arena, just on the other side of Carling, I go back in time to what seems to have been pretty much the same arena experience when I was 10 or so.  The same look, the same feel, the same smell!   I remember running around the bleachers, chanting cheers at the players, skating to '70's music and the smell of french fries drowned in vinegar.  I grew up in a really small town and frankly there wasn't that much to do so we made the most of what we had....often....and it was good.

So take your kids out for a skate,  lace up your own , circle around the oval and see what you and the ice still have in common.  I'm still working on my stops...

The neighbourhood's two main ice rinks are J.A. Dulude Arena and Tom Brown Arena.  Take advantage of the public skates, sign your kids up for skating lessons (through the City) or the West End Hockey League (WEHL) or rent the ice to host a birthday party or just to become the neighbourhoods favorite parent!  Registration for next year's hockey season starts in the spring.

The City does have 1, 3, 6 month and 1 year skating passes (child, adult or family) available at reduced rates for those who are frequent skaters.

JA Dulude Arena

J.A. Dulude, technically outside Kitchissippi, is located at 941 Clyde Avenue.  Basically just turn south off Carling right beside the big Canadian Tire Store (Cole Avenue), continue for a couple of minutes and you'll see Dulude on the left.  It's open year round and does have a canteen and skate sharpening.

There is also a big sledding hill - Carlington Hill - which is officially sanctioned by the City and which (if you want some trivia) was a downhill ski operation with tow lift for many years.  It's also a great hill if you want a climb (any season!).

Tom Brown Arena

My experience with Tom Brown is limited to the line-ups of the H1N1 clinics so I won't comment much, though like Dulude it had that same old-style arena feel...a good thing.  It's located at 141 Bayview Road, just off Scott Street and is open year round.  It offers skating lessons, public skates and hockey, hockey clinics and pick-up hockey.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Awesome Ideas from Your Neighbourhood Schools

Back to school and with that comes a new round of student council meetings at many Ontario schools. 

The current role of school councils was established by the Ontario government in 2000-1 when it took steps to ensure that parents, through their school councils, would have greater influence in their children’s education. Regulations confirmed the advisory role of school councils and stated that their purpose is to "improve student achievement and enhance the accountability of the education system to parents." (see Ontario, Ministry of Education, School Councils: A Guide for Members, at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/council/council02.pdf)

The exact role of Councils is open to debate and ranges from fundraising to school-parent communication.  What is clear is that they have a role and, depending on the school,  may be quite active, vocal or both.  On this topic see the recent article by Ottawa Citizen reporter Mike Pearson at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/School+councils+communication+with+parents+should+trump+fundraising+report/3760680/story.html

I read other school's newsletters and websites - they keep me up-to-date on what's happening in the neighbourhood - they're typically posted on school websites.  While I know there is a large umbrella organization - the Ottawa Carleton Association of School Councils - I prefer to take an approach that is direct and closer to home. 

What are school councils in our neighbourhood doing?  What is your school Council doing that you really like?  There are some great ideas out there and many parents who work really hard to make our schools a better place. 

I'd like to initiate a bit of a dialogue about what Councils can do.  To kick-off, I'm going to share a few of the ideas I've found.  I'd love to receive from feedback from parents of children at the other schools in the neighbourhood.

Have a Snowball Target

I love this idea though the photo doesn't appear on the current school web site so I'll have to check if the target's still there!

The rationale for the targets is simple, but to the point "Hilson school has two new snowball targets. Students take turns throwing snowballs at them. Why did they put them there? For the students to throw snowballs at. The two snowball targets are on the south fence. Students are only allowed to throw snowballs at the targets for safety reasons."


Parents at Broadview donated a Schockey game several years ago.  Never heard of Schlockey?  Check out this website from Canadian Intramural Recreation of Ontario:  http://www.ciraontario.com/content/schlockey2.pdf.  Not only does it provide the background and rules of the games but it also provides directions on how to build both a regular and a mini Schlockey set.

Aim for a Representative Council and High Parent Attendance

Sounds obvious but....in many schools less that 1/10 of families have even 1 parent in attendance.  

To address the challenge Devonshire's council decided to host a pizza and movie night for kids on the same night as school council meetings.  Older children help babsit and far more parents are available to attend.  Brilliant!

Make sure Children Have Food

Again, sounds basic but....Devonshire keeps cereal, milk, toast etc. on hand in case any children come to school in need of breakfast - this can happen for a wide variety of reasons and parents can let the school knows if their child might require the extra nutrition.  This is particularly important for schools with very early starts.

Make sure Children eat their Food!

Have children from the older grades act as lunch moniters. 

Both my school aged boys have gone through periods when they haven't eaten anything for lunch during the day (and a variety of parents, particularly of boys, commented on similar experieinces).  When asked, the boys told me they "didn't have time" - not true of course, but.....When I went into my son's grade 1 class at lunchtime I realized why he wasn't eating.  It was loud, everyone was talking, no one was sitting in their seats and it just wasn't a "mealtime" environment at all.  While a teacher was floating from class to class, it wasn't enough supervision. 

