Moving into 2019

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Photos Courtesy Hillside students (Take a Picture, photography program)

Hillside is moving forward with the times, constantly evolving and growing.  With the TDSB’s Vision for Learning, we are intentionally examining our lessons for Global Competencies, noticing where our students are given opportunities for collaboration, innovation, creativity. We have added a number of new features to our facilities, expanding to host a third classroom in our portable, installing a traverse wall, bringing in new technology in the form of an Augmented Reality Sandbox that is helping students to learn about mapping and the Rouge watershed in a hands-on 3D experience, and building a new Sugar Shack for Maple Syrup production in the Spring with Don Mills C.I. students helping to build. We have collaborated with the Canadian Wildlife Federation on environmental stewardship projects with Agincourt C.I. students as well as with Friends of the Rouge Watershed, planting in the National Urban Park. With more students than ever attending our programs, we are busy as beavers! In consultation with Knowledge Keepers and the Indigenous Ed Centre, we are growing in our Indigenous knowledge and understanding as well.

As part of our evolution, we have created both a twitter account and now our new Instagram account for fresh updates on our day to day adventures. We will be retiring the blog, but we encourage you to follow us: @tdsb_hillside  on Instagram, and @hillsideOE  on Twitter.  Please follow, tweet and like!

Yours in Nature, Hillside Staff


Earth Day Tree Planting with Heritage Park and Friends of the Rouge!

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Today we got to get muddy with friends just in time for Earth Day in a tree planting frenzy on the edge of Rouge Park near Heritage Park school. We met some mud, some worms, some snow, some ice and some smiles. We took care to hug our trees before tucking in our White Pines, Eastern Junipers, Chokecherries and Red-osier Dogwoods into their soil beds. We made mulch donuts to nourish and protect our baby trees. Our grade 3,4,5 and 6 earth steward friends from Heritage Park named our trees. Jack the Juniper, Garrett, Green Panther and Prickly were a couple of trees that found new homes today. Discussions ensued on actions that we can take to be green global citizens and how and why tree planting makes a difference to this Earth.  Students were able to collaborate and follow instructions carefully to ensure every tree got a great start to grow straight and tall and soak up the nutrients.  As the students grow, so will their future forest! Good work everyone 🙂   -Hillside


New Experiences for New Canadians: Finding Joy in Learning With Nature

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Unlike it’s usual set of little guests, Hillside welcomed forty adult learners from the Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies on a gorgeous, sun filled day! On top of adult learners, many of these students were also new Canadians, having immigrated just a short time ago from Iraq, Sri Lanka, Syria, China, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and a variety of other countries. Students participated in activities ranging from bird feeding, maple syrup tapping, hiking in the Rouge, and forest bathing (which does NOT entail taking a bath in the forest…it’s a wellness walk, a mindfulness practice of connecting with nature, the self, and others). Our students were captivated by the natural landscape of their new country and appreciative of gifts of knowledge through inquiry. From seeing the magic of sap dripping from a tree, to tapping a tree themselves, and tasting the syrup as it boiled, there were sweet moments throughout the day. For others, adventuring along the river and taking in both the sounds and sights of the forest in itself was breathtaking. Some lucky adults got a chance to feed geese, ducks, swans and chickadees at the Lynde Shores Conservation area. Our forest bathers marveled at the amount of freshwater in the Rouge river, sharing stories of the lack of access to clean fresh water in their home countries. Seeing enormous slabs of ice that had been pushed out of the powerful river up onto land, they told us with incredulity the price of small chunks of ice back home. Profound feelings of connection to their God were even stirred up for some, and participants left with smiles and a new appreciation for the healing powers in nature. Hillside staff enjoyed their visit immensely, and look forward to our second group from S.C.A.S. coming in March!



We Interrupt This Cold Spell…

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…with an uncharacteristically warm spell! Groups visiting Hillside these days have been experiencing their visits in some warmer weather.  One thing we have noticed as a result- our furry and feathered friends seem to be a bit confused by it all! Some of the chickadees have traded their characteristic call for their spring mating song.  A grade one class visiting Lynde Shores and Hall’s Road in Whitby last week were lucky to experience watching the stags (male deer) rutting (fighting), which is something normally reserved for the spring!

The good news is, with all this activity, students are having some rare and wonderful experiences with these beings. One small (six student) group from Eastview P.S. last Friday decided to “take the adventurous route”, leaving the standard trail.  We were rewarded with an up close sighting of TEN female deer, who stopped to stare at us as we locked eyes with them…a beautiful moment to be sure. They scampered off shortly after, but not before depositing some specimens for the students to wonder about after being prompted,

Teacher: “What do you think this is they left behind?”

(student observes the small, warm brown pellets in the snow)

Student: “Chocolate!”

Perhaps the spring rabbit is a little confused as well.   ; )

“Do you go out when it’s this cold?”

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The answer is yes!!- There’s no bad weather- only bad clothing! Hillside is stocked with all the necessary items for warmth.  Don’t have warm boots? We’ve got you covered! need thick mittens? No problem! We’ve taken donations from schools and also have a local church group who generously knits mittens for us.  We have neck warmers and coats, snow pants and more.  As for the winter- there are awesome learning opportunities out there. Never mind once the snow arrives- the excitement of seeing tracks in the snow, following the story of the animals and birds…the sparkle and beauty of the flakes as they fall, games and snowshoeing!   Even at this time before the snow, there is much to be learned- who is still here, and how are they preparing for winter? Experiments with warm water bottles, students trying to insulate as animals would to trap in the heat… We don’t let a little cold weather slow us down! Come see for yourself- if you have booked a visit in spring or fall in the past, try something new- you’ll be glad you did!

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Getting to Know Hillside

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Well, here it is already NOVEMBER! and I’m writing my first official Blog for Hillside as new Site Supervisor after Cheryl Shannon’s retirement.

People often ask me if I’m loving it here…

I can’t lie, this is truly a special place with incredible staff! I feel very fortunate.

Schools, we will be sending out emails from time to time letting you know of resources or outdoor opportunities so you can continue learning in nature.  There is some fantastic research out there on the benefits of outdoor play and learning- here are a few websites to check out for great resources to get you started, and to look deeper into the research on how being outside in nature can improve focus, reduce stress and anxiety, improve well-being and achievement among other things:

Click on the Resources bar to get INTO NATURE (K-8) and READY, SET, WONDER (early years) , two free and excellent curriculum-linked outdoor activity related resources.

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photo credit: My-Linh Coleman


Keep an eye out as well for the second edition of Natural Curiosity, to be released soon, which has an amazing Indigenous focus this time around.

Finally, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for up to the minute news and photos @HillsideOE.

Yours in nature,

Krista Kilian and the Hillside Staff





Thank You Home Depot

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A great big Thank You goes out to the Home Depot near Morningside and Sheppard for their generation donation that allowed us to plant our garden with a variety of vegetables and herbs.  While you cannot see them all yet, we are looking forward to when the first sprouts are seen, and of course to the delicious food the students of Hillside will be able to taste.