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Crofton House News

Visiting authors are an important part of the Junior School's literacy program. During the Writer-in-Residence visits, students from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 7 have the opportunity to learn with authors through readings and workshops. This January, we were thrilled to welcome New York Times bestselling author Julie Berry, to the Junior School. 

Julie specializes in historical fiction for youth - one of the CHS library’s most popular genres - and this year it was Crofton House students who inspired Julie Berry’s arrival. Students were reading Julie’s books and “it was a great influence in having her. Her book for Grade 6 and 7 students, The Lovely War, is one of our most popular historical fiction, with elements of fantasy, romance and mythology woven in,” said Sophia Hunter, Junior School Teacher Librarian.

Capturing the Mind 

Fiction has the freedom to entertain, capturing the mind through stories and conveying facts and knowledge about the world around us. 

Julie’s framing of the story in her novel, Lovely War, narrated by Greek gods, instantly captured student interest. “I started reading Lovely War because I found the perspective of Greek gods to be interesting. I haven’t read many books about war but listening to her talk encouraged me to, I found the history behind the war very interesting information including how her own family was affected by it,” shares Cecily, Grade 7.

“I truly feel that my most important job is to entertain. I want my stories to be their own reward. I take that seriously. A lot of it has to do with empowering girls and encouraging girls to develop their skill with language because language is a power with a democratic quality,” says Julie.

Empathy and its Applications

In Julie’s interactive presentations, she harnessed students’ creative thinking by developing the ability to approach their writing process with empathy.

“When creating something new, I try to allow the brain to do whatever it wants, I try not to impose any judgement on the creative process. What can be sad, though not surprising, is when learners vocalise a self-destructiveness about their work,” says Julie Berry.

With an awareness of how learners may lack self-empathy towards their own creative vision, in the ‘Develop a Story’ workshop for Grade 4 students, Julie encouraged students to elevate their creative ideas by sharing something they liked about their own work as well as sharing what they liked about two other students’ work.

“I was very strict in that there was to be nothing negative at all. Obviously, to produce works of professional quality, we need to have some pretty good critical judgement. But that is not how you develop a creator. You develop a creator by encouraging and praising what is and by encouraging them to love their work. It's that love and that positivity that creates the confidence to make something,” says Julie. 

Expanding Reading and Writing

When asked what they appreciated most about the Writer-in-Residence program, students were excited to share their thoughts.

“There are a lot of books in the library and you don’t get to appreciate all of them. Beyond a fun, hands-on way of learning, Writer-in-Residence brings to light a lot of books we have in the library, introduces you to new genres and makes you interested in reading more books!”, shares Amy, Grade 7.

Grade 7 students also shared how the Perspective workshop improved their ability to empathise and how they could relate this to other areas of their learning. “In Humanities we are learning about hunter-gatherers. We’re working on a project where we write a day-in-the-life of the people at that time. After Julie Berry’s presentation on perspective, it's easier to write their point of view, how they must have felt, and understand who they were,” concludes Amy, Grade 7.

In her final reflections, Julie shares, “The most important thing, to whatever degree possible for families, is to engage with stories together. Make shared reading a way of life, have books everywhere… never be anywhere without a book. The more that children see their parents read, the more that reading is normalized.” And on ideas and writing, “Ideas are of incalculable value. I strongly believe there aren't any good or bad ideas, there's only successful or unsuccessful execution. So I just want students to believe their ideas matter, write them down, and do something with them, and have the audacity to believe that your idea deserves to be a book in the world.”

Above: A nursing scene from 1918 - Sketch from Croftonian 1919.

Above: Photograph of Katie Snyder

CHS students and alumnae supported the war efforts of World War I and II during these periods of significant change for communities, countries and the world. From gestures big to small, their courage is reflected in the range of positions and contributions they made at home and across the globe. We explored the archives to learn more about the CHS community's involvement.

Many alumnae became V.A.Ds (Voluntary Aid Detachments) who helped nursing in hospitals, such as tending to injured soldiers and driving ambulances in areas of conflict. They found themselves dispatched to locations including England, France, Italy and Russia, and carrying out necessary support needed at home on Canadian soil. 

Alumna Katie Snyder, part of the Canadian Army Service Corps, was one such ambulance driver who saw active service in France during the First World War, operating just a few miles behind the front line. Under heavy shell fire and air raids, she helped rescue
soldiers and evacuate them to areas where they could seek safety and medical attention.  

On the Canadian homefront, the departure of individuals, particularly men, led to substantial labour shortages in various industries. In response, many CHS alumnae filled these gaps in areas such as offices, banks, hospitals, educational institutions, and farms. 

By the Second World War, the number of women present and the range of positions for the war effort increased dramatically. CHS Alumnae served in areas such as the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC), the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC), the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS), the Royal Air Force (RAF), and many more divisions. 

Above: CHS alumnae harvesting fruit during World War 1

Those who couldn’t actively serve (such as those who were current students at the time) volunteered to raise funds through CHS Chapters of organizations such as the IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire in Canada) and the Canadian Red Cross. Supporting the war effort was a Whole School affair, with even the Junior School students participating in the formation of the ‘Ivy Leaves’. The School's fundraising efforts initially focused on raising funds for the Red Cross. This initiative later led to the establishment of the School's Bazaar, which has evolved over time to support new initiatives such as KidSafe.

The stories unearthed from the archives remind us of the sacrifices made by communities across the country and how these conflicts impacted life all across the globe. It's heartening to see that, over time, the invaluable stories and experiences of
women during wartime are gaining well-deserved recognition.

To learn more, read this CBC article on Canadian female veterans of World War II.

Below: Portrait photographs of alumnae who served in World War 2, 1944

This year, CHS proudly hosted the 2023 International Independent Schools' Public Speaking Competition (IISPSC). The four-day event welcomed over 150 students from around the world onto campus to compete in a multitude of performance categories. 

The IISPSC, Grade 10-12 students, usually members of the Debate Club, put their names forward for a rigorous selection process. This year, Vanessa, Grade 10, Lucy, Grade 11, and Michelle, Grade 12, were the three students to represent Crofton House at IISPSC. 

The anticipation builds from early in the year as students learn of their selection, spending the summer meticulously preparing under the guidance of our committed debate coaches. 

But what does it take to get to this moment and what are the benefits students experience along the way?

A Love for Expressing Yourself

“The exciting thing is seeing students find their voice and this creative aspect of themselves they may not have known they had. Watching a student develop this high level of competence is a really powerful thing which translates into all aspects of life and opens up all kinds of worlds for students,” says Marc Foley, Senior School English Teacher and Debate Club Sponsor Teacher.

Vanessa, Grade 10, IISPSC Impromptu Speaking finalist, explained why she cherishes her opportunities to speak in front of others. “Having a voice is so important, especially in a society that may not place much value on the voices of the youth. I think it’s so important to be able to express oneself because, historically, the voices of females weren’t counted in political elections or valued heavily in society. It’s also just really fun!” She adds, “Being the daughter of first-generation immigrants, I appreciate the importance of being able to speak eloquently and thoroughly. The ability to express myself is something I value very heavily.” 

A Journey of Patience and Perseverance

The Debate Club is one of the largest Senior School clubs. Students are able to join in Grade 8.

Lucy, Grade 11, who finished 7th overall at IISPSC, qualified to attend the 2024 World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC) in Canberra, Australia. Lucy began in Grade 8 and in Grade 9 she qualified for one category semi-final. By Grade 10, Lucy had broken into all categories and qualified for Nationals.  

Lucy shares an important message on growth through personal interest. “In the beginning, I wasn’t trying to win or anything, I just thought it was fun because I like talking. I think the progression just shows if you like what you’re doing, yes, you will get better. This year went particularly well, I broke into all my categories, placed 7th overall at IISPSC and qualified for Worlds!”

Developing Essential Skills: From Critical Thinking to Confidence

Public speaking and debate transcend the competition floor, equipping students with a repertoire of essential life skills: from critical thinking and analytical writing to empathy and teamwork.

Michelle, Grade 12, who placed 12th overall at IISPSC, shares some of the many benefits she has seen through public speaking. “Preparing for a speech means researching a lot of topics to find a topic that is compelling and unique. At IISPSC I spoke about loopholes in medical device regulation. In that, you learn a lot of research-based skills while greatly expanding your general knowledge from reading books, listening to podcasts and watching videos of high-level debates. For speech delivery, I learned how to build momentum and the need to balance softer moments to draw emphasis in your speech and not wear out your audience’s attention.”

From left to right, Vanessa, Grade 10, Lucy, Grade 11, and Michelle, Grade 12.

Beyond Competition: Building Friendships, Embracing Fun

“Being able to meet new people and being exposed to different perspectives beyond the CHS community is one of my favourite things about these experiences. The amount of diversity in the competition is just unparalleled,” says Vanessa, Grade 10.

“My favourite moment at IISPSC was meeting people. I really enjoyed the chance to meet people outside of the competition room. There were opportunities to socialize; we went to see an improv show as a group at Granville Island!” says Michelle, Grade 12.

“It was really fun to meet other students from around the world. It’s nice to know each one of us is working really hard towards the same goal and that we’re all here together,” shares Lucy, Grade 11.

“The debate and public speech community is really amazing for students. Yes, it's an opportunity to compete and build skills, but it's also an opportunity to make a lot of friends with other schools and people from all over the world. It's a really unique bonding experience from the camaraderie of being in competition together and forming lifelong friendships at these events,” concludes Mr Foley.

Middle School years are recognized as one of the most significant transitional periods in a girl’s life and a complex stage for students to navigate. This week, we were fortunate to host Phyllis Fagell, the author of best selling books, Middle School Matters, and Middle School Superpowers, who facilitated an evening session with parents, as well as spending time with students in Grades 5 to 8. Phyllis is a school counsellor, therapist, educational consultant, author and journalist and helped answer questions for parents and students about how best to approach this age and stage.  

Fluctuating Social Dynamics and Emotions

Young people in this age-range, regardless of gender, experience emotional sensitivity based on a range of factors like hormonal changes and puberty, a prefrontal cortex still in development, and changing and developing social dynamics, such as friendships, which are extremely important to them at this time. For these reasons, Phyllis gave insights into social situations, building social skills and breaking down social myths.

As a self-reflective exercise, Phyllis asked students questions about social scenarios to highlight key areas that can have emotional impacts. For teachers and parents, she shared approaches to addressing some common concerns that middle schoolers face, which can affect their attention and performance in school. 

Breaking Down Middle School Scenarios and Social Myths

The following are some of the social myths that were dismantled for students, teachers and parents: 

Social Myth 1: “When someone excludes you or bails on plans, they know it’s mean.”

  • Key Takeaway: Work on relationships: know the difference between an acquaintance and a friend.
  • Phyllis explains: “There's no way to take away how hurtful it can feel to be excluded. But often, when kids feel like they weren't invited to something that they wanted to be invited to, it's a sign that maybe the relationship is different in their eyes than it is in their friend's eyes, and knowing the difference between a stranger, an acquaintance or a school friend and a real friend. When you have those hard feelings that you weren't invited to something, it's because that person is a school friend, or an acquaintance and it's a sign to you that this is a relationship you want to invest more in, that you would like to be included in the things that they're doing. It's not necessarily that they don't like you, it's that you have to put in more work into that relationship.”

 Social Myth 2: “I can help my friends with “big deal” problems (and vice versa).”

  • Key Takeaway: Recognize the hard stuff: know when you are overwhelmed and when to ask an adult for help.
  • Phyllis explains: “Kids can have very little awareness of what's happening in their life internally, they don't yet have a broad ‘feelings’ vocabulary and it's also not yet become natural for them to ask for help. And so, many of them end up supporting one another which is not great for either child. Neither one of them is in a position where they can help. As I told students, sometimes, not only are you not equipped to help your friend, you might be preventing them from getting the help that they need. It might be something that an adult with specialized training needs to be involved in. Especially if it's a big problem like an eating disorder or when they're saying alarming things that are related to their mental health. We want to make sure children know when to ask for help and give them that language to say to their friend, ‘that sounds like a really big or hard issue you're dealing with, are you talking to an adult about it? Do you want me to help you find an adult?’.”

Social Myth 3: “Either it’s protective to have a best friend, or, it’s better to have lots of friends than one or two friends.”

  • Key Takeaway: Encourage mental flexibility: discern the difference between meanness, bullying and emotional discomfort.
  • Phyllis explains: “Children this age pretty much live in discomfort and 98% of everything they struggle with is likely emotional discomfort. Your child might come home and convince you they encountered bullying or meanness because they'll present in that way but it really boils down to it's uncomfortable. Emotional discomfort can be wanting to hang out with a friend alone and not wanting this other friend there. It can be walking up to a group of people, and they stop talking and there's that awkward moment and they don't know what to say. It’s walking into a cafeteria and trying to figure out where to sit and not being sure where to go. If they don't get the reaction or outcome they want, it's very easy for them to think or really believe ‘they didn’t want me there’, ‘they didn't want to talk to me’. As uncomfortable as it is, we want them to understand that they can manage their discomfort. We want to move them away from that despair-cycle and coach them in having more cognitive flexibility and continue to take risks despite being self-conscious.”

Learn More From Her Book

Phyllis goes in depth about social myths and provides extensive ways to build skills and strengths to create resilient children in her book, Middle School Superpowers: Raising Resilient Tweens in Turbulent Times.

Discover how to bolster any middle schooler’s resilience by leveraging the 12 Middle School Superpowers they need to manage disappointment, self-regulate emotions, take healthy risks, and recover from any setback. Middle school can be one of the toughest times in a kid’s life—for them and for their parents and educators. It’s filled with transitions, upheaval, and brand new experiences that can be overwhelming and intimidating.

Whether they lose a friend, get cut from a team, make a mistake on social media, bomb a test, struggle with negative body image or identity-related issues, or feel weighed down by societal problems, these “superpowers” will help them find their place and thrive. Middle School Superpowers is the key to raising confident, self-aware, independent, and resilient kids who can recover from any setback—now and in the future.

In the world of education, there is an enduring magic that happens when knowledge and passion intersect. It's a spark that ignites dreams and, over time, transforms them into reality. This transformation is apparent in the inspiring journeys of the School's alumnae who chose to follow their talents into the world of the arts. 

They have ventured into many different areas, demonstrating the infinite possibilities of creative expression.   We invite you to explore the life and work of these remarkable alumnae.

In Music

Dolores Claman
(b. July 6, 1927 - d. July 17, 2021)

Dolores Olga Claman ‘43 was a Canadian composer and pianist. She is best known for having composed the 1968 theme song for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) Hockey Night In Canada show, known simply as "The Hockey Theme", which many consider Canada's unofficial second national anthem. In 2016, Claman was awarded the Cultural Impact Award for "The Hockey Theme" at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Awards in Toronto.

Dolores studied composition at the Juilliard School on a fellowship and went on to compose music for television and write songs for musicals. She worked with her writing partner and husband, Richard Morris, who was a lyricist. Together they composed over 3000 commercial jingles in a 30 year period and won more than 40 awards internationally for their work. Listen to Dolores Claman’s “The Hockey Theme” song here.


Ursula Malkin
(b. June 6, 1908 - d. September 29, 1996)

Ursula Malkin (attended Sept. 1922 - c. June 1924) was an outstanding figure in Vancouver musical circles, a frequent soloist for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (until 1954), and was the soloist who performed at the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra’s first concert on October 5, 1930. 

As a teacher and lecturer, she was an important pioneer of female presence in classical music and one of the most faithful supporters of young musicians in the VSO community. She began teaching in 1945, working towards the establishment of a music department at the University of British Columbia (1959), and helped found the Community Music School of Greater Vancouver (Vancouver Academy of Music).

Photo: Ursula Malkin in Vienna, c. 1930s. From the City of Vancouver Archives, 2009-005.430.

In The Visual Arts

Unity Bainbridge
(b. July 6, 1916 - d. November 30, 2017)

Unity Bainbridge ’32, OBC, was a Canadian artist and writer of poetry inspired by the peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and its landscape. In 1993 she was the recipient of the Order of British Columbia, which represents the highest form of recognition the Province can bestow to its citizens. 

She received this recognition because she used art as a form of historical documentation of a period of British Columbian history. In the 1930s she embarked on solitary journeys across the interior of British Columbia, along the coastline, and across Vancouver Island with the singular intention of capturing Indigenous and local communities in their natural surroundings. The journey consisted of just her and all her painting materials. Unity Bainbridge displayed unwavering determination in recording the scenes she encountered. She trekked numerous miles in the wilderness, navigating rivers and paddling across lakes to reach her subject material. 

The settings she documented through her art have since vanished: squatters' huts, Japanese villages, and Indigenous settlements. Her artwork included personal portraits of individuals from various walks of life, encompassing the young and old, the affluent and the marginalised. What set her style apart was her ability to complete her artwork right on location.

To paraphrase the late Lauren Harris of the Group of Seven: “Unity Bainbridge has concentrated all her energies on making a Canadian statement in art, in British Columbia terms.” 

Photo: Unity Bainbridge receiving The Order of British Columbia, 1993. Source:


Beatrice Lennie
(b. June 16, 1905 - d. June 1, 1987)

Edith Beatrice Catharine Lennie ’23 was a Canadian painter and sculptor and part of the first graduating class of Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design). Primarily known for her public art sculptures in Vancouver, many of which remain today. Some examples can be found at the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel, the Labour Temple on West Broadway, St John's Anglican Church and Ryerson Memorial Church.

Though some of her works have sadly been covered due to building renovation, the St John’s Anglican Church Shaughnessy contains a number of sculptural elements you can go see. Just above the main entrance, an Art Deco frieze depicts three incidents in the life of John the Evangelist: John and James mending their nets by their fishing boat, the risen Christ with James and John seated at his feet, and John with Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the Cross. The frieze, as well as reliefs in the bell tower, are the work of Beatrice Lennie.

You can view more of her works in this blog here.


In Writing

Kit Pearson
(b. April 30, 1947)

Kathleen Margaret "Kit" Pearson ’65, CM, is a Canadian writer and winner of numerous literature awards. Kit’s first novel, The Daring Game, was largely inspired by her experience attending Crofton House School. Perhaps best known for her novel, Awake and Dreaming (1996), which won the 1997 Governor General's Award for English-language children's literature. Kit was appointed to the Order of Canada for her contributions as an author of Canadian literature for children and young adults.

Kit had this to say about her time at CHS, “For high school I was sent back to Vancouver to a boarding school for girls called Crofton House School. It was a welcome escape from the lonely adolescence I had experienced in Edmonton. I made many friends and discovered the deep pleasures of English literature. I decided to major in English when I was accepted at the University of British Columbia.” (source Kit Pearson website)


Ethel Bryant
(b. January 20, 1888 - d. December 22, 1980)

Ethel Davis Wilson, OC, (attended Oct. 1898 - c. 1902) was a Canadian writer of short stories and novels. Her works include Hetty Dorval (1947), The Innocent Traveller (1949), Swamp Angel (1954) and Mrs Golightly and Other Stories (1961). Ethel Wilson was Vancouver’s most respected novelist for several decades. B.C.’s top fiction award, The Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction, is named in her honour. Her two best-known novels are Hetty Dorval and Swamp Angel. Wilson is known as one of the first Canadian writers to depict the natural beauty of British Columbia. She wrote often of places in British Columbia that were important to her and was able to detail the ruggedness and magic of the landscape.

For her contribution to Canadian literature, Wilson was awarded one of the Governor General's Literary Awards in 1961 and the Royal Society of Canada's Lorne Pierce Medal in 1964. In 1970, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada "for her contribution to Canadian literature". 

Photo: Ethel Wilson, 1953. From The Vancouver Public Library, Acc. no. 82153.