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Program gives those on autism spectrum access to arts – The Kingston Whig-Standard

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Mae Whalen, co-ordinator for the Kingston chapter of Autism Ontario, says the organization has three exciting programs coming up for people on the autism spectrum and their families. (Meghan Balogh/The Whig-Standard)

An exciting five-week arts program will offer Kingston individuals 16 and older who are on the autism spectrum the chance to experience the arts in a hands-on way.

The program is being facilitated by the Kingston chapter of Autism Ontario, with the help of a grant from the Davies Charitable Foundation and the involvement of some of Kingston’s artists, dancers and musicians.

For five weeks, weekly sessions in music, visual arts and dance will give older teens and adults on the spectrum the chance to delve into arts experiences and education.

The sessions are completely free, and participants can sign up for all three if they choose. Participants don’t need to have any prior experience in music, visual arts or dance to participate.

“They don’t have to have an instrument, they don’t have to be singers,” Mae Whalen, co-ordinator for the Kingston chapter of Autism Ontario, said. “They just have to like music. The same with each one of these sessions. They don’t have to have these abilities, they just have to want to experience them.”

The classes will take place at the Tett Centre for Arts and Learning, the Kingston School of Arts, and Leisa’s School of Dance. The Davies foundation funding covers all of the expenses, which makes the program free to anyone who wants to participate.

“It’s completely free, and it’s all being taught by professionals,” Whalen said. “People are being super supportive and super generous.”

Access to the arts is beneficial for all people, Whalen believes.

“The arts, more than anything, are universally loved. Whether you have an exceptionality or not, it reaches people on very organic levels and allows people to express themselves in a safe spot,” Whalen said. “And that’s the goal here, that they can be in a really safe spot to be able to express themselves. And the hope is, they have no arts experience but maybe they’ll find something through this that they’ll want to continue to do.”

The five-week arts program is one of three new programs, funded by grants, for Kingston people on the autism spectrum and their families and caregivers.

The last Thursday of every month, Whalen and facilitators host a social gathering for people on the autism spectrum ages 18 and over. Activities such as bowling, mini-putt, games night and more give participants the chance to socialize with their peers in a safe space.

Whalen said the nights have funding to continue for the entirety of 2019, and that she and the facilitators are letting participants lead the direction of the activities that are offered.

“Part of the thing is getting adults involved, getting them engaged,” she said. “Their parents usually recognize that they need to get out, that it’s better than playing video games in their room. Our goal is to find something that they want to get out and do.”

The final special event that is coming up through Autism Ontario in Kingston is a four-hour conference about diversity among those on the spectrum. That conference is taking place on May 22 at the Tett Centre and will feature speakers who explore being Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and women on the autism spectrum.

“What we’re trying to do is focus on the stories of people with autism who also come from certain sectors,” Whalen said. “It’s specifically to hear stories from people who also have special circumstances. Take women, for example. It was always believed that autism was a male-dominated diagnosis. Lots of young women were not being diagnosed until 12 or 13, and that puts a whole new spin on it.”

Keynote speakers include River Christie-White, a First Nations teen who speaks about being Indigenous with autism; Steven Barrow, who works at the M4M Sexual Health Program; and Stephanie Moeser, a social worker who has focused on women on the spectrum and their unique experiences.

All three of the upcoming events from Kingston’s chapter attempt to fill a need for programs for adults on the spectrum.

“We’ve always recognized that there’s a hole when it comes to adults,” Whalen said. “Once they finish their schooling, where do they go from there in terms of socialization and being integrated into their community? We’ve recognized that as a hole not only in our community but across the board. The struggle is trying to find opportunities to allow people with autism who are adults to be engaged and to have somewhere to go.”

Whalen wants local families to know that despite recent political upheaval, good things are still happening in Kingston for those on the autism spectrum.

“Kingston has worked really, really hard to try to support their autism community, and I don’t think people realize that,” Whalen said.

For more information, contact Mae Whalen at kingston@autismontario.com or by phone at 613-507-7896.

mbalogh@postmedia.com

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Culinary arts programs on the chopping block to save Vancouver School Board money – CTV News

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Luisa Alvarez, CTV News Vancouver


Published Saturday, November 16, 2019 7:12PM PST

VANCOUVER – Whisking together new recipes and learning from a red seal chef is an experience currently offered at seven Vancouver high schools that are equipped with teaching cafeterias.

