Monsignor Uyen Students Participate in My Parks Pass Canada Contest for 'Canada's Coolest School Trip!'

Students at Monsignor Uyen Catholic School have researched national parks all across Canada and the one they would most like to visit is Gros-Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

"One of the students in our class actually visited Gros-Morne and the more we heard about it, the more we knew it was the national park we would like to see together as a class," says Angele Monette, a Grade 8 teacher at Monsignor Uyen, St. Clair Catholic's French Immersion school in Chatham.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of confederation, Parks Canada has launched the 'Canada's Coolest School Trip!' contest and the top prize is an all-expense paid trip to the park the students would most like to visit.

"The students' research resulted in some interesting facts about Gros-Morne," says Ms. Monette.  "It is the second largest park in eastern Canada and one of the most unique geological sites, stretching across 1,805 square kilometers of western Newfoundland.  It has over 20 hiking trails and the highest waterfall in eastern North America."

In order to participate in the contest, the students have entered a video, which is posted to a Parks Canada website at  Canadians from across the country are invited to log in and vote for their favorite video from March 6 to 24.  After March 24, the top ten videos will be judged by Parks Canada, to select a final winner.

"It's been a very exciting project," says Ms. Monette.  "We're asking all of our friends and fellow students to log in and vote for us!"

In the photo above, students in Ms. Monette's Grade 8 class at Monsignor Uyen Catholic School research facts about Gros-Morne National Park in Newfoundland.  Below, view the video contest entry produced by the class.

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St. Clair Catholic Welcomes Best-Selling Métis Author David Bouchard

Best-selling author David Bouchard brought his message about the joy of reading to hundreds of students across the St. Clair Catholic district, during a recent two-day visit.

"Mr. Bouchard shared his passion for reading through storytelling about his traditions and his heritage," says Carole Taraborrelli, a French Immersion teacher at St. Patrick's Catholic High School.  "His love for reading was evident throughout his presentation and his stories captivated our students."

Through his stories and life experiences, Mr. Bouchard helps students come to learn that they are all gifted.

"Every person has a gift that we must discover," he says.  "We must then build our lives around that gift."

He also tells students that reading is one of the most important tools available to them and that reading is for everyone. 

"It takes one book to become a reader," he says.  "That's all.  It just takes one book."

Mr. Bouchard has written about 25 award-winning books, many of which are multi-cultural in nature and produced collaboratively with First Nations artists.  His books are an amalgamation of the arts - poetry, prose, visual art and music.

Through his two-day visit, Mr. Bouchard spoke with students from Ursuline College and Monsignor Uyen in Chatham, St. Elizabeth and Holy Family Catholic schools, Wallaceburg and St. Anne, Blenheim; and in Sarnia, St. Patrick's Catholic High School, Gregory A. Hogan and St. Anne Catholic schools.

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St. Clair Catholic's Brenda Corchis Honoured as 'Amazing Teacher of Literacy' at Provincial Conference

Brenda Corchis, St. Clair Catholic’s Coordinator of Elementary Curriculum and Early Years Lead, has been recognized for her exceptional contributions to pedagogy in literacy. 

The award, Amazing Teacher of Literacy, was presented to Ms. Corchis at the Reading For the Love of It provincial conference in Toronto.

“The organizers of this provincial conference have recognized something that we have known for a very long time,” says Dan Parr, Director of Education.  “Brenda is a very gifted educator, whose passion for learning inspires our staff and helps bring our students to greater success.  She truly is an ‘amazing’ teacher of literacy."

Reading For the Love of It is the largest literacy conference in Canada, with 4,000 delegates attending the forum this year.  It is sponsored by the York-Scarborough Reading Association.

In the photo, Brenda Corchis receives her award for Amazing Teacher of Literacy at the provincial 'Reading For the Love of It' conference.

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Blanket Exercise Gives Students a Better Understanding of Indigenous History

Blanket Exercise ImageStudents, staff, members of Bkejwanong Walpole Island First Nation community and representatives of the local parish gathered at St. Elizabeth Catholic School recently to participate in a Blanket Exercise.  The exercise is a teaching tool, which helps participants understand the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.  It was developed by KAIROS, an alliance of Canadian churches and religious organizations, which advocates for social change, including Indigenous rights.

