Author Michelle Good on “Five Little Indians”

We were so privileged to have author Michelle Good speak virtually with Grade 11 and 12 English students about her book Five Little Indians. In spite of the fact that her schedule is now incredibly busy due to the success of this important work, she made time to meet with York House students (at the request of English Teacher Tanya Boteju) as we were one of the first schools she met with when Five Little Indians was first published in 2020.

Michelle Good is of Cree ancestry a descendent of the Battle River Cree and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. She worked with indigenous organizations since she was a teenager and at forty years of age decided to obtain her law degree from UBC. Since graduating, she has practiced law in the public and private sector, primarily advocating for Residential School Survivors.

In 2014, she graduated from UBC with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. It was at this time that Five Little Indians first started to take shape. A national bestseller, the novel has since won numerous awards including the Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year; CBC Best Book of the Year; an Apple Best Book of the Year; a Kobo Best Book of the Year; and an Indigo Best Book of the Year. The novel was also longlisted for the Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Rogers Writers Fiction Prize. In 2021, the book won the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction at the 2020 Governor General’s Awards.

Five Little Indians is the heartwrenching story of five residential school survivors, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie, and Maisie, who are taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a church-run residential school. With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of each of these survivors.

Students, teachers, and staff gathered in the theatre while Michelle Good appeared on the big screen before them. Everyone was thoughtfully engaged as Michelle shared her journey in writing this book and answered questions about how each of these characters developed, her writing process, the distinction between the creative process and the publishing process, and her appreciation for the thoughtful questions from our students. 

It took Michelle Good a total of nine years to write this hugely important work. A book that all Canadians should read. She took this time to ensure that the tone was just right and that she could really achieve its purpose which is to share what the residential school system was, the deep intentionality of residential schools, and the devastating impact it has had and continues to have on indigenous peoples. She wanted to answer that question that has often been heard: “Why can’t they just get over it?”. This book clearly answers that question to all who take the time to read it.

Students and staff asked many questions about her writing process, how she was impacted but the intensity of the subject matter (she had to stop writing for months at a time to regroup and begin writing again), and where the inspiration of each of the characters came from (her work with Residential School Survivors and both her mother and grandmother were survivors). When asked whether she thought it is possible to heal from such trauma, she did answer hopefully that yes, she did. “One of the greatest gifts of humanity is adaptability.” But she did add that it is possible…with therapeutic intervention. 

At the end of her time with us, she commented that she was hopeful, that the questions that they have asked have shown her that the students are understanding of the book and its purpose and that she is confident that they will go out to the world as leaders. Her hope for them is that they take this understanding out into the world. 

Michelle reminded us that there are over 10,000 unmarked graves throughout Canada as a result of the residential school system. This story is not over. What this book shows us is how essential it is to our healing journey as a country to come together with compassion and understanding of the lasting impacts of residential schools. We are grateful to Michelle Good for sharing her insights and knowledge and for the story of Five Little Indians

Senior School Fall Maker Faire

The Senior School Maker Faire was held on November 30 and December 1 and featured over 40 projects from our Engineering 11, and our ADST 8 and 9 classes. 

At the start of the school year, our Engineering 11 students decided they would like to explore robotics as their primary area of focus. Many of the ADST 8 and 9 students also chose to use their independent projects to learn more about working with circuits and motors. Each project responded in a unique way to a challenge or a need selected by the student. In this interactive experience, you can see each of the student’s projects on display. Select the individual blue buttons to take you to a description of the project, learn about the design decision the students’ made, and what stage they are at in the design process.

The Maker Faire was a wonderful way to showcase the students’ creative thinking, problem solving, resilience, and hard work. We can’t wait to see how these projects progress over the remainder of the year. 

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Engineering 11
Our Engineering 11 students explored problems that could be solved using robotics. During each class, they document their progress by taking pictures and writing in their journals

Coco, Grade 11, started her exploration of robotics by building a prototype robot called “T-VEX”. She built it to learn about sensors and coding, specifically how to create an autonomous robot that can navigate a space without being controlled by a human. It is now the class pet. Coco has now taken what she has learned and is applying it to another robot, called “Megalodon”, that will tackle the problem of long voting lines. Coco, who is originally from Arizona, saw that there was a problem in Arizona with long voter wait times. She has begun programming a robot (using both the Vex robotics and Arduino systems) that will provide water and information in both English and Spanish to voters waiting in line. 

Grade 10 students Tania and Keisha are working on a motorized backpack to solve the problem of heavy student backpacks. They are designing a robot that carries books and school supplies and follows the user as they walk. Keisha is working on learning to code with sensors in Vex, while Tania has been working on designing and assembling the structure of the robot. 

Grade 10 students Joyce and Jasmine are looking for ways to combat student stress by designing a wearable heart rate monitor and “stress” app. Jasmine is working on the wristband that will read the user’s heart rate and send the data to the app. Joyce has been working on the app which will display alerts from the heart monitor. The app will also use data from an in-app survey to offer suggestions on how the student might cope with their stress, such as guided meditation or breathing exercises. They are currently at the prototyping stage and are working on sending the data from the heart monitor to the app.

Andrea, Grade 11, has come up with the concept for an “Insomnia Mattress”, which she plans to feature a built-in music player/Bluetooth speaker, a breathable hemp-infused top layer, and possibly deliver electrotherapy to help reduce pain. Like many of the students in the class, she is programming an Arudino board, a microcontroller that stores data.

Madeleine, Grade 10, is tackling the issue of drinking and driving with her breathalyzer/key lockbox concept. She envisions that this device would be used at gatherings where alcohol is served (she is targeting young adults). Attendees would drop their car keys into a box upon arrival, and would only be able to retrieve the keys if the attached breathalyzer gave the appropriate BAC reading (blood alcohol concentration). The device has two components. The first part is the breathalyzer with an alcohol sensor that sends data to an Arduino. This component needs to work with the key lockbox which has a “servo” motor that will rotate 90 degrees to open the box once a sensor is triggered. Madeleine is currently working with the Arduino microcontroller to use the data from the sensor to rotate the servo motor.  

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Grade 9 students Olivia, Rosi, and Hannah are working on “The Grand Gravy Express”. The wheels, motor, and battery pack for the “train” were taken from a remote control car, and is designed to make the passing of gravy at the dinner table a whole lot easier.

Kelly and Helena have designed a cat shelter/house that includes a motorized fan to help keep the cat cool. Liv and Lucy have designed a moving cat food dish with pieces of a remote control car that will help keep a cat active as they “work” for their food. 

Natalie, Skylar, and Emily have designed a motion-activated Halloween prop by repurposing the circuit and parts of an old toy car. The doll has an ultrasonic sensor that triggers the eyes to light up. Potential next steps in the design process would be adding sound effects or making the doll’s head turn.

Emily and Georgia built an automatic squirrel feeder working. The parts from the remote control car did not meet their needs, so they learned to use an Arduino with a servo that opens the slot for the squirrel food to come out.

Other Grade 9 projects include a customized chess set, jewelry box, headphone stand, egg cracker tool, convertible couch sleeve/laptop stand, massage roller, a lamp, and measuring cube.

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Our Grade 8 ADST students have been working on projects such as a paintbrush/pencil holder, laser cut combination lock, flute stand, LED book light, light-up chess piece, and a gumball machine.

See these projects and more in this interactive experience.

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