Author Archives: Michael Armstrong

Landscaping – Proper Measuring

Around my home, the past couple of weeks have been so productive and beneficial for me. It’s been great to be outside: summer is in sight, and it’s been a joy to start getting my backyard in shape. I’ve spent numerous hours outside since the start of May, and most significantly, I have begun the initial stages of prepping the area of my backyard for where the firepit and entertaining area will go. The plan (seen in the rough sketch image below) is to have a circular firepit (which we are getting custom built) that will be 36″ in diameter, surrounded by 12″ of paving stones. The firepit and paving stones will be properly landscaped (properly graded, including the ground below the firepit prepped) so that this feature will be able to withstand prairie weather for years to come.

To ensure this is done properly, I’ve spent several hours researching and educating myself on how to properly landscape and prepare for high traffic areas, such as paving stones. Shoutout to This Old House – How to Install Concrete Pavers and PavestoneCompany – Pavestone Paver Installation on YouTube for the helpful knowledge and tips on properly landscaping and laying paving stones.

I’m a planner, so when I commit to something, I want to make sure it’s done right the first time. For the initial stages of this project, here are some of the things I learned:

  • Since there will be digging and excavating taking place, the first thing on the to-do list was to have SaskPower, SaskEnergy, and SaskTel come to stake out our backyard and determine where each of their underground lines are running (already completed). Fortunately, the area where we plan to dig and put our firepit isn’t near where the underground lines are (thank goodness, because this part will involve digging approximately 8” underground to pack down the area where the paving stones and firepit will end up…more on this will be discussed in my next post).
  • Using the location of the underground lines, we confirmed where we want our firepit to be, and then determined the perimeter to where the flat landscaping stones will extend to. In the images below, the yellow flags are the location of the SaskEnergy lines, and the orange/red flags determine the perimeter of the project (the orange flag in the middle represents the centre of where the firepit will be). From the centre of the firepit, I measured so that the edge of the area is 8’ away, and any building material is at least 10’ away, which is the required distance that City of Regina bylaws regarding Firepit Regulations dictate that firepits must be from any combustible material (ie: buildings, porches, and decks).

Now that the area is staked out, the next steps of this project are to begin prepping the area (digging and properly grading), including creating the base layer that the firepit and patio stones will be placed upon. To be continued…

A sketch of the firepit area to be landscaped.

Yellow flags showing the location of SaskEnergy lines.Orange flags showing the perimeter of the area that will be landscaped.Me measuring the radius of the firepit and paving stones.Measuring the radius of the firepit and paving stones.

TikTok: An educational tool?

I’ve had a TikTok account for about two years now, but like many of my other social media accounts, it makes an appearance as often as the Loch Ness Monster. I’ve probably only logged into my TikTok account half a dozen times over the past few years. Each time has been because a student wanted me to watch a video that I “had to see”, or to familiarize myself with a trend that my students were currently into. With that being said, I fully believe that there are a lot of intriguing features and benefits to social media platforms such as TikTok.

I spent about an hour today scrolling through various TikTok accounts, but mostly educational ones. I quickly understood how some students get so wrapped up in their phones and, before you know it, an hour has gone by. There was some great educational content that I stumbled upon that I found to be wonderful reminders of the ‘little things’ we do in a day as educators that can make a big impact on our students. For example, one teacher (Mrs. Wagenleitner TK Teacher: @kriswags3) was telling her students why they shouldn’t vocally announce “this is easy” when learning about a topic. All people in educational settings (students and staff) need to be mindful of the words that they say and how what they say might affect those around them. I found it interesting that such a ‘simple’ video about language created so much dialogue. More than 10,000 comments were made about this video, mostly in agreeance with Mrs. Wagenleitner. However, not everyone agreed with her, but I guess that’s the power of social media. In an instant, it creates the opportunity for dialogue that has no geographical barrier. For many reasons, it is a huge benefit to be able to connect with people who are engaged in similar areas as you. At the same time, it allows for immediate critique of both personal and professional values.

For these reasons, I do think TikTok can be used in educational settings (specifically with children) in advantageous ways. However, students and parents both must be aware that using these platforms come with their own unique challenges. To the extent that social media allows for great conversations and critical reflections, it also allows for anyone who disagrees with you to express their beliefs, often times cloaked in anonymity. It becomes important to recognize that this can be an educational opportunity in itself. Students need to be taught that it is okay for there to be a disparity in opinion. However, how we respond to these disparities and communicate our own beliefs needs to be done in respectful, ethical, and appropriate ways; all of which are teachable aspects that educators can work towards with their students.

TikTok Logos

TikTok Logos

Tiktok app logo icon vector Vectors by Vecteezy

Landscaping – Laying Paving Stones

My husband and I recently moved into a new home (well, in September). Since we haven’t been in our home for a full year yet, we are excited to get started on summer projects around our home and begin making it more of our own. I have always loved being outdoors and doing projects over the summer. One of the things we want to do at our new home is landscape one section of our backyard to be suitable for a firepit, surrounded by paving stones and decorative stonework so that we can enjoy campfires in our evening. However, neither of us know much about properly landscaping a yard so that it is suitable for paving stones that will withstand the prairie weather for years to come.

For my learning project in EC&I 831, I intend to learn the process of installing paving stones to go around our backyard campfire. From my initial research, this will entail several important steps over the course of the next few weeks:

  • proper measuring and grading
  • prepping the area
  • creating the base
  • leveling the top layer
  • laying the pavers
  • edge restraints (if necessary – we are still deciding)
  • tamping, and
  • sealing the paving stones.

I plan to learn and complete 1 to 2 steps of this process each week, with the hopes of having the project finished by Sunday, June 18th. I’m excited to begin working on this project but hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew. If anyone has any advice/tips about landscaping and laying paving stones, I’d love any suggestions along the way.

Here are a few pictures of the current layout of the spot where the firepit and paving stones will be going (and one of my dog, Belle, wondering what I am doing):

Social media – to engage or not to engage?

To be completely honest, I’ve always had a “love-hate” relationship with social media. On one hand, I recognize its importance and relatability in our current society. From a personal standpoint, I love going onto Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to find out what’s going on in the lives my friends and family. However, I find it to be something that occupies so much time in our lives. I consider myself to be a person that values and yearns for authentic, in-person connections and relationships. Social media diminishes so much of what I value not only as an individual, but as an educator. Our students spend countless hours everyday staring at a screen, documenting such minute and irrelevant (in my opinion) moments of their lives. Therefore, they lose out on many face-to-face opportunities for making meaningful connections with the people around them. For that reason, I have distanced myself (in the last decade or so) from social media in various ways. As a Vice Principal, a significant part of my day is often spent dealing with problems on social media. Therefore, when I am at school, I try to exemplify and demonstrate for my students that the best parts of our day happen when our phones are put away and technology is not at the forefront of what’s happening in our day-to-day lives.

Please don’t get me wrong – I recognize and full-heartedly understand that social media is not going away – I’m not ignorant or unaware of that. However, I find it difficult to value some things that are done through technology as opposed to in-person. I am hoping that this course will reignite my curiosity and interest in social media, while expanding my awareness of the professional learning community that is available to me online. What things can I do as an educator to highlight the benefits of social media, and how can I incorporate these positive aspects into my own work, while also helping my students in their pursuit of learning? This is what I hope to answer for myself and learn more about throughout this course, but only time will tell. Stay tuned!

Person using social media.

Free Stock photos by Vecteezy