Graduating from quality education at Connect Charter School

Mr. Jason Avramenko, a Grade Nine teacher at Connect Charter School, addresses his students during their graduation ceremony in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on June 20, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Students ceremonially graduated from Connect Charter School last night. The 100 members of Grade Nine walked the stage at this school where “It’s never just an ordinary day.” One of their school friends was with them in spirit and we all thought of you, Natasha. The Grade 9 teachers, Mr. Patrick Tam, Ms. Jaime Groeller, Ms. Cynthia Nilsson, and Mr. Jason Avramenko addressed their soon-to-leave students with affection, funny stories and nice challenges to keep on learning. Mrs. Chomistek, School Superintendent, who has been a magnificent inspiration to the hearts and minds of this school, on one of her last official duties before retiring, recognized the huge variety of talents that are soon to move on from the school. Susan, you will be sadly missed.

As the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dave Robinson put it, “Connect’s dirty little secret” is true. There are fabulous, dedicated and enthusiastic teachers at this charter school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and this is my shout out to you for your creativity, inspiration and educational direction to bring on these young talents and prepare them to be extraordinary, and sustainable, citizens of the world.

You made the school an inclusive place: a part of the community in our city, our country and the world. Everyone was an engaged and active partner-the caretaking and office staff, teachers and Principal, Dr. Phil Butterfield. You bought a fleet of bicycles, and used them to go on swimming trips and a journey all the way downtown via the cycle pathway network. You brought in long-boards to put a different spin on sports education. And a greenhouse was constructed and a gardening club formed to revitalize links with the soil and growing plants-something that has sadly withered away from the educational system at large. You put solar panels on the roof and a garden to commemorate Natasha Gould’s life is underway. Your highly organized field trips gave our young people real encounters with the natural and urban world, whether out at Benfield on Vancouver Island for marine biology, down on the streets of Calgary or under canvas in Kananaskis Country. In the classroom (just a couple of examples here), Mr. Avramenko inspired a closer and critical attention to current affairs of the world on a daily basis. Mr. Chang made more than sense of electricity; he made it exciting!

Grade Nine students, you have just three PATs left then it’s out and on (after a well-earned summer break), to your chosen high schools where you can apply your carefully honed learning skills to enjoy and manage more curricula adventures. Connect Charter School, thank you for providing quality education for our children over the past six years, something that we, as parents, voters and taxpayers should not take for granted (see below).

Photographs from graduation 2018

Please see this link to J. Ashley Nixon Photography for more images from the 2018 graduation ceremony at Connect Charter School.

Connecting with Quality Education in the World

The United Nations established a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 which frame the global agenda for sustainable development through to 2030. Quality Education (Goal 4) is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Connect Charter School have clearly exceeded that mission for its own students and, through continued active support for student teachers, pedagogic research and collaborations can support other efforts to achieve this goal in Canada and around the world. Progress on SDG 4 was last reported in 2017. Please take a few moments to see some of the ongoing challenges, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia and for vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, indigenous people, refugee children and poor children in rural areas:

  • In 2014, about 2 in 3 children worldwide participated in pre-primary or primary education in the year prior to official entry age for primary school. However, in the least developed countries, the ratio was only 4 in 10.
  • Despite considerable gains in education enrolment over the past 15 years, worldwide, the adjusted net enrolment rates were 91 per cent for primary education, 84 per cent for lower secondary education and 63 per cent for upper secondary education in 2014. About 263 million children and youth were out of school, including 61 million children of primary school age. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia account for over 70 per cent of the global out-of school population in primary and secondary education.
  • Even though more children than ever are going to school, many do not acquire basic skills in reading and mathematics. Recent learning assessment studies show that in 9 of 24 sub-Saharan African countries and 6 of 15 Latin American countries with data, fewer than half of the students at the end of primary education had attained minimum proficiency levels in mathematics. In 6 of 24 sub-Saharan African countries with data, fewer than half of the students who finished their primary schooling had attained minimum proficiency levels in reading.
  • Equity issues constitute a major challenge in education according to a recent assessment. In all countries with data, children from the richest 20 per cent of households achieved greater proficiency in reading at the end of their primary and lower secondary education than children from the poorest 20 per cent of households. In most countries with data, urban children scored higher in reading than rural children.
  • The lack of trained teachers and the poor condition of schools in many parts of the world are jeopardizing prospects for quality education for all. Sub -Saharan Africa has a relatively low percentage of trained teachers in pre -primary, primary and secondary education (44 per cent, 74 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively). Moreover, the majority of schools in the region do not have access to electricity or potable water.
  • On the basis of data from 65 developing countries, the average percentage of schools with access to computers and the Internet for teaching purposes is above 60 per cent in both primary and secondary education. However, the share is less than 40 per cent in more than half of sub-Saharan countries with data.
  • Official development assistance (ODA) for scholarships amounted to $1 billion in 2015, a decrease from $1.2 billion in 2014. Australia, France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were the largest contributors.



