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September 16
UHill Elementary Playground Happenings

Just a reminder that almost every day is an outdoor play day during recess and lunch at University Hill Elementary School.  Classes also regularly participate in “The Outdoor Classroom” – this includes our new garden space with the Nə́c̓aʔmat ct (We Are One) Circle, The Butterfly Garden, The Pacific Spirit Park, Spanish Banks and the school fields.  Please be sure your child is dressed appropriately with waterproof rain gear and rubber boots.  It is time for much needed rain in our temperate rainforest. 

“There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”


We have received additional funding and programming from both the Vancouver School Board and our West Side Community School Team to support our students with outdoor play, in part due to the sudden removal of the intermediate playground due to safety concerns.  On Monday, all of the Grade 5 students will be meeting with Ms. Froese and the Community School Team to talk about involvement in the Peer Helper Programme. 


The Peer Helpers will:

·      Receive training on self-regulation, conflict resolution and facilitating playground games

·      Engage in goal setting with the Peer Helper team

·      Commit to working as a peer helper one or two days a week during the lunch time

·      Receive a certificate for their community service at the end of the school year


Interested Grade 5 students who are willing to commit their time and energy to being a Peer Helper will be given an application to complete.  Twenty-five applicants will be selected based on their application and possibly a follow-up interview.


The Reading Writers’ Club – Everyone Welcome

Place: Outside the multi-purpose room / lunchroom and the library

Recess, lunch, and during class with supervision

We are creating a beautiful space for readers and writers to read self selected books, research and write poems, stories and journals.  Currently we are hanging bird feeders and mobiles to attract some feathered friends for The Birding Bunch to identify.  New ideas and potted plants that can survive the winter are welcomed.


The Birding Bunch – Everyone is welcome

Meeting Place:  By the poster of birds in the Reading Garden (Outside the library)

Time:  Recess and lunch

We are fortunate at UHill Elementary to have a diverse range of birds.  The poster shows many of the birds that live in Vancouver.  It does not include eagles.  You will see them this year if you are looking.  Last spring on the day that the north-west field garter snakes came out of hibernation, there were 17 eagles circling just above our school.


The Green Thumb Gardeners – Everyone is welcome

Meeting Place:  Nə́c̓aʔmat ct (We Are One) Circle

Time:  lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday

All students in the school will be participating in Project Chef this year.  Students will be learning about food that we are able to grow locally, preparing, cooking and eating together.  Barb Findlay, who started the very successful Project Chef Programme, is committed to using the food that we grow.   


On Monday, we will be planting a garden bed of kale and another garden bed of herbs including parsley, oregano, sage, thyme and basil. Additional contributions of kale and herbs are welcomed.


We will also be creating a bed of lilies just outside of the daycare this week and transplanting the poppies.


Playground Structure Planning and Building Timeline:

This is the 2nd year that the B.C. Ministry of Education is funding playgrounds in British Columbia.  The VSB was asked to select three schools to build or upgrade playgrounds.  The VSB has submitted the proposal for a playground to be built at University Hill Elementary School to the Ministry of Education.  The Grant requested would be for $106,000.00 due to the plan to include accessible elements.    The Ministry of Education will be considering the proposals from all of British Columbia in January.  We anticipate the announcement of approvals will be at the end of January 2019. 


Once we have an approval from the Ministry, we are able to order and begin building the new playground.  For this reason, the VSB deadline date for the University Hill Playground Planning Process is the end of November 2018.  This will allow me to finalize and approve the plans in conjunction with the VSB staff. 


Thanks to all of the families for your input and donations to the Playground Building Project.  Special thanks to Jen McCutcheon and Leah Chapman for the time, energy, organization and commitment into making our future playground something that takes inclusion, physical fitness, opportunities for collaboration, creativity and play based learning into consideration. 


Check out the UHill Elementary PAC website for details of the recent PAC Meeting on Sept. 14th at 8:30 am, including donations to date and the latest and greatest fundraising happenings.  A grant proposal was submitted to the Federal Government in July for $14,000 to fund some of the elements to make the playground accessible.  Fingers crossed!​

September 09
Collaborative Practice at UHill Elementary

​Dear Parents and Guardians,

Thanks for your patience while we organize classes for the 2018-2019 school year.  Unfortunately we are losing some of our families from Saudi Arabia due to the recent political situation between the Canadian and Saudi Arabian government.  We also had 22 students register during the summer holidays and several students in the Norma Rose catchment that will be attending at University Hill.  As a result, we have needed to re-organize classes to be in compliance with the class size and composition language in our Collective Agreement.  

