Today started with a look at the floor. We were told about how, if it wasn’t perfect the first time, it was torn up and laid down again. Then we looked at the ceiling of the Great Hall. The kids got a good look at the economics and politics of the time when the Castle was built. They saw how different influences were built into the building. They touched the floor of the Conservatory and felt how cold it was.
As we were guided through the main floor by Candace Iron (PhD, ABD), we looked at the plaster ceilings, the meanings of the images molded into them. We saw where telephones were kept. At one point, two of the boys knocked on a panel in the hall to see if there was a difference, and lo! He found that one panel sounded hollower than the other. We all went into an office, where, if you pushed against a panel, it opened to a secret passage! We went in and found ourselves in the wine cellar. It was a glimpse into a Downton Abbey life style, where the servants lived and worked in one place and the “gentry” lived in another. Sir Henry and his wife Mary had quite the lifestyle – when the tax man wasn’t at the door. (we found out that when he saw the tax man coming up the walk, he’d duck through his secret panel and partake of his wine collection)
The students answered questions with a sureness that we knew to expect, but were pleasantly surprised by all the same. Their hands went up and even if the answer was wrong, it was honoured. “In all the years I’ve been here, Candace said, I’ve never seen such an interactive group. You guys are amazing.”
As we climbed the stairs from the Grand dining room and smaller breakfast room up into the bedrooms, we went deeper into the lives of the people who lived there, with the curtained bed and another secret compartment for… “dead bodies?” “a snack?” “secret papers?” Yes. Exactly what I thought.
Up, up up into the Tower. The best room in the place. The bricks and mortar and beams and silence. Well, except for the excited whispers of the kids. They peeked out the little windows to see the gargoyles outside. “Unicorns!” Their inspiration for the afternoon.
Lunch, and then, another bus ride to
The Gardiner Museum… GARGOYLES!
As you approach the Room of Clay, you don’t hear much. A hum. The hum of concentration. The kids are making their own monsters. I mentioned this happy sound to one of the instructors and he said, (forgive me, I’m paraphrasing) “I’m addicted to this energy. Watching them pick up the clay and start working. Seeing that focus fill the whole room. I love it. I take it home with me. “
It’s true. Imagine being a teacher in a place like this. It was so quiet. There isn’t much time to ruminate about what your gargoyle is going to look like. You work quickly, and make decisions with your hands. What was emerging is fun, funny and imaginative.
The clean-up was quick, efficient. Hands turned to helping each other scrape up the traces of clay from the tables, wiping down, putting things away.
After a big thank you from the students, Miss Laura commends them for their maturity that day. “The difference from this morning to this afternoon is spectacular. Take that home with you and reflect on what you did today. Remember that you are excellent.”
And, indeed, they are.
Thank you, Casa Loma and Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art for hosting us!
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