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Crofton House News

The “Social Impact” themed Innovation Challenge kicked off on Saturday, October 10 with an inspiring panel that included educators and activists Ahalya Satkunaratnam and Tesicca Truong, as well as a design-thinking workshop led by our event partner, Volition’s, Sandra Spencer. Their insights, experience and advice were pitch-perfect as we set 70 participants from three schools—Crofton House School, York House, and Little Flower Academy—off to their teams and mentors to start brainstorming for the main event on October 17. 

“Social impact speaks to our relationship with each other. We are actually very connected in our diverse bodies and paths, and we have already been impacted,” said Ahalya. “I think ‘social impact’ is realizing what we each have to give to each other,” said Tesicca. “What are the needs in the community and where do they intersect with what we’re passionate or curious about?” 

Moderating the panel was Volition’s managing partner, Melanie Ewan, who will also be participating as a mentor. Each participant received the recorded kick-off event, links to inspirational resources, Ted Talks, pitch deck, and other resources. Students have been meeting at lunch, after class, and emailing with their mentors in the lead-up to October 17. “What’s different this year is that it’s spread over one week, so what I’m hoping is that even though they might not be directly working on it 24/7, it’s percolating in their minds and they’re noting things that come into their peripheral view that could help inform their ideas,” said Jacob Tran, Teacher, Arts and Applied Design Skills & Technology, Senior School. “This year, it feels like you can ponder a little bit more. And I think with a theme as big as ‘social’ it needs that space to breathe.” 

While the route to Saturday is new this year, the format, in the end, will be the same as the previous two events: teams will have their chance to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, and a winner will be awarded. Prizes are another facet of the event that have been painted with an innovative brush this year. For the first time, our partners including Lyft, Aritzia, myCEO, and Entreflow, are pledging to support an organization related to the winners’ project for a total donation of $1500. 

Of course, for the students we spoke with, the event is its own reward: “I really enjoy collaborating with my friends to solve a problem,” said Nicole, Grade 12, part of the winning team for the past two years. “The event is really fun, and though I’ll miss the in-person vibe, entertainment, and food, I think this could work too,” said Sofie, Grade 11. “This is the future,” said Pippa, Grade 12. “I think the best part of Innovation Challenge is that we get to collaborate with our friends and meet mentors, working on our own ideas, using the skillsets we’re passionate about,” said Lana, Grade 12. 

Crofton House School and the organizers of Innovation Challenge 2020 are grateful for the support from our teachers, students, mentors, panellists, judges, and event partners. We simply could not do this without them and together, we’re inspiring tomorrow’s leaders on topics that truly matter. “For me, being a part of this journey is really fulfilling,” said Jacob. “It feels like a lot of purpose, and I think the mentors probably feel the same way. That’s why we do this. That’s the biggest thing.” 

Parents and the Crofton House School community are invited to tune in to see what the teams have come up with, as well as a special performance by our own Open Dance crew. Guests can join the virtual event via this Zoom link starting at noon, Saturday October 17 (password 3200). 

In math class, students may be treated to piano music and an invitation to doodle in their notebooks, noting when their thoughts wander. In computer science class, students might lie down on a mat and listen to a short “Headspace” meditation. In the Junior School, a mandala might be available for girls to colour-in while they listen to the day’s lesson, helping them to self-regulate and learn at the same time. Sometimes it’s as simple as a few deep breaths together to start the day. Each of these are different approaches to mindfulness taken by teachers at Crofton House School. 

October 10 is World Mental Health Awareness Day (following Mental Health Awareness Week, October 4 to 10). We’re taking this opportunity to talk about ways we’re incorporating mindfulness in the classroom, and how you can bring it into your own life. Mindfulness skills improve memory, organizational skills, reading, and math comprehension, all while giving students the tools they need to handle rising levels of stress and reduce anxiety through increased focus and self-regulation. “The point is to help get girls into a learning headspace and the right mindset,” said Jacob Tran, Teacher, Arts and Applied Design Skills & Technology. “You can tell it has worked because their information absorption, attentiveness, and focus all improve.”  

Crofton House students are finding ways to incorporate mindfulness on their own as well. “I use a lot of mantras to centre myself,” said Grade 11 student, Dana. “It’s repeating certain things to myself that just click with me, help me, inspire me, or bring me peace.” “I have a list in my notes on my laptop of little lessons that I’ve learned,” adds Isabella, Grade 11. “Whenever I feel like my mind is a mess, I open that and scan through them to find the ones that apply to my situation. It helps calm me down.” 

Mindfulness is about reconnecting to the moment, knowing your feelings, and checking in with yourself without judgement. It helps us regulate our emotions, turn around overwhelm and reduce stress and anxiety so that we can be more fully present for our studies, our work, and our loved ones. 

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and even go a step further into self-compassion, the Crofton House School Personal Counsellors recommend the work of Kristen Neff, in particular, her guided Loving Kindness Meditation. They have also shared “The Guest House” Poem and Body Scan for Teens and Mindfulness for Students from Greater Good In Education


In the past, Outdoor Education week has involved big adventures, camp outs, hiking and practical application of the skills you need to access the backcountry. This year, with COVID-19 requiring us to reimagine how we do most things, Crofton House wanted to make sure Outdoor Education could go forward. The healing effects of nature, whether in the backcountry or your backyard, are more important now than ever. 

“Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that Outdoor Education has to be these hardcore skills, when really, it could be taking a walk around Stanley Park,” said Shannon Wilson, Teacher, Outdoor Education, Senior School. “It could be finding ways to be sustainable in your household to protect our natural places. Maybe you go on a road trip and decide to stop at every lookout to take in that space. We can find ways to incorporate the outdoors in our everyday life. We just have to be willing to look at it differently.” 

Grade 10 students’ mettle was tested as they learned skills such as how to light a stove, tarping, knots, and navigation through a particularly rainy week. “Our sandwiches were soggy because the rain was blowing in sideways,” said one Grade 10, with a smile. They hiked in Squamish at Brohm Lake (some even under sunshine). And they memorized The Ten Essentials—items to pack for safety and comfort. “The best part of OE is that every year is different,” said another student. 

Although this year’s OE program is different in new ways, it still aims to teach the girls skills that would let them go on outings with their friends or family on their own in the future. “It’s quite informational—I’m learning things too,” said Arezou Hashemi, Teacher, Languages, Senior School. “I thought heavy items, like stoves, should go in the bottom of your backpack, but no, your sleeping bag goes in the bottom and stove in the middle so that its weight is better supported by your pack. My husband and I went camping this summer and I could have used that information!” 

Although this isn’t the format girls looked forward to, we could see them making the most of it. To get one group moving and listening, OE teacher Ms. Wilson had them play some games, including “Camouflage.” After explaining the rules, water-resistant jackets and rain pants swish-swished as a group into the Crofton House School woods where she signaled all to find a hiding place. She had ulterior motives: “As we get older, we don’t go hide in the woods anymore,” she said. “And when you’re hiding in the woods, you look down and you see the mud under your feet, or the leaves in front of you, or you look closer at the bark of the tree.” The game got students asking things like, ‘What kind of tree is this?’; it created a very natural process of looking around. A connection to this space is where awareness takes root. Once you’re aware, you begin to care for that space, whether through picking up litter, or advocating with lawmakers. 

This education gives students the chance to practice skills that could make a difference in the enjoyment of a trip, and their safety. One good trip can lead to others, and it all contributes to a sense of confidence and connection. Learning by doing together also creates special bonds with peers, teachers and guides. “I love seeing girls’ growth and development through this process,” said Ms. Wilson. “And also, I feel better outside. When I see girls getting outside and see them take a deep breath and have time for self reflection, I can tell that it makes them feel good, too.”


The start of the 2020-2021 academic year has been like no other, and our community has risen to the occasion to help deliver girls back to class as safely as possible. Along with finding our balance in a global pandemic, the first week ended with smoke drifting our way from the wildfires blazing in the western United States, affecting Vancouver’s air quality significantly—and more of our plans, by extension. Every breath through our cloth masks reminds us now more than ever, we need to support one another, offer each other understanding, and show everyone—including ourselves—as much compassion as we can. 

The start of the school year gives us a chance to look ahead, and look back. Although a lot has changed at Crofton House, we can also take a moment to reflect on what is the same. “We have a tremendous community and understanding parents,” said one teacher. Students have reunited with each other happily, laughing and smiling as always. Behind the scenes, teachers and staff have been working tirelessly to collaborate on creative solutions, such as how we can continue our assemblies. Last week, for the first time in the School’s history, the Senior School was able to livestream their opening assembly. 

At the assembly, Head of School, Ena Harrop reminded us that this isn’t the first time Crofton House School has had to adjust to a pandemic in its 123 years. In 1918, due to the Spanish Flu, the school shut down, and boarding students were placed in quarantine. Also unchanged is the willingness of the Crofton House community to help when needed. In 1918, boarders volunteered as nurses, for example. And today, we have alumnae working on the front lines of healthcare, and community support closer to home. “School will feel different this year, but courage, creativity, and citizenship should guide us now as they always have,” said Ms. Harrop.

We must have the courage to live with uncertainty and the creativity to keep moving forward safely. “It is a big step to come back to school, and when we cannot see the way ahead clearly,  what matters is that we continue taking the next step. The one we can see in front of us,” said Ms. Harrop. On citizenship, this pandemic has exposed how interconnected our lives really are. At opening assemblies and in classrooms and conversations throughout these first weeks, we have asked ourselves to think about how we can send a message of caring and safety to one another. And we invite everyone to look at each other with compassion and understanding, remembering that each of us struggles with different things in different ways. 

This year’s Head Girl, Akarty, echoed her message when she addressed her Senior School classmates. “The constant we share is the Crofton community: every student, teacher, and parent. The support we provide each other will always be there,” she said. With open hearts and minds, we continue on our next steps in the academic year 2020-2021, finding creative ways to do the things that are meaningful and special to us, and letting go of the things we can not change. As Akarty put it, in the words of Beyoncé Knowles: “if everything were perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.” 

Students across the Senior School have been participating in various 'Creative Challenges' to push them to think about ways to make art with the resources they have.  In the "Masterpiece Redone" challenge, well-known pieces of art are recreated with everyday items found around the house, with some impressive results.

Nearly 100 submissions have already been collected, but here are just a few examples of the creativity on display.

Olivia (Grade 12) did a rendition of Symphony in White, No.1: The White Girl by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.


Kristi (Grade 11) convinced her brother to become Frida Kahlo in her Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.


Kate (Grade 11) tested the waters with Procreate and a self-portrait from her iPhone for Roy Lichtenstein's Crying Girl.


Kyra (Grade 11) posed as Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring.


Julia (Grade 11) sat as Whistler's Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.


Dana (Grade 10) recreated Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.


Jill (Grade 9) and her cat posed as Duccio's Madonna and Child.


Mia (Grade 8) became Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci.

Jennifer (Grade 8) posed as Portrait of Wilhelm Kettler, Duke of Courland.


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