Wellness Resources for Tough Times

It is a challenging time for students, faculty, and members of the OISE community. As we adapt to online classes and work remotely in support of physical distancing, many of us have been removed from our normal routines. This experience is challenging to both our academic and professional lives, and to our personal well-being. Web-based library services are still running to support your research, and we at the OISE Library have compiled the following list of wellness ideas and resources to help support your well-being. Read on, and stay happy and healthy!


Mindfulness is the practice of bringing our attention into the present moment, becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Often, mindfulness can help us to maintain a sense of calm and balance in times of uncertainty and stress. Mindfulness practices can incorporate movement, breathing techniques and meditation. Here are a few ideas for incorporating mindful practices into your daily routines:

Mindful Movement

As we are working from home and perhaps spending more time seated at our desks and in front of screens, it’s important to take breaks. Consider mixing and matching some of the following instructor-recommended yoga poses into your day to keep your body loose and your stress levels down:

  • Sink your hips back onto your heels and let your body rest on your thighs in child’s pose. Breathe into your back body, feel the muscles loosen and your back ribs expand with each inhale and sink down with each exhale.
  •  Sit on your heels and inhale as you squeeze your shoulders up towards your ears, clenching your fists and scrunching your face, maybe scrunching your toes; exhale and release everything with an audible sigh. Do this at least 3 times.
  • Sway and arch your back in cat/cow to loosen the spine, then shake your hips from side to side in happy dog (like you’re wagging your tail!).
  • Flip your perspective in downward dog for 5 breaths. Root down through your hands and lengthen your spine. Pedal out your feet, “walking the dog.”
  • Ragdoll in a standing forward fold by bending your knees as much as you need to, holding onto opposite elbows. Sway side to side and gently nod and shake your head to let go through your neck and shoulders.
  •  Stand tall in mountain pose, drop your shoulders, lift the corners of your mouth, and close your eyes.
  • Take 5 deep belly breaths (in any position!), imagining that you can see your breath moving through your whole body.
  •  Rest in savasana, gradually relaxing your body from your toes up to the top of your head.

We’ve posted some visual references for these poses on our Instagram page for those following along at home!

Some additional free resources for at-home practices of mindful movement include Yoga with Adriene’s YouTube channel (offering beginner-friendly video yoga instruction) and Yoga with Kassandra’s YouTube channel (offering all-levels and all styles of video yoga instruction).

Mindful Breathing and Meditation

To calm the mind, try these instructor-approved breathing techniques:

    • Pursed-lip breathing: Bring your attention to your exhalations by breathing out through pursed lips (like you’re blowing through a straw). Inhale smoothly through the nose, and notice your inhalations grow deeper and more spontaneous in response.
    • Box breathing: Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, exhale for 8 counts.
    • Alternate nostril breathing

And for something completely different, to get your energy levels up, try lion’s breath (let yourself feel silly, and laugh!).

Additional breathing techniques and guided meditations can be freely accessed online through the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Centre (also available as an app), and the Oak meditation app (offering guided and customizable meditations of multiple lengths).

Mindfulness for Kids

Are you taking care of children at home? These resources may help you to keep them learning, active, and entertained!

  • Tumblebook Library, accessible through the OISE Library homepage, is a collection of ebooks, videos, and activities for children. Two titles of note are the ebook videos Stretch by Doreen Cronin and Scott Menchin and You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim. Stretch encourages children to stretch and move along with animated animals in the story and is accompanied by a virtual Memory Game based on the book. You Are Stardust emphasizes children’s strong connections with the natural world.
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga’s YouTube channel offers a range of yoga and mindfulness practices geared towards children ages 3+.
  • Kids Yoga Stories has written a blog post about incorporating yoga and mindfulness into your new habits at home, including a number of suggestions and printable resources for both kids and adults.

Mindful Home and Work-spaces

Looking for some other ways to make your home and home-office a healthy and happy space? Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Change up your virtual classroom or office by sitting on a mat or a cushion instead of a chair.
  • Remember to stretch and drink plenty of water to keep yourself fresh and alert. Set a timer to take screen-breaks.
  • Create a gratitude practice: mindfully reflect upon 3 good things from your day before you fall asleep; they can be as small or as big as you like! If you live with housemates or family members, consider sharing your lists at the end of the day. 
  • Try laughter yoga. Set a timer and challenge your housemates/friends/family to laugh for two minutes straight. This can be fake laughter (the more ridiculous sounding the better) or real laughter, but you’re not allowed to stop until the timer goes off. (Trust me, it will become real laughter soon enough!)
  • Connect with others over phone, email, or video chat. We may be physically distanced from each other, but we do not need to be alone!

Additional Resources for Mental Wellness

It’s normal to feel stressed and isolated at this time. If you are feeling distressed, U of T’s Health and Wellness resources are available to you.  Good2Talk Student Helpline (1-866-925-5454) provides professional counseling, information and referrals helpline for mental health, addictions and students well-being. My Student Support Program (My SSP) (1-844-451-9700 / Outside of North America: 001-416-380-6578) also provides culturally-competent mental health and counselling services in 146 languages for all U of T students, available 24/7 through chat or phone call. Support is also available for U of T staff and faculty through the Human Resources & Equity website.

From all of us at the OISE Library, we wish you well! 

Posted in Library Resources | Leave a comment

Featured Activity Kit: Constellation Blocks

As March is the perfect month for star-gazing, check out our newly-arrived Constellation Blocks as the featured activity kit!

The kit explores 16 different constellations from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Each block includes information about the name, the constellation symbol, the magnitude, the hemisphere and also includes two debossed sides with the constellations (one with the connecting lines included).

It is a very tactile activity kit as the creators of the block encourage students to touch the constellations that are on the blocks to feel the differences in size and magnitude between the different stars. Many of the symbols are also historically significant and they encourage students to research about them. These blocks are a great kit to introduce into lesson plans on constellations, as they allow students to identify, compare and contrast different constellations and stars, as well as to recognize famous stars and their mythologies. Furthermore, it also introduces them to understanding and comparing simple scientific data.

The wood is non-toxic and made with non-toxic inks, and the blocks are meant for children who are two years old and above. If you like the design of these blocks, check out two other block activity kits that were also newly added to our collection. One includes information about the planets, and the other one is on the theme of dinosaurs! You can find them in our OISE Library K-12 Manipulative Database or you can find all of them on our New Arrivals Shelf on the ground floor of the Library.

Posted in Featured activity kit | Leave a comment

New Titles for February

Image result for the poet x coverThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo  

Xiomara is a poet. She is not always good with words, so she writes down her thoughts in poem form in her notebook. Whether she is fighting with her mother or navigating her first crush, Xiomara’s thoughts on what’s happening in her life go down in her notebook. She is aware of her poetic talent, but knows that her parents would never approve of her poetry as it portrays an image that does not conform to the good Catholic girl they want her to be. The Poet X is a coming-of-age novel written in beautiful, thought-provoking verse that portrays the ups and downs of teenage life. This book is recommended for grades 11 and 12 students due to portrayals of sex and drug use.  

Trans People in Higher Education edited by Genny Beemyn  

The experiences of transgender students in higher education are not well-documented or well-researched. Genny Beemyn accepted the offer to edit this anthology because they hope this book will be used to learn more about the lived experiences of trans people in higher education, but they also hope that people who have no connection to college campuses will use this book to educate themselves on the broader experiences of trans people. There is a mixture of research studies and personal narratives included in this compilation, as each approach offers different insights into the lives of trans people. This anthology is an excellent resource for educators or those who wish to learn more about the lives of trans people in a higher education context and beyond.

Legacy: Trauma, Story, and Indigenous Healing by Suzanne Methot  

Five hundred years colonization have left their mark on the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Suzanne Methot, a Nehiyaw writer, editor, educator, and community worker, uses history, human development, her own stories and the stories of others to trace the roots of inter-generational trauma. Methot advocates for a return to Indigenous ways of knowing and being in order to understand what it means to be an Indigenous person in the 21st century. This book is a resource for educators looking to deepen their understanding about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.  


