Colville Lake School had their first ever Remembrance Day assembly on Friday. Jenn headed this up and it was a glowing success. Each class was responsible for a different component of the program. Jenn invited police officers from Fort Good Hope to attend and we were fortunate that they were available to fly in.
The assembly started with an Elder, Laura, saying the Lords Prayer in North Slavey. The language is beautiful and it was an honour to hear her speak. Jenn then played the national anthem in North Slavey. The elementary class recited the poem, "In Flanders Fields," the middle school class talked about the significance and location of Flanders Fields, and the high school class talked about the story behind the poem.
Just before 11:11am Martin explained why we have a moment of silence on Remembrance Day and encouraged the children to to use this moment to think about all the men and woman who fought for our freedom.
I was so proud of all of our students. They were respectful and put a lot of work into their presentations.
The hockey rink has turned into a huge success. Martin has put a lot of man hours into maintaining it and bringing it up to perfect skating condition. One of the greatest challenges of isolation is keeping active and busy on evenings and weekends. The rink has full community buy in and is providing the kids with a healthy hobby. Martin bought a skate sharpener, water pump, and has hired a few of the boys to help with maintenance.
We were nervous about flooding the rink because we were not totally sure how far down we would have to drill to get to water. The worry was that the ice under the hockey rink was already frozen to the ground and that we would have run pipes way out into the middle of the lake. Thankfully that was not the case. The ice is about 10inches thick and there is still plenty of water to pump out from under the rink.
Martin has flooded the rink twice now and we are hoping to flood it again this afternoon. Each time it is flooded the ice flattens out that much more. A couple of my students have been working with Martin and are learning how to use the pump. I love seeing them work so hard.
We are hoping the next flooding will make a huge difference. Last time it was flooded the weight of the water was too much for the ice in some places, which resulted in some pretty large cracks. It has been VERY cold this week and the ice has gotten way thicker.
I am slowly improving at skating. Slow and steady wins the race here. Skating on a lake is more challenging than skating inside. I am being extra careful because of the lack of medical care that would be available if I fell or injured myself.
I look forward to seeing how the rink improves in the coming weeks. A few community members are going to bring down an old shed and some benches. We plan on hiring a few students to run a concession. They will sell hot chocolate and baked goods. We found an old log stove that will be used to heat the shed. Most of the children have received their skates and we are hoping to get more hockey sticks and another net in the near future.
Halloween in Colville Lake was unlike any Halloween I have experienced in my life. Much like all holidays here, Halloween is a community wide event. Children and adults both spend a lot of time thinking about and planning their costumes. Jenn and I put less thought into our costumes. Halloween kind of snuck up on us and by the time dressing up arrived we were both exhausted. A little eye liner and painted on kitty whiskers did the trick. Martin and Louie were more prepared and dressed as a demon and a pregnant lady.
On the saturday night before Halloween there was a party for the adults of community. I was asked to attend as a judge for the costume contest. The costumes were next level. Some genuinely scared me and others gave me a good laugh. Cash prizes were given to the top three contestants. The teacher in me LOVED the rubric that I was given to assess costumes on.
Halloween night was all about the children. Kids trick or treated from 5-6:30. Every child from the community came to my door. I loved seeing their costumes and excitement. After trick or treating we had a party in the gym for the kids. There were games, food, and a costume contest. Colville Lake is loyal to tradition. The events of Halloween have become tradition in the community. Everyone knows what to expect and where to be because this is how it has been done for years.
The highlight of my night was trying to figure out who were behind the masks. One of the categories the kids are judged on is how well they stay in character all night. They pride themselves on being unrecognizable to all those around them.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. It was my birthday, I had a work trip to Norman Wells, district staff were in for their annual visit, and report card season has begun. Amongst the chaos, there have been some wonderful times.
I can truly say that this birthday was one of the best I have every had. I felt so loved by my new community (and by everyone back home too). My roommate, Louie, made me this cake and the whole school gathered at the end of the day to sing and enjoy some cake.