Posted in #YYC, Alberta, Calgary, Canada, Documentary photography, Education, Photography, Sustainable Development | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Prairie Wolf Pack go down to high flying RAF

Lance Corporal Sam Breeze, RAF Rugby Union holds off from a tackle by Riley Fahlman, Prairie Wolf Pack to score his team’s second try in their tour of Canada game at Calgary Rugby Union on June 15, 2018.
©J. Ashley Nixon

The Prairie Wolf Pack got in two early tries from Grant Cowell (Calgary Rams) and Ruairi O’Farrell (Calgary Canucks) and, despite a responding try by the Royal Air Force (RAF) winger SAC Ryan Crowley and two good penalty kicks from fly-half Sgt Andy Byrne, the home side looked to be taking off well from the turf of Calgary Rugby Park. With a third try from Riley Fahlman (Regina), the Pack went into the changing rooms at halftime with a score of 21-11; the RAF boys stayed on the pitch and regrouped.

The touring side, who are celebrating their centennial year this season as Inter-Service Champions, first had to absorb another Wolf Pack try, scored by winger Ian Shoults (Bow Valley RFC) after he made a long run in through the opponent’s defence.

But in the last thirty minutes, the RAF picked up the pace, began winning more possession in the lineout and ruck and took the lead scoring three tries by Cpl Dave Manning, Lance Cpl Sam Breeze, who got my player of the match award, and team captain, Cpl Toby Mann. The RAF team kept a tight formation in the last ten minutes, holding the line from a couple of late sorties by the Pack.

Final score: Prairie Wolf Pack 26-30 Royal Air Force Rugby Union

Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography to see or purchase other images from the game.

Posted in #YYC, Alberta, Calgary, Canada, Photography, Rugby, Sports, Sports photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Canucks pick up the points in Edmonton against Leprechaun Tigers

The hands of a Leprechaun Tigers player holds up the ball as Olly White, Calgary Canucks tries to score during their game at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton on June 9, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Ollie White thought he had the try in the bag but some leprechaun hands had other ideas and held the ball up. Just one moment of action from the Calgary Canucks (Divison 2) game against the Leprechaun Tigers at Ellerslie Rugby Park, which the visiting team won by a single try, 29-24. The Divison 1 game also went close but ended up in favour of the Canucks by a score of 26-19.

Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography to view or purchase images from these and other rugby games.

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Lewis Carmichael scores on his debut for Scotland against Canada

Lewis Carmichael scores on his debut for Scotland against Canada at the Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta on June 9, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon

I don’t believe any survey was conducted at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta for the international rugby game last night but its fair to say-from the singing of Flower of Scotland, the tartan tones in the terraces, and the pipers playing-that a fair few of the 12,624 attending were shouting for Scotland. It probably helped them to gear up and win handsomely over Canada with a final score of 48-10.

Second-row forward Lewis Carmichael scored on his debut for Scotland in the last couple of minutes of play. The 23-year-old North Berwick native, who plays his club rugby with Edinburgh, took a pass from flanker Magnus Bradbury to stride in and score Scotland’s seventh try of the night.

Byron McGuigan, Ruaridh Jackson, George Turner (3) and Magnus Bradbury scored the other tries for Scotland. Adam Hastings and Jamie Ritchie put in their first performances for their country in this short summer tour of the Americas that also sees games in Houston, USA, and Resistencia, Argentina.

Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography for more photographs of Lewis Carmichael’s first international try and other action from the Canada versus Scotland game.


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High tea at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Banff National Park

High tea ( 2,099m) at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

I got out for a hike at Lake Louise, Banff National Park yesterday. The crowds around the hotel thinned out quickly, leaving just a few hikers up on the mountain trails.

Traversing across about fifteen snowpacks during a two-hour trek was rewarded with spectacular views of Victoria and Lefroy Glaciers, the surrounding peaks of the Canadian Rockies and a peek of the primroses pushing through the wet spring soil.

Primroses pushing through at the Plain of Six Glaciers, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada on June 5, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon

And the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, which only opened up a few days ago, on the first of June, provided a nice, refreshing cup of high, mint, tea at 2,099 m (6,888 feet).

View of Mount Aberdeen from the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon


View of Victoria Glacier and Mount Lefroy from the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography for more images.

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Canucks score high over Druids

Action from Chad Spence, Calgary Canucks, and Strathcona Druids at Calgary Rugby Union on May 26, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon

A double set of games at Calgary Rugby Union between Calgary Canucks and Strathcona Druids resulted in handsome wins for the home Divison 1 and Division 2 teams. In the first match, the Canucks ran in eight tries, including scores from Ruaraidh Smith, Trea Hande, Matt Smith, Chad Spence (2) and John Ogilvy, to win their game 46-0.

In the Divison 2 game, some of the Druids players must have had heavy legs given that several of them had already had a run out in the 1st XV game earlier in the afternoon. The Canucks won over the visitors by a score of 64-12.

Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography for more action from these and other rugby games.

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Action photography from Cristina Mittermeier at the water’s edge


Cristina Mittermeier Standing at the Water’s Edge at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary on Apr 23, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon


Cristina Mittermeier has a fascination with water and the natural and human life that it supports. She writes about it, talks about it, and photographs it. Beautifully. While her underwater photographs of corals, schools of fish and a hoard of sea creatures are stunning, it is how she communicates about the relationships between people, nature and the challenges to sustainable development that is the most persuasive, impactful part of her brand and identity.

Her original training (she graduated from the ITESM University in Mexico with a degree in Biochemical Engineering in Marine Sciences) gave her the scientific discipline to write, research and explore the marine environment and understand the costs and benefits of aquaculture and commercial fishing. But she came around to thinking that a career as a scientist would not be enough to pursue her passion since she was a child and protect the ocean.

From working as an intern with Conservation International, Cristina progressed to leading visual communications with that Washington DC-based NGO then later co-founded her own organization, Sea Legacy with her partner, Canadian photographer Paul Nicklen.

Along the way, she also founded the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), where she was Executive Director and President until 2010. Two big milestones in a career that has focused on visual storytelling to promote action on globally important sustainability themes that include climate change, marine biodiversity protection, cultural diversity and retention, and women’s empowerment.

Standing at the Water’s Edge

Cristina Mittermeier, a National Geographic Explorer, stood and talked on stage at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary in front of a huge screen that projected her photographs and filmic messages from assignments around the world. These included stunning images from China, Madagascar, and the Amazon basin in Brazil where she was embedded with the Kayapo People living along the Xingu River in Pará State. Their traditional way of life has been impacted by the construction of the Belo Monte dam project which, although it may never be completed to full operation has significantly changed the river flow, as shown in NASA satellite images, and will have long-term environmental and social impacts. (In 2018, Brazil’s policy on building mega-dams in the Amazon basin appeared to have been reversed, although it is unclear as to the future of the Belo Monte project which was making its way towards completion by 2019.)

Climate change and a poorly looking polar bear in the Arctic

Mittermeier’s stage performance in Calgary, Standing at the Water’s Edge, brought by Arts Commons Presents also featured photographs and film clips from the Canadian Arctic. Mittermeier’s partner, Paul Nicklen, who is also a National Geographic photographer and filmmaker, lived on Baffin Island as a young boy and so intimately understands how the Inuit People’s way of life is fundamentally tied with nature. A harrowing film of a very poorly looking polar bear made by Nicklen went viral in 2017 and came under criticism from the media, notably Canada’s National Post for connecting this individual bear’s poor health with climate change.

