Death of a Young Son by Drowning

“Death of a Young Son by Drowning” by Margaret Atwood is a moving poem about the death of a child. The use of metaphor makes the poem more challenging.


Hope dies when one’s child dies.


  • metaphor, simile, symbolism, allusion.


What happened to the speaker? To her son?

What reflective question does this poem ask?

This poem comes from a collection written by Margaret Atwood called The Journals of Susanna Moodie. In this collection we read of the hardships and triumphs of the title character, who is a pioneer and recent immigrant to Canada. Find and read other poems from this collection.

Write about the comparisons this poem uses. Do you think the comparisons are appropriate or effective?

How do you feel about this poem? What do you like or dislike about it?

What do the last two lines mean?

Discuss the type of journey both mother and son make. Discuss how it symbolizes the journey of life, from birth to death.


“Death of a Young Son by Drowning” by Margaret Atwood

He, who navigated with success
the dangerous river of his own birth
once more set forth

on a voyage of discovery
into the land I floated on
but could not touch to claim.

His feet slid on the bank,
the currents took him;
he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water

and plunged into distant regions,
his head a bathysphere;
through his eyes’ thin glass bubbles

he looked out, reckless adventurer
on a landscape stranger than Uranus
we have all been to and some remember.

There was an accident; the air locked,
he was hung in the river like a heart.
They retrieved the swamped body,

cairn of my plans and future charts,
with poles and hooks
from among the nudging logs.

It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass
leapt to solidity;
my hands glistened with details.

After the long trip I was tired of waves.
My foot hit rock. The dreamed sails
collapsed, ragged.

I planted him in this country
like a flag.

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Man in Motion

It seems that people are often fascinated by individuals who do extraordinary things to better the lives of others. Research Rick Hansen and write a report about him. Be sure to include a character description in which you suggest how Rick Hansen’s character might have influenced his life. Share your report with your classmates.

Include links to 3-5 sources of information. Check your information for relevance, bias, and accuracy.

Embed one or two images or media clips.

Adjectives to describe character traits.

“Pillars of Character”

Consider writing a report on another Canadian hero: fact or fiction.

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Existentialism is a philosophy of life that emphasizes personal choice and subjectivity; that is the idea that our everyday choices, actions, and reactions determine who and what we are. Find out more about existentialism. Write as summary of what your have discovered.

Explain how a text you have studied reflects elements of this philosophy.

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More Holidays!

You may be of the opinion that there are not enough holidays in the school year which permit you to take off from school. So invent some! Make up three new holidays which are so important that school has to be closed a week for each holiday. How about a World Series Holiday, or a Grey Cup Holiday that gives you the week off? Justify your holiday with strong arguments.

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Rewrite a Fairy Tale

Pick a fairy tale and rewrite it.


Change the time period.

Change the point of view: rewrite in first person, change the point of view from to another character.

Change the relationship.

Change the gender.

Change the genre – turn the fairy tale into a Science-Fiction thriller.

Change the place – physical, cultural, socio-economic.

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Extinct Civilizations

Write a story in which your protagonist has discovered that s/he is a rare descendent of an extinct civilization – East or West.

Ancient Egyptian
The Inca
The Maurya
The Toltec
The Mayans
The Phoenicians
The Babylonians
The Sumerian
The Aztec
The Minoans

Extra ideas for consideration:

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National News

Spend a week carefully observing news stories covered by the televised CBC news The National (10 or 11 p.m.) and the print daily newspaper The National Post.

Which stories were covered on TV, which significant stories were only in the newspaper? Which medium provided the deepest and most thorough coverage of particular events?

Write a post about your comparison and conclusions.

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Nature Personified

Watch some living creature(s) in their natural environment: a nest of garter snakes, an orb spider, a gopher mound.

Write a short story featuring the creatures, but describe them with human characteristics: personify.

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Masks are intriguing because they serve some interesting purposes. When you put on a mask, you do one of many things: transform your character, hide your identity, or protect yourself. Everyone has worn a mask at some point in life. When was the last time you wore a mask? How did it feel to have a mask on in that situation?


Cultural Masks
Literary Persona
Character Masks

The concept of character masks refers to the circumstance that, in human societies, people can take on functions in which they “act out” roles, whether voluntarily chosen, by necessity, or forced. In those roles, some or all of their true characteristics and intentions may be partly or wholly masked, so that they appear different from what they truly are – “public face” and “private thoughts, interests and emotions” diverge. Also, their activity may have broader social effects that they would rather not know about, which they wish to be unknown or presented in a certain light, or which they are unaware of, and therefore the effects are mentally disconnected from their real causes.

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Art is coming face to face with yourself

Select one of the following quotations and write an essay explaining how one of the texts you have studied does or does not support the quote.

“Art is coming face to face with yourself.” – Jackson Pollock

“When I reflect that the task which the artist implicitly sets himself is to overthrow existing values, to make of the chaos about him an order which is his own, to sow strife and ferment so that by the emotional release those who are dead may be restored to life, then it is that I run with joy to the great and imperfect ones, their confusion nourishes me, their stuttering is like divine music to my ears.” – Henry Miller

“The subject matter of art is life, life as it actually is; but the function of art is to make life better.” – George Santayana

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Who Should Receive the Credit?

A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 16-18


On August 16, 1896, four people — an American miner, a First Nations man, his sister, and their nephew — were looking for gold on a creek that flowed into the Klondike River a few kilometres east of the present town of Dawson, Yukon. One of them — no one is sure which one it was — looked into the waters of the creek and saw something glittering. A rock was turned over and there it was: gold as “thick as cheese” in the cracks between the rocks and stones. Dancing for joy, they realized they had found the rich deposit of gold that men and women had been seeking for more than twenty years in this northwestern corner of Canada.

Ever since that day, controversy has swirled around the question of who deserves the credit for making the discovery. The mystery does not lie in the fact that no one has any idea who made it. There are several candidates, each with some claim to being the discoverer. The real challenge is to decide how much credit various individuals deserve for making this great discovery.

The Task

In this MysteryQuest, you are invited to determine what credit, if any, three individuals should share for the discovery of gold in the Klondike. Though a number of small deposits of gold had been discovered in the early 1870s, the “mother lode” remained undiscovered until August 16, 1896. On that day, a major discovery was made: enough gold to fill an empty shotgun shell. Although five people are often identified with the discovery, we will focus on three of the “contenders”:

  • George Carmack, an American;
  • Skookum Jim, a member of the Tagish First Nation;
  • Robert Henderson, a Canadian.

Before deciding how much credit each of these individuals deserves, you will need to learn more about the Gold Rush and the people involved in the discovery. After exploring factors to consider when assigning credit for an accomplishment, you will locate evidence from historical documents to identify the contributions made by the three individuals. You will then use a pie chart to illustrate the amount of credit each individual deserves to receive for his part in the discovery of gold.

continue investigation …

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