Jenn and I had a pancake breakfast in the morning and our kids buddied up and read to each other. It was such a special time. We built forts under our desks and everyone was fully engaged in their reading.
After work we went for a ride over to a friends house to see his haul of fish. Community members have been making many trip over to Aubry Lake to set nets. Aubry Lake is deeper than Colville Lake and has not frozen over yet. The fish have all migrated there and the nets are always full. One trip over to Aubry is enough to fill the freezer. The fish pictured above will be used as dog food over the winter months.
My students took me on a skidoo ride for my birthday. I am learning who to trust as a driver. They think it is funny to go super fast and watch Ms. Evans scream. When they let me drive they laugh at how slow I go.
Birthdays are often a time of reflection for me. As I look back on the last year I can't help but be so proud of all I have overcome and accomplished.
On the 16th I flew to Norman Wells for Fourth R training. I had never heard of Fourth R before, but am looking forward to implementing it into my health curriculum. My focus this year is on social emotional learning. Fourth R provides a solid guideline on teaching middle school students about healthy relationships.
It is always fun to meet people from different northern communities. During Fourth R I met with teachers who are in similar situations to me and was able to have some valuable collaboration time with them.
Happy Thanksgiving! This weekend has been a wonderful time of relaxation and adventures. The lake is completely frozen over now and we are enjoying watching the kids zoom around it on their four wheelers and skidoos. Next weekend we will be heading out to Aubrey lake on skidoos to go ice fishing.
Yesterday Jenn and I walked across the lake to the Coop to buy some vegetables for our roommate dinner. Jenn really wanted brussle sprouts with dinner, but we were both super doubtful that there would be any in the store. To our surprise they were there! A true thanksgiving miracle.
Our walk to the Coop gave us a small taste of what the coming months are going to look like. The temperature has dropped noticeably this past week and many layers are now required when going out. The snow here is much different than snow in BC. It is so dry. It actually reminds me a lot of sand. When you walk through it each grain shifts by itself.
In the afternoon the whole community gathered for a thanksgiving feast. Jenn, Louie, and I were given the honour of serving the elders and community members. Being at the feast gave me a taste of home. We are known and trusted by the families. The small children look to us much like my nieces and nephew do. It brings my heart so much joy to my heart to share a meal with them.
Colville Lake is rich in tradition and values the role of the Elders. At the feast the Elders say a prayer and are served first.
Louie is the JK and K teacher at Colville Lake School and she is AMAZING! She crafted this beautiful cake for the community. One of the first things that Martin told me when I moved to Colville is to beware of Louie's cakes. They are SO delicious, but they will expand the waist line... haha!
After our community feast we came home and prepped for a roommate thanksgiving dinner. We had all the comforts from home (minus the turkey).
Martin's parents sent up a rotisserie machine and we have been perfecting the art of making chicken. Jenn's mom sent us with multiple whole chickens and we have been saving one for this meal.
Such a delicious meal! We even had stuffing!
There is so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. If you told me last year at Thanksgiving that I would be living in Colville Lake this year, I would have never believed you. Last Thanksgiving I had so many hopes, dreams, and plans for this year, but none of those involved moving to the Arctic. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the unexpected twist that brought me to Colville Lake. I have faced many struggles living here, but I can truly say that I have never felt more content and at peace in life. It is a beautiful feeling to know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
Jennifer and I have both noticed a shift in our thinking and perspective this past week. The season of transition has come to an end and we truly feel we are at home now. We are at peace and loving our new pace of life. Yesterday was a testament to our sense of belonging in Colville Lake.
A few weeks ago our Slavey teacher, Linda, taught both Jenn and I how to sew mitts. This past week a shipment of furs came to the school and Linda gave us both our own rabbit and beaver fur to make mitts. Yesterday, after a pancake breakfast, Jenn and I sat down and got to work on sewing our mitts. There is something so relaxing about hand sewing mittens. Jenn chose to make hers with beaver fur, and I am making mine out of rabbit. They will be so warm in the winter months.
