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Diamond Vale Elementary School

Page history last edited by Amy 9 years, 11 months ago


Partner institution: Diamond Vale Elementary School

Website: http://www.sd58.bc.ca/html/schools/diamond/Home/Home.html


Contributors (2014):

Roxanne Taylor

Amy Bacon



Contributors: for details on what is required in each section, please look at the Guidance Notes


Placement Information



Social life

Things to do, things not to do

Useful Contacts

Before you go

Placement Information

Flights: £750

Travel Insurance: £38

Spending Money: £250-£450


The two official languages of Canada are English and French, we stayed in the province of British Columbia and so whilst they didn’t speak French, we did have to learn the accent! The majority of the children and even the adults were obsessed with our accents and would regularly ask us questions about England, and have a good giggle at how we pronounce our words differently to them! Some of the children did their impressions of the English accent…think Downton Abbey mixed with The Queen.


 The majority of our time was spent at Diamond Vale Elementary School, a public school in a small town called Merritt. A typical day means that the school starts at 8:30 and finishes at 2:30, meaning you have time in the afternoons to explore the area. The school has 6 lessons, lasting 45 minutes, one recess break and a dinner break of 55 minutes. The grades in this school go from Kindergarten to grade 7, there’s also a program before Kindergarten called StrongStart, whereby the parents have to stay with their children, it’s as much about the parents/carers socialising as it is the children, the program runs from 8:30-11:30am and it’s completely up to the parents when and what days they bring their children.

Diamond Vale is an extremely friendly school, you’ll feel very welcome and at ease, the school is very well equipped with a large playground, lots of sports equipment and a big gym, a music room, and also plenty of laptops and iPads for the children to use. One thing to note that it is common in Canada for schools not to supply stationery, notepads, maths equipment etc. Whilst the school may have some spare supplies, children are expected to have the supplies necessary. The children don’t have a uniform they have to wear, and assemblies are a lot less frequent than English schools, with Diamond Vale having an assembly once every two weeks. The staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome, and the children are just great.   


We also spent two days at Merritt Central Elementary, which was another public school in Merritt, also starting from Kindergarten and finishing at grade 7. We decided to spend a couple of days at another school to meet more children, to see different teaching styles and different school approaches. The school day started at 9 and finished at 3, with one morning recess and an hours dinner, again, expect the children to love your accent! Just like Diamond Vale, the school had great facilities, a gym, a cafeteria, a great playground, musical instruments, laptops, iPads etc, they also ran a great program whereby children with special educational needs went swimming twice a week at the local swimming pool, which aimed to not only teach them how to swim, but to give them some independence, and to teach them about road safety on the 10 minute walk from the school to the pool. They were happy for us to go along and the school even let us do the morning announcements one morning, the whole school listened to these announcements and it was a great privilege, even if they were laughing at our “Britishness".  


Furthermore, we spent a day at the Lower Nicola Band School, an independent school from Kindergarten to grade 7 age. The majority of children that attended this school were first nation children and the school prided itself on teaching and trying to maintain first nation traditions and culture in today’s society. The school began at 9 and finished at 3. This was a newly built school and therefore had a very modern feel to it. The class sizes could be said to be very small; often the grades were mixed due to such a small amount of children attending this school. For example one class had grade 5, 6 and 7 in one class, with a total of 15 students in one classroom. We found the teaching style different to what we had experienced both in Canadian and British schools. Whilst the children were taught standard lessons such as language, maths, science etc, the teachers we spoke to felt a greater importance on teaching the children how to be good citizens, how to give back to the community and on learning children first nation’s history, skills and quite a lot of children’s time was spent learning their native language, with three periods of 45 minutes dedicated to this a week. Whilst we were there we went wild onion picking with the children, an activity they do with a first nations support worker to encourage them not to waste natural materials, and to learn about the medicinal purposes nature can have, it was very interesting and they were enthusiastic to teach us some words from their language. We also received an amazing treat from the principle, she very kindly took us to a great little restaurant during our dinner break, and insisted on paying to thank us for volunteering.

Top Tip:

- Be aware of ticks, we warned about them during this activity but it is worthwhile to thoroughly check yourself afterwards for a tick bite (talking from experience)!! 


Education as a whole in Canada has a very laid back feel to it, (from what we experienced anyway) at one school the principal taught the children p.e, children can turn up at what time they like although it’s mostly discouraged, there’s no Ofsted for Canadian schools and the teachers seem a lot less pressured than teachers in the UK, the children are also very open in sharing stories, and reading their work out to the rest of the class. 