Students will be report to the classrooms they were in on Friday.  They will be moving to their new classrooms on Monday, September 10th, 2018.  Class lists will be posted in the foyer at 2:30 pm so you know where to pick up your children on Monday after school.  

You will note in the intermediate grades, the organization has four Grade 4/5 combination classes.  We are planning for this to support the development of leadership skills and collaborative practice with our oldest students.

The organization is as follows:

Kindergarten - Ms. Lori Freeze

Kindergarten - Ms. Andrea Morgan

Kindergarten - Michelle Jung

Grade 1 - Ms. Akemi Eddy

Grade 1 - Ms. Bonnie Dakin (M,W,F) and Mr. Paul Smith (Tues., Thurs.)

Grade 1-2 - Ms. Kate-Foreman-Ng

Grade 2 - Ms. Stacy Cargo

Grade 2 - Ms. Joan Phoenix

Grade 3 - Ms. Andrea McEwen

Grade 3 - Ms. Keri Hurst / Mr. Kyle 

Grade 3 - Ms. Janet Logie

Grade 4/5 - Ms. Megan Lowrie

Grade 4/5 - Mr. Mike Emerick

Grade 4/5 - Ms. Melody Ludski (M,T,W,F) and Ms. Gurinder Aujla (TH)

Grade 4/5 - Ms. Carina Marshall (every other W and Th, F) and Ms. Joanna Virvilis (M,T and every other W)

This is a reprint from my Inquire2Empower blog on Collaborative Practice:

Why Collaborate?

School provides amazing opportunities to redefine the prevalent understandings of learning.  With the advent of formalized schools, came the assumption that students were “empty vessels” to be filled with the requisite knowledge required for their success in the world.  Teachers were understood to be the gas station attendants responsible for filling the tank.  Fortunately our understanding of teaching and learning have both evolved.

Teachers spend their entire lives honing their skills so they can make content accessible to their students and prepare students with the resilience and strategies to access learning in all aspects of their lives.  This includes teaching students to work independently and collaboratively to problem solve and express themselves and their understandings in a variety of ways.

A successful learner is a person who is confident in their ability to find answers to their questions in a variety of contexts.  An undergraduate degree today demonstrates that the person has demonstrated the perseverance and resilience to bring a difficult task to completion.  There is an understanding that young people today will be working in several different jobs therefore it is imperative that students learn to generalize their knowledge.

Lessons from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are all structured to connect the background knowledge of the student to the learning being presented.   When students respond with “Oh, yeah.  That reminds me of …”, the teacher has the indicator that students are ready to proceed with the lesson.  The challenge is when that background knowledge is absent.  This is when we see the power of collaborative learning.

When students are able to share background knowledge and teach each other specific skills and strategies, the classroom becomes a community of learners.  When we do this with students in other classes, our school becomes a community of learners.  At the recent TEDxVancouver2018, Dr. Kevin Heyries talked about working collaboratively with other doctors to cure disease with antibody based drugs.  The expectation in a scenario like this, is that everyone is coming to the task with ideas, skills and a good work ethic to solve a problem they care about.  The challenge for teachers is how to structure collaborative learning experiences that are meaningful and develop the target skills.  In some cases, this will be demonstrating a concept or skill or ability to complete a more detailed project.  It will include students with a variety or skill levels, experiences and cross several disciplines (subjects).

My daughter bemoaned the “group project” in high school.  My son would tirade about the “bottom feeders” who refused do their part in group projects at university.  These were the projects where a group was assigned to complete a research report.  The students most motivated to demonstrate all of the criteria and get a good grade, took over the lion’s share of task completion.  A project was completed but collaborative skills were not developed.  Frustration emerged more than a sense of group accomplishment.

Project Based Learning has similarities but it is not the same as the old style of “group project” that many of us are familiar with.  Students are working in a group to accomplish a task.  However the role of engagement in learning is now better understood.  Old style “group projects” were designed for students to research and demonstrate understanding of a body of content.  The starting point for Project Based Learning is for the learners to define a question they care about and then plan how they will go about finding the answer.  Sharing the learning to an audience and answering questions makes it necessary to have a thorough understanding of the topic.   Self assessment by the student about his/her functioning in the group and goals for next time, ensure the student is invested in future development of their core competencies.