Bringing History Home: A Classroom Teacher’s Quest to Make the Past Matter by Bill Schechter

Many people are familiar with the adage that history repeats itself, and that is not always a good thing. The author of this book, Bill Schecter, drawing on his thirty years’ experience as a teacher, argues that there is a better, more enduring way to encourage students to learn, and more importantly, to make them want to learn than just teaching for success on standardized tests. Teachers should aim to inspire a lifelong love of learning in their students and reducing education to test prep sets low standards that do not serve students well in the world beyond high school. The chapters in this book cover a range of pedagogical approaches, curricula, and resources to strengthen a history program, making this work perfect for educators looking for ways to bring new life to history class.  

Contes d’un autre genre par Gaël Aymon et illustré par François Bourgeon, Sylvie Serprix, Nancy Ribard 

Les contes de fées sont des histoires qui sont adorées partout dans le monde, mais c’est vrai que d’une perspective féministe, les contes de fées ne passent pas des très bons messages aux jeunes filles d’aujourd’hui. Heureusement, Contes d’un autre genre contient trois histoires, complètes avec des illustrations magnifiques, dans lesquelles les princesses sont autosuffisantes et n’ont pas besoin d’un homme pour les sauver. Ce livre serait idéal pour les enseignantes qui veulent introduire des histoires féministes dans leurs salles de classe. 


 These books and more new titles can be found on the ground floor of the OISE Library.

Posted in New Titles | Leave a comment

Featured Activity Kits: Coding with Ozobots, Sphero SPRK+, Sphero BOLT, and the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set

This blog post was written jointly by Chelsea Humphries and Sarah Morelli 

This month, the OISE Library is featuring a collection of coding resources in our Display & Play area, including four robots! Coding in the classroom has never been so much fun (or so easy)!

Ozobots: Bit and Evo

OzoBots, featuring Bit and Evo, are two brand-new activity kits that allow children to learn to code! If you are looking for hands-on coding fun, then these two kits will fit right into your classroom. Both Evo and Bit can be used with simply paper and markers, or they can be used in conjunction with their designated app or website. The robots read colour sequences to follow commands, so students can create lines of coded instructions — or they can create entire drawings!

Bit uses OzoBlockly, an online tool, to allow students to direct it, and there are helpful videos and online instructions to facilitate the use of the website. There is also the option to have students simply draw out the code on paper.  

Evo works very similarly to Bit, but is used in conjunction with the Evo app as opposed to the OzoBlockly website. Using the Evo app, students can earn points and level-up as they learn to code and create. Again, students can simply use paper and markers to draw out the code by hand.

For education professionals who may want to familiarize themselves with Evo and Bit before introducing the robots into the classroom, helpful tutorials and tips and tricks can be found on the OzoBot website.  

The Ozobots are recommended for students in grade 1 and up, due to the small size and delicate nature of the robots.

Sphero: SPRK+ and BOLT

Eager for more coding fun? With Sphero SPRK+, Sphero BOLT, and the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set, you and your classroom can program even more robots to play games and embark on adventures! These robots and related activity kits are great hands-on learning objects to make coding and programming more tangible for classroom learners. They’re also a lot of fun to play with at any age!

Sphero SPRK+ and Sphero BOLT are both spherical robots that can be programmed to move in different directions, following real-world, drawn out pathways or digitally encoded directions. To use these robots, you must first download the Sphero Edu App, which is available for download on iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac, Windows, and Chrome. In the app, you can program your robot to complete activities and use pre-existing programs to explore their functionalities. They are appropriate for various levels of learning: according to the Sphero Edu website, you can “learn to program your robot by drawing a path, using a sequence of code blocks, or writing your own JavaScript code.” As a teacher, you can even assign activities to learners in your classroom through the app, customizing the learning experience for your students!

The Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set is intended for use with either of the programmable Sphero robots. It has two layouts to explore: a cityscape and a golf course. The mat comes with 3 identical sets of 20 cards that outline programming challenges to be completed by one or more Sphero robots in conjunction with the Sphero Edu App. Each activity card outlines a scenario which must be solved by programming the Sphero robot to move through the Code Mat in a specified way, including a QR code that links directly to the Sphero Edu App. The mat is large enough that multiple students may be able to undertake different activities at once.

The Sphero robots can be used separately or together and in conjunction with the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set. They’re great for learners in grades 3 and up — and for eager teachers who want a chance to play with coding and programming themselves!

Additional Coding Resources

For extra support with coding and programming, and for ideas about how to bring it into the classroom, consider checking out How to Think Like a Coder Without Even Trying, Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming, and Code in Every Class: How All Educators Can Teach Programming just three among many helpful titles in the OISE Library collection. Your students may also enjoy reading Kids Get Coding: Learn to Program, a very accessible introduction to programming, complete with more online and offline activities for them to explore.

The OzoBots Bit and Evo, Sphero SPRK+, Sphero BOLT, the Sphero Code Mat and Activity Card Set, and the books listed above, How to Think Like a Coder Without Even Trying, Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming, Code in Every Class: How All Educators Can Teach Programming, and Kids Get Coding: Learn to Program, are all currently on display in the Display & Play area on the third floor of the OISE Library.

Posted in Featured activity kit | Leave a comment

New Titles for the New Year!

As the new semester, new year (and new decade!) begin to unfold, here is an eclectic mix of new titles that OISE Library has purchased for our collection. These books showcase some of the collections that are we are currently working on expanding—most notably the graphic novel collection, as well as the French language collection!

Blueberry Patch/ Meennunyakaa by Jennifer Leason and Norman Chatrand, is a children’s picture book that is based in Duck Bay, Manitoba, in the 1940s. It shares the story of an Elder and his experience of packing up to go out to collect blueberries, a traditional gathering that took place in his community every summer. His story is complemented with beautiful imagery through the book. This picture book is written in English and Anishinaabemowin.

Care Work – Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a book that deals with the pervasive implications of abelism in our society, and considers the movement of disability justice–a “movement that centers the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, with knowledge and gifts for all.” It is a collection of essays that maps out the idea that there can be no social justice without destroying ableism. This book works as an excellent toolkit for anyone who wants to foster resilient, inclusive and sustainable community-building that is truly accessible. 

Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms by Joe Feldman is an amazing resource for teachers to tackle the very challenging conversation of grading practices in schools, and how they may unintentionally perpetuate achievement and opportunity gaps amongst students. This book provides both a historical backdrop on grading, and how the current system we have now was in fact set up as a tool to control students and their opportunities. He also provides practical ways with examples, on how teachers can adopt grading practices that are motivational, empower students, reduce failure rates and improve teacher-student relationships. Feldman also follows this up with common concerns and questions and how teachers can navigate them. This is an excellent book for teachers are trying to be more reflective, and have more caring and equitable grading practices as well for those who are generally interested in the history of academic grading. 

They Called Us Enemy written by George Takei, along with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker is a graphic novel memoir that recounts George Takei’s childhood of being imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. The graphic novel starts in 1942 with his father rushing him to pack up his things following the order of President Roosevelt, who demanded that every person of Japanese descent on the west coast must be sent to a relocation centre hundreds of miles away. This is where Takei spent his childhood from the age of four surrounded by armed guards. He provides a firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire and how these experiences shaped his future. This book is also written in a way that allows the reader to reflect on current US immigration policies and how they may mirror the legalized racism of the past. The age range for this graphic novel is for 14 year olds and above.

Le Vide by Anna Lienas is a charming picture book intended for 6-9 year olds. It narrates the story of a young girl who is joyfully living life until she fills this inexplicable emptiness, or “le vide.” This book can be a tool to talk about feelings of emptiness that may stem from a variety of issues such as grief and/or depression. It is a very inspiring story on how to live through and overcome hardships and is told in a fun, quirky and poetic manner. 

You can find all of these books on the Ground Floor of OISE Library


Posted in New Titles | Tagged | Leave a comment