Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Class dismissed: Final chapter of our Grade 5 Chronicles

Students tasted muskrat, caught frogs and played the tuba. Next up? Being in a split class with 'annoying' little brother

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It's not very nice to send teachers into summer with such devastating news, but they just have to face it -- teachers, you can't possibly all have Juliana Valdoria in your classroom.

How's Juliana prepping over the summer for Grade 6 next fall at Tyndall Park Community School?

"I asked (her teacher) for multiplication and division tables so I can study them over the summer," said Juliana. "I'm hoping to get better at math next year. I want to get all of them right."

But wait, fasten your seatbelts, there's more.

"I'm going to the William Stephenson Library... thicker books, so I can learn like bigger words."

Grade 5, said Juliana, has been awesome, even though some of what she did somewhat flummoxed her teacher: "She's getting confused by me, because I asked her for more homework. I think Grade 5 was the best school year -- we got to learn a lot."

Sigh all you want, teachers, but only one of you can have Juliana in your class in September.

We've been following five Grade 5 children all year, in a wide range of just about every type of school we have in Manitoba: Juliana in a large school in the well-funded Winnipeg School Division; Samantha Holyk at Balmoral School in the Interlake School Division, a small rural school; Stephen Grahn at Linden Christian School in south Winnipeg, Manitoba's largest private school; Jamie Bignell at Joe A. Ross School on Opaskweeyak First Nation; and Aliegha Dixon at âcole Opasquia, a French immersion school in The Pas.

We learned along the way that while Education Minister Nancy Allan says the basic core subjects are the same throughout Manitoba -- both funded private schools and First Nations schools use Manitoba Department of Education curricula -- and, to venture briefly into edu-jargon, the expected learning outcomes are the same, what happens in schools varies greatly.

Jamie loves school on OCN, but isn't yet aware, as her grandmother, Pauline Bignell, often points out, federal funding for First Nations schools is significantly lower than provincial public school funding.

Stephen is finding out while Linden Christian is a pretty spiffy school, private schools don't receive any public capital funding to pay for the second gym he covets.

Samantha goes skating and curling just down the street, but a small school can't afford all the specialized teachers and variety of options Juliana gets in a large city school.

And while Aliegha goes to the Trappers' Festival in The Pas every year, it's a lot easier and cheaper to get field trips galore in the city than it is a six-hour drive away.

-- -- --

Stephen spends a lot of time playing hockey and soccer with kids from other schools, but they don't talk about their similarities and differences. That's just not cool guy stuff at their age.

He's coming off a pretty good day in the regional track and field meet for independent regional schools: "I got second in the 800, fourth in the 60, fourth in the 200."

Stephen, as our regulars will recall, did a gig along with several other students with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra this spring. "It was fun," though he noted suddenly being able to grow more fingers would have helped.

"I start band next year. You get to try out all the instruments -- I picked clarinet."

A reference to Benny Goodman zinged right over Stephen's head.

Eventually, he wants to try saxophone.

"They said I made the best sound on the tuba," said Stephen somewhat ruefully, afraid he could get music-profiled. "Ahh, it's OK... " with less than overwhelming enthusiasm.

Next fall, Stephen and his classmates will be able to bring a device to school; He's been able this year to use his iPad to deal with dyslexia.

This summer, he's off to Toronto to try out as a model, though he's already decided an NHL career lies ahead.

At the auditions, "I have to pick a commercial I know really well -- I picked the Nerf Super Soaker."

-- -- --

It's going to be a major upheaval in Samantha's world -- she'll have to break in a new principal.

"What we've been hearing is our new principal, Mrs. Epp, is going to have a French program for us. It's going to be fun," said Samantha.

On the other hand, there'll be a new kid in her split grades 5 and 6 class next year -- her (imagine Darth Vader's theme music here) brother.

That will be "annoying, for both of us," Samantha said.

How come?

"Because he's annoying. He bugs me a lot."

Mom Roberta Finnie did acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the annoying and bugging parts might work both ways.

Meanwhile, "We went on a couple of field trips, to the aviation museum and to Lower Fort Garry," said Samantha. As for Grade 6, "For some of the teams, we can like go on sports teams. I want to try to do basketball, volleyball, badminton."

-- -- --

Jamie's going to Bible camp this summer and her auntie's wedding. And, "I'll be in Healthy Buddies in Grade 6, where you help little kids."

Then there recently was cultural week, at which she ate muskrat, good stuff that tasted like moose meat, at least most of it.

"I ate a muskrat tail, it had no taste to it, it felt gross."

Another day, "we went on a day trip to Camper's Cove," where the ice was barely gone. Another child tried the water first: "She wasn't brave, she slipped on a rock and went in.

"I did (go in intentionally) about up to your stomach. I got used to it and started to swim like a dog," Jamie said with a laugh. "We had track and field. I did good, but I never won anything, I just had fun."

And, oh yeah, listen to this: "I can do acrobatics, the flippy ones."

-- -- --

Aliegha faces that dreaded moment of going from being the oldest we-reign-in-these-corridors kids in the school to the youngest at Scott Bateman Middle School.

Still, it's looking good.

"There's more choice of subjects, and there's more shops. We get to pick a shop we can do," such as woodworking or metals. "There's band, the yearbook."

Aliegha somehow got through an entire year in The Pas without a single snow day, and she never received any homework. Just wait.

"The talent show, I was like MCing. This was like French (immersion) Spectacle, we did American Idol as a play. I thought I'd be more nervous than I was," said Aliegha.

After a leaving ceremony ended school Friday -- close call, parents, but no grad dress this time around -- a phat summer beckons. "There's this thing called PHAT Camp, physical performing arts training. You can take jazz dance, last year there was a flash mob. At the end of the week, we put on a show for all the parents -- it's like my fifth year," enthused Aliegha.

-- -- --

And, finally, back to Juliana, for whom math and language arts were far from the only school fun she had.

"I won the water bottle (designing) contest at school. The subject was peace -- we read Pauly Pastrami Achieves World Peace."

The Grade 5 kids at Tyndall Park celebrated year's end by going to Camp Woodlands, 12 to a bunkhouse in Juliana's first-ever experience with camping.

"There's an activity of frog catching. Me and my friend, we didn't exactly know we were going in the water," Juliana laughed.

You can let out your breath -- it was catch and release, a happy summer for both the kids and the frogs.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 A6


Updated on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 11:57 AM CDT: Fix punctuation.

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