Bittersweet Endings – Kelly

With the adventure trip over, in-depth wrapped up, and the year winding to a close, it is a very exciting time of year.  There are officially six days left of TALONS for me and the rest of the grade tens, and it is a pretty emotional time.

I would say I am ready to move on from TALONS.  It has been an amazing two years and I would not exchange it for anything, but there are a lot of things I will miss terribly, things that only TALONS can offer.  In any other class, you will not become as close knit of a group.  You will never experience a sense of family with people you only see for an hour a day.  You will also never have the same sort of relationship with your teachers as you do in TALONS.  But I think the thing I will miss the most from TALONS is the very thing I am ready to do because of it: Step outside of my comfort zone and begin a new adventure.

There are so many things too look forward to and so many things to be afraid of, but that all comes next September.  For right now, I am focusing on the time that is left.

On Friday, I went on my last TALONS field trip.  Ever.  We went to see Bard on the Beach, and it was amazing, and it was generally just a really fabulous evening.  Between hanging out at Kitsilano beach and trying to listen to the hockey game and seeing a play and just having a fun night, it slipped by all of us that this would be the last time we were all together.  It was the last time that all of TALONS, both the morning and the afternoon classes, would be together outside of school, away from classrooms and books and exams and studying.

As I write this, so terribly excited for school to be over and summer to begin, I can’t help but wonder how things could have been different.  If any one person had decided against coming to TALONS, the group could have been so different.  There are so many tiny alterations that could have changed our past two years so completely.

Looking back over the past two years, sure, there are some things that could have been different.  Yes, I wish I had worked harder on a certain assignment or been more involved with certain events or made some different choices, but I guess that is all in the past and we have all created ourselves over the past two years to the point that we are not the same people who walked through the doors of Classroom 204 in September 2009.  And now that we are moving on to the next chapter of our lives, I am really looking forward to growing and creating myself once again, and becoming the person I will be after TALONS is over.

In Depth Night – Liam

In-Depth Night is kind of TALONS’ graduation. It isn’t really, of course – we still have another month together. But it’s our last major event for the year, the culmination of months of practice and study and anticipation. Once In-Depth is over, we’re back to normal class,  back to working and (in theory) studying. The happiness that all students feel as summer draws closer is tempered for us by the knowledge that another year of TALONS is ending, with all the sadness, melancholy, and indeed, relief, which that knowledge brings.

But as much as In-Depth is an ending, that’s not what it is about. It is a celebration of what we have accomplished over the course of the last five months. More than than that, it’s a recognition of all that we have been through in TALONS, all we have shared and experienced together. I don’t think words do it justice – we who were there, who spent months preparing for that night, are the only ones who can really understand what it meant. But for the many people who see us from afar, who have not had the opportunity to participate in TALONS, I’d like to share a few pictures of that night, which I think represent the mood and feel rather well.







Sustainability in action


And that was it. It was over. The grade 9s have another year to look forward to. The grade 10s can only look back wistfully, remembering the times over the last few years. In-Depth Night is really a very special time, and all the more so in hindsight. Personally, I didn’t realize at the time how significant it was, and it was only later that it hit me. ‘Wow’, I thought. ‘I will never get to do that again.’ It’s a realization, I think, that becomes more meaningful with time.

Of course most of the grade 10s will be at In-Depth next year, but this time we’ll be on the outside looking in, rather than the other way around. I’m trying not to let this post dissolve into a reflection on what life will be like after leaving TALONS, but In-Depth night is so caught up in that idea of a celebration of another year that it’s difficult to separate the two.

Let me recede, then, from this position. There will likely be a few more reflections on the end of TALONS in the weeks to come. I would rather mention the successes we had last Monday.  Everyone who performed onstage – you were amazing. Getting up in front of that crowd could not have been easy, yet you did it and you all did so brilliantly. For those who did not perform onstage, your achievement is no less great simply for being on the ground. Every person presented what they have been working on in the way they thought best, and we all had things to teach and to show the people who visited us.