A new report examining ways for the Vancouver School Board to save money suggests reducing that number to just two, plus one to be built in a future “centre of excellence” that would be built under the provincial seismic program.

Supporters of culinary arts programs in Vancouver schools say this is the wrong approach.

“There isn’t a single teaching cafeteria west of Main Street, so every student west of Main Street in high school has to actually travel by bus or car to one of the schools that have it,” said Bill Tieleman, spokesperson for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 963, representing school cafeteria employees and chefs.

“We have an enormous shortage of chefs of cafeteria workers everything in the restaurant and foodservice industry. They should really be looking at expanding this program not cutting it,” Tieleman said.

Annalida Leung, a trade-qualified baker, is a teacher with the program. While her job would be at risk with the change, she says she’s more concerned about the students.

“For students that don’t really know what they want to do, this is one way for us to kind of give them that road map of if they like to cook or if they like to bake, kind of spark that passion,” said Leung.

The report also recommends modifying the hot lunch program at Vancouver elementary schools, replacing it with delivered food that would be prepared off-site.

Krista Sigurdson, chair of the Lord Strathcona Elementary Parent Advisory Council, has concerns.

“If off-site delivery were to be done and privatization were to occur, we have less assurance of adherence to food guidelines,” Sigurdson said. “It’s an issue of control. The further the VSB loses control over the food, the less regulation there is going to be potentially over the quality.”

She’s also worried it could single students out.

“Offsite delivery would potentially only target kids in need, effectively differentiating poor kids from their healthier counterparts,” said Sigurdson.

“The last thing we need to do is have people signaled out because of their socioeconomic problems that they have a meal delivered to them and everyone sees it,” said Tieleman.

Nothing is set in stone, the VSB says, adding it won’t make any decisions without consulting parents, teachers and students.

“A number of factors were considered in the report,” said VSB trustee and chair Janet Fraser. “A number of options were put forward, it’s up to the board to decide how to move forward.”

Consultation is tentatively scheduled to begin in the new year.

“I’d encourage people to engage in that to let us know how we can proceed,” said Fraser. 

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Local man tries to keep 'Canada's original art' afloat (6 photos) – BarrieToday

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John Harrison wants to bring back what he views as a nearly forgotten art.

For the past eight years, the Orillia native has spent eight months a year living in the bush near Algonquin Provincial Park as he hones his skills at making traditional birch-bark canoes.

“The whole project has been about releasing a craft that’s been out of favour,” he said, noting that craft involves building canoes on the ground with three simple hand tools, sustainable harvesting and following a traditional process.

“I show my canoes and people are in amazement, but they often don’t see the art and this is the original (Canadian) art,” the 53-year-old said.

“It’s a really good project for arts, culture and history because it all ties in with that…Canadiana.”

Harrison, who has a fine arts’ university degree and is also an accomplished musician, is just finishing building 17- and 18-foot racing canoes and would now like to build a racing canoe side-wing as his next project.

“That original Canadian idea still hangs out in every canoe that you see today,” he said, noting he sold a 12-foot trapper canoe that’s now on display at Rama’s Bare Butts Smoke shop.

Harrison, who lives in a large tipi on the shores of Kimball Lake when not in the city, takes about three weeks to build a canoe.

“It takes a certain consistency of environment to produce the right tree,” Harrison said, noting he first uses a ladder to climb to an appropriate level before harvesting the bark from mature trees.

“You want 15- to 16-inch diameter (trunks) since with a tree like that you’re getting a quarter-inch of bark. I’m strictly doing a sustainable thing. I’m a surgeon when I’m on that tree and can get three canoes out of one tree. I pay homage to the tree.”

Harrison’s passion project has also led to displays, talks and workshops at Culture Days, Orillia Public Library, Rotary Club of Washago along with Cape Croker and Rama powwows.

As well, he teaches students at Rama’s Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School how to build a one-foot canoe and also wrote lesson plans for a canoe program.

“The last day, we had a regatta down the Black River. They had so much of a connection to what they built.”

But Harrison comes by his love of building Canada’s traditional watercraft honesty. His father Ron Harrison was a machine-shop teacher at Park Street Collegiate Institute from 1962 to 1995 and started the school’s Outward Bound program in the late 1960s.