The curriculum in British Columbia is regarded as a model for quality education globally.  It has been designed by B.C. educators who are well known for their own collaborative practice and presents many ideas and supports for teachers to engage students in their learning.  The focus on student learning rather than mastery of a specific body of content is undoubtedly why so many students were so excited to be back school.

September 01
Creating Classroom Culture

Creating the culture of the classroom is an ongoing endeavour.  Each year teachers, some returning students and some unfamiliar students come together.  A wonderful school climate and a new curriculum are there to guide the process, but the teacher, students and parent community create the classroom culture.  The ultimate goal is to create a structure where the development of relationship and curiosity are not overwhelmed by other classroom demands.  For this reason, we take class building very seriously.

Our starting place in creating classes is the number of students in each grade which determines the amount of staffing we are allocated by the district each spring.  This decision is driven by the funding provided by the provincial government.  Our collective agreement, agreed upon and signed by management and the teachers’ union, guides the creation of classes by defining maximum class sizes and the numbers of students with special needs in each classroom.

Classes for the 2018-2019 school year were tentatively organized by the teachers teaching the students in June. They worked with the students for a year and know each child’s strengths and needs and have talked at length to parents.  Some parents submitted additional information about their child, either personally or in a letter to the principal, to inform the class building process.  Each classroom teacher completed an information card that was used in class building that includes academic achievement, social and emotional development, requirements for support, students who work well together or who are overwhelmed with the challenge of working together.  Teachers worked together to create balanced classrooms so that all students would have access to individual teacher time and attention.

Considerations in creating balanced classes included:

  • Class size
  • boy / girl ratio
  • Students with designations for special needs
  • English language learners and their level of language proficiency
  • academic achievement
  • social and emotional needs
  • requirements for resource or behaviour support
  • students who work well together
  • students who would benefit from being placed in different classrooms

**This is not a prioritized list

One of the greatest strengths of our school community is also one of the biggest challenges.  We have an international community that creates an amazing opportunity to learn first hand about different cultures.  However our school community changes frequently as work at UBC is completed and families return to their home country.   Our challenge is always to create welcoming environments for new students to make friends and develop skills at their level.  We want new students to be welcomed throughout the classes rather that all of the new students being placed together in one classroom.

Over the summer holidays, we had many students move into the catchment and several families move out.  During the first week of school, we determine the students who have returned and what spaces we have to accommodate students on waiting lists at other schools.  Then we need to reorganize classes to accommodate new students and maintain the balance in classes.  With good information provided by our families about missing students, we hope we are able to do this by the end of the first week of school.  Once students are in their classrooms for the coming year, the exciting work of developing a classroom culture begins.  Parents play a key role in helping their own children to embrace the positive possibilities of this new beginning.

The Kindergarten to Grade 12 school system provides a microcosm of society.  As students make their way through the 13 years of schooling, they will encounter a variety of personalities, interests and expectations from the people who teach them and their peers.  In order to be successful outside of school, they will need to learn to live and work collaboratively with a diverse range of people.  When we approach new situations with an open mind, the possibility of learning and developing new relationships expands exponentially.​

August 31
Welcome Back Newsletter #1


Welcome to the 2018-2019 School Year

August 31, 2018


Dear Parents and Guardians,


The staff of University Hill Elementary School is delighted to be welcoming your children back for the 2018-2019 school year from 9:00 – 10:00 am on September 4th.  Students report to their classroom from last year.  New students report to the library 9:00 am–10:00  am on September 4thso we can take attendance and finalize classes for the coming year.  New students can meet in the school library.  Students attend from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Wednesday, September 5th, 2018.  Kindergarten parents, please refer to your gradual entry schedule.  Our goal is to have classes finalized by the end of the first week.  Please ensure the office is aware if your child is not in attendance this week. Otherwise we will give the spot to other families wanting to attend University Hill Elementary School.

We are fortunate to have Ms. Michelle Jung joining our staff.  She brings a lot of background knowledge on place-based learning, assessment and hands-on learning, and will be a great addition to our dynamic kindergarten team.  Ms. Nicole Wells gave birth to a darling little girl and plans on returning from her maternity leave in spring.   We are also pleased to welcome Gabi Stan back to UHill Elementary to continue her work as an SSA and our new counsellor, Sara Urbauer.


Keeping our students safe is a number one priority. The entire district participates in a safe arrival program.  Please ensure your child arrives promptly to school each day.  This helps us to know they are safe and teaches them good time management skills for the future.  Please call the designated phone line at 604-713-5159 if you child is going to be late or absent and enter the UHill Elementary code – 89.  

Please be very cautious if you are driving a car.  The R.C.M.P. patrols this area and issues tickets to drivers not following traffic rules.  There is a drop off zone in front of the school for the convenience of drivers. Once your child has been dropped off, please exit this area immediately  to keep traffic moving.  The drop off zone is not intended to be a parking spot so please do not leave your car and block other cars.  The parking lot is intended for staff.  Walking or biking is the best option if that is possible.  Please see the document below created by the Staff - PAC Traffic Committee.

I encourage you to check the UHill Elem. websiteregularly.  I tweet regularly @UHillElementaryso you can see students with signed media release forms engaged in school activities.  I also regularly blog in the school news section to keep you up to date with school issues, ideas, activities and offerings.  The website has a plethora of information about important dates to remember, ordering lunches, participating in activities such as Choir for Gr. 2-5 students, and after school programs such as Lego Robotics, Free Kick Soccer, Chess Club and the newly added Art Class.

Our secretary, Corinna, will be sending out newsletters via email.  Our school is very environmentally aware and 99% of our population supplies us with one or more email addresses so we are able to minimize our paper use.  This allows our international population representing 33 language groups to use Google Translate to easily access school messages.  You are also able to access newsletters in the School News section of the school website.

University Hill is one of two schools in the district providing the full pay Lunch Smart Hot Lunch Program for $5.00 per day.  You are able to pay the monthly cost, a term or the entire year at one time.  More information will be coming home Friday, September 7th.  Although it is cheaper to pack your own lunches, this program provides the convenience of high quality, well balanced meals for your child.

If your children are attending University Hill Elementary, you are automatically a member of the PAC.  The Parent Advisory Council provide a vital role in ensuring effective parent-school communication.  Parents meet, talk, plan, fundraise, support teachers and each other.  Everyone is invited to participate actively or come and listen.  PAC members will be on site on the first day of school to introduce themselves. Please plan to attend the first PAC Meeting on September 14that 8:30 am in the multi-purpose room.

We are #1 on the list of three Vancouver Schools being submitted to the Ministry of Education for funding of an accessible playground. The Ministry is scheduled to consider submissions throughout B.C. in January.  The PAC is fundraising for additions to the playground beyond the base Ministry grant of $106,000.   In the meantime, the Primary soccer field has been reseeded and it will be opening in October.  We have also been successful in getting district funding for our Community School Team to organized large groups outdoor games and training for our peer helpers at recess and lunch.  We have sidewalk chalk, stencils and bubbles on hand and we are waiting for our new sidewalk games to be painted.  I’ll be starting a Bird Watching Club in September.  All ideas and thoughts are encouraged!

I look forward to a great 2018-2019 school year.  I hope to see you on Tuesday and monthly Tea with the Principal events (1stFriday morning of the month at 9:15 am).  

Sincerely, Ms. Carrie Froese, Principal

Note:  A hardcopy of the first newsletter will be sent home on the first day of school.  All other newsletters will be posted on the website and emailed to parents and guardians.  

The traffic information will be included in a post dedicated to Traffic Issues.
June 27
​Thank-you University Hill Elementary Staff

At the last Area Meeting of the school year for principals and vice principals,  our new superintendent of schools in the Vancouver Board of Education, Suzanne Hoffman, paused to deliver a heartfelt thank you to us for our work.  And it made a difference.  I believe that everyone gets up in the morning with the intention of making their little piece of the world better.  Amidst all of the joys and challenges that have unfolded throughout the year, I have been privileged to work with a great staff. I would like to share a few of the things I am grateful for. 

Thank you very much:

·      To Mike Emerick and Megan Lowrie for their commitment to teaching students to develop their physical skills for their health and wellness, as a strategy to regulate their emotions and as a way to break down the barrier between learning indoors and outdoors.  Mr. Emerick’s four years as a professional hockey player in Europe and Ms. Lowrie commitment to competitive soccer has enabled both of them to model athleticism and the joy of sport. 



·      To Janet Logie and Joanna Virvilis for using their background knowledge and artistic talents to develop art appreciation and technical art skills in their students.


·      To Joan Phoenix for bringing her vision of a Butterfly Garden into fruition.  It is a place of quiet contemplation, as well as a source of sustenance for the butterflies in the neighbourhood.


·      To Carina Marshall for her inspiration and recognition that a Project Chef  Resident Program for the entire school was a tremendous garden to table learning opportunity


·       To Jorden Covert for his leadership in enabling our students to develop new neural pathways through developing their ability to think, to plan, build and test their designs with a variety of technologies.  Computers. Ipads. Drones. Makerspaces – Inventing to learn is just so fun!


·      To Kate Foreman for bringing to life many of the elements of Reggio Emelio philosophy by encouraging learning through play and exploration with a wide variety of materials


·      To Akemi Eddy for the many interesting conversations about what matters and the skillful organization to allow it to become a reality for her students


·      To Lori Freeze for her work in empathy training by always asking the question:  Is it helpful or hurtful?


·      To Melody Ludski for her background knowledge and leadership helping our staff to explore place based learning and Indigenous ways of knowing


·      To Andrea McEwen for her leadership in bringing the salmon enhancement project and understanding of the life cycle to all of the UHill Elementary students


·      To Andrea Morgan and Nicole Wells for their work in supporting our youngest students to regulate their behaviour before trying to problem solve.


·      To Stacy Cargo and Keri Hurst for their masterful use of the smartboard in teaching new curriculum to their students.


·      To Marlis Macaulay for bringing her musical skills, energy and enthusiasm to breathe life into an engaging music program for our students


·      To Bonnie Dakin for welcoming me into her classroom community of books and warm smiles.


·      To Holly Broadland for inducting her students into the possibilities when you pick up an iPad


·      To Pam Schofield, Tanya Hadaway, Avonlee Kucheran and Paul Smith, Celia Lyons, Judith Conibear and Cathy Martin for their flexibility and collaborative work to support our students


·      To our Office Administration Assistant, Corinna Joyce, for her joy in entertaining our students with her bobbing head figures on her desk, her vast background knowledge, immeasurable work ethic and her ability to laugh loudly and to laugh often.


·      To Nancy Sanghera and Gurinder Aujla for going with the flow when they arrive to an ever changing landscape on their day of work at UHill Elementary


·      To our SSA (Education Assistants) Team, Michelle Clavelin, Gabi Stan, Maria Noel Stirling, Megan McLeod, Haidee Tang and Blair Wilson for their work to make University Hill Elementary School an inclusive and welcoming place. 


·      To our team of Supervision Aides, Kathy Anderson,  Nancy Spikula and Tomoko Johnson for the maturity and skill in helping students to regulate their emotions and problem solve, particularly during recess and lunch.


·      To our perfect lunch lady, Donna Buxton, for her kindness, patience and good humour in working with peer helpers to provide lunch to 150 students every day. 


·      To our Head Engineer, Lin Lo, for being proactive in addressing site management, working closely with our trades people and working with Jacob Nielson and  Raj Karan    to clean the school.


·      To our community volunteers, teacher candidates and education assistants from UBC, The University of Montreal, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Langara for being open to new learning and their willingness to share their enthusiasm and fresh perspective with our school community.  You feel like staff J


A heartfelt thank you to all of you and best wishes for a

wonderful and well deserved summer vacation.

June 26

Tonight the Board of Education of School District No. 39 (Vancouver) unanimously approved the proposed changes in grade configuration for the University Hill Family of Schools.  What does it mean? 

  • Fall 2019 – We will welcome Grade 6 students to the school community. 
  • Fall 2020 – We will welcome Grade 7 students into our school community.
  • Norma Rose Point will become a Kindergarten to Grade 7 school
  • University Hill Secondary will become a Grade 8-12 school.

Our students going into Grade 5 fall 2018 will continue at University Hill Elementary School for Grade 6 and then Grade 7.


The University Hill parent community represented the highest rate of participation in the grade reconfiguration public consultation.  There are diverse opinions and strong feelings.  For many parents and students this will come as welcome news.  For other parents, the news comes with concerns about losing programs and work spaces.  Please be assured that I will be working closely with staff, students, parents and our community partners to address concerns about the continuation of vibrant programs, scheduling spaces, development of a rigorous intermediate program and problem solving around parking challenges.


Grade 5 students will have many opportunities next year to develop their leadership skills which will help to develop a strong school community including:

  • Student Council
  • Lunch Monitors
  • Library Monitors
  • Peer Helpers

Please feel free to contact me with questions or ideas.​

June 25
Good News on Playground Prospects

​The Ministry of Education PEP (Playground Equipment Program) initiative is brand new.  The Vancouver School Board selected three names of schools to submit to the Ministry.  We are in priority position because our playground needed to be removed due to safety hazards.  We have also expressed the intention to make the school accessible so the amount to be allocated will be $105,000.00 

Parent donations towards the playground are being submitted daily.  We have already received just over $3,000.00   Your generosity is very much appreciated.


June 24
A celebration of Indigenous People on June 21st

A New Age of Joy & Optimism for Indigenous Peoples in Canada​


I love the picture of this little guy on the front page of The Vancouver Sun.  The sparkle in his eyes and the look on his face remind me so much of my son at that age.  With life comes the opportunity for grand adventure!  Joy is suppose to be part of every child’s life.  I hope that all things good unfold for this little man.  The title of the Vancouver Sun picture: “A New Age is At Hand”.  Colonialism did not work for the Indigenous people of Canada.  But there is hope and there is unprecedented optimism for the future.

A fierce pride in Canada’s accomplishments throughout its almost, 151 years, of nationhood is strong.  The realization that north of the 49th parallel, existed for thousands of years prior to confederation and the learning from the Indigenous people living there was invaluable.  This is now part of the national conversation.  Within the field of Education in British Columbia, there is a quest to embrace our history, even when it includes the shame of colonial structures and prejudice that allowed children to be separated from their parents and basic human rights to be ignored.

Summer solstice,  the longest day of the year, was chosen to be THE day to celebrate, recognize and honour the heritage, cultures and valuable contributions by the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada.  The Northwest Territories has celebrated this day as a statutory holiday since 2001 and The Yukon followed suit in 2017.  The day started with one of the teachers engaging me in a conversation of the use of “Indigenous” rather than “Aboriginal’ and the implications.  I had my phone out, googling, so we could determine why Metro Vancouver Celebrations were mostly using the word “Aboriginal” and “Indigenous” was being used on the national stage.   What was most respectful?  How do we explain the difference?  What I thought was indicative of this “new age” was  that it mattered.


One of our Grade 3 teachers, Janet Logie, is a committed student of history and volunteer at the Hastings Mills Museum at the Old Mill Park by Jericho Beach.  As a kid, my sister and my cousins, would regularly swing into the museum to check it out when we were at the park.  It still smells the same but the context has changed.  Amazingly intricate baskets and artifacts that were purchased as parts of private collections have been curated and recognized as significant parts of the history of Vancouver.  Recently there was a special event to publicly thank the Indigenous First Responders during the Great Vancouver Fire of 1886 who saved many lives.  Marissa Nahanee, of the Squamish Nation, performed the Paddle Song beside the replica of the historic “Tent City Hall” and volunteers served Indigenous herbal teas by Raven Hummingbird Teas in the museum. Our MP, Joyce Murray, brought formality, acknowledgment and thanks of the government.  It was a great event.  Our children are growing up being exposed to accomplishment and appreciation of the Indigenous community when they go out to play.


The focus on the herbs grown and used by the Indigenous people has been a focus for Grade 2 teacher, Joan Phoenix.  Our PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) financially supported her in designing and planting a butterfly garden that would attract the butterflies once the primary children had observed the life cycle indoors and freed them into their natural habitat.  Her parent volunteer, Sara Baren, fortunately teaches Urban Forestry at UBC.  She also enlisted the help of her student, Emily Tu, who has recently been accepted into a MA program at UBC in Landscape Architecture.  They were instrumental in helping Ms. Phoenix and her students to plant indigenous plants that would serve this purpose.  The Grade twos used books and iPads to research the traditional uses of the plants by the Musqueam and that are now widely available in grocery stores.


Our Grade 5 teacher, Melody Ludski, is currently doing her graduate work while teaching full time.  She has extensive background knowledge on Indigenous ways on knowing, as well as incredible sensitivity to the protocols required because we work, learn and play on the unceded lands of the Musqueam people.  To celebrate National Indigenous Day, Ms. Ludski booked accomplished Pow Wow dancer Shyama Priya, who has Cree roots on her mothers side.  She was taught by Coast Salish pow wow dancer, Curtis Joe.  She took the time to share the story of creating her regalia and engaged kids and teachers in dancing that reflected amazing skill and athleticism.  I was fortunate to go to a few pow wows with my friend, Latash Nahanee, many years ago and join in the dancing during the grand procession.  The only word for the heartbeat of the drum and the communal participation – Joy!  You could see it on Shyama Priya’s face and those of the children.


The Garden Committee, headed up by Grade 1 teacher, Kate, for many years has been planning an outdoor learning space.  Two portables were removed from our school site this year and the perfect opportunity presented itself.  Many teachers were very inspired by the idea of a circle with twelve large rocks for seating an entire class.  The size of the rocks and the placement to reflect true north, south, east and west were carefully planned and facilitated.  As a history major, I loved the possibility of reflecting Indigenous Culture as an early instigator of a democratic system.  Everyone has a voice in the talking circle and respect for divergent opinions is a basic tenet.   The Vancouver Board of Education was gifted a Musqueam word by Shane Point:  Nə́c̓aʔmat ct  It means ‘we are one’.  Our Nə́c̓aʔmat ct Circle will be a talking circle for problem solving, a listening circle to teach empathy, a way to incorporate medicine wheel teachings and understanding of the circle or life and the seasons and relationships with ourselves, others and Mother Earth.


The work of Laura Tait has been inspirational in helping our staff “to push the paddle deeper” in our School Growth Plan.  We will be developing and progressing through our own adapted version on the rubric based on her Aboriginal Understandings Learning Progression from SD68 Aboriginal Education.  I am so excited that another inspirational colleague, Joyce Perrault, will be helping us to navigate the path.  With her drum and her newly published book, All Creation Represented, we will be exploring the Medicine Wheel from an Ojibwe perspective  while sitting in our Nə́c̓aʔmat ct Circle.  The book states that it’s a child’s guide to the Medicine Wheel but with all I’m learning, the next hardcover, coffee table edition will be marketed to adults.  The book provides insight into relationships with ourselves, each other and Mother Earth.  I am feeling joyful and optimistic too.   We are heading out on a promising journey with optimism and joy and determination that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  will be respected in this chapter of Canadian history.

Note:  The phonetic pronunciation of nə́c̓aʔmat ct  is knot-sa-mots.

tagged ,
June 19
Let's Build A Playground

Dear Supporters of University Hill Elementary School (UHE)

In late May 2018, a safety assessment determined that our playground did not meet CSA safety standards,and would be removed this summer. This news came as a shock to our community, and a huge disappointment to students. As such, UHE parents began the uphill battle of raising funds to build a new playground. We have a strong commitment to developing a playground that is accessible to all children attending our school; a commitment that we are excited about, but that will increase the construction cost considerably. Most schools have several years lead time in planning for playground upgrades as such projects require a $100K+ (or up to $300K for a fully accessible playground) capital investment. I’m sure you can sympathize with UHE families and their determination to ensure that the 330 students and the local community, are not without a playground for too long.

The UHE PAC has some funds saved, and will be applying for a provincial grant, as well as all possible charity and accessibility grants. But UHE families will still need to fundraise a significant amount. Our mission is to build a play space that is accessible to all children and develop young minds and bodies by providing challenges that encourage creativity, collaboration, and exercise, as well as celebrates our unique surroundings of the Pacific Spirit Park and Endowment Lands of UBC on ancestral territory of the Musqueam People.

In order to bring our vision to fruition and hopefully in time for the 2019/2020 school year, we call upon UHE Families, our community and school supporters once again for your generous support. Please consider donating to The University Hill Elementary School Playground Fund and help make our vision a reality! No donation is too small!

Cash is welcome and cheques may be written to University Hill Elementary School, memo: Playground Fund. You may request a tax receipt from the Vancouver School Board for donations of $10 or more. Please include your mailing address when remitting your donation cheque. If you or your organization are able to make a more generous donation, please speak with a Committee member about how we may best

acknowledge your support. Smaller donations are also very welcomed!

Any questions may be directed to the Principal or Playground Committee members listed below. Thank you in advance for your support!