Mittermeier responded to the criticism in an article in National Geographic in December 2017, saying “Although I cannot say with certainty that this bear was starving because of climate change, I do know for sure that polar bears rely on a platform of sea ice from which to hunt. A fast-warming Arctic means that sea ice is disappearing for extended periods of time each year. That means many bears get stranded on land, where they can’t pursue their prey, which consists of seals, walrus, and whales, so they slowly starve to death.”

She was reminded of the media backlash in the Q&A at the end of her National Geographic Live presentation when a member of the audience stood at the microphone and recounted how she had been devastated when watching the film of the starving polar bear. She asked what Cristina would change if she was to do that kind of thing again?

“We learned a lot”, said Mittermeier. “We should probably have told the whole story from the start (but) we told the story in little pieces and we didn’t really think it through. We didn’t know that it was going to go viral like that”, she explained, “but after we posted the video and photograph, the magazine (National Geographic) wrote and asked “could you give us some of the footage and we will rebrand and share on our own social media sites” The raw footage was edited and there was a comment about this polar bear being the face of climate change. “We never said that you know”, Mittermeier said on stage.

In responding to the question, Mittermeier commented that she wasn’t averted from continuing to communicate on climate change: “If I ever did it again I would probably be more careful. I would want people to talk about climate change. It became the most widely shared climate change story of 2017 so for better or for worse people were talking about the right thing.”

Mittermeier has written a new feature story that will be published by National Geographic later this year that will tell the whole story of what happened during this Sea Legacy expedition which, she emphasized, was not connected with National Geographic.

An important point to make here, one that is often mixed up in the media, is that climate change is having a systemic effect on the rate at which polar ice is receding and this change in habitat will likely influence the distribution and size of populations of species like polar bears.

Visual communications

Mittermeier writes on her website “As a community, we have not yet made the appropriate investments in communications at the same level as we have the science”.

She explored this theme further during the question session at the end of her National Geographic Live presentation: “What I realized was that the reason we are losing the (conservation) battle is that we’ve failed to invest in communications at the appropriate scale. When you look at the budgets of the big NGOs, they spend about 4 percent of their budget on communications and 90 percent of that goes towards fundraising. So the message has been completely lost.”

Sea Legacy’s story has a clear and strong positive perspective. In their mission statement, Mittermeier and Nicklen’s organization believes that “producing powerful media and art that gives people hope is imperative. Hope is empowerment. Hope is a solution. Hope is a game changer.”

Of course, hope in itself is not a strategy, but getting impactful images in front of decision-makers is a vital contributor to “spark a global conversation and the story that inspires people to act.”

Images for sustainability

Cristina Mittermeier is not a firebrand environmental campaigner. Rather, she cajoles and caresses through her ethnographic journey, using humour and hope where it fits, dropping in ideas about conservation such as “enoughness” and even an acronym, SELFIE (Someone Else is Likely Fixing It, Eh?), to make a little fun of herself as a Mexican living in Canada and using Canadian phrases and to suggest personal actions to her audience about selfishness, greed, and wastefulness.

Her performance at the Jack Singer Concert Hall worked at many levels. Yes, these are superb images, but they came packaged with stories of sustainability that made sense to children who turned up in their hundreds from schools across Calgary for the Monday morning Education Show. They also had the energy to resonate with influencers and decision-makers, consumers and community members in the audience during her matinee show on Sunday and the evening show on Monday. A visual map of sorts that hopefully encourages others to explore and find better ways to reconcile the economic, social and environmental needs that are at least enough for our planet.

Arts Commons presented National Geographic Live Standing at the Water’s Edge by Cristina Mittermeier on April 22 & 23, 2018 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

For more sustainability images please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Cristina Mittermeier in conversation prior to her Standing at the Water’s Edge performance at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary on Apr 23, 2018.
© J. Ashley Nixon


Posted in #YYC, Alberta, Brazil, Calgary, Canada, Climate Action, Documentary photography, Environmental documentary photography, Films, Heritage, Photography, Social documentary photography, Sustainable Development, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment