Monday, May 23, 2016

Festival of Trees Perspectives

Last week was a flurry of activity because of the 2016 Festival of Trees at Harbourfront. It is the culminating event for the OLA Forest of Reading program and very exciting to attend. I've written about it frequently on my blog - from 2015, 2014, 2013, and even as far back as 2009.

How you see the Festival depends on your point of view. This year, a good friend of mine had his book nominated for the 2016 Silver Birch Express Award. Liam O'Donnell wrote about what it was like to be giving autographs and sitting on stage in a post on his blog. (Go read it!)

What didn't sink in with me until this week was how different the Festival can appear to the same category of attendee - that is, a teacher.

On Tuesday, May 17, Farah Wadia and I took 25 Grade 7-8 students to Harbourfront for the Red Maple ceremony. We had a blast! Ms. Wadia is a huge fan of author Susin Nielsen and this was the first opportunity she ever had to meet her in person.

Susin was humble, charming and witty. She was patient with the long lines waiting to see her and was so personable to every person who approached her.

I attended a workshop by the author of Fragile Bones, chatted with some fellow teacher-librarians, and had a few of my school's Blue Spruce books signed by the author.

Where were the students during all of this? Ms. Wadia is incredibly organized and really helps her students become independent and responsible individuals. We had a meeting before the trip to review expectations and the students were permitted to determine their own agendas that day and explore Harbourfront in small groups without a teacher by their side constantly. The students were fabulous. With the exception of some drama on the TTC, there were no difficulties.

On Wednesday, May 18, the Grade 2-6 students who qualified to vote in one of the Silver Birch programs went to Harbourfront. We had 8 supervisors and two school buses. My group contained 9 Grade 2-4 students and it was definitely a different experience than the day before. Due to their age and the size and public nature of the venue, those with late primary or early junior students couldn't let them roam in the same way we could with older children. There was a lot of counting heads and negotiating for what we wanted to do and when. This made it a bit trickier, especially when some children wanted to do one thing that the others weren't keen on. Despite this challenge, we had a fun-filled day. My group bought books and frisbees, decorated their bodies with temporary tattoos, played games that earned them free books, collected some autographs, bought cotton candy, ate lunch, toured a moored sailboat, and attended the awards ceremony. My cell phone died near the end of the day, which wasn't great news because I was the main contact for the bus driver. My Plan B faltered because the portable charger I purchased did not have the correct cord to connect to my phone! Here are some of the photos I took - chosen for use here because you can't see the students' faces.

Playing games for prizes

Visiting the parked police cruiser

Getting autographs from Janet Wilson, author of Heroes

Touring the sailboat

Capturing a sense of the crowd

Seeing Dennis Lee speak at the ceremony
It was enjoyable, but with a lot more responsibility. I heard the Grade 3 teacher mention that it was a bit stressful keeping track of all the children, although in the same breath she said how much fun the children had.

I shouldn't forget the perspective of another group of people - the OLA staff. I saw Meredith and Brian and Annesha and they were working from early morning to late afternoon, for all THREE days of the Festival (because the French programs had their celebrations on Thursday). They must be exhausted but they should also be very proud of themselves for creating a fabulous event. It's a lot of work, but this tweet I shared below reminds us why we do it.

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