Keeping the hills alive with the sound of music

For decades parents have been supporting their children’s dreams and keeping Lynn Valley’s hills alive with the sound of music. The 36th Annual Argyle Music Association fundraiser Cabaret is taking place this weekend.


Annual Cabaret funds scholarships


“It’s for students graduating from the Argyle music program, “ said Sheila Balzar, parent and volunteer fundraising coordinator. “It varies from year to year, but last year we had, I believe, 25 applicants and everyone received something.”

The annual evening of music, silent auction and dining will take place at May 12 at 6 p.m. at Mulgrave Theatre in West Vancouver. This year’s event – titled Jazz to Jukebox will showcase the talents of students as they perform their skills in an industry-level performance. As a fundraiser, it is one of a handful held throughout the year that supports students, the curriculum and trips the students take.

“Cabaret is strictly for scholarships and bursaries,” said Balzar. “Over 100 students will be performing. It is the pinnacle of the jazz students curriculum – they are expected to perform as if they are a professional and this is a paid gig.”


Exceptional program, bright futures


For those who have not been through Argyle, they might not be familiar with the school’s extremely well-regarded music program. Parents with a child in music automatically become a part of the Argyle Music Association and their dedication is essential to the program.

“We are there to support the music – these teachers put so much energy and time into creating this quality program. They need to be able to focus on teaching,” said Balzar.

The investment in students is paying off in so many ways, she said. From outstanding opportunities to tour in Europe to creating foundational music and technical abilities that have students stepping out of high school and into industry jobs while pursuing post-secondary education, and ultimately full-time employment.

For her son and daughter, it has not only meant a passion for music but technical skills to support the performances as well.

“My son discovered sound and lighting in Grade 7 when a teacher suggested he help with the school play,” she said. “That dovetailed nicely into the sound and lighting crew at Argyle. He had the opportunity to become a leader at young age, putting in incredible hours and now is working in the industry at 19 doing events at Rogers Arena.”


Exceptional program, bright futures


“Music is a huge part of these students,” said Balzar. “The program at Argyle is outstanding. There are opportunities to perform with members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It is elevating their musical experience – the level of commitment, the preparation, the excellence to do that. Just to put themselves out there to perform at the level – its huge.”

For some the music program is an opportunity to be part of something bigger – to be part of team.

“There is a sense of belonging in the music program – working together,” said Balzar. “The progress is phenomenal throughout the year and to see them from Grade 8 to Grade 12  — it’s exponential.”

Senior choir at Bach’s Tomb

The work is paying off. During the school’s most recent senior trip to Europe their reputation for excellence afforded them the unique opportunity to perform Bach while at Bach’s tomb – something that could only happen because of their skill, said Balzar.

“It’s a massive program,” she said. “So many people put so much energy, so much love in to 300-plus students to enrich their high school experience and change the rest of their lives.”


How to help


There are plenty of opportunities for the community to support this program. In addition to attending Cabaret or donating auction items, the teachers have wishlists, she said.

“With a new school being built, we need to remember it is just the shell of a school and to run an excellent program there needs to be equipment,” said Balzar. “This is not in the capital budget; this is not in the operating budget.

“There are so many ways to help: come out to concerts and performances,” said Balzar, noting there is a list on their website. “If a student knocks on your door – try to say yes to purchasing some pie or chocolates.”

To create a lasting legacy of support contact the Argyle Music Association for current needs at fundraising@argylemusic.ca. The group has come up with some fantastic passive fundraising options as well that support students throughout the year. If you shop at SPUD you can purchase your produce and support students – details here or purchase SPUD gift cards and use them later – details here. Same goes for fantastic North Shore Two Rivers Meats – details here.

Out of the school yard and up to ‘Big House’

Suddenly there is quiet – 50 formerly noisy, energetic Grade 3 students have just stepped into the forest. Since they started school, the students have been told they would go to the Big House, now known as the longhouse. For months, they have been working with their teachers and special Aboriginal instructors to gain a base of knowledge they hope will transform into appreciation. The moment they begin their time at  Cheakamus Centre, it is clear this not a typical school day.

For decades, parents in the North Vancouver School District have been sending their children to Paradise Valley – first on trains; now in school buses for the unique programs offered at Cheakamus Centre – remembered by many as the North Vancouver Outdoor School. But unless you check out the Centre’s Open House, only a few lucky parents get to experience this themselves. Thus it was that LynnValleyLife tagged along with Lynn Valley Elementary on a recent visit to see firsthand what this Indigenous Cultural Program is about.


The Forest


Dusted with snow, the forest glowed as the sun shone through a light fog as students were divided into groups for an interpretive walk. Indigenous Cultural Program Coordinator Sarah Davidson-James and Indigenous Cultural Program Staff Member Mathew Siýámken Williams took the groups along the Ch’iyákmesh (Cheakamus) River. It was clear which children frequently visit the forest and for which this was a rare experience – some walked tentatively on the uneven icy ground while other bounded through the snow. Every couple of minutes Mathew would gather the group to share some ecological or cultural knowledge. Students were encouraged to pick up fallen materials – like moss, lichen or horsetails – to feel or use them as Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) people did.

750-year-old cedar

We learned what plants made what pigments for art or ceremonial purposes. Quickly there were 20 children sputtering into horsetails after Mathew shared they were used as whistles. As the walk continued to a 750-year-old cedar tree, a few clear notes rang through the forest.

The trees in this area are stunning, but the second growth looks nothing like the ancient stumps that dot the forest or one of the few remaining ancient cedars. It took about 17 students to encircle the base of towering tree.

The walk emphasized how First Nations people used and respected the forest. The students were keenly interested in how the Skwxwú7mesh people chose to use cedar trees based on their gender. Women would use female trees and men would use male trees. Another fact that resonated with the students was how Skwxwú7mesh children are taught to harvest cedar bark – people were taught to harvest a strip of bark only as wide as their two hands. If children were gathering, their strips were obviously smaller. The students could identify trees that had been harvested by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people about their age. Experiential moments like this throughout the day seemed to foster connection – students were relating to information in a much different way than what they learn in a classroom.


The Programs


Skw’une-was (the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh word for partnership), the overnight Grade 3 program is a provincially recognized program tied to the BC Curriculum, said Sepideh Tazzman, communications and marketing manager for the Cheakamus Centre. It began after a conference in 1985 of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people, North Vancouver District educators, and a few non-First Nations guests knowledgeable in Northwest Coast First Nations culture.

“During the conference that was the impetus for the program, participants listened to the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people speak of their values, attitudes and ways of life as well as traditional family roles and structures, and the approach to educating by example. It also included discussions about religious beliefs and language, as well as sharing experiences of the past and hopes for the future of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people,” said Sepideh. “Both First Nations and non-First Nations came away from the conference with a heightened understanding of and respect for one another. The sharing that had taken place developed into the longhouse curriculum and embodies the same sense of partnership between cultures.”

Within the halls of NVSD schools the program is known as Skw’unw-was and a much anticipated highlight of the year. The program is based on three major ideas that underlie the activities at the longhouse: respect, sharing, and seasonality, said Sepideh.

Those themes ran throughout the experience, from respecting the elders by serving them their food first, to respecting the forest by leaving any souvenirs that students had gathered; sharing of knowledge and cooperating to make lunch; to discussing the changing forest and work needed to survive there throughout the year.

A big takeaway for all the students was how Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people had to be patient and plan – nothing was instant like today’s culture. If you wanted a blanket it took five years to gather the wool and another year to weave, according to Mathew. If you wanted to weave hats or mats the cedar had to be harvested and dried for a year before you could get to work.


The Longhouse


The whispers begin even before the field trip forms go home. They have heard from older students…. The smoke…. The fire….The longhouse. In a day of many memories, the longhouse at Cheakamus Centre leaves the most lasting impression. The imposing – yet cozy – structure is the centerpiece of the program.

The students were greeted by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Elder Henry Khapquolanogh Williams at the bridge leading to the longhouse. Students announced their arrival and he welcomed them to the longhouse and invited them in. The dark, open room was hazy from smoke and warm from fire.

Inside Mathew explains the history, some basic building techniques, the core ideas of communal living, the astounding fact that longhouses were moved – sometimes on canoes – to different parts of Howe Sound and Burrard Inlet seasonally. Students were given an overview of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh life, beginning with food.

Cooking box

If you ask the kids, the most exciting moment of the program was seeing parent volunteers pull glowing rocks from the fire. Students carefully wiped ashes from the stones with cedar bows, before they were placed inside a pot with water and vegetables. Within a cooking box the veggies boiled and cooked while the children roasted bannock over the fire.

