Last week, I had the chance to join a few e-learning colleagues for a tour of Pelee Island School in support of teachers and students who are piloting an e-learning project. Even while technology is being used to address unique educational challenges, our trip was in many ways, like stepping back in time...
Get your bearings... Pancake flat in the middle of Lake Erie, Pelee Island is the southernmost land mass in Canada.
The island is populated almost exclusively along the coastline, with the Pelee Island Winery, bed and breakfast accommodations, estate homes and more, readily accessible by automobile or bicycle.
The MV Jiimaan is one of two ways to get to the island in good weather. Once winter weather sets in (November-April?), you'll need to book a flight to reach this jewel. With room for up to 40 vehicles and 400 passengers, you'd be wise to have a reservation.
Calm weather meant our 8 a.m. departure and 4 p.m. return could run right on schedule, with each trip taking 90 minutes to/from the Leamington dock.
You can't make this stuff up! Our hosts kindly left their vehicle waiting at port for us to drive out to the school. The Rolling Rock sign in the front windshield of our loaner van, boasted ""Same as it ever was...". You can imagine our response when the first lines we heard on the radio were: "Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was..." from "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. We thought, nice, they left us a CD or audio tape... but no, it was playing on the radio!
Heading north from the ferry dock towards the school, we learned to return the waves of oncoming drivers before being greeted by the "shoe tree". Clearly we were in a different place!
The three room school house sits beside the now closed Pelee Island high school, and at the time of this photo, a rope in the entrance way was being pulled to ring the bell at the top of the photo, announcing a recess break for the 11 students.
Supported by teachers who live on the island, these multi-grade classrooms might sit anyplace in North America. One key difference, class size in this academic year is almost always less than 5.
A historic plaque commemorating the Battle of Pelee Island some 170 years ago stands on the school grounds in stark contrast to the recently added high speed wireless tower that makes it possible for grade 9 students to take their secondary school courses on the island. Historically, the only only alternative has been for high schoolers to billet with mainlanders in order to take classes at Leamington District Secondary School.
Great food, original music, and a colourful dining environment at the Anchor & Wheel Inn, hinted at the uniqueness of island accommodations.
An afternoon tour of the island, included a visit to Pelee Island Heritage Centre and the pheasant farm. The annual island pheasant hunt is a lucrative economic event for islanders.
Even our return to the mainland reminded us what a special day we'd had. While the uniqueness of this island is best experienced in person, travelers should consider bringing Tim Horton's coffee for themselves and for the islanders. Some things aren't readily available when you're living in another time and place...