Friday Two Cents: A Tradition In The Heart Of The City

This week I was able to break away from my routine and go enjoy something that I have been going to since I was a child, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). This year is the CNE’s 140th anniversary. Every year I enjoy going to see the art, craft and hobbies exhibits, the shows and of course sampling the different types of foods they have to offer. I even have a tradition of getting a corn dog once I enter the grounds. I know that it is not a healthy choice but once you enter the grounds healthy choices are thrown out the window. Besides, it is the only time during the year when I eat a corn dog.

This year I was able to see two amazing shows; the aerial acrobatic and ice-skating show Quatro and the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. Quatro is a poetic display of dazzling ice-skating and aerial acrobatics performed by a former Cirque du Soleil artist. This wonderful show is not too far from the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. A spectacular indoor lantern festival where 17 spectacular illuminated sculptures make up an incredible display of lights and colour. The theme is centred on the legends and myths associated with the ancient Silk Road. These astounding shows are only two of the numerous displays and activities you can do at the CNE.
The CNE is in the heart of Toronto and is amazing every year. Unfortunately it is only available in the city for a limited time and as of the 1st day of school approaches it will be gone for another year. That’s why I always have mixed feelings about the CNE. I love going but I know that once I leave the grounds it means summer is over and school will start soon. Oh well I guess I have to just wait and look forward to next year, but at least I have some great experiences and memories to keep me going until new years edition.

Friday Two Cents: Media Literacy Inquiry


This week I had the opportunity to “Captain” a class for the first time in the sense of setting the curriculum for the students, in a kindergarten class, as a teacher. Last week I followed the plans the teacher had laid out but this week I was able to plan for the week. During the first week, I was able to observe the students and I discovered an area they were interested in; superheroes. From this information I was able to create a program to help the students explore this subject while helping them in other subject areas such as media literacy, language and art.

If we are doing heroes, I though why not start with one of the first stories based on a hero. Therefore I started the week by introducing them to a picture book called Hercules. It is based on the Disney movie version. It is about 100 pages so we read only a few pages a day and I had my special bookmark to help us remember where we left off. The students loved this story and every morning they would ask when are we reading the story of Hercules.

Warm and cool colour art

I then helped them to start thinking of colours as warm and cool with an art project. They would create a sun in the sky, divide the paper by drawing two horizontal and two vertical wavy lines and then colour it with warm and cool colours (the sun warm and the sky cool).
We then explored the world of heroes and villains by using characters they were use to from the media. I told them media are things they see and hear from movies, television, radio, newspaper, magazines and the Internet. We focused on the characters from the Marvel, DC and Disney universes and they came up with a comparison chart of what makes a hero and villain. They came up with words such as good, happy, helpful, smiling and kind for the heroes and bad, evil, scary, fights, steals for the villains. I also asked them if they noticed the colour of the outfits each group wore. They came up with light or bright colours for heroes and dark colours for villains.

Media Anchor Chart

We than had group activities where they would create their own superhero. One day it was a male hero, on the second it was a female. We noticed that there were more male/boy characters then female/girl. I then had them talk amongst themselves to come up with a few female character names. They came up with a few and we wrote them on post-it notes and placed it on the chart.
We also explored the idea of violence in cartoons. I showed them the scene of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football but Lucy moves it at the last-minute and Charlie goes flying. It may look funny but I asked, ‘How to you think Charlie feels?’ I also showed them a scene from Peter Pan when Peter and Wendy meet the mermaids. They said that the mermaids look like the heroes but after they saw the video they said that they were mean for picking on Wendy, pulling her hair and getting her wet while Pan just laughed. Scenes like that may look innocent but I asked how do you think Wendy feels. They said the mermaids were bullying her and Peter should not have laughed. They were very aware and we had a little discussion about it.