And what would In-Depth Night be without honouring the achievements of the people involved? Congratulations Megan Edmunds, for working hard enough to earn the Grade 9 Academic Award. Daniel Luo, Iris Hung, and Rebecca MacDonald, recipients of the TALONS spirit award, I think we are all proud to know you and you most certainly deserved to be recognized for your spirit and dedication to this program.

But perhaps the most important recognition was the one we students gave to Ms. Mulder and Mr. Jackson. TALONS would not be possible without you, and every word in our speeches was true. Any worldwide readers of this blog, if ever you think about the awesomeness of TALONS (which I’m sure you all do), make sure the credit goes to our amazing teachers.

We closed up the evening with a song, and I will leave you with this now. Cute and perhaps silly it may be, but…well, take it for what you will. It was our gift to our teachers, and it means something to all of us.


Chinese Translation at Fisgard Lighthouse – Donya & Mr. J


Long one of my favourite songs, I love how M. Ward‘s “Chinese Translation” has become a kind of Adventure Trip anthem in recent years. Donya and I recorded this (as well as this cover of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home,” with Olga) on the rocks below Fisgard Lighthouse.

The end of an era – Elleni

This time last year I was standing solidly in my grade nine shoes, and couldn’t even fathom the concept of eventually leaving talons and going on to conquer the rest of the school. I was sad that our grade tens would be leaving us, but I didn’t seem to process the fact that them leaving meant me getting pushed into one of their positions.

Regardless of whether or not I was ready, it happened, and this past year in talons has been filled with surprises, and joy, and laughter, and fun. There has never been a dull moment. I think every single one of us has really grown to new heights, and blossomed into a stronger person. The adventure trip is always a time to showcase these abilities, and, now that it’s approaching, we’re all starting to realize just how special talons is to us. I don’t doubt that there will be lots of biking, cold weather, singing, campfires, s’mores, and amazing displays of leadership. That leadership will emerge just in time for next year, where the grade nines will move into a new role, and a new group of talons will enter our classroom. Those new grade nines will be just as scared and apprehensive as all of the others before them, and they will look up to the grade tens for guidance. I don’t doubt that our grade nines will step up to the challenge, they just need to realize how capable they really are. People are finally starting to see that the year goes by really quickly, and that the program doesn’t stay the same for very long.

So here I am…standing meekly in my oh-so-big grade ten shoes, wishing that I didn’t have to leave them behind next year. Talons is familiar. Talons is comfortable. Talons is family. Can I picture math class without a teacher that can explain everything? No. Can I imagine English class without a million tangents and side topics? Never. Can I imagine us all being separated into different classrooms and subjects? Absolutely not. But it’s going to happen. Life pushes on whether you’re ready or not. Having more time with what we have now could be amazing! But sometimes you have to realize that it’s time to shed your old shoes, and step into some new ones.

Ready or not, here we come. I just hope that the world can handle us as grade elevens. 😛

The Trip of a Lifetime – Rebecca

Adventure Trip. 11 days, 11 hours, 11 minutes. (I’m pretty sure that’s lucky!)

It’s on everyone’s mind. For months we’ve been planning and anticipating, and now it’s almost here. I don’t think any of us have really absorbed the fact that it’s happening. We’ve all been talking about it, pretty much since the second the retreat was over, but that doesn’t even begin to compare to the trip itself. There’s no way to describe what really happens on the Adventure Trip. Every year, we make new memories, new jokes, new friends. We face new challenges, and learn how to get past them, working together as a group, but we also learn how to do it on our own, overcoming our own personal conflicts and issues. The Adventure Trip is about endings and beginnings. The Grade 9s have almost completed their first year, and (by the end of the trip) are ready to step up and become leaders for the upcoming year. For the Grade 10s, this is the last big Talons experience, other than In Depth night, and it marks the end of our time in Talons. The trip gives us a chance to tie up loose ends, and prepare to leave. Whether you love camping, or have never slept in a tent before, it’s an amazing, unforgettable experience.

Each year, there are concerns about the trip. Grade 9s that are nervous about doing things they have never tried before, and aren’t sure if they should be in Talons, and Grade 10s that wonder whether or not they really still belong in Talons. Many of us have doubts, but none of us need to. We are all in Talons together. We all belong in Talons together. And as Talons, we will all go on the Adventure Trip and finish off an amazing year with an even more amazing, inspiring trip.