You will need to organise your own accommodation if you decide to choose Diamond Vale Elementary School. This is because you are planning your placement yourself rather than using a company that provide everything in a set price. We were lucky enough to know people who live in Merritt which meant we were able to stay in their home, it also made it a lot cheaper to experience such an amazing place. We stayed in a house that was a 10 minute walk away from the school and about 30 minutes away from the town centre. This meant we were in a great location to explore Merritt. If you know someone who lives in Merritt we would suggest you get in touch and organise your placement! We cant wait to go back there.


During our time in Merritt we looked out for alternative accommodation that would be suitable if doing a placement at Diamond Vale. We found plenty of hotels that looked nice and we would have stayed there if we didn't already have accommodation. Please be aware that all of these hotels are approximately a 30/40 minute walk away from the school which can seem a lot but trust us, it will NOT seem that long with the amount of beautiful views you see along the way. Being surrounded by the mountains pre occupies your mind and you're there before you know it. You will never get bored of the walk! We couldn't believe how much walking we did during our time in Merritt. Alternatively it is only a 7 minute car journey if you have access to a car. If you don't you could also ask your contact at the school if they or someone else could pick you up. The people in Canada are such friendly people so we wouldn't be surprised if they offered!


Here is our top three hotels that we would recommend -


Quality Inn Merritt

- Approximately $95 Canadian Dollars (£56) a night

- Free breakfast

- Wi-Fi

- Indoor pool/Jacuzzi

- Restaurant

- Vending machines

- Mini-fridge/Microwave/TV/Hair dryer



Ramada Limited Merritt

- Approximately $85 Canadian Dollars (£50) a night

- Free breakfast

- Wi-Fi

- Indoor pool/Sauna/Jacuzzi

- Laundry service/Self laundry

- Mini-fridge/TV/Microwave/Hair dryer

- Restaurant/On-site dominos pizza

- Vending machines  



Super 8 Merritt 
- Approximately  $76 Canadian Dollars (£44) a night
- Free breakfast
- Wi-Fi
- Indoor pool/Jacuzzi
- Restaurant
- Microwave/TV/Mini-fridge/Hair dryer
- Vending machines







Here is a link to a website that was recommended by someone who lives in Merritt themselves. You can use it to look at the different hotels and see which one is best for you as we have only picked 3 out of many! 





 Getting to Merritt: Firstly, you will need to catch 2 flights to reach Merritt. On our way there we flew from London, Heathrow, to Calgary, and then from Calgary to Kamloops, where we drove to Merrit. On the way back we did the same journey only we flew to Vancouver rather than Calgary. When booking your flights be aware of the times between connecting flights, we had a four hour wait in Calgary airport and whilst we thought it was doable when booking our flights, after all the travelling it felt like a very long time indeed. The flight from Calgary to Kamloops and Vancouver to Kamloops is on a tiny plane! It has around 30 seats and is definitely the smallest plane we’ve ever been on but the views are stunning!


We flew with Air Canada and we’d recommend them. All of our flights were on time, you’re given two meals, two snacks, and endless drinks! (All of which are free). Each seat has its own TV and USB port and you can select from lots of films and TV programmes, many of the films had only recently been released in English cinemas.

   Luggage wise we were allowed one suitcase of 23kg, and one hand luggage of 10kg. You’re also allowed another bag for a laptop, but many people used this as an opportunity for another piece of luggage, and with all the great gifts/food you can buy during your visit it’s definitely worth packing another bag and making the most of this luggage opportunity.


 Transport in Merritt: Merritt is only a small town and so the majority of it can be reached on foot, however if you wish to go further than Merritt this could prove quite difficult without a car. Aside from the frequent school buses, unless you’re a school student, there are no bus services in Merritt. The shops, cafes and restaurants are all in the middle of town and it took us around 15 minutes to walk there from where we were staying, or a 2 minute car journey. So although we found this quite accessible, the houses up in the mountains had no choice but to drive everywhere as it would have been a very long walk for them. We saw one Taxi firm called Merritt Cars, but for what we needed we tended to walk, to see the scenes and to smell the gorgeous smells created from the wood mills!


   Merritt itself is around a 3 hour drive to Vancouver, a 1 hour drive to Kamloops, a 1 hour drive to Kelowna, and a 2 hour drive to Sun Peaks Ski Resort if you wish to visit a bigger place than Merritt. Everyone we spoke to recommended we visited Vancouver, and so aside from the 3 hour drive, alternatively you could drive to Kamloops airport (1 hour drive) and from there catch a plane to Vancouver which took us around 40 minutes.  


Social life

During your time in Canada you will have most afternoons off as you finish at 2.30pm so you have lots of time to go exploring! On rare occasions you may be asked to stay after school by the teacher you are working with to help prepare for the next day. However teaching over there is completely different so you may not be asked during your placement. We spent most of our afternoons going downtown to look around the shops and to have our daily brambles. There are lots of shops to look around downtown that provides you with an opportunity to by gifts to take home and the clothe shops there are amazing! We also visited places that weren't in Merritt which maximised how much we saw.

Top Tip:

- Make sure you take enough spending money if you plan to buy lots of gifts!

- Don't fill your suitcase with clothes from home as there are lots of lovely cheap clothes out there and you don't want to go over your baggage allowance.


Here are the many things we did during our free time when we weren't attending the school and trust us, there is so much more we wanted to do!



Brambles was the heart of Merritt for us, it was part of our daily ritual. We went there most afternoons to have a drink, cake and to socialise with the local people. The cakes were just too good to miss out on so we took full advantage. Be prepared to put weight on as you cannot resist the cakes. Brambles is a small café downtown and is not expensive at all, we spent about $5 (£3) a day which included a cake and drink. The people that work at Brambles are very friendly and loved hearing us order things because of our accent. Get used to this as many people are fascinated about how we say things, you will feel famous as everyone in Merritt will be aware of who you are. We enjoyed the friendly atmosphere that Brambles had and we like answering the questions locals had about what life is like in England. It also provided free Wi-Fi so you are able to contact home and let them know about your fantastic experience.   






If you like sushi then you must visit the Garden Sushi restaurant in Merritt and even if you aren't a lover then still go as they serve other things that aren't raw fish such as beef/chicken teriyaki. Neither of us liked sushi before we went here but it was amazing and we have officially been converted to sushi lovers. Being as though we were staying in a house we didn't eat out at restaurants much, we preferred the home cooked meals, Canadian style! However we were told by everyone we met that we must visit this restaurant so we saved it for the last night (we now regret doing this as we would love to go again). We ordered so much food that we wasn't able to finish it all but the service was amazing and the staff were so nice to us. We were expecting it to be very expensive however we were surprised at how cheap it actually was, we would definitely recommend that you visit here and taste proper sushi!

Top Tip:

- It is expected of you to leave at least a 15% tip for the service you receive! 





Sunpeaks Ski Resort

Due to the timing of our placement we only had one full weekend and we decided to spend this at Sunpeaks ski resort which also happened to be the end of season weekend. If you have access to a car then we would recommend going to this place! It takes about 2 hours to get there but if you plan on spending a whole weekend there then it is worth the travelling. If you are interested in skiing or snowboarding then this is the place you can. Even if you haven't before, why not learn how to? We had never been snowboarding before but we learnt how to and loved the experience. We spent the night at a hotel within the resort and it wasn't expensive at all, especially if you are sharing. However if you don't want to try snowboarding or skiing there are plenty of other things you can do. We spent one day looking around the gift shops and another snowboarding. There is an amazing chocolate shop there and lots of cool shops to buy souvenirs to take home. We would recommend checking on their website to see if they are open if you plan on going there because some things were closed for us being as though it was the last weekend of the season so it is worth checking what you want to do is available for the time you've planned. There are plenty of restaurants and bars that you can eat out at and even try a traditional Canadian dish called poutine (chips, gravy and cheese). Please be aware this doesn't look appetizing but it is delicious! We had an amazing time at Sunpeaks and couldn't believe how much snow there was and it even snowed more whilst we were there. Remember to pack lots of warm clothes! We would also recommend that you check the prices of how much it is to hire equipment as we were lucky enough to be able to borrow a snowboard from the person we were staying with. If you get the chance to go here then do!






First Nations Community Group

The first nation culture is extremely common in Merritt therefore there are lots of things that are done in order to keep children aware of their traditional culture. At Diamond Vale they have two first nation support workers that complete activities within school time with any children who want to learn traditions. For example we watched a group of children perform 6 songs of the drums they had made earlier in the year. We were very impressed! One of the support workers then asked us if we would like to participate in one of their gatherings that they have at the local community centre every Tuesday and Thursday. We immediately said yes as it was the chance to meet a whole new group of people who have a different way of life. If you get the chance to go along to one of these we would suggest that you do! We were informed by another member of staff that it is very rare for people to be invited and that we should feel privileged. When we first got to the community centre we were extremely nervous as we didn't know anyone and we weren't sure if they have been told we were coming along. However we decided to walk in and as soon as we did we felt at home, everyone was so friendly and welcoming! They taught us how to make earrings, provided us with traditional food and they performed their traditional dances to us with the group of drummers making the music, it was an amazing experience that we will never forget, we didn't want to leave. A group of youths from the group performed the 'welcoming' song to us and thanked us for attending their gathering, they felt privileged that we had given up our time to learn about their tradition and invited us back the following week in which we did. Attending these community gatherings is not something you should opt out of, the amount of knowledge you get about another culture is amazing. On our last visit we were given a t-shirt and everyone told us that we should keep in touch with them to let them know how life is going back home in England.






Here are a few more photographs of the places and things we saw during our time in Canada!





Things to do, things not to do

1) Do - Research first nation culture before you visit, there is a high population of first nation families in British Columbia and so it’s worthwhile to understand their history, traditions, culture, not only is it interesting it also opens up many doors for you if you understand their culture. You’ll also feel more comfortable if you attend a first nation’s event and they’ll appreciate you trying to educate yourself about their culture.


2) Do - Be prepared for the children not always understanding what you are saying due to your accent, a lot of the time it’s funny and the children are intrigued with you but it can be more difficult with the kindergarten children.


3) Do - Try and walk on a trail up a mountain, the views are stunning. We would recommend doing this with someone experienced in walking as although anyone can walk the public trails, it could be easy to become lost.


4) Do - Try and visit Sun Peaks Ski Resort, this place is the perfect opportunity to learn how to ski/snowboard. Or if that isn’t your scene there are lots of cute little shops at this resort selling individual gifts and restaurants serving gorgeous food. As a whole it’s just a great atmosphere. Some of the facilities were closed when we visited so it may be worth ringing to check before you visit. You can book a hotel room for really cheap, especially if sharing.


5) Do - Check you don’t need a work permit, the rules are always changing. Although we didn’t need one it’s worth to check and double check.


6) Do - be prepared that taxes are never included in the price on anything you buy in Canada, you always need to add a bit extra onto the total price.


6) Don’t - be scared of immigration, we heard some horror stories before we went about how strict they are when you head to immigration in the airport but the people we had were really friendly and asked us simple questions such as where we were going, who we were travelling with. Just be prepared and it might be worthwhile taking some documents like your student card, and a letter from university explaining your stay for if they have questions about the purpose of your visit.  


7) Don’t - book a flight with a very long wait for a connecting flight, we had a 4 hour wait for one of our connecting flights and it was the worst part of the journey. Unless you know it’s a really good airport you may be extremely bored, and by this point very tired. We had a 2 hour wait in Vancouver which was amazing and could have probably been longer because of all the shops! However Calgary airport was not as good and the hours really seemed to drag.




Useful Contacts

Before you go


We did NOT need a visa to travel to Canada as we are British citizens, however we would suggest to check this as it may change before you go.

Here you can check whether you need a visa -



Study/Work Permits

Whilst planning our placement in Canada we had many sleepless nights worrying about if we needed a study or work permit as the internet was not very helpful. We contacted many people about this situation and received little information on what we should do so we started to panic. It turned out we did NOT need any type of permit as we were only observing the setting and not contributing significantly. However we would recommend checking this again before you go as it may have changed and we wouldn't want you to get there and be turned away!


Top Tips:

- Ask for a letter from the university explaining what you are doing on placement so you can produce it at immigration if asked what you are doing the duration you are in the country.

- Take your CRB with you as evidence that you are police checked and are safe to work with children.


Travel Insurance - a must!

You may think you don't need travel insurance being as though youre only on placement, but you do need it! Luckily we never had to use ours but it is important that you do get it, you never know what can happen when in another country and it is better to be safe than sorry! It only cost us £38 each for 2 weeks travel insurance and was easy to do.


Top Tip:

If you plan on doing any sports like skiing/snowboarding or mountain biking whilst in Canada, like we did. Then we strongly recommend checking with your insurance that it covers you as normal travel insurance may not.


Travel Money

 The official currency used in Canada is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). We both exchanged our money using the Post Office as they offered the best exchange rate.  The exchange rate in March 2014 was $1.69 to £1.00. We strongly recommend ordering your money a few weeks before travelling as the Post Office had to order Canadian Dollars in as they didn't keep them within the store. However you can also order them online which are then delievered the next day. We were given notes of 5, 20 and 50. They do have a 10 dollar note but we only got given a few the whole time we were in Canada and they also have a 100 dollar note which we never saw! They also have coins; 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, $1 (Loonie) and $2 (Toonie). We found it difficult to get used to the coins as unlike the UK their 10 cents is the smallest coin rather then the 5 cents. This meant we often got confused at the tills but as Canadians are so friendly they always helped out so there is nothing to worry about.


Top Tip:

Take some English money with you as the children are fascinated by it, especially if they have never seen it before. They couldn't believe how different our money was to theirs.





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