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Tales From Canada Storytelling

The K-12 STUDY CANADA Summer Institute teachers
The K-12 STUDY CANADA Summer Institute (Ottawa 2011) trains educators from across the United States to become Teacher Associates who, like Michael, go on to reach more educators through their work.

February 28, 2014

Originally posted: February 2014

Michael Cawthra, a teacher associate of the K12-Study Canada Program, goes to Denver-area classrooms by telling stories that only captivate students but inform them about Canada. Dressed in costumes that change along with the renowned Canadian stories he tells, Michael relates the literature to the audience and brings the tales to life by playing a cedar flute, singing songs, and talking about language, geography, history, social issues in Canada.

Cawthra provides a full two hour performance takes the audience from the beginning of history to modern time with tales set in different geographic regions and time periods written by Aboriginal peoples, H. W. Longfellow, Jack London, and Roch Carrier. He also provides a PowerPoint presentation with visual accompaniment to the stories—with publishers’ permission for each book selected to use photos, maps, and pictures projected onto a school/classroom screen. These shows are suitable for classrooms, libraries, auditoriums, or cafeteria large group settings. Fourth grade students and up have loved the experience!

Karen Palmarini, Trade Commissioner and Diplomatic Services Assistant, Consulate General of Canada in Denver explained the Consulate General of Canada in Denver has had a long and prosperous relationship with Michael Cawthra, a retired K12 teacher who is passionate about Canada and Canadian culture. Michael has generously volunteered with the Canadian Consulate in diverse educative activities, such as helping the Consulate recruit teachers from the states in our territory (Colorado, Kansas, Montana and Wyoming) to attend the summer institute workshop organized by Tina Storer; working with the Consulate K-12 coordinator in orchestrating a successful Summer Institute workshop in Calgary in 2007; participating in the Colorado Conference of Social Studies by promoting Canada content in the K-12 curriculum; and as storyteller, gave presentations to a number of Colorado elementary and middle schools on Canada tales. It has been such a pleasure to have Mike demonstrating a warm interest in promoting the K-12 study program in our territory and beyond. We need more “ambassadors” of Canada like Michael in our community to build a stronger relationship between Canada and the U.S. and to understand better one another by working together.

Educators that have used Tales from Canada to teach their students about Canadian history and have enjoyed Cawthra’s storytelling. Al Snelling, 6th grade teacher at Kendallvue Elementary in Jefferson County, has expressed his pleasure of Cawthra’s work: “It is no accident that Tales from Canada, is at the top of our list when planning activities for our week in the mountains. Michael has put together an interesting and entertaining program that keeps not only students, but adults and high school leaders, riveted with his tremendous story-telling. Our students learn about the history of many parts of Canada not only through his stories, but a multimedia presentation that helps students become more familiar with our neighbor to the north. Mike’s experience as a former schoolteacher and his passion for this program are clearly on display with each and every presentation. I highly recommend Tales from Canada to my peers as a program that is not only educational, but entertaining.”

Cawthra also created an Activity Plan for Grades 5-8, which Western Washington University features here: 20Province%20and%20Territories%20Poster%20Activity%20Plan.pdf. The activity requires a week-long block of time for students to learn about a province/territory of Canada and then, in turn, present their newfound knowledge and teach others in class about the area they studied. The students research facts, famous people from their area, historic events, symbols, and make a map. A rubric for evaluating student efforts is included.

After participating in STUDY CANADA in 2005, Michael signed on as a teacher-associate and helped the Denver consulate coordinate a K-12 educator training program in 2007 called “Alberta Bound.” Michael also performed his storytelling as one of the program presenters. Michael’s outreach work is a great asset for Denver-area schools and our NRC has benefited by his introducing teachers to both the resources on our website and the annual STUDY CANADA Summer Institute.

The Canadian Studies Center forms the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center (NRC) on Canada with the Center for Canadian-American Studies, Western Washington University (WWU). Tina Storer, at WWU, serves as Education and Curriculum Specialist for the NRC. STUDY CANADA is the NRC’s annual professional development workshop, offered by the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University for the last 34 years serving educators from almost every state in the nation. The Institute is funded, in part, by a Title VI grant from International and Foreign Language Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.