Friday Two Cents: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – Ottawa & Gatineau


I had the opportunity to visit the Ottawa area to take in some Canadian 150 celebration. Once there I did a lot of sight seeing in the usual places like the museums, the mint and the ByWard Market. However there was a new attraction in Gatineau that was unique that celebrated the diversity of Canada and its sheer beauty. It was the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017.

Jacques-Cartier Park Gatineau hosted the biggest horticultural event in Canada, the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017. Mosaiculture is a most spectacular horticultural technique that combines the following different art forms:
  • Sculpture for the structure,
  • Paint for the palette of colours, and
  • Horticulture as the means of creating living and changing artworks with plants.
The theme of the exhibit reflected on the 150 years of history, values, culture and arts in Canada, represented by more than 40 different arrangements. Admission to the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 exhibit in Jacques-Cartier Park is free and it was a spectacular site to see.
After the garden exhibit I enjoyed a unique exhibition at the History Museum that happened to be right across the street from Jacques-Cartier Park. The exhibit is called “Hockey”, what’s more Canadian then that. It was an exploration of Canada’s game for the very beginning, through the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Olympics and other international games all from a distinctly Canadian point of view.
If you are going to Ottawa one place you need to visit is the ByWard Market. It is a great place to get anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to any little nick-knack. They also have a wide variety of restaurants, bakeries and cafés. One was even visited by former President Obama where he bought a beaver tail and some cookies for his daughters.
Yet the day was topped off by a wonderful light presentation at the Parliament buildings. It is a sound and light show that journeys through Canada’s history. It shows Canadian stories of nation building, partnership, discovery, valour, pride and vision for a country. Key figures, events and achievements from Canadian history are brought to life using five distinct artistic styles. All are presented in spectacular detail, with a bilingual narration and an amazing music score that is projected on the Parliament builds, Centre Block and Peace Tower. There where times during the presentation where I felt myself tear up as a swell of national pride came over me. If you go to Ottawa just for this show it is well worth the trip. It truly was an amazing sight to see and I was lucky enough to find a copy of the show on YouTube. It is about 30 minutes but it is time well spent.

Going to Ottawa has always been a treat for me and I have been there on numerous occasions. Yet every time I go I cannot help be filled with pride and love for my birth country. The history, the accomplishments and vision of Canada have always been an inspiration to me. This trip has only deepened my love for Canada and I can proudly shout out for the entire world to hear…

“I AM CANADIAN!!”

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Friday Two Cents: Keeping A Routine And Keeping Healthy


With the summer upon us and I am, like the children, off for the summer enjoying a well-deserved rest. A time to recharge my batteries and get things done that I put-off during the year. I have a list of things I need to get done around the house yet I decided to make sure I looked after my own health at the same time.

Working as a teacher is no an easy job. It is a mental and physical job that many people think is easy to do. ‘You’re playing with kids. How hard is that?’ Trust me it’s not easy. Put aside the fact that teachers must program the daily lessons, write reports and supervise the students, it is also very physical. Everyday I would look at my step counter and on average I would do between 14 000 and 15 000 steps daily. That level of activity is taxing and does take its toll after a time. Yet I must admit once you get use to it you miss it after a while.
During the summer months I have taken it upon myself to keep healthy and physically fit. I big part is maintaining my diet. I have a routine that did not change over this past three weeks of the summer and it has helped.  I try to keep to the same routine but I also know that I am not perfect and I allow myself to occasional indulgence but in moderation.
Eating is only part of it; I also go to bed and wake up at the same time. I exercise and keep physically fit but this week I have taken up something that I haven’t done for about 5 years; ride my bike. I have a stationary bike at home that I use often but going out seemed such an inconvenience. I use to ride almost everywhere when I was younger, yet when I got my licence I rode less and less. This year though I thought why not start again.
I got my bike ready and the day after I finished my Mathematics course I went down to the lakeshore and rode along the bike path. It was an exhilarating experience and it is true what they say, once you have ridden a bike you never forget. I rode along the same path I did years ago everything about riding came back. The breeze whipping across my face; the sensation of my legs as I pump them up and down and the sense of accomplishment after riding the set amount of kilometers I set for myself.
I know this is only the beginning and I am being realistic. I know not to push myself too much but I intend to continue for at least the summer. After that who knows. Trying to keep healthy is a lot of work but as I have discovered, its fun too.

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Friday Two Cents: It’s Good To See The Fruits Of Your Labours


 

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Follow-Up to Friday Two Cents: Using Statistics To Help Teach

 

On Tuesday we had the championship game for the softball league at the school. The game itself was extremely exciting to watch and in the end it was a shame to see it end.