Ms. Carrie Froese                               Ms. Jen McCutcheon                                 Ms. Leah Chapman

Principal                                              Playground Committee Chair                     Playground Fundraising Chair​                                            ​

June 05
June 2018 School News

I​​t is that very busy time of year.  Special thanks to parents for coming out to support our kids in the many recent events, including:

  • ​Two amazing camp opportunities for our students thanks the above and beyond commitment of Mr. Mike Emerick, Ms. Melody Ludski, Ms. Carina Marshall, Ms. Joanna Virvilis, Ms. Corinna Joyce, Mr. Jorden Covert and the parent volunteers.
  • Playground Planning Meeting on June 4th chaired by current PAC chair, Jen McCutcheon for parents and staff.
  • Walk n’ Roll Week – Thanks to Musafa, volunteers at UNA, and parent volunteer, Aaron Canter for making this a great success.
  • Track and Field finals at Point Grey Secondary School.  Thanks to Ms. Carina Marshall, Mr. Mike Emerick, Ms. Tanya Hadaway, Ms. Megan Lowrie and Ms. Janet Logie for the early morning and after school practices and making this a possibility for our students.
  • Sports Day.  Thanks to Ms. Andrea McEwen for the coordination and organization, as well as staff and parents for their enthusiastic participation.
  • Grade 4 students completion of the Satisfaction Survey put out by the BC Ministry of Education
  • The emergence and freeing of the butterflies into the wild.
  • The creation of stepping stones and planting of The Butterfly Garden thanks to the vision of Mrs. Joan Phoenix and parent volunteer, Sara Barron, and Sara’s landscape architecture student, Emily.
  • Jump Rope for Heart coordinated by Ms. Andrea Morgan.  The total donated to this event was $1264.00
  • Spring Music Sharing with our students and the talented, Ms. Marlis Macaulay
  • PAC Elections.  We have an enthusiastic and supportive group of volunteers ready to work with UHill Elementary staff and students.  Thanks so much for your willingness to bring your energy to this important work.   


Upcoming Events and Activities:

  • PAC Fundraising Meeting chaired by Leah Chapman on Thursday, June 7th after school in the Garden Room (room 112)
  • National Aboriginal Day Celebration – June 15th at 1:30 pm.
  • Parents and Guardians are invited to the Good-bye Assembly for our Grade 5 students on Wednesday, June 27th at 1:30 pm. 
  • Wednesday, June 27th Report cards go home
  • Thursday, June 28th – Last day of school for students. 

Happy Summer Vacation!

  • Tuesday, September 4th – Back to School


Just a reminder that the best way to get the most up to date information is to read the school website.  You do not need to have a Twitter account to see the regular postings of pictures and events happening around the school.  Students are asked if they have consent to have pictures taken and posted on the website.  Please see below if you have not already checked out the more recent posting on the School News section of the University Hill Elementary School website


Thinking About Playgrounds


Thanks to Jen McCutcheon, the current PAC chair, for leading the charge on getting a plan together for a playground.  She has detailed a comprehensive plan on the PAC website.  After school on Monday, June 4th, several parents and teachers met to plan.  There is an opportunity for meaningful participation of student, staff and parents into the process.  Please check out a variety of playgrounds and to look up the suppliers and submit your feedback to the playground committee.  There is a PAC box in the office and PAC is exploring online options.

Leah Chapman, our Parking Committee powerhouse, is leading the charge on fundraising for the playground.  She has scheduled a meeting after school on Thursday, June 7th in the Garden Room. 


Jen will be organizing focus groups to ensure a voice for students, primary teachers, intermediate teachers, resource teachers, SSA’s and supervision aides. 


I know you have many opinions and ideas.  I’ve been considering the following:

  • Ways to make the playground accessible
    • Routes through and onto the equipment
    • Equipment that can be used by students with special needs
      • Disc swing
  • Equipment that works different muscle groups
    • Possibility of a circuit for use during P.E. and free time
  • Equipment that encourages social interaction
    • Large climbing webs
  • Traffic flow
  • Challenge for different ability and age ranges
    • Climbing bars of differing heights
  • Incorporating print or images – 6 Cedars Indigenous representations, competencies, poetry, lines from books
  • Surfacing
    • Spongy
    • Wood chips
  • Possibility of additions to existing early primary playground
    • Lower climbing bars
    • Spinners for 1-2 people (good core exercise)
  • Ways to incorporate outdoor spaces and places with hills or trees with consideration of range of sight for supervision

I’m interested in what you are thinking about.  There are lots of possibilities.  I’m really enjoying hearing and seeing the plans from our kids.  We have lots to learn from them.  Check out the Twitter feed on the school website for some of the designs that our students have been submitting.  You do not need an account to see the pictures on the Twitter feed on the website.


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Welcome to the University Hill Elementary School principal's blog.