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Yellowknife teacher transforms classroom into Hogwarts

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Laura Bromley first fell in love with the Harry Potter books when she was a Grade 6 student at William McDonald Middle School in Yellowknife.

Now, she’s a Grade 6 and 7 teacher at the same school, working to ignite a love for the same stories in her own students. They started studying the first book in J.K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, last month.

As a surprise to go along with the curriculum, she’s bringing her students right into the pages of the novel by transforming her classroom into Hogwarts, the British school of witchcraft and magic that forms the setting for the series.

“I think [Harry Potter] represents kind of what we all hope to be a little bit,” she said.

“Becoming a wizard isn’t really the realistic part, but just discovering our abilities and going through adventures and trials and tribulations and things like that is really exciting.”

The Harry Potter curriculum isn’t just literature. Bromley uses elements from the book to teach her students other subjects, such as chemistry. (Randi Beers/CBC)

Harry Potter is an 11-year-old boy who gets an invitation to study at Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Bromley’s Harry Potter curriculum isn’t just literature — she’s using the novel to teach her students chemistry, physics, geography and even a little Latin.

Her students are separated into four houses — Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor — just like the book. They’re chosen based on their personality traits, so Bromley’s students took personality quizzes to determine their own houses.

Kira Clark said she almost cried when she saw her classroom had turned into Hogwarts. (Randi Beers/CBC)

Then, they came up with a motto and translated it into Latin. In Bromley’s Hogwarts, Ravenclaw’s motto is ex aliqua sapentia eu quis malefiais ordinatis, or “Wisdom can come from any witch, wizard or muggle.”

The inspiration to bring Hogwarts to William McDonald school came from another teacher at the school, who transforms her classroom into A Christmas Carol every year before winter break. Bromley noticed the extra effort made her colleague’s students that much more engaged in what they were reading, so she decided to give it a shot herself.

Bromley said her students were surprised by the classroom transformation. Some, who are already into Harry Potter, were excited. Two of those students were Kira Clark and Liam Leonard, who both said they almost cried out of happiness when they saw it.

The sorting hat sits at the front of the classroom. Just like in the book, students put the hat on (or held it) to help determine which house they would join. (Randi Beers/CBC)

“It was like my birthday party all over again,” said Clark.

Others were a bit more skeptical.

“[Those students] were thinking, ‘What the heck is going on in here and what am I going to have to do,'” said Bromley.

Bromley’s students received the coveted, selective, secretive invitations to Hogwarts, just like Harry Potter in the book. (Randi Beers/CBC)

After the new year, Bromley’s classroom will no longer be Hogwarts. But she hopes her students’ experiences over the past six weeks have a lasting effect.

“I love J.K. Rowling because she created Harry Potter and opened up this world of literature to me,” said Bromley.

“[This project] is about creating a love of reading and opening up the world to [my students].”

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Dreessen: Ottawa has to shed its image as a town that doesn’t like fun

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Ottawa has long held a reputation as a place that fun forgot. People who live here know that there is a lot to love about the city: its history, the Rideau Canal, proximity to parks and rivers, excellent clubs, museums and galleries all make Ottawa a great place.

More spontaneous fun things are harder to come by. We’ve created a process that makes it hard for small businesses to thrive and where the process is more important than the outcome.

In 2016, a local artist planned to give away free T-shirts celebrating Ottawa 2017 on Sparks Street, until the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) asked him to move, squashing a fun event to bring people together.

In 2017, business proposals to the NCC executive committee made a business case to open cafés at Remic Rapids, Confederation Park and Patterson Creek. In the summer of 2020, two opened; the Patterson Creek location, opposed by neighbours, has yet to see the light of day, though the NCC website indicates it may happen in 2021.

In each case, the cafés are only open for a few brief summer months. Despite the fact that Ottawa celebrates itself as a winter city, we can’t, somehow, imagine how people might want to enjoy a café in the spring or fall, or during winter months while skiing along the river or skating along the canal. Keeping public washrooms open, serving takeout and, yes, using patio heaters, could make these cafés fun additions to our city for most of the year.

More recently, Jerk on Wheels, a food truck with excellent Caribbean chicken and two locations, has run intro trouble. The one on Merivale Road continues, but the Bank Street location in Old Ottawa South has to close. According to social media posts from the owners, despite the business having all permissions in place, local restaurant franchises of Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons have objected to its presence.

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Ottawa businesses frustrated with slower pace of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan compared to other provinces

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OTTAWA — As Canada plots its roadmap to reopening, each province is choosing their own path to reopen the economy and lift the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some are moving towards loosened restrictions at a faster pace than Ontario, which is frustrating for business owners who say they are ready to receive customers safely.