Let me set the scene for you. Both teams are lined up along the base lines in what I call a learning circle. We begin with the Canadian National anthem and then I gave some last-minute words of encouragement. The Bears have home field advantage and they take the field to warm-up and throw the ball around. We play slow-pitch with your own team pitching to you with four pitches maximum. The Dolphins are up to bat and began their routine with their pitcher warming up as well.

Bears vs Dolphins Lined up for the National Anthem

Bears vs Dolphins Lined up for the National Anthem

The game begins with the Dolphins getting a single from the first batter but the Bears respond with a couple of great defensive plays getting players out at first and the runner advancing to 3rd. The next player hits a line drive along the first base line for a triple scoring a run. The next batter gets out with a play at first and the Dolphins lead 1 – 0. The Bears are up in the bottom half of the first but the Dolphins are equal to the task and get three outs for a 3 up 3 down inning.
Not to be out shown by the Dolphins, the Bears respond defensively getting three outs out of four batters in the top of the second. Yet the bottom half is where they showed their stuff. With a batter on first and two outs the Bears look like that might not score a run. However the next two batters get singles to load the bases setting the stage for what comes next. The next batter rips the ball past the outfielder for a grand-slam home run. The inning ends and the Bears are now leading 4 – 1 after 2 innings.
In the 3rd inning both teams got players onboard but could not cash-in any runs. With the top of the 4th about to start I checked my watch and saw that we had extra time. The players suggested they play 5 innings because we had extra time (we usually play only 4 innings because of time restrains but we always have a 5th inning available). I told the players that it was up to the captains’ to decide and I would abide by they their decision. So both teams went off and discussed it and the Bears captain said yes as did the Dolphins. I said are you sure otherwise we only play the 4 innings. They both agreed and we continued the game. The enter exchange took about 2 – 3 minutes and we continued the game with a 5th inning agreed to. Would this decision be a good or bad choice for either team? Will one take advantage? I wasn’t sure, so I bid the game continue to find out.  
The Dolphins were up and their captain responded with a single. The next player came up to the plate and on his second pitch hits the ball over the second baseman’s head. By the time the ball got to the infield the runner on first scored and the batter was on his way to 3rd. The fielder threw the ball to third but over shot the 3rd baseman. The runner continued home without stopping and was awarded with a home run, making the score 4 – 3 Bears.
The next batter for the Dolphins continued the hitting spree with a single, but the next batter rockets a hit into deep right field. Both runners round the bases with the batter stumbling on his way from third to home plate but still scoring a home run. The Bears buckle down and get the next three batters out but the damage is done. With the bottom of the 4th coming up the score is Dolphins 5 – Bears 4.
The Bears quickly respond with a single but the next batter pops up the ball in the infield and gets out but the runner on first does not tag up and the fielder gets him out by stepping on first for a double play. Yet with two outs the Bears get two more runners on base but cannot bring them home. The inning ends with Bears trailing 5 – 4. Now the Bears are feeling glad they added on the extra inning where the Dolphins are not.
But the feeling of regret quickly fades as the first batter gets on base. The second batter hits the ball into right field and is running to second when the fielder over throws the 2nd baseman allowing the runner to 3rd and continue home scoring a home run. The Bears then get two outs but the Dolphins are not finished. A runner gets on base and the following batter hits a hard shot into deep centre field. The throw to the infield is coming but it is too late the runner scores another home run. In the last two innings the Dolphins hit 4 home runs, scoring 8 unanswered runs. The bottom of the 5th inning is coming up and the Dolphin’s lead has grown to 9 – 4.
The Bears have one last chance to get six to win the game or five runs to tie and force an extra inning. The two first batters get on and with the third getting out the Bears have two runners in scoring position at second and third base. The next batter comes up and pops the ball in the infield. A fielder gets the ball but the runner on third does not tag and the fielder runs over and steps on third base for the game winning double play. The Dolphins begin to cheer as they win the 2016 Championship game. The final score; Dolphins 9 – Bears 4.
Championship Trophy. Gold, Silver & Bronze Medals and MVP Balls.

Championship Trophy. Gold, Silver & Bronze Medals and MVP Balls.

I bring out the medals and I see that many of the Bears are crying because they lost. I told them and the crowd that they worked hard and they should be proud on how they played and put in their best effort. I know that at the time it does not mean much but I know they did have fun and that is what is important. I then handed out the MVP balls to the two players (male and female) and then medals to all the teams from 1st place to 4th. Everyone gets a medal (the two teams that lost in the semi finals both get bronze medals). Finally after the Bears take a team photo for the parents I get the Championship Trophy ready. I told everyone there that even though the Dolphins lost their first two games, they came together as a team to get to third place. They finished the season in third place but were first in runs scored. Now they are the first, 3rd place team to rally back, win both playoff games without home field advantage to win the championship game.
Leadership, Sportsmanship, Teamwork, and a Positive Attitude; attributes I was trying to instil in the students all year. It feels great that the 2016 Dolphins developed and showed all of these qualities in the last couple of weeks of the year. It’s good to see the fruits of your labours come to fruition.

Friday Two Cents: Using Statistics To Help Teach


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The week before the end of the school year is a crazy time. Teachers getting report cards ready, children doing last-minute assignments, end of the year concerts and so on. Everything is coming to ahead for the end of school and the beginning of summer break. With everything else the softball and t-ball leagues I run at the school, are all wrapping up and I have only one more game left to play.

I finished the T-Ball season with the championship game this week. The T-ball league is for students from the grades kindergarten to grade 2. It was a fun-filled game with all the students enjoying themselves while trying to capture the T-ball Championship. In the end it came down to the closest game of the season. The two teams, Monkeys verse Chipmunks, played their hearts out, but the Chipmunks prevailed defeating last year’s Champion the Monkeys. The final score was Chipmunks 29, Monkeys 28. A nail biter, right to the end.
T-Ball Championship Game: Monkeys vs Chipmunks

T-Ball Championship Game: Monkeys vs Chipmunks

This following week the older students will be playing their championship game on Tuesday, with both teams looking forward to the final game. The two teams, the Bears and Dolphins both came to the finals on two different paths. The Bears were in first place from the first week and never looked back finishing the round robin with a 5 win and 1 lose record. The Dolphins on the other hand started in the bottom losing their first two games, scoring a total of 3 runs for both games and having a run scoring percentage of 20%. But they rallied back and finished the round robin and even 3 wins and 3 loses. Yet the amazing thing is that they ended up finishing first in runs scored with 60 and having the highest run scoring percentage at 61.2%. How do I know this? I keep statistics for the league.
Yes I keep statistics on the children. They are not that detailed, just on-base percentage (OBP), numbers and types of hits and runs batted in. The beauty of it all is that the students keep the score and I enter the numbers into the computer to get the stats. At the beginning of training camp I would teach every child how to keep score on the score sheet and the teams would do so. They are very enthusiastic and do a great job. Many would think that keeping stats would be detrimental to the children; on the contrary, it encourages them and helps them with their self-esteem. On more than one occasion I would see students looking at the weekly stats and telling others what their numbers are. The children all look forward to them and it is also a great teaching tool.
You might not think it but it truly is. Many children would ask me how I come up with the stats and then I would explain that it is all simple math.   They all look at me in astonishment and then I would show them on the board how simple and useful math can be. One example is how to get their OBP. I would take the number of times they would get on base (OB) and divide by the number of at bats (AB). Then this would give me the percentage of how many times they get on base.

 OB / AB = OBP –> (10) / (12) = .917 –> .917 * 100 = 91.7%   OBP is .917 or 91.7%

 Strictly speaking, I just taught them that math is a part of a game that they enjoy.
Yet I also discovered another benefit of the statistics for the students. Part of the program is to develop leadership for the older students and teamwork for everyone playing. The captains and assistants are given responsibilities, one of them is creating their lineups and player positioning for the games. I noticed the captains and assistants would use the statistics when they are creating their lineups. They told me they would place players in a specific way to help score more runs and position where their pitchers would pitch.
That’s what I love about baseball. You can learn to play the game and yet once you do you can learn something new about it. For the children, without even knowing about it, they learned math, strategic planning and social skills outside the classroom.  
Oh one other question the students kept asking me. ‘Who is going to win the Championship Game?’ I answered with ‘Who do you think will win?’ Many looked at the stats and gave me their predictions. Even teachers have given me their predictions after looking at the statistics.
I’m curious who you think will win based on the stats. The two teams playing in the championship game are the Bears vs. Dolphins with the Bears having home field advantage. Below are the stats and a poll. Let me know and I will let you know after the game Tuesday who the winner is and if your predictions were in line with the children’s.

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Friday Two Cents: Happiness Is A Habit


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‘If you want to be happy, be.’ Leo Tolstoy

 

If many of you do not know I run a softball house league for an afterschool program.   The program is not just teaching the students the basics of the game but also to help foster leadership, teamwork and sportsmanship skills in the students. I take these extra learning goals to heart and I truly believe that these are life long skills that everyone must nurture and cultivate.

Many may think, what good is it to develop these skills in a baseball setting. Yet these skills are transferable to life objectives.

