2. A Kids’ Guide to Canada – PROJECT SUMMARY

(This is the 2nd post of 3)


(Revised March 2016)

“A Kids’ Guide to Canada – By Kids and For Kids” is a national project which aims to provide elementary students in every part of Canada and in all educational settings with an exciting opportunity to contribute to Canada’s celebrations of our 150th birthday in a lasting and meaningful way. It will invite students from JK-8 to connect with their peers across this vast physical and multicultural landscape, and to collaborate and create an online interactive Kids’ Guide to Canada which is truly made by kids and for kids. 

To honour student voice, an initial pilot project in the fall of 2016 will see elementary students from every elementary grade and every part of Canada participating in each step of the project design and field-testing process.

Then, beginning in January 2017, school-aged children from JK-Gr 8 will create digital artifacts to celebrate and introduce their home communities to their peers right across the country, and then post these on a national interactive map.

From a simple photograph to a complex mystery panoramic tour, students will be invited to honour and share anything of interest to them within their local school area – from their favourite hangouts, local landscapes and resources, common forms of employment, and famous historic sites – to favourite family activities, local cultural and sporting events, and community leaders with wisdom to share. The content will range as far and wide as our students’ imaginations and willingness to share. Digital citizenship and safety for students will be embedded throughout, while online resources will be provided for teachers wanting additional support in learning new skills in the world of connected education.

While this digital content will be visible to the public,behind the scenes, classes participating in the project will be encouraged to connect with other classes in order to pursue conversations and collaborative activities to deepen their learning together.

Which leads to the heart of this project. The project includes a special focus on connecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous students across Canada, especially those living in our more remote, marginalized, and northern communities. It seeks to help our very youngest Canadian citizens to create positive personal relationships with their peers based on mutual intercultural understanding, respect, support, and collaboration.

The world is changed one person and one relationship at a time. This project aims to help our youngest Canadians do just that.


  1. To provide an authentic and meaningful way for the children of Canada to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday – to use the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday to provide all elementary school-aged children with an exciting reason to learn about, celebrate, and share their home communities with the rest of Canada, focusing on the theme of Canada’s 150th celebrations: “Strong, Proud, and Free.”
  2. To provide an opportunity for Elementary students to discover and use their voice          – to truly collaborate in every step of the project’s creative process, and to help produce an interactive guide to Canada which is made by children and for children.
  1. To connect elementary students of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds                – with a special focus on valuing and connecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous  students with each other and their counterparts in the many diverse communities across Canada.  [see TRC Call to Action 85 ii ]
  1. To foster a culture of mutual understanding, empathy, respect, and collaboration amongst Canada’s youngest citizens  – to help school children meet and create personal relationships with their peers across Canada, in order to help dismantle our limiting and out-dated Canadian cultural stereotypes.   [TRC Call to Action 63 iii ]
  1. To support teachers across Canada implementing new pedagogies for connected learning, and developing the new cultural competencies needed for teaching in a global classroom effectively, especially as these relate to helping our students learn about, from, and with their diverse InuitFirst Nations, Metis, Francophone, Anglophone, and New Canadian peers.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action                                                                    #63 iii …building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.   #85 ii …continuing to develop media initiatives that inform and educate the Canadian public, and connect Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.


If you are interested in supporting this project, or helping to organize and promote this project in your area, please contact A Kids’ Guide to Canada  c/o  beachcat11@gmail.com

Posted in 21st Century Learning, A Kids' Guide to Canada - By Kids, For Kids, Change, education, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

1. A Kids’ Guide to Canada – By Kids, For Kids

(This is the 1st post of 3)

Well, we finally received official word last week from the Canada150 folks.

The project Ron Canuel and I submitted last May through the Canadian Education Association aimed at helping all the elementary school-aged children of Canada celebrate our 150th birthday next year in a meaningful way — with a special focus on connecting  our Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids with each other — was not selected as a national “Signature Initiative.”

So I’ve been really struggling the last few weeks over whether to try to pursue the whole idea relying on the leadership and help of teachers across Canada, or whether to just let it all go and let it die…

But I just can’t do it. The project’s received too much positive response and support from educators and non-educators alike all year long!

So knowing I have nothing else on my plate right now, and I’ll still be able to afford to eat (this was never about getting money), and hearing that the Canada150 folks don’t know of any other national education projects right now, or any connecting kids across Canada to celebrate together, nor any specifically connecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids…  For better or worse, I guess this is what I have to offer right now. And this is what I can offer right now. So I guess this is mine to do right now. I know my fellow teachers get it, and that they’ll help to make it happen for as many kids as we possible can.

 “I can.  I will.  End of story.”  

So stay tuned. With the help of a whole lot of passionate teachers from every corner of Canada, “A Kids’ Guide to Canada – By Kids and For Kids” — here we come!


Want to help?  Achieving a very big dream will need a very big team.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

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What a Difference a Mentor Makes!

We all know that mentors can make or break things for people at pivotal moments, and I’d like to pay homage to a most incredible teacher and mentor who literally changed my life.


Chuck Hopkins, photo via portal.unesco.org

It is late August 1973, and I’m suddenly informed that as a university co-op student, I’m not going to be allowed to re-enter the United States to work at Camp Storer Outdoor Ed Center in Jackson Michigan again in the fall. Suddenly I’m out of work, so I set to work!

Following the method of the day that is tried and true, I track down contacts by telephone, (even the idea of the internet is still 18 long years away!), and I begin typing out letters of inquiry to each and every outdoor education center in Ontario that I can find. And then, at 9:30 a.m. on that very first day of school, in the very first week of September, I receive a phone call at my parents’ home in Ottawa. It’s Chuck Hopkins, Principal of the Boyne River Natural Science School for the Toronto District School Board, located far across the province, in the wooded hills outside a small town called Shelburne Ontario.

He’s in dire need of assistants to fill in for 3 weeks until student teachers from U of T can begin their weekly placements, and he wants to know if I would be interested? Well yes, absolutely, yes I would!!!

And when he asks “When could I get there?”, can I really have said, “I can be there TODAY!”??  But yes, I really did.  Oh, to be that young again….. (-:

I pack a few clothes and catch a noon hour bus to Toronto, and another one on up to Shelburne, where Chuck’s wife Barb is going to drive into town and pick me up in the Boyne River van – and take me to “The Boyne”.

BoyneRiver.jpgAs I am riding that old Voyageur bus through the rolling hills of Caledon, enjoying those golden rays of late summer sun, I remember as clearly as if it were today, every fibre of my being is feeling like I am just zinging with static electricity. Not only do I know with absolute clarity that my life is about to change forever, I also totally know that I know! It is one of the most remarkable and self-aware moments of my life.

And it all turns out to be true.

As Chuck meets and welcomes me that evening, he and his Boyne River Staff warmly embrace me as a temporary group assistant, and I begin a 3 week adventure working with young Toronto students learning about their Canadian outdoors, and their place within it. And when those 3 weeks come to an end, Chuck agrees to allow me to stay on and complete my co-op term there at the Boyne, for free. For just room and board, I am able to continue working with some of the best teachers in the world, learning how to teach and help students learn both in and about the natural outdoors, and I begin to fulfil my deepest passion. There is nowhere on Earth that I would rather be. Because of Chuck’s faith in me, I am taken in and I become one of the Boyne River family.

There’s much more to the story, but for now, let this suffice.

Chuck, wherever you go in the universe, may you always know that whatever Cathy Beach is able to accomplish in this world, a significant element of that is because of you. Because you believed in me, and gave me a place to blossom, and to learn and grow.

You accepted me into your family, both personally and professionally, and you showed me a view of myself that I’d never even imagined. In so many ways, you changed the very trajectory of my life.

And the warmth of my affection and regard for you lives on in my soul, forever. 

Thank you.


~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Chuck has gone on to accomplish a lengthy list of amazing achievements in his lifetime. Besides starting both the Boyne River Natural Science School and the Toronto Urban Studies Centre, Chuck went on to become both a District and Curriculum Superintendent for the TDSB. And since retiring from the school board, he has worked tirelessly on a global scale for the United Nations and UNESCO for Environmentally Sustainable Development and education towards that end.  Chuck has been awarded many prestigious awards, and he currently holds the UNESCO CHAIR IN REORIENTING TEACHER EDUCATION TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY at the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



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