Patio season is upon the city, and at Banditos Restaurant on Bank Street, owner Matt Loudon is staging the large outdoor dining area to prepare for the summer rush. But the patio will have to remain closed until at least June 14, when it is expected Ontario will move into Step One of the three-step Roadmap to Reopen plan

“I hope they push it up a little bit,” says Loudon. “It’s beyond frustrating all the other provinces are opening up before us, we’ve been locked down longer than anybody else.”

Loudon, who owns two restaurants, says their outdoor seating has always been safe and that they have invested in added measures like sanitization stations and personal protective equipment for the staff. Indoor dining will continue to remain off limits in Ontario until Step Three. When patios do open, tables will be limited to four people. 

Unlike British Columbia’s four-pronged approach that began May 25. Residents in the province are now allowed to dine both inside and out, with a maximum of six per table, not restricted to one household.

Quebec will enter into its first step Friday, where outdoor dining will be available for two adults and their children, who can be from separate addresses per table. This applies to red and orange zones in the province. The curfew will also be lifted. 

In Gatineau, hair salons opened their doors to customers last week. Ten minutes away at Salon Bliss in Ottawa, all owner Sarah Cross can do is hope she can reopen sometime in July.

“Most people think that government funding covers all the bills but it’s far from it,” says Cross. Her upscale salon has nine chairs and over the course of the pandemic, in order to comply with regulations and keep staff and patrons, safe, only three chairs can now be filled. She says the hardest part is that the rules constantly change and vary in each region, adding it doesn’t make sense how one is better than the other.

“Our livelihood is dependent on what the decisions are made and if they were aligned with one belief system then I think they would have the trust of the public to follow these protocols.”

Many Ontario business owners say it’s not only a matter of necessity they open, but can do so safely. Infectious disease physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti agrees, and says the province needs to expedite its timeline.

“Especially with the fact that we are in the post vaccine era,” says Chakrabarti.

“It’s important for us to remember that we have been following this case count very closely for the last year and certainly we’ve had some experiences with opening things, especially with the second and third waves we have to remember that as we go forward now vaccines are a huge difference maker to the situation. Cases may go up but that doesn’t mean the most important thing will go up which is hospitalizations.”

Chakrabarti says while people will still get infected with COVID-19, with the reduced risk of hospitalization in large numbers there is no reason to restrict the community. He says while it’s not time for packed stadiums, it’s also not time for lockdowns and Ontario should re-think its strategy.

“We have to faith in the vaccines. We have seen in the other parts of the world like Israel, the U.K.,and the U.S. our neighbours to the south,” says Chakrabarti. “They are very safe and effective and our ticket out of this pandemic. We really should be taking that.”

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$2.9 million tax break for Ottawa Porsche dealership receives the green ligh

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OTTAWA — Ottawa city council has given the green light to a $2.9 million tax break for a new Porsche dealership in Vanier.

Council voted 15 to 9 to approve a grant under the Community Improvement Plan initiative to build a Porsche dealership at the corner of Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard.  The project by Mrak Holdings Inc., a.k.a. Mark Motors of Ottawa, would be built at 458 Montreal Road.

Under the Community Improvement Plan approved by Council, business owners can apply for a grant equal to 75 per cent of the municipal tax increase attributable to the redevelopment. A report says the goal of the Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan is to “stimulate business investment, urban renewal and property upgrades in the area.”

Coun. Catherine McKenney was one of nine councillors who opposed the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“I agree with the Community Improvement Plan, but I know and what people see here is that this application does not meet the criteria,” said McKenney about the CIP proposal for the Porsche dealership.

“A car dealership, no matter whether it’s Honda, or a Porsche or a Volkswagen, it does not first off belong on a traditional main street. This does not the meet the criteria of a CIP, it will do nothing for urban renewal.”

Approximately 70 people gathered at the site of the proposed Porsche dealership Tuesday evening to oppose the tax grant.

Coun. Diane Deans told Council she doubted any councillors who supported the Community Improvement Plan when it was developed in 2019 thought it would support a luxury car dealership.

“I don’t think it fits. I don’t think a clear case has been made that this incentive is required for the Mark Motors project to move forward at all,” said Deans. “I don’t believe there’s a clear community benefit.”

Coun. Riley Brockington, Deans, Jeff Leiper, Carol Anne Meehan, Rick Chiarelli, Theresa Kavanagh, Keith Egli, McKenney and Shawn Menard voted against the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“It will lead to a $17 million investment on Montreal Road, it will create about 20 jobs in that neigthborhood,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

Watson noted auto dealerships were not excluded from the Community Improvement Plan when approved by committee and Council.

A motion introduced by Watson was approved to use property tax revenue generated by the redevelopment for affordable housing.

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