             

  1. Leadership – is an obvious skill for people as they continue their journey through life. Everyone at one point or another takes on a leadership role either in school, the workplace or in their family. Being able to lead others and respect those that you lead is a valuable ability for anyone.
  2. Teamwork – does not stop with school but continues in the workforce. Unless you plan to work alone and not interact with anyone else, you must learn to work with others in a respectful and cooperative manner.
  3. Sportsmanship – the aspiration that sports or an activity is enjoyed for its own sake with fairness, ethics and respect for all participants. Every activity from sports and board games, to friendly competition in the work force, fairness, ethics and respect for all participants can mean the difference in getting a promotion or employment.

 

A positive attitude.

For the students it is only the beginning of their journey, yet many of you know that it is a life long learning experience with many bumps along the road. To that effect I noticed many students saying that they are going to lose and would not even try. I then talked to them about another aspect that is part of all three sections, a positive attitude. Studies have shown that being positive has up to 80% of an effect on the final result. In other words if you think you are going to lose or fail, your already have.
When the students were being negative about their game, I then thought about how many adults do the same thing about their jobs, tasks, others or life in general. I then read a few studies about how having a positive attitude, or being happy can help to reduce stress and increase creativity. I found five things I would like to share with you on what you can do every day to reduce stress and have a positive attitude towards life.

  1. Enjoy at least 20 minutes of silence a day. Quiet time reduces stress and allows the brain to be in an optimal state of creativity. Meditation maybe in order.
  2. Give 5 hugs a day. Research shows that hugging can heal sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.
  3. Read a book. Studies say that reading for 6 minutes a day can reduce stress by 68%.
  4. Laugh more often. Humour strengthens your immune system, boosts energy, diminishes pain, and protects from stress.
  5. Move your body. Staying active helps you feel better and clears your mind of negative thoughts.
I would imagine Elbert Hubbard was right, ‘Happiness is a habit, cultivate it.’ I plan to cultivate my happiness more starting today. Lets do it together.

 

Comic Strips: The Long Ball


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May is finally here and with it the May edition of the comic The Craziest Things. This month is centred on a topic that am passionate about and that I have shared with the students, baseball.   I am not taking all the credit for the student’s love of the game; I will place that on the shoulders of the Toronto Blue Jays. Like many in the school and the city, people are excited about the team’s resurgence. Many of the students want to emulate the players. Many adults are surprised on how these players influence the students and how it affects them.  

At the school I run a softball house league for the older students and they are really excited about playing.   Many emulate the Blue Jay players but the one they copy a lot is Jose Bautista.   I have had students come up to me and ask for a bat and ball so they can practice their batting, throwing and catching.
I watch them and several of the students get lined up and try to hit a homer just as Bautista would do. I even have seen them run the bases like him and Edwin Encarnacion, with his arm up like he is carrying his parrot.
I smile to myself and just take it all in. Then I remember what I did when I was their age. I was no different playing baseball or hockey. I would try to imitate my heroes. I seems that time may have changed but in the end, some things stay the same.
I hope you enjoy the latest instalment of, The Craziest Things; The Long Ball.

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Friday Two Cents: It All Gives Me Hope


 

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This past week I started training camps for the students who joined the softball and T-ball leagues. For the first week I just want them to throw around the ball to get use to the idea of throwing and catching. For many of the kindergarten to grade 2 students it’s the first time they are wearing a glove or throwing a T-ball. The same can be said for the older students, the softball is a lot larger than a normal sized baseball or tennis ball, which many use to play catch.

Yet this is only part of what we do in the first week, we then go into a classroom where we go over some basic rules of the game. For the younger students we go over where to run to, so they understand were they should go. With the older students we go over a lot more rules such as tagging up from a pop fly and conduct on and off the field.
However these are just boring logistics of the game. I always let them know that this is a game and the #1 rule is, “Having fun!” And to extend this philosophy I always end the first day of training camp with a cartoon. Which cartoon you may ask? Why, that classic Disney cartoon with my favourite character Goofy; “How to play baseball.”

All the students love this little cartoon and it seems to set the mode for the rest of the season. I even had parents come into the class, sit-down and watch the cartoon. For some reason this little 8-minute cartoon speaks to kids of all ages. I guess I have to keep in mind that quote from the movie Field of Dreams:

‘The one constant through all the years, has been baseball. North America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.’

Quote from Field of Dreams Terence Mann: (James Earl Jones)

You know I think that is why I love baseball so much. When I see the students playing the game, throwing a ball or watching a cartoon about baseball, it gives me hope. It reminds me of all that once was good and could be again.
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