One of our coworkers had mentioned that she had a pile of wood to cut and we decided that we would like to help her with that. However, there was on problem with that plan - Martin is away and the school chainsaw is locked up in his house. So with homemade jam and bannock in hand, Jenn and I ventured over to the Chief's house to see if we could borrow his for the afternoon. He was more than willing to share and seemed to think it was funny that the two caucasian girls wanted to spend their saturday cutting wood.
The most efficient way to heat your house in the Arctic is using a wood stove. Both Jenn and I are becoming masters of fire starting. The wood here is so dry and perfect for burning! Jenn, Louie, and I have decided that we will save money and gather our own wood for the winter. It is a fun adventure and really great exercise!
After an afternoon of wood cutting, Jenn and I came home and made some homemade soup and bannock (so thankful for our big Costco shop before we came). We are getting really good at being creative with the food we have. No recipes are needed. It is just a matter of taking what is the cupboard and hoping for the best. There has only been one fail so far.
When we thought our day was over and were winding down for bed the phone rang. It was, Janat, one of our friends from the community. The community had spontaneously gathered at the gym for volleyball match and they wanted us to come and join in. We both jumped at the opportunity. It was so much fun! All ages were welcome and everyone was given the opportunity to play. My students found it quite funny to see Ms. Evans be so terrible at something. I loved it! Such a good day!
This coming week 5 of my students are taking off to live on the land for a few months. I spent the weekend preparing schoolwork for them to take with them to the bush. While I am sad that they won’t be in school, I am also so excited to hear about their experiences on the land.
Colville Lake is known as one of the most traditional Northern communities. This trip is evidence of that fact. The families will set up tents, braid spruce branches together to sleep on, and will live off of the land. The purpose of this trip is hunting and trapping.
This week we had a representative from the NWT government come talk to our staff about indigenizing education. She expressed that it is our goal to produce students who are capable people. A “capable person” is defined differently in this context though. To be a capable person in the North you must be able to survive on the land AND in the city. Therefore, school needs to provide opportunities for students to develop in both realms of life. The time that my students will spend in the bush is considered school hours. They are learning the skills needed to survive and will come back with more knowledge than I could have ever provided them within the classroom.
My main goal for my students is for them to actively participate in tradition and culture while they are away. It is my hope that their school work will help enrich their time on the land. I want them to reflect, share stories, and practice skills in literacy and writing.
Each student will write in a journal, practice their reading, and work on math. I have provided them a daily checklist and the promise of a reward when they return if they do their work everyday :)
Last weekend we began the construction of a hockey rink on the lake. This rink has been Martin's dream ever since he came to Colville Lake and he was determined to make it a reality this year.
With the help of many students we cleared a large portion of ice and smoothed it over the best we could. This weekend the goal is to flood it. Martin purchased a water pump for the school. He will drill a hole in the ice and pump water onto the surface of the rink. The challenge will be to spread the water before it starts to freeze.
The kids took turns going for rides on the skidoo and helping shovel snow. It was neat to see them take ownership of the project.
The whole project took a good 6 hours. I look forward to the completed project and our first Colville Lake School hockey game.
At the end of August I reached out to a few friends in BC and asked them to help me get winter clothes to the kids of Colville Lake. The Co-op does not sell winter gear and shipping cost makes it hard for many families to access clothing suitable for the weather. In reaching out I had hopped to have about 10 coats and boots shipped up for the kids. I know that shipping costs are ridiculous and the thought of receiving anything more than that did not seem plausible. Word got out that the need was great and people from all over the lower mainland jumped on board to help out. When all was said and done, enough coats, boots, and mittens were sent up for nearly every student at Colville Lake School.
My dear friends, Abbey and Monica, coordinated the clothing drive from the BC side of things. They collected donations of coats and money, packed boxes, and arranged shipping. I am forever grateful to them for their dedication and support.