The final project for the inquiry was to create their own hero or villain. I gave them a choice of a male or female character outline to create their own character. I reminded them about the colours they should use for their character to make them look like a hero or villain. The results were amazing to see.
We finished the media literacy inquiry with the final project but the students wanted to do more. I told them that I will have the chart up for them and we can use the iPads to help them explore more during the last week of school. We also finished the story of Hercules and as a bonus I would bring in the DVD of Disney’s Hercules for everyone to watch. They were all excited and could not wait for next week.
Next week is the last week of school and the students are engaged and excited to learn more. As a teacher I can’t think of a better compliment they could give me.



Friday Two Cents: Ancient Greece Inspired

I recently went to see the newest super hero movie Wonder Woman. Apart from the fact that I loved the movie and character, I love the fact that the comic book character was inspired by the myths of ancient Greece. After watching the movie I felt inspired to research some aspects of the character and then draw the Amazonian Princess.

Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by a psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston. He was a great believer of the educational value of comics and wanted to create a superhero character that would use compassion over violence. The original artist was Harry George Peter. Together they created a character that has been a great inspiration to millions of girls and women.

I for one love the character and when you add the ancient Greek mythology to the mix, I am hooked. Many aspects of the character come from Greek mythology.   She is an Amazon Princess, mentioned in such tales as Homer’s Iliad. The comic book story lines mention the Greek gods and their background story of how they  created the Amazons. As well her own creation story involved the Greek gods, not to mention the fact that her primary advisory is Ares, the god of war.

You add all these together and it is no wonder I am drawn to Wonder Woman. I hope you enjoy my Ancient Greek inspired drawing of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman


Art Inspiration: Québec Trip / Art Is Everywhere





When I went to Québec I was fortunate to go with someone who grew up there. I told them that I was in their hands and that they were my guides. They are aware that I love the arts and they took me to places in the Old City of Québec that had many artists and artisans.

Along Saint Paul Street there are many galleries and artisans that would satisfy any art enthusiast. I could not take too many pictures of the artwork but it was a fabulous experience non-the less. Another place I went to was Le Petit Champlain, a small market area just down the hill from the Château Frontenac. There many artisans, artists, cafes, restaurants and merchants come together.   It is a beautiful place that has the feel of an old world market. There were many things to see but I was very impressed by a glass blower. I was able to take some photos for I was mesmerised by the skill and craftsmanship of the master.
Yet there are times when I did not just take in the traditional art but the artistic beauty of nature. Near my friends family home, there are a lot of wooded areas where the city has kept it as natural as possible. There I enjoyed the natural beauty and I even was able to eat a few wild black berries as I walked along the path.
From the natural surrounding to something equally as lovely, we went for a road trip outside Québec City to a place called le Domaine à l’Héritage near Saint-Séverin de Beauce. It is a pristine garden set in the middle of the country where people are welcome to enjoy nature and the garden as classical music is played throughout. There I saw many people bring out their dinners and enjoy a picnic, as did we. The place has many tables and reclining chairs for people to stay, relax and enjoy each other’s company.
The thing I found amazing is how easily everyone simply talked to one another. Strangers having conversations about anything that came up with other strangers. This is where I realized the whole ‘Joie de vivre’ that is so present in the Québec culture. It is everywhere, in everyone. The sad true is that something like this garden could never exist near Toronto because I could see people ruining it. There, the people made sure they cleaned up after themselves and they were respectful to everyone there and the environment.
Everywhere I went in Québec I found art. In the trees, the water, the air and the people. This is what life should be like, the joy of life, the joy of living. Of all the things I learned and brought back from Québec this ‘Joie de vivre’ is what I want to continue in my life. Perhaps not in Toronto but wherever I go I will strive for my own ‘Joie de vivre’.

Le Petit Champlain / Château Frontenac

Natural Beauty Near Québec

le Domaine à l’Héritage

Art Inspiration: Greek Vases


Several weeks ago I did a weeklong exploration/inquiry on mythology, specifically Greek/Roman or Classic Mythology.   The students truly enjoyed the week with me reciting the tail of the Greek gods and other classical myths. Yet one art project we did inspired many to create some wonderful artwork.

Below you can see the Greek vase art project we did. You can follow each step on how we created them.