“I was always around it; the essence, respect and joy of being in nature,” Harrison said, noting his father also helped students learn to build canoes.

“My father has built 86 canoes in cedar strip or fibreglass. I’ve built six, so I have a long way to go.”

Harrison has also been busy writing a collection of essays for an upcoming book entitled The Last Algonquin, which is a guide on how to build a traditional Canadian canoe that also features insights into life, Indigenous history and one’s place in nature.

“What technology utilizes birch bark’s water repellent nature, sewn in a blanket with spruce roots, structured internally with split cedar ribs, and sealed with spruce gum housing?” one essay excerpt asks before pointing out the canoe was created by combining three existing First Nations’ technologies found in other traditional items like snowshoes and toboggans “for travelling over frozen water.”

Harrison said he loves living in his tipi and being one with nature.

“I get so much peace and quiet for weeks at a time up at my site,” he said.

“I’m taught by nature and you renew your senses of sight, smell and sound. I get a better balance then when I was just living in the city.”

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Local man tries to keep 'Canada's original art' afloat (6 photos) – OrilliaMatters.Com

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John Harrison wants to bring back what he views as a nearly forgotten art.

For the past eight years, the Orillia native has spent eight months a year living in the bush near Algonquin Provincial Park as he hones his skills at making traditional birch-bark canoes.

“The whole project has been about releasing a craft that’s been out of favour,” he said, noting that craft involves building canoes on the ground with three simple hand tools, sustainable harvesting and following a traditional process.

“I show my canoes and people are in amazement, but they often don’t see the art and this is the original (Canadian) art,” the 53-year-old said.

“It’s a really good project for arts, culture and history because it all ties in with that…Canadiana.”

Harrison, who has a fine arts’ university degree and is also an accomplished musician, is just finishing building 17- and 18-foot racing canoes and would now like to build a racing canoe side-wing as his next project.

“That original Canadian idea still hangs out in every canoe that you see today,” he said, noting he sold a 12-foot trapper canoe that’s now on display at Rama’s Bare Butts Smoke shop.

Harrison, who lives in a large tipi on the shores of Kimball Lake when not in the city, takes about three weeks to build a canoe.

“It takes a certain consistency of environment to produce the right tree,” Harrison said, noting he first uses a ladder to climb to an appropriate level before harvesting the bark from mature trees.

“You want 15- to 16-inch diameter (trunks) since with a tree like that you’re getting a quarter-inch of bark. I’m strictly doing a sustainable thing. I’m a surgeon when I’m on that tree and can get three canoes out of one tree. I pay homage to the tree.”

Harrison’s passion project has also led to displays, talks and workshops at Culture Days, Orillia Public Library, Rotary Club of Washago along with Cape Croker and Rama powwows.

As well, he teaches students at Rama’s Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School how to build a one-foot canoe and also wrote lesson plans for a canoe program.

“The last day, we had a regatta down the Black River. They had so much of a connection to what they built.”

But Harrison comes by his love of building Canada’s traditional watercraft honesty. His father Ron Harrison was a machine-shop teacher at Park Street Collegiate Institute from 1962 to 1995 and started the school’s Outward Bound program in the late 1960s.

“I was always around it; the essence, respect and joy of being in nature,” Harrison said, noting his father also helped students learn to build canoes.

“My father has built 86 canoes in cedar strip or fibreglass. I’ve built six, so I have a long way to go.”

Harrison has also been busy writing a collection of essays for an upcoming book entitled The Last Algonquin, which is a guide on how to build a traditional Canadian canoe that also features insights into life, Indigenous history and one’s place in nature.

“What technology utilizes birch bark’s water repellent nature, sewn in a blanket with spruce roots, structured internally with split cedar ribs, and sealed with spruce gum housing?” one essay excerpt asks before pointing out the canoe was created by combining three existing First Nations’ technologies found in other traditional items like snowshoes and toboggans “for travelling over frozen water.”

Harrison said he loves living in his tipi and being one with nature.

“I get so much peace and quiet for weeks at a time up at my site,” he said.

“I’m taught by nature and you renew your senses of sight, smell and sound. I get a better balance then when I was just living in the city.”

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