I've talked with a few parents at a variety of other schools (Devonshire (again!) and Hopewell) and they say the lunch moniter program works well.  The older student calms things down, the younger ones tend to look up to the lunch moniter and enjoy the company of an older student.  If something really critical (I have heard allergic reactions mentioned) or outrageous happens there's someone who can call the teacher.

Host Fabulous Fundraisers

Some examples (a few of which are very new) include:
  • the Gingerbread house fundraiser at Devonshire,
  • the Hilson Fall Foodie Fest,
  • the Chuchill School "Kidzone" shopping experience,
  • the Much Music Dance-a-thon at Broadview 
It's easy to stick with tried-and-true but branching out can bring more dramatic success!

Find other ways to raise money:

Partner with a local business for mutual benefit.  If you mention Devonshire Public School at the Collected Works bookstore on Wellington, they will give 10% of your purchase to the school in support of the school's refurbishment of the primary yard.  Collected Works hopefully gets more people buying locally at their store as a result.  Win-Win.

Apply for a Green Apple Grant worth $1000 from Metro Stores http://www.greenapplegrants.ca/.  A variety of other Ottawa schools have already participated and details of their projects can be found on the Green Apple website.

Reach Out

School's are not islands on to themselves but part of our very vibrant and family oriented communities.  They don't have to go it alone, nor should they.  If there are synergies to be gained from partnerships with external service providers, take advantage of them.  Before, after or lunch-time activities held directly at a school reduce traffic, maximize time and encourage both fitness and extra learning.  This isn't at the expense of the schools and doesn't take precedence over school activities but can be a welcome addition to broaden some otherwise great offerings by our teachers.
  • Dovercourt Recreation Centre runs a twice-weekly "Power Hour" of fun physical activities at Broadview for the primary students.  This supplements the variety of teacher-led extracurricular activities that are also available.  The classes are low-cost and are particularly popular through the coldest winter months when there are fewer yard activities.
  • Yoga classes and a chess club are offered at Devonshire by external service providers.  Fees are low and students sign up for 8-week sessions.
  • Several Ottawa organizations have programs specifically designed to be run in schools - either before, after or during the school day.  These include Radical Science (a branch of Ray's Reptiles), Mad Science and Starr Gymnastics.
  • Baobab Tree on Piccadilly is open to discussing group drum lessons with schools.  http://www.baobab.org/.
  • Photography (from providers such as Dovercourt which have cameras readily available from their own programming) and art classes for primary students are other options that seem particularly suited.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Update on Broadview School (Infrastructure)

Last week Broadview Avenue Public School was closed for a day when the boiler backfired.  It brought to the fore the issue of urban school funding and the (sometimes sad) state of our urban schools.   The school administration worked diligently to ensure the closure was as short as possible.  Council was instrumental in bringing the issue of school funding before the media and both CTV and CBC had excellent coverage. 

A few events / discussions are coming up in relation to this and I'll hi-lite what I know here:

  • On January 20th there will be what I understand is an open meeting at Devonshire Avenue Public School with Yasir Naqvi to discuss the balance between urban and suburban school funding.  I don't think anyone begrudges funding to suburban schools - or to any schools frankly - but the question of balance is an interesting one and some parity willl hopefully be forthcoming.  A number of schools in kitchissippi have been previously renovated or rebuilt - Hilson and Churchill to name two - but others (such as Broadview and Devonshire) are much in need.  I hear the bathrooms in both are comparable...in a bad way! 
  • One other useful piece of information - and, as I find again and again, another reason why I have an almost limitless respect for Dovercourt and its Director John Rapp - if your school closes, Dovercourt can be ready to take in kids on very short notice.  For the one day that Broadview was closed they took in 14 or so but could have handled 30-40.  They are a responsive and pro-active organization that does a lot for our community when needed.  Kudos to them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Broadview School Closure

My kids aren't going to school today because there is no heat.  Trevor Jones the school council president well describes the state of the school below.  Surely this should not be the state of education infrastructure in 2011.

"On Monday our basement music room was flooded when water burst out of a corroded steam pipe. This is the 7th time our music room has been flooded. Then early Wednesday morning both our boilers went out of commission, and now we're waiting at home while the board does its best to patch them up.

Broadview has 775 students in grades K-8 and serves one of Ottawa's oldest suburbs. We are blessed with a hardworking and inspired staff who deliver outstanding programs. The building, however, dates back to the 30's and is inadequate. The washrooms are grotesque. Stairwells are narrow and the school is not accessible in the least. The steam boilers, when they're working, have two settings - on (in October) and off (in the spring). Most of the time it is ridiculously hot. We have fans to hot air from the roof of the intermediate wing. And since heat is radiated, the air does not get circulated and is incredibly fetid by the end of the day.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board has, since amalgamation a decade ago, been focused on building new schools outside the greenbelt while letting its urban schools rot. Today's closure of Broadview Avenue Public School highlights the need to get serious about addressing this imbalance. "