“Through participatory learning, the Blanket Exercise supports our students to step into the shoes of Indigenous peoples across Canada,” says Cortnee Goure, facilitator of the event and St. Clair Catholic’s First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Lead.  “Through this experiential learning tool, we all have a much deeper and more meaningful understanding of 500 years of history.”

The blankets are laid out on the floor to represent “Turtle Island,” the name for North America.  The exercise begins 500 years before the first Europeans sailed across the Atlantic.  Through narration, events are described that result in the shrinking of Turtle Island.  Smallpox, treaties, residential schools and the Indian Act, all result in populations and land disappearing.  As a result, blankets are folded and students are asked to leave the blankets while remaining part of the circle learning about the history.  

"Throughout our discussions of treaties, reserve life and residential schools, many students demonstrated a huge shift in their thinking and developed a sense of regret for the actions of our past leaders," says Paul Cogghe, Grade 8 teacher at St. Elizabeth Catholic School. 

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise was developed as a response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which highlighted injustices committed against First Nations peoples.  The report also concluded that education about Canadian Indigenous history is a vital step towards reconciliation.

“At the end of the exercise, there are only a few people left standing on a very small area of blankets,” says Mrs. Goure.  “It was a stark contrast to the way the exercise began and a strong visual lesson about the tremendous changes that Indigenous peoples have endured in 500 years.”

"The blanket exercise was an excellent way to reflect on our thinking and to put some action into our learning, to show this regret and to be a part of a change we would like to see in Canada," says Mr. Cogghe. 

The Blanket Exercise at St. Elizabeth Catholic School was the first in the St. Clair district; however, more are planned, including one at St. Michael Catholic School in Ridgetown in March.


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Local Farmers Bring Agriculture to the Classroom

Local farmers are bringing the farm to the school to celebrate Canada's Agriculture Day, which this year was held on February 16th.

At Monsignor Uyen Catholic School in Chatham Theresa Buis, from the Buis Beef Ranch, talked to JK, SK and Grade 1 students about her farm.

"I really enjoy talking to students about life on the farm," says Ms. Buis.  "It's really important that young people know where their food comes from!"

A recent census shows that fewer than two per cent of the population now lives on Canada's farms.  Local federations of agriculture are working to close the gap between consumers and producers.  They say the classroom is an excellent place to start.

"This was a really fun morning for our students," says Barbara Brecka, a teacher at Monsignor Uyen Catholic School, who arranged for Ms. Buis' visit.  "Our students were really interested to hear all about her farming operation and the cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens and horses that she raises.

To celebrate agriculture day, 19 local farmers volunteered to visit 55 classrooms in Lambton County and Chatham-Kent, including Our Lady of Fatima, St. Michael (Ridgetown), Holy Trinity, Sacred Heart (Sarnia) St. Anne (Sarnia) and St. Joseph (Corunna) in the St. Clair district.  The visits were organized as a joint effort between the Lambton Federation of Agriculture, Lambton Kent Agriculture in the Classroom Committee and the Science Education Partnership, a joint venture between the St. Clair Catholic and Lambton Kent District school boards.

In the photo above, students at Monsignor Uyen pose with Theresa Buis of the Buis Beef Ranch (left) and teacher Barbara Brecka.

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St. Anne Catholic School in Blenheim Hosts NET Youth Rally

Grade 7 and 8 students from St. Anne Catholic School in Blenheim were joined by students from Georges P. Vanier Catholic School in Chatham and St. Michael Catholic School, Ridgetown for a day of prayer, dramatic role play, video and song led by a NET Ministry team from Ottawa.

"This was a fantastic day for our students," says Stacy Shepley, Principal of St. Anne Catholic School.  "It was an opportunity for them to grow in their faith, meet new friends and have fun!"

NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries is a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to spreading the Gospel to youth. Through discussion groups and role play, the students explored themes of self-worth, personal confidence and acceptance.  A Who Are You? theme helps young people come to a greater awareness of their goodness and uniqueness as God's children, and explores ways in which they can have a closer relationship with Him.

NET Ministries is the largest Catholic travelling youth ministry in the world, with an active presence in Australia, Canada, Uganda, Ireland, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

"It was an exciting day for our students and we will continue to build on the themes explored at our youth rally throughout the school year," says Ms. Shepley.

In the photos (top) students from St. Anne and St. Michael enjoy the rally; and (centre and below) the NET Ministries team leads students through a number of contemporary worship songs.


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Leadership in Our Schools - A Message on Joy and Love from Father John Comiskey

Father John Comiskey was the featured speaker at St. Clair Catholic's annual gathering, The Great Family of Our Church - Our Annual Day of Faith and Learning Together. Father Comiskey is Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of London.

"We are extremely grateful and honoured that Father John made time available in his busy schedule to attend our two-day conference in the St. Clair district," says Dan Parr, Director of Education.  "Father's theme for the events was Joy in Life - Leadership in Catholic Education and he had a tremendous message for each of us who attended."

Father Comiskey quoted from a recent Papal encyclical, in which the Holy Father addressed this topic.  Pope Francis said, "... the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port, or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm."

"This is an important lesson for each of us who serves the mission of Catholic education," says Mr. Parr.

The Great Family of Our Church is an annual celebration, which brings together representatives of the Catholic community, all of whom have an interest in Catholic education and its future.  Representatives include St. Clair Catholic trustees, senior administration, principals, staff, parents, students, union and association presidents, the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women's League, priests and parish partners.

In the photos (Above) Fr. John Comiskey.

(Below) (Back Row L-R) Scott Johnson, Superintendent of Education; Ray Power, Principal, Ursuline College; Megan Gooch, Student, UCC; Madison Herreweyers, Student, UCC; Lesli Jeffrey, CWL, Blessed Sacrament; Maxx McGlynn, Student, UCC; Cindy Boyd, Principal, St. Joseph Catholic School, Tilbury; (Front Row L-R) Fr. Jim Higgins, Episcopal Vicar, Kent Deanery; Fr. John Comiskey; Dan Parr, Director of Education; John Van Heck, Chair of the Board; Christine Canniff, Parent, Georges P. Vanier Catholic School; Stan Powell, Knights of Columbus, Corpus Christi Council.

(Bottom Photo) (Back Row L-R) Father Vince Guilikers, Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, Sarnia; Linda Ward, Trustee; Chad Coene, President, OECTA Secondary; Mike Hendrycks, Knights of Columbus, District 40; Deacon Lyle Lalonge; Len Fera, Principal, St. Michael Catholic School, Bright's Grove.  (Front Row L-R) Michelle Parks, Trustee; Amy Janssens, Executive Superintendent - Corporate Services; Fr. John Comiskey; Dan Parr, Director of Education; Deacon John Lamers and Scott Johnson, Superintendent of Education.



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Grade 1 Students From Sacred Heart (Sarnia) Celebrate 100th Day of School with a Tour of Sarnia and Visit to City Hall

Students in Grade 1 at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Sarnia celebrated the 100th day of the school year by boarding a Sarnia Transit bus and touring the city; and they topped it off with a stop at Sarnia City Hall and a visit with Mayor Mike Bradley.

"The students planned the itinerary on their own," says Grade 1 Teacher Mary Jo Cocarell.  "We study 'community' as part of the Grade 1 social studies curriculum; so, they picked the spots in their community they wanted to see."

Ms. Cocarell and teacher Shannon Geary accompanied the students on a tour that included Canatara Park, Lake Chipican, Lake Huron, the Bluewater Bridge and St. Clair River, the big ships by the grain elevators, Sarnia Bay Marina, the Sarnia police and fire stations, Our Lady of Mercy Church, Bluewater Health and St. Patrick's Catholic High School, among other sites.

The highlight was a tour of city hall, with Mayor Mike Bradley acting as tour guide.  He greeted the students in the council chambers then accompanied them up a private staircase to his office on the second floor.

"Mayor Mike was very gracious," says Ms. Geary.  "The students asked lots of questions and were very enthusiastic.  They learned a lot and had a very fun day!"

In the photo above, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley poses in the Council Chambers with three students from Grade 1 at Sacred Heart Catholic School, Sarnia.

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