Step 1. First we drew a vase and then we choose warm or cool colour oil pastels and totally coated or coloured in the entire vase, pressing hard. If you don’t, the black paint will stick and absorb to those areas and won’t easily be scratched away.

Step 1: Colour the vase with oil pastels

Step 2. After we fully colored and coated the entire vase with the oil pastels, the students use black acrylic paint to paint over wherever they colored in oil pastel. We let the creation dry fully over night.

Step 2: paint the vase with acrylic paint.

Step 3.   The next day the students used wooden toothpicks and skewers to scratch away gently into the vases and just remove the black paint exposing the colored oil pastel underneath.

Step 3: using a toothpick or a skewer, scrap away the black paint to create your image.


I told them that many Greek vases depicted tails from mythology or some impart scene from the life of the time the vase was created. My example shows a scene from the tail of Prometheus being visited by the eagle. I told them that they could do a story or some thing important to themselves. A couple of students enjoy playing baseball and you can see their creations. Below you can enjoy the students hard work and amazing finished vases.

Friday Two Cents: Imagine The Endless Possibilities



This past week I introduced the afterschool students (grades 3 – 5) to the world of mythology, more specifically Classic or Greek / Roman mythology. I know the Ontario curriculum for grade 4 Social Studies has an Ancient Civilization unit on the subject, therefore I know the majority of the students would be or had been exposed to this theme. Yet I wanted to explore or really expose them to the world of Classic mythology as I was at their age.

We did activities such as maze/labyrinths runs, word searches, word scrambles and crosswords on mythical creatures. Colouring sheets on some of the mythical creatures, Greek vase drawing and scratch art; (I will try to post some of their creations in the next couple of weeks). But the big thing that I wanted to do was tell them the stories or tails from mythology. Like the traditional story tellers of old use to.
Prometheus's unending punishment

Prometheus’s unending punishment

I started with the creation story with Chaos, Cronus, Rhea, Zeus and the other Olympian Gods. Yet I then focused on the creation of man by Prometheus, the story of the sacrifice to the theft of fire, Pandora and his endless punishment. I continued telling them the story of the Iliad with side stories of the birth and legend of Heracles, Achilles, Helen, Paris and other details from the Odyssey and the birth of Rome with Aeneas as the descendent of Romulus and Remus.  
The students were mesmerized by the story and they wanted more but I only told them segments of the story everyday. Everyday they would ask about what happens next in the story. Their curiosity was amazing.
I was also a bit surprised by the student’s attention because most of this generation has a very short attention span. Study after study has proven this fact as well as my colleagues’ experiences and mine have backed this up. Yet their interest was so genuine that I too became excited when telling them. I even could not help myself by telling the students how these stories have affected them in their own lives. The story of the Roman civilization was one example they enjoyed. I told them that the Romans were first a monarch, then a republic; they had a civil war and then finally becoming an Empire. This is similar to the government and story line from the Star Wars movies. This surprised them and I could see that many made the connection. I told the students that I had a great many other stories I could tell them, but that would have to wait until another time. Many wanted to know more and I promised I would tell them more stories in the up coming days.
This experience was fantastic and it really made me feel good to bring this experience to them. Yet I think the greatest feeling I had, was telling them the stories. I felt like I was continuing the tradition of story telling dating back to ancient times. When story telling was the principle way to communicate thoughts, values and traditions from one generation to the next. It felt good to continue that tradition in a time when people want or need visuals to help tell a story. I suppose Carl Sagan was right;

‘Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.’ Carl Sagan

The true gift of humanity is our ability to “imagine the endless possibilities.”

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 2 – The Canadian Museum of History



The other location I made a point in visiting was the Canadian Museum of History. Formally named the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they have amazing artifacts from the early Peoples in Canada to the modern age. Yet this is not the reason why I wanted to visit this museum. They have a special exhibit entitled – The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.   This special exhibit has over 500 artifacts from Greek Museums that span from the earliest moment of the ancient Greek civilization up to Alexander the Great.  

The day I went to see the exhibit was one of the hottest days this summer and I decided to park my car in Ottawa and walk to the museum. However, if you know the capital region the museum is in Hull Quebec and I had to walk a kilometer in the 33o C with the humidity it felt like 40o C.   Yet for some reason I enjoy the hot weather and I relished the walk across the, Alexandra Bridge. It seemed appropriate for the occasion.


The Canadian Museum of History


Once at the museum I bypassed the regular exhibits (I have seen them when I came to Ottawa on an earlier trip) and went straight for the Greek exhibit. I have to tell you that I was in awe when I entered. They had artifacts dating back to 5300 – 4800 BCE with female fertility figurines. The amazing thing is that I saw similar artifacts in Malta from around the same time.

There were countless more artifacts that made me stop and take notice. Such things as urns with depictions of Achilles fighting and dragging Hector’s body. Statues of ancient heroes, birth of the Olympic Games, family seal rings, artifacts that depict the Iliad and Odyssey, ancient coins, head busts of Plato, Aristotle and Alexander and many, many more. In the end I cannot tell you all about each one. But I can tell you about a few that made me stop and in wonder.  

Boar-Tusk Helmet, Sparta, 13th Century BCE

One amazing artifact was an ancient Boar-tusk Helmet on display. This helmet was worn in battle and created from the tusks of up to 50 boars. The amazing thing about this artifact is that the warrior or hunter had to hunt down all the boars for the tusks. Imagine it’s the 15th century BCE and you’re hunting down 50 wild boars, each weighing between 75 – 100 kg, with ancient weapons such as spears and bows and arrows. It makes you think that our ancestors were made of sterner stuff.

The most impressive artifacts were made of, naturally, gold. One such artifact was something I knew about through my studies in university on the ancient Greek and Roman culture. Hienrich Schliemann found this amazing artifact in the ruins of Mycenae. He found many royal burial sites in the city, one that dated back to the time when the story of the Iliad probably took place. In one such burial site he found a death mask, which he called the “Mask of Agamemnon”.

A death mask is placed over the face of the mummified person. Schliemann associated the discovery to the Greek hero of the mythical conqueror of Troy. He actually discovered the top mask first and proclaimed “I have gazed upon the eyes of Agamemnon.” He later found a second death mask of a bearded man. Its beauty and detail convinced Schliemann to change his mind and associated this second mask to Agamemnon.

Funeral Mask – 16th Century BCE

The “Mask of Agamemnon” – 16th Century BCE

These masks were breathtaking and a wonder to behold. I remembered studying these moments in history in university and going over images of these artifacts but know I can see them in person. Many of these artifacts have never left Greece before now and it was a privilege to behold them in all their wonder.


Even though I enjoyed the Greek exhibit I did indulge in a couple of other exhibitions. There was the 1867 – Rebellion & Confederation exhibit that showed the events and motivations that brought the different regions of Canada together to create this great nation. Most of the events shown in the exhibit I knew about, but I had to stop and think that not many people in Canada take the time to actually look into how Canada was created. This was a great way to refresh my memory and for students and new Canadians to understand where we came from and why things happened.

The other exhibit I made a point on visiting was the Terry Fox – Running to the Heart of Canada exhibit. If you do not know about Terry Fox he is a Canadian legend who had cancer and decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The amazing thing was that Terry had his leg amputated and was running across Canada with a prosthetic lime. Today prosthetics are pretty advanced with amputees running and jumping like they never lost a limb. But in the early 1980s technology was not so advanced. His leg had a simple hinge that helped a bit with his running. But Terry suffered as he ran with his signature step hope but he pushed on. Today many people continue the run Terry started, raising millions for cancer research. The best part was the section where you can see all the letters and cards Terry received from people, including children, supporting him and just thanking him. On the back wall you can leave a note saying why Terry Fox is important to you. I left a note saying,


Terry showed you can do anything so long as put your mind to it.

Thanks Terry for giving me hope.   Paul Gauchi

In the end that is what this whole experience meant to me. From the birth of a civilization, to the struggle of a group of colonies coming together to create a nation, to the desire of a young man wanting to make a difference. That is what this museum will always have at it core. Hope for the human race, that we can do anything so long as we put our minds to it.


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