Project Profile

Project Title:
Peace by Piece: The Freeing Power of Language and Literacy
Literacy in Action - Listen, I Read
School Name:
Eastdale Secondary School
School board / First Nations school jurisdiction:
District School Board of Niagara
Project Theme:
  • Connect [relationships]
  • Thrive [health & wellness]
Grade Level:
9, 10, 11, 12
Subject Areas:
The Arts, English, Social Sciences and Humanities
St. Catharines
Community Partners:
Jenn Anderson, Pastor for the Niagara Regional Police Association.

Peace by Piece: The Freeing Power of Language and Literacy


The work that teachers do has the power to make a difference in the world. Giving our students meaningful opportunities to hope, think, dream, read, write about peace is a worthy goal.We can empower our students and in return nurture our own sense of peace and hopefulness. This project will focus on the theme of peace and tolerance through the study of the novel A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. When Eastdale conducted a climate survey, the students identified faith-based discrimination as one of the areas our Safe School Team needed to address and place some focus. With a mix of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Atheist students, Eastdale's Safe School Council, along with the Literacy team, hopes to shed light on the beauty of faith, no matter its structure and origin.

Update (June 11, 2012)

This update has been copied from the Welland Tribune, May 30th, 2012

Miriam Toews stops at Eastdale

WELLAND - It took students little time to delve deep into the mind of author Miriam Toews when she visited Eastdale Secondary School on Wednesday.
Toews, who’s book A Complicated Kindness won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 2004, is a celebrated Canadian author who answered questions just as eagerly as they were asked by the school’s senior writer’s craft class.
It was through the national Imagineaction program — designed to facilitate teacher, student and community interaction— that the visit was made possible.
Writer’s craft teacher Jill Armstrong said her students were thrilled to be meeting with Toews, whose book they had studied closely in class.
A Complicated Kindness, which spent more than a year on the Canadian bestseller list, tells the story of Nomi Nickel — a teenage girl who rebels against the conventions of her strict Mennonite community in Manitoba, and longs to escape to a more exciting life in New York.
Toews, who herself comes from a small Mennonite community in Manitoba, was happy to meet with the small group of 12th graders to analyze her breakout novel.
Now a Toronto resident, she kept the discussion session casual, with students able to ask what was on their mind, whether about the inspiration for characters in the book, her motivation for becoming a writer, or her process when she has a project underway.
Toews offered tips she finds helpful when she’s in writing mode, including her coveted “90-minute rule,” which she picked up from a fellow author.
Whenever she sits down to write, she tries to do so for at least 90 minutes — what she calls a solid amount of time to really get into the story.
“Writing requires enormous amounts of self-discipline,” she said, adding it’s important to “force yourself to do it on a daily basis.”
Toews spoke about challenges she faced both before and after writing the book, including working hard to ensure the tone was right and facing harsh criticism, particularly from the Mennonite community, once the book was released.
She was also asked about a challenge faced by many who work to master the art of the printed word — writer’s block.
Toews admit she, like many authors, has been struck by the condition.
“It’s like how you combat a cold,” she said, “you have to wait it out … allow yourself time to move through it and not beat yourself up.”
“You need to have faith your ideas wil