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Backyards needed!

Miss Vicky Thu Mar 25, 2010

Sustainable Living Ottawa West (or SLOWest) is a network of individials living in Ottawa's westish neighbourhoods who are interested in building environmentally sustainable communities. They've got a number of groups working on different iniatives - Miss Vicky received an email about one particularly interesting project. If you've got some extra space in your backyard and don't have time to garden, or if you have a hankering to get your hands in the soil but have no soil, get in touch!

As someone who is interested in gardening (and the idea of someone else gardening your backyard) I wanted to let you know that SLOWest is looking to start up a similar typed system of pairing gardeners with backyards. We've got a keen group of gardeners and, at the moment, no backyards (go figure).

This year our aim is to find three yards that we can work with, garden successfully, and build into a bigger project for next year.

The basic framework is that someone will allow a space to be used on their property to plant veggies. They'll receive part of the veggie share as well as the pleasant experience of meeting someone from the neighborhood! If they're interested in learning to garden themselves, all the better, they can work with the backyard gardeners, but if not, we're happy to do all the
digging and planting ourselves.

We would also be interested in finding people who already have an established garden, but are interested in sharing their bounty in exchange for gardening help, or would like to expand their current garden in partnership with another gardener in the community.

If you know anyone living in the west end who would be interested (or know someone who might know someone who might be interested)please pass the word onto them.

Those who are interested can email growslow@gmail.com or call Kirsten at 613-722-5202

Thanks for passing the word on and for helping to make Ottawa West a more food sovereign community!


Route 18 Petition

Miss Vicky Mon Feb 15, 2010

The folks in Champlain Park are looking for support to reinstate Route 18, which connected their neighbourhood and downtown - details on how to sign their petition are below. Miss Vicky could rant here about the shortsightedness of relying on the transitway without local routes to actually bring riders TO the transitway... but that's another blog post entirely.

Here's how you can help, and why:

Last September, as part of TransPLAN 2009, OC Transpo cancelled route 18 west of Lebreton. This has meant that for many west end neighbouhoods, there is no longer a direct transit link to downtown. Further, for many people, the connection between many east and west end neighbourhoods that used to be available through route 18 is no longer possible.

This has had a disproportionate effect on seniors, many of whom are not in a position to undertake the 20 minute walk to a Transitway Station. As a result, many of them are unable to go out in the community and participate in activities at local seniors' recreation centres, do their shopping, or attend other social events.

Students, many of whom require reliable and regular transit service to make it to their school, have also felt serious adverse effects, as well as commuters who do not work regular work hours (and for whom the new rush-hour only route 150 has been of no assistance).

In light of this, residents of west-end neighbourhoods began a petition asking the city to reinstate route 18 west of Lebreton. So far, the response has been terrific, with hundreds of people signing the petition in the space of a few days. Canvassers have walked through Champlain Park, Wellington West and Westboro Beach, and the response from those who were home has been extremely positive for the reinstatement of the service.

Two more opportunities to sign the petition are being offered to residents of Kitchissippi ward. On February 17, from 8 pm to 9 pm, volunteers will be on site at the Champlain Park fieldhouse (149 Cowley) to welcome residents who wish to sign the petition. As well, on Monday March 1st (from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm) another opportunity to sign will be offered at the Champlain Park fieldhouse.

We need a strong response from our west end communities to ensure that OC Transpo and the city take our demand seriously. Everyone's assistance is greatly appreciated.


Alternative Schools in Jeopardy

Miss Vicky Thu Jan 14, 2010

Readers may recall the the callout to support Ottawa's Alternative Schools. Well, the review is out and the recommendations are not favourable. Miss Vicky received the following open letter to Trustees from reader Sara this week. Thanks for sending this along, Sara! I hope others are writing as well.


I spent a couple of hours in my sons class today at Churchill Alternative. Do you want to know what we were doing? Woodworking! All the students had planned out a woodworking project and were busy on their lunch hour hammering and sawing in a classroom bubbling with excitement and activity. Angles were being measured, math equations figured out and the laws of physics put into question as they built their artistic creations. You might think that this was a special day but I assure you that it was not, this was just another day in my son's 3-4 class at Churchill Alternative.

We specifically chose the Alternative Stream after starting our son's education at Elmdale where he was floundering in a classroom that had no room for children that did not fit the standard mold. "Non-compliant" is how the principal at the time described him - this was junior kindergarten. We knew that we wanted to find a place where T. could learn on his terms in a supported environment where we were able to be a part of his educational path. I can assure you of one thing, the standard stream and the alternative stream ARE NOT THE SAME. At Elmdale, I am sorry to say, there are no best practices, only a school struggling to stick within the norm and foster children that do not rock the boat.

I know that the recommendations that have been put forth by the school board indicate a need to "increase the focus of parental involvement" in the standard stream and that this is all that is needed to bring the standard stream up to the level of the Alternative Program. I assure you that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that these people could never have set foot in my son's school if they think that this is the difference. How is the Alternative Program different? Here are some things that stand out in my mind....

Poetry Pancake Breakfast - the past two years my son's teacher has organized a poetry showcase where the children read poems that they had created during the term. The teacher and parents brought in tasty pancakes for the kids to share with their friends, smaller siblings mingled with the kids reading their poems. The kids were responsible for cleaning up after the event.

Community Classrooms - this year my son's teacher has a central chore chart where all kids in the class are assigned a weekly chore: sweeping, taking out the compost, sharpening pencils, etc. This makes the kids feel like they are a part of the class and instills in them a deep sense of responsibility at a very early age. When matters of contention come up the students discuss and then vote on how they think the matter should be dealt with. They are responsible for publishing a monthly newsletter that is written by all the kids.

Reading Mornings - last year between 8:00 and 8:20 my son's class would have reading time in the classroom to allow the kids time to settle in, ANY and ALL parents were invited to come up to the class during this time to read with the kids. I often found myself reading with other kids in the class while other parents would buddy up with my son. Such a casual and intimate way to share a book with an emerging reader.

Free Flowing Learning Styles - my son writes best on the floor, sounds crazy but that is how he thinks best. In the classes at Churchill there are many options for how the kids would like to work, on the carpet, kneeling at a lower desk or even standing at taller desks in the older grades.

Student Led Conferences - Every term we get to spend a couple of hours in my son's class with him showing us all the the work that he as accomplished that term. Featuring what items he is proud of, and which he needs to work better on. Objectively, not because of a GRADE that he has received but because he is being critical of his own work and wants to show it off.

Stone Soup with Reading Buddies - in Kindergarten my son got to take part in a Stone Soup (I am sure that you know the book!) sharing with their Reading Buddies in grade 6. Each child got to bring in a vegetable from home, parent volunteers were tasked with chopping up the veggies and then cooking the soup for the Kindergartners to share with their buddies.

These are just a few small, extraordinary occurrences that happen EVERY DAY at Churchill. Of course there is the obvious that has been brought to your attention a hundred times over - the multi-age groupings, cooperative and non competitive learning, anecdotal reporting, student-centered and child-directed learning, family-centered school environment and the shared teaching responsibility - but I though that you might like to know some of the best practices BEHIND the marketing speak that is so easy to gloss over.

As of today, I will be honest and say that I feel very discouraged, this review has been conducted in a matter of fact, mind already made up kind of way that really never had any intention of getting to the nuts and bolts of the Alternative Program. I am not a militant granola cruncher but just a stay at home mum who has found a school where her child is thriving. I am asking you to be PROGRESSIVE and take a chance, the Alternative Schools are FANTASTIC laboratories that are expanding the minds of tomorrow in ways that the standard stream can only dream of. I am hoping that you will have the courage to take the risk, you won't regret it.


PSA: Lost Minnie Mouse?

Miss Vicky Fri Aug 7, 2009

This comes from Chantal at Chick Pea Kids. Does this sound familiar to anyone out there?


I was wondering if you could post a public service announcement for me? A client was in the store today with two friends and I'm pretty sure one of them lost a couple of items

1. A Minnie Mouse stuffy
2. A Souris Mini knit sweater

I know they are probably distraught about the Minnie Mouse as she looks well loved.

A passer by found them on Mayfair St., just around the corner from the store.

All I can tell you is that the client has red hair, a daughter that is just starting to walk, and an orange Bumbleride stroller.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, we've got them behind the counter in the store.


Food, Inc

Miss Vicky Thu Jul 23, 2009

Miss Vicky received the following request from Megan at the ByTowne Cinema:

In your guise as activista extraordinaire, I was wondering if you had suggestions for organizations to contact to promote the film Food, Inc., a documentary about the Evils of big corporations running food production (and featuring Michael Pollen and Eric Schlosser), which is premiering at the ByTowne on August 14. I have a few ideas (Ottawa branch of the Canadian Organic Growers, some locavore-y restaurants), but thought I'd ask around for other ideas. I think this is a film that Ottawans will really want to see, if only they get to hear about it first. Any help you can suggest would be greatly appreciated

Well, the first group that comes to mind is Just Food, folks who work their butts off promoting local food and sustainable agriculture. Also the extensive Community Gardening Network.

There's the group of folks working to organize a co-op grocery store to replace the closed Booth St Loeb - you can reach them via Somerset West CHC's community developer, Emilie. SWCHC also runs a Good Food Box program - maybe you could ask for permission to include flyers in the boxes one week.

Then there are all the CSA farms - many of which have newsletters for their members. If you write up a blurb I bet they'd be happy to include it. I know our CSA is always looking for content. You'll find contact info for all of them on Just Food's website.

And of course there are the various markets - a flyer drive the weekend before the show would be a great way of getting the word out. Or maybe the farmers might be open to posters in their booths - worth asking, for sure!

So, a few ideas. Perhaps the Faithful Legion will have more!

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