The average shipping to Colville takes up to 6 weeks. However, in this case things happened WAY faster. The boxes arrived on September 9th. My principal came over and we started sorting. We were blown away by the QUANTITY and QUALITY of items sent. As we were sorting we looked outside and it was snowing sideways. We decided that it would be a shame to make these kids wait even one more day for their coats. He grabbed the school truck and we loaded the back with all the clothing (sorted into size and gender). Jenn and I rode in the back to make sure nothing fell off. Louie and Martin drove up front. The four of us were able to visit every family in Colville Lake. People were blown away and so receptive of the gifts.
The kids put on their new coats, snow pants, and boots right away. The smiles will forever be etched in my mind. They were so proud of their new gear. It was so special for me to know both the giver and the receiver of this gift. Knowing the hearts and generosity behind the gift made the giving all the more sweet.
On behalf of the people of Colville Lake, I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to all who contributed to this gift! Lives have been impacted in such practical ways. Colville Lake is so blessed by your generosity!
Below I have posted pictures of our evening of delivery. I SO wish I could share the pictures of the kids in their new outfits, but due to privacy laws I am not allowed to share pictures of my students. You will just have to take me at my word when I say that they were beyond thrilled and looked so warm.
All but one box arrived at my door on Tuesday!! (the other one couldn't fit on the plane in). It was a minor miracle that the boxes arrived at my door. I don't have an official address. Mail makes it as far as the Co-op. Jenn and I walk down every few days to see if anything has arrived for the school or either of us. Out of the kindness of someones heart they decided to load up their truck and bring me the boxes. I am guessing it was Lloyd, the co-op owner, but who knows.
Louie and Martin were the master sorters :) The first night we gave out everything except the wool socks. We decided to wait until the next day at school to distribute those.
Getting ready to deliver :) The snow stopped for a brief period, but started up again as soon as we were driving. This was the first extended period of time outside with my parka and a few layers of moreno wool. I am not going to lie. I was still frozen. I am going to have to layer more in the future.
Jenn and I ensuring all of our cargo stayed in the truck on the bumpy road.
The above picture is Martin finding the right size for a young boy who was standing just behind him. Martin is probably the hardest working person I have ever met. He had just flown in from a week of meetings in Norman Wells and Yellowknife. He still had a night of work ahead of him in the school, yet he selflessly offered his time and tirelessly lead us on the journey of delivering the coats.
Due to privacy laws I can not post pictures of any kids. So, instead, I will leave you with my smiling face. My heart is happy and my kids are warm. Life is good.
I am writing from the big city of Yellowknife. I am meeting with other middle school teachers from around the territory as part of a pilot team for the new Health and Wellness curriculum. The new curriculum is in the draft stages and will be piloted in a few classrooms this year. It is our job to provide feedback on how it practically plays out in our classrooms. As the curriculum draft was presented, I couldn't help but think about the many similarities it has to BC's new curriculum. It is an inquiry based approach that surrounds curricular competencies.
I have enjoyed my meetings and the perks of being in the city.
It is crazy how fast your mindset changes when you are in a new situation though. Being in Yellowknife has made me realize how much my mindset has changed since living in Colville Lake. What I consider to be "normal" now is much different than how I lived in BC. I didn’t drink water the first day in Yellowknife because I was scared I would get sick. Necessity made me overcome that fear. I am staying in a hotel for the three days that I am here. The shower is glorious! I actually feel clean! AND, as an added bonus, I don't have to worry about the water level in the tank. Also, the heating system warms the whole suite, which means I don’t have to worry about keeping a fire going. It’s the little things.
I am enjoying meeting with other NWT teachers. The extrovert in me thrives on meeting new people and trying new things.
Yesterday a teacher from Norman Wells graciously let me accompany him on all his errands. We went to all the big stores – Canadian Tire, Independent Grocery, and Staples. I stocked up on school supplies and picked up the random list of requests I was sent with. I also got some food items I didn’t realize I would miss so much – jalapeños and hot sauce.
Tonight I am off to the Black Knight Pub with new friends for some much needed pub food … and maybe a salad.
But in all seriousness, I have been so encouraged by the fact that I truly miss Colville Lake. I miss my students and my coworkers. I was just setting into the routine there and was not feeling ready to leave. My heart can truly rest there.