Inside and outside the longhouse students cooked their bannock while Mathew explained Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people originally made bread from a flour made from the alder tree and a lichen commonly called old man’s beard. The memorable meal was topped off with salmon prepared by Cheakamus Centre staff.


The Work


Another key piece of the program is experiencing the traditional day-to-day tasks of the Coast Salish people. Groups of students were able to participate in two experiences, choosing from Plant Gatherers, Wood Workers, Cedar Bark Workers, Wool Weavers, or Hunters/Fishers.

Mathew took the Hunters/Fishers down to the river. It was a humbling moment to learn Sḵwx̱wú7mesh means “People of the Fish Weir” while learning about how they would traditionally fish. The students were awed seeing Mathew pull an obsidian arrowhead from his pocket. They scoured the beach looking for basalt, that flakes in a similar way, and a rock to make their own. After seeing an American Dipper fish on the river it was time to head back and try their hand at weaving.

Alongside the longhouse and the outdoor cooking fire, students settled into patiently weaving cedar strips. The slow practice was carefully guide by Elder Henry. He shared photos of elaborate projects inspiring the students to focus harder on their works.


The End


Time at the longhouse flies by. Students, parents, teachers and cultural staff gathered around the longhouse fire one more time to share thoughts of the experience. The take-away from the program is that it fosters an appreciation and understanding of First Nations. The personal stories and anecdotes from indigenous cultural staff and elders help students understand that while they are experiencing a portion of history, they are still learning about issues relevant today – jaws dropped across the fire when Mathew shared there are only seven fluent Sḵwx̱wú7mesh language speakers left. These experiences push some kids out of their comfort zones and invigorate others with a deeper understanding of the forest they love.

With hair scented with wood smoke students filed back on to the bus with exclamations of this being the “best trip ever.”  Osieum (“Oh-see-em”) to Cheakamus Centre and NVSD for sharing it.

The 49th Annual Cheakamus Centre Open House is on Sunday, May 6th, 2018 from 10:30 a.m. -3:30 p.m..

How a local playground fell victim to class size and composition

Lynn Valley Playground Looking for Donations and Sponsors

Lynn Valley Elementary PAC President Kyla Shore

When the courts reversed the province’s right to impose class sizes without negotiating with teachers, many parents let out a sigh of relief. More teachers, smaller classes — it seems win-win. As the North Vancouver School District struggled to conform to the changes, one local school’s playground became an unfortunate victim in the shuffle – and they hope you can help.

“Last summer the district added two portables to our school,” said Kyla Shore, president of the Lynn Valley Elementary Parent Advisory Committee. “The only space to put them was where our swings used to be.”

In August out went the swings, in went two temporary portables.


Another hurdle for playground committee


Unlike most other schools in the community, Lynn Valley Elementary has little more than pavement and gravel, said Shore. There aren’t any natural spaces. This prompted parents more than five years ago to start a committee to revamp the area with more natural features and improved playspaces. The process of fundraising and planning began. In the meantime, almost 100 students were added to the school.

Swings are the number one feature students requested in a poll the PAC did three years ago to help guide playground plans. At the time Lynn Valley Elementary had three swings and one accessible swing.

Today there are zero.

“[The school district] took out the swings with our hope being that they would move them,” said Shore. “When they were taken out there was significant corrosion so they couldn’t be reused. Once they were out of the ground it became our cost to replace them.”

This began a process of assessing school yard space, consulting with other community users and construction.

“The [school] district has been very helpful over the last few months,” said Shore. “They had to talk to groups they have agreements with for field use. They ended up removing two goal posts and changing the fields.”

This has freed up some of the gravel to be returned to a playspace.

“We would also like to see paths, boulders, logs, trees to reflect the natural beauty of the North Shore. Something that kids can use during school and after,” said Shore.

The first step is to replace the swings and add a few features to physically engage students. This is a chance to make the space better, more accessible and to allow more students to play at the same time, said Shore.

“We are going to install eight swings and two disc swings that can be used by more than one student or by a child with special needs,” said Shore, adding the first phase will also include horizontal bars, plus all the framing and fill needed for safety requirements.


Adopt a Piece of the Playground


The Lynn Valley PAC is hoping the community will help. To take advantage of available timelines from the school district they have temporarily reassigned funds from other projects to cover costs and is hoping families and community members will sponsor a piece of equipment to finish off the project, said Shore.

“We know most people maybe can’t afford a swing ($500), but maybe they can sponsor a wheelbarrow of wood chips ($25) or post ($100),” she said. “A lot of money we raise goes to things the community don’t usually get to see – like technology in the classroom, or field trips, or special guests. This is something where you will see the impact every day and for years to come.”