There is something about being away from home, forcing you out of your comfort zone, that brings you closer together with those around you. In the past two years of high school, I have been on five different school trips: three with Talons, and two with Band. With the Jazz Band last year, we went to an international festival in Idaho, and this year the Band went on a trip to Cuba. In Talons, I have been on two retreats, one as a Grade 9 and one as a Grade 10, and then my Grade 9 Adventure Trip. All of them have meant a few days away from school, family, and regular routine. I got to spend time all day, every day, with a group of students that had similar interests. And each time I came back home, I had gained something new. The experience of not having somewhere or someone to run to the minute I weren’t so comfortable pushed me to form new friendships and spend more time with others. As someone that isn’t super social, that was an amazing thing. And even when we got back, it may not have been quite the same “family” feel, but I still get hugs and hellos from people in the hallways that I spent a week with in Cuba, and I’m closer with some of the Talons students than I ever have been before.

Now, trying to imagine that multiplied a hundred times, doesn’t even begin to add up to what this year’s Adventure Trip is going to be. With more students than in the past, there will be more people to spend time with, more friends to help you out, and definitely more challenges and bumps along the way. This is Grade 10. There’s only two more months in the school year. And before the stress and craze of exams and last-minute assignments hits, we have one more trip, five days, to relish the time that we spend together in the Talons program.

Of course, with all of the excitement and anticipation, also comes a lot of work. On the trip itself, there will be plenty of work, mentally, physically, and emotionally. With 70 km of biking each day, cooking and cleaning responsibilities, tent set up and tear down, endless problems always in need of solutions, and a never ending fountain of blood, sweat and tears, the trip can be exhausting. Every morning we wake up at six am, and every night, we go to sleep around 11 pm (or at least we try, it probably won’t happen). Average six hours of biking, one or two hours of cooking, cleaning, and loading and unloading bikes and gear, plus leadership activities, temperature readings every night, and lots and lots of emotionally draining challenges, and you have a recipe for disaster. But it’s never a disaster, and I don’t think any of us would have it any other way. Because at the end of it all, you’ll feel more accomplished than you ever have before. There will be smiles and laughter and singing and hugs and the good kind of tears, and you’ll wish it wasn’t over. Then school starts again, and we have to go back to regular classes and routines, but everyone keeps giving each other these knowing looks because we all have these secrets and inside jokes from the trip. And it is quite possibly the most magical thing in the world.

I can’t wait for this year’s trip!



Almost a Year Gone By – Chelsea

It feels like just yesterday that I first walked into Gleneagle. I knew this year was not only going to challenge me academically, but would also force to make totally new friends. To be honest, I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t think I would fit in; I’m not the smartest, I’m not a leader, and I’m not the best at making friends.

For the first couple weeks of school, I would get so nervous on the car ride over, it would just about make me sick. I spent hours talking to my old friends over Facebook, and wondering how different my life could have been. I tried to keep up with all the other students in the class, but it always seemed that whenever I did something I was proud of, there was always someone who did it better.  I tried to make new friends, but there were already really close groups of friends, so I never really felt like I fit in.

When the retreat came along, I was determined to really make an effort at forming friendships. Not to say I didn’t have any friends, but I felt like there were so many great people that I was missing out on meeting because I was okay staying with the four or so people I’d quickly become close with. I thought to myself the night before the retreat, that if I didn’t try out myself out there and make new friends, I would just be wasting my time in this program.

I did try, and it really paid off. I managed to really get a look at the group of amazing people I was lucky enough to spend the next year or two with. The retreat was a turning point for me. I realized that I didn’t want to be in a regular classroom, full of normal students. I wanted to be here.

The months seemed to fly by, and now we find ourselves eagerly preparing for the adventure trip. It’s really bittersweet though. This is the last time we’re really going to be together as a group. And while I know it’s going to be a really amazing trip, I can’t help but feel a little sad, because it’s a reminder that we only have a little more than a month together. Soon, everything we had together could be forgotten, and pushed aside as nothing more that a distant memory.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what next year’s going to be like. Will we be able to step up and fill the shoes of our grade tens? Definitely not! One of the things I love most about being in TALONS is that I know it’s never going to be the same. Next year, we’re going to be the role models for the grade nines. We’re going to be the ones they look up to. So, while we won’t have the same things our grade tens brought to the table, we’ll all be able to grow and bring new things.

I’m looking forward to next year. But I know that I’m going to miss my TALONS family more than anything.

Focus Time on Tuesday – Mr. J


As TALONS facilitators, Ms. Mulder and I try not to make teacher-centered lectures and lessons too often the focus of our daily use of class time, preferring instead to use our common time and space for shared communication and collaborative problem solving based around many aspects of the class’ current learning. Especially in the spring semester, we often provide brief mini-lectures on topics or concepts for the day (or week), and then allow the class ample periods of “Focus Time” to be used for work and study of ongoing projects or problems.

There is a variety of different “focus” activities in the video above (Math, Socials, Adventure Trip planning, Leadership projects, etc) that attest to a diverse and productive use of class time the TALONS strive to produce on a daily basis.

April Fools – David

Waking up this morning, everything felt fine. That is, until I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. This was about the point that I found various Sharpie markings strewn across my face.

April Fools Day, one of the most interesting days of the year. A day when you discover the countless pranks carried out by your friends, family, and of course some pulled by yourself.

But the most interesting, is when large corporations decide to play their own little prank on the millions of unsuspecting customers that follow them. We’re all familiar with the 1938 radio play “The War of the Worlds” by radio personality Orson Welles. A superbly created radio broadcast played out on October 30th, tricking hundreds of the American populace into believing an actual invasion of the extra-terrestrials was upon them.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Well Discovery News appears to be trying to “Fool Ye Twice” with an article titled “Asteroid Forensics May Point to Alien Space Miners”… no doubt published on April 1st, 2011.  I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something fishy going on with this article.

Another out of this world prank, pulled by none other than Virgin Mobile, although more noticeable, is another article, “Richard Branson Buys Pluto, Reinstates as Planet”.  Branson is a particularly rich man, believe me, but I am certain even he needs a bit more dough in his savings account before he can afford to buy a landmass as large as Pluto.  Besides, who the heck would you buy it from in the first place?

Even more bizarre than the last scandal, Blizzard Entertainment, creators of the all-time popular MMORPG World of Warcraft, exclaimed the addition of a new five player “Dungeon”, an online encounter requiring the participation of at least five of your friends to defeat the more powerful monsters inside of it.  Also required, although not terribly advertised, is of course the unbroken devotion of an hour of your time to helping a bunch of pixelated characters fight a couple of baddies.  Not exactly the average persons style, but hell, it’s surprisingly fun.  Which brings us to the “Tomb of Immortal Darkness”, the encounter featured in this April Fools day prank.  Why spend that pointless hour of your life watching Television when you can spend it fighting the Dark Lord of Twilight, Omgsogoth?

And an even more “Couch Potato” oriented joke played by “”, are a few nerdy products for every overweight geek.  I’m sure at some point all of us have been out relaxing, slouched on the couch, watching our favourite TV show, or playing our favourite video game, when we realized we really needed to eat something.  That’s why ThinkGeek created the wonderful “Shirt Plate”.  Or so I thought.  Unfortunately it turns out this helpful little design is simply another prank done up by the sites creators.  Sad…  I would have liked a shirt plate myself.

Next up, by one of the most acclaimed companies today, so much that their own company name has officially been accepted as an English word, Google has done up its own professionally made April Fools event.  “Gmail Motion Beta”, a nifty feature, allows you to control your email account not with the traditional mouse and keyboard, but with in fact your entire body movement.  Not stopping at the general text and pictures to exclaim their joke, they have included professional interviews to top it off.  Kudos to Google this year.

One of the last jokes of the day, by Kodak, a new app that allows the user to delete any person from their pictures, erasing any existence of them from your personal photo collection.  Sadly, I haven’t been in any bad relationships, nevermind any relationships, so I won’t have a use for this fake app, but go ahead and check it out for yourself here.

Finally, I have decided to save the best for last.  Here’s from Toshiba, The World’s First, 3D Monocle: