#1115 Photo Studio Transforms into the “Little Big Learning Centre” – Montessori Influenced Home Schooling Centre

The photo studio that many of you know and visited over the last half decade has a new direction.

… We are excited to welcome Amy of the Little Big Learning Centre into the classroom we developed in 2010 to support my photo and arts workshops. Amy started Little Big in 2014. It blossomed so quickly that she needed a bigger space in Ottawa for her Little Big Learners to develop.

Montessori inspired, home school friendly learning space

Amy of The Little Big Learning Centre!

How did the learning centre take off? Amy drew on the influences of Maria MontessoriHoward Gardner, the Reggio Emilia approach and outdoor and experiential education.

The students blossomed and word spread… all the way to their new learning centre at 160 Preston St.

I asked Amy what inspired her to open “Little Big.” Her answer was three-fold:
• “I had a good public school experience due to my small cottage town. I grew up in Apsley, Ont. and our school had only 5 teachers. There was lots of one-on-one time, small classes, enriched learning. It was a great way to learn.

Kindergarten to Grade 4 alternatives to school in Ottawa Gatineau Chelsea

One of the smaller learning areas of the Little Big Learning Centre

• “I earned my Bachelor of Education and was shocked. There were so many kids in a class. There was too much going on. Kids were falling through cracks. Everything was so tied to the curriculum in the wrong way and geared towards practice tests for EQAO (standardized testing). I wanted to give younger students a voice – school is not just book learning.

• ” ‘Hmmm,’ I thought aloud to my husband. ‘What if we opened our own learning centre?’  And I started looking for like-minded teachers, parents, students. I wanted to be creative with teaching so that all students could fit…”There is currently only one other learning centre like Amy’s in Ottawa based out of Barrhaven.

Curious to see and hear more?
Amy is opening the doors of her Little Big Learning Centre to welcome curious minds soon. An open house is in the plans. Stay tuned…

Visit their Facebook page, too!

Ottawa Montessori inspired learning centre

New Learning Centre for students aged 4-10. 

#1112 Summer Photography Adventures – Custom Course Success

Recently, a past photo student called looking for help:
I understand technical photo elements but am struggling with compositions and creating photos that show what I feel when I see the scene.

A photo before her custom course:

Custom Photo Course

Photo before the Custom Photo Course – technically fine but lacking intimacy.

She booked a Custom Course and we met along the path of the Watershed project.

Within a morning session of pointed direction and gentle coaching, her photos improved quickly. They went from broad generic landscapes to alluring photos that pulled the viewer in:

Custom Photo Course

Photo taken during the Custom Photo Course.
Technically good but with more impact than before.

Her comments after the session:

What a fun morning I had in the Gats working my photographic edges with Harry.  He so brilliantly and sensitively identified my next edge to work so I could move closer to where I’m longing to be with my photos.

Bit by bit I began to discern the difference between when I’m hanging out ‘back there’ and when I ‘step in’.  I also began to see a difference in my photos, after just one session.  I learned so much in one morning.  Thank you Harry, and also for what I’ll use as mantras when I’m out there on my own practicing –  “step in”, “embrace it”.  “touch it”.”

One-on-One learning

Custom Course – Learning to see and build feeling into a photo.

Coming soon I’ll be announcing summer photo options including more custom courses (when, where and how you wish to learn), safaris and an opportunity to go on a Laurentian photo getaway.

Stay tuned.

#1110 Creating Art Differently

Every class has students who would prefer to be doing something else.

In math class, some students would rather be playing football. In language, some students would rather be doing art. And in art, some would rather read.

Art Projects for Kindergarten

Art Projects for Kindergarten

I’ve been supply teaching regularly since I finished teacher’s college. In one period I was asked to have the students continue their pop-art projects (Andy Warhol-esque pictures). One student was clearly not conforming to the plan. He was just putting dots on his paper in a reluctant way.

I sat by him and asked how most new art forms started… He just stared at his paper and dotted defiantly.

I waited. No response…

So I offered an answer “By breaking the rules of art and trying new things… so you are creating new art ideas by breaking the rules.

He looked at me. “Really?


I made a deal with him… He could create what he wanted but he’d have to create something, however exploratory… His art would need to have purpose. It worked. His slouch disappeared and he started working on art in his own way.

Collaborative Classroom

Collaborative Classroom

Collaborative Problem Solving and Tribes training are popular, current approaches to engaging more students in school and life. The theories involve working together to produce a learning environment where all are included or empowered. It works better than expecting all to ‘conform’. The result is a student or students who are more open to their learning process.

I started working with the ideas behind these theories over 20 years ago when I worked with youth and adults at Outward Bound. The work back then ignited my love of teaching people how to learn.

#1109 “I hate math.”

I hate math,” said a grade 6 student last week in a class I was supply teaching.

He was obviously not enjoying (or doing) his assigned math work.

So I sat with him and asked “What DO you like?”
He: “Football.”
Me: “… Well, you know, football’s got a lot of math.”
He: Pause…
Me: “… (In a commentators voice) And the Redblacks are 2nd and 7 from the 8 yard line… That’s math. What do those numbers mean?… Measurement!”

Different Intelligences (Gardner)

Football Math

“What about when the QB throws the ball? How hard does he need to throw the ball to hit the moving running back right on target?”  I drew a diagram to help make the point.
“That’s math…”

“… And how can you predict who will win the football game? That deals with statistics and probabilities… math again.”

The student looked at me, quietly. I helped with his specific math challenge and let him on his way. I looked back a while later. My football math talk had worked…

#1106 “Math is a sport…”

I’m in the final stretch of my Bachelor of Education training. I’m working in an inner city Grade 5/6 class.

The practical ‘in-class’ part of the course offers me the greatest learning – I am in the “On-Site” niche of the B.Ed. program that offers six months of practical training in the classroom. The normal B.Ed.’s six months of lectures are condensed into two and a half months for On-Site Teacher Candidates.


Mentor Teacher, Mr Smith, making learning fun.

A couple of weeks ago, my mentor teacher, Steve Smith,above, and I discussed plans for a geometry lesson and unit. “Make math a sport,” he urged. He was pushing my teaching practice to make the lesson more tactile, practical and involved. “If you tell them what an isosceles triangle is, they’ll never remember! But if you help them discover the answers for themselves they’ll never forget.”


• photo from Creative Commons – Wikipedia.

Out came the geoboards – a hands-on math manipulative that students use to create geometric shapes. Our lesson started with students finding a geoboard on their desk – they naturally started playing as students got ready to learn. The class progressed with much triangle building and students themselves discovering the properties of triangles.

One student smiled and said “You’re fun!” All I did was ask them guiding questions to help them discover the answers! The process made it fun (and memorable.)

Thanks to Mr Smith for refining my teacher skills in good ways!

#1105 Unit & Lesson Plan Assignment

I’ve been in Teacher’s College and in our Science Class we are to develop three lesson plans to cover a science topic. I used three lessons I performed in a Grade One class in the fall on “Structures and Mechanisms – Materials, Objects and Everyday Structures.”

I wanted some traditional fun (fun = learning!) but also wanted to make sure all members of the class got involved. I started with a classic hook – “The Three Little Pigs” and a hands-on exploration into the building materials the pigs may have used.

Lesson Plan

Building Materials

But from traditional building blocks I took a turn to include other students who may NOT be interested in bricks and sticks.

I used the Cinderella story to introduce the idea of materials used in fashion and everyday dress. I often add a little role-playing drama. When I showed up to part of the lesson wearing beach attire (shorts and t-shirt) just before -18C recess, the students eagerly told me why I had chosen the wrong materials (clothing) to go outside on the cold day. We had some successful learning!

See the 5-E Science Model
See the Unit Plan
See the Lesson Plans

#1104 Alternative Approaches to Education

I’m in my last semester of the Bachelor of Education program at Ottawa U. It feels like the home stretch!

I’m in the intense On-SIte program that condenses six months of lecture material into two and a half months to allow for an expanded six months of practicum placement.

For me, the hands-on learning directly in the classroom offers me the best educational learning experience. I am a hands-on learner and never excelled at traditional sit-in-the-classroom schooling. Most traditional schools cater to verbal-linguistic learners (read: book-learner).

Risk Management

Play Based Learning & Managing Risk – Much can be learned in alternative classrooms. Above was  my own weekend classroom of fun with my friends.

I am curious about the alternative and holistic approaches to education and how related practices can be incorporated into traditional classes. My elective this year explores the world of holistic and alternative education practices.

In my current placement I am lucky enough to witness a teacher who brings many elements of holistic practices into his classroom. In my last placement I was fortunate to witness a teacher who incorporated much play-based learning (although she disliked the term “play-based learning” because of the erroneous connotation that “play” and “learn” are very different things.)

Play based learning - incorporating drama to teach math. Captain Barnacle uses his treasure chest to teach about counting coins.

Play based learning – incorporating drama to teach math. Captain Barnacle uses his treasure chest to teach about counting coins.

I’m learning lots and love some of the readings – Ron Miller and Alfie Kohn resonate with me!

Stay tuned.

#1103 Education Exploration

In my last post I came clean with what I’ve been doing with my time – I’m taking eight months off to study education at the primary / jumnior level (Kindergarten to Grade 6).m I love it.

In the months to come, I’ll be posting some posts about my exploration into education as well as some photo links.


Teaching in 2012 – © M Bachand

This week I read an article by well-known New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell on “Most Likely to Succeed” in the field of education. His writing is thought provoking (for me anyway.)

In “Most Likely to Succeed” he addresses attributes of a good, new teacher… which often counter the traditional selection process. He uses an NFL analogy to make his point. Worth a read if education or teaching interests you!

#1102 New Directions – Education

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those celebrating.
We’ll be laying low over the winter break. Catching up, settling in and skiing!

It’s been a big year at HarryNowell.com that started on New Year’s Eve, 2013.
Merry Christmas!

Last New Year’s Eve I was inspired by a friend to apply to Teacher’s College. I had applied twice before in the 1990s. This time they let me in.

I’m halfway through Ottawa U’s Primary/Junior Bachelor of Education. Their On-SIte Program condenses six months of lectures into two and a half months and allows for a six month practical placement working directly in a classroom.

I’ve just spent three months working in a Kindergarten / Grade One classroom in a central Ottawa school. Our class has students from Burma, China, Russia, Hungary, Bosnia, Iran, Pakistan, Australia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mexico, far-northern Canada. It’s a diverse, challenging and amazing class.

Teaching in the primary grades attracts me because I get to teach more than math and language – I get to help little ones develop as people using drama, arts and engaged play based learning. I love it – where else can you get so much impact dressing up as Captain Barnacle, the pirate, to teach about number sense & counting coins with treasure? The students gobbled up the lesson.

I’ve always loved teaching – it’s been a big part of my business for the past 20 years. Teacher’s College is a good next step for me. My marks from the lecture hall have been… excellent. My classroom evaluations have been… excellent. I feel very fortunate to have met such good people this fall!

I start in a new Grade Six classroom with a similar demographic in January. I’m excited.

And I’m excited about my new direction. Seeing the possibilities available in traditional teaching has me smiling.

Harry teaching

Harry teaching

But what about photography?
The business will continue as Harry Nowell Photography and I will continue aspects of the business that I enjoy. I’ll continue to offer a few workshops, some stock assignments, some editorial and interesting artwork related to Watershed, SunStreaks and the big camera.

Thanks for your support over the years.
I can’t wait for 2015!

#1100 Student Success! France Rivet’s New Book

It always makes me smile when past students hit big milestones!

France Rivet completed our ProProgram and has just published her second book – this one chronicling the unfortunate treatment of eight Inuit who were paraded through Europe as novelties in a zoo. It didn’t end well for Abraham Ulrikab and his friends.

Four years of research has produced:
“In the Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab: The events of 1880-1881”

Read more and order France’s book!
Félicitations, France!

France Rivet

France Rivet