As a registered charity, the PAC is able to issue receipts for donations of more than $25 or offer public recognition to donors. More details and how to donate are on the PAC’s website.

 

(Photos courtesy of Lynn Valley Elementary PAC)

Pumpkin patches to spring up in Lynn Valley!

It’s almost that time of year for the Great Pumpkin to descend once again (whether Linus sees him or not!) to transform a Lynn Valley field into a magical pumpkin patch.

On October 14th starting at 11am, there will be Halloweeny fun for all ages, hosted by the Lynn Valley Parent Participation Preschool and Lynn Valley Elementary.

See below for more details.

We are proud to once again be sponsoring these two family-friendly events!

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Great fall programs at Mollie Nye House and elsewhere!

That “back-to-school” feeling that comes over us in September isn’t just for the young ‘uns. There’s a huge range of community programs designed for adults of all ages and stages, so why not sharpen your pencil (or pick up your yoga mat, or harmonica, or smart phone) and join in?

Mollie Nye House on Lynn Valley Road is home to a variety of popular courses, both registered and drop-in. Operations Manager Celeste Whittaker is putting out the call to let Lynn Valley residents know that new beginner and intermediate classes in tai chi/qi gong and English-language training are starting, as is the popular Better Balance with Surefeet program. For information on these and other registered programs at Mollie Nye House, click here.

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Argyle school replacement subject of open house

The community has long been awaiting news of the fate of Argyle Secondary. The school district is inviting local citizens to an open house and presentation that will explain the proposal and offer the opportunity to ask questions and put forward your thoughts on several community-related aspects of the project. It’s on Thursday, November 24, and takes place in the Argyle school gymnasium.

6:30 p.m. – Doors Open
6:30 – 7:15 p.m. – Open House
7:15 – 8:30 p.m. – Presentation

From the School District press release:

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Lynn Valley youth perform in chocolate factory theatrical

Lynn Valley young people are hitting the stage this month as they take part in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, presented by SMP Youth.

Heather Gawenda tells us that many cast and crew from Argyle Secondary, Upper Lynn Elementary, Lynn Valley Elementary, Ross Road and Boundary Elementary schools are taking part in the production, either under the lights or behind the scenes.

SMP 2016In the story, five lucky children find a golden ticket in their Wonka chocolate bars, giving them a rare glimpse inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  What do the children discover on their tour? Oompa Loompas, a chocolate waterfall, trained squirrels, candies with magical properties…and Willy Wonka’s true intentions.

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LV United seeks summer research student

Looking for a summer job in accounting and marketing research? A close-to-home opportunity is available that might be just right for you.

The Lynn Valley United Church office is operating out of temporary lodgings while they await completion of their new church building a block north of the Mountain Hwy and Lynn Valley Rd intersection. For now, staff  are bunking in with the North Shore Disability Resource Centre across the street, and Sunday morning services are held in the Lynn Valley recreation centre at the corner of Frederick and Mountain Highway.

Friday Night LiveThrough a 2016 Summer Job Grant, the team is looking for a student (age 15 to 30) who can provide research and support to the church’s community programs, which include the weekly Friday Night Live musical improv and arts presentation, a community choir and drum circle, and participation in local events such as Lynn Valley Day.

If you, or someone you know, might enjoy being part of this high-energy neighbourhood network, have a look at the job posting here. Deadline for application is May 2, so don’t delay! For further information, please contact Shari Gardiner at lvuc@telus.net.

LynnValleyLife Good Neighbour for 2015 announced!

If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll know that we at LynnValleyLife love collecting stories of the good citizens in our midst, and drawing from amongst them to name the recipient of our annual Good Neighbour Award. (Have a look in the Notable Neighbours section of our Front Porch blog for past winners and nominees, and pop by our office for a look at the Good Neighbour award plaque!)

We’re delighted to announce that this year’s representative of all of Lynn Valley’s good neighbours is Cath Bates Dimmock of Hoskins Road. Cath was nominated by her daughter, Carly, for whom she is obviously a huge inspiration. Thanks, Cath, for all you do for the young ladies and lads in the Argyle gymnastics program, and thanks, Carly for letting us know about it! Your mom will receive her own Good Neighbour Award plaque and a $50 gift certificate, courtesy of the Black Bear Neighbourhood Pub!

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