Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of March 9th


Time for tiny homes?

How about the idea of a Whistler grassroots housing solution?

The idea is very popular with people wanting to live with a smaller footprint. Like living in your car, living in a squat is equally, if not further entrenched in the minds of all Whistlerites, at least of my generation, as a very cool idea.

A squat is basically a tiny home. Tiny homes are a whole movement unto themselves now. There are documentaries, TV shows, and big design magazines touting tiny homes as having a significant rise in popularity.

And Whistler was the original pioneer for this movement. Think of all of the squats in Whistler, known and unknown. One was even designed by an architect, although it has been taken down now and is privately owned.

The point is, tiny homes are an excellent response to the Whistler housing shortage. I understand the need for containing these tiny homes to designated areas so that they don't pop up all over the place. I think it would be reasonable to set bylaws stating that these tiny homes be localized, tax-paying, and sustainable.

These buildings cost about $15,000 to build. Each could be paid for by the consumer. We could make a tiny community store/facility available, and a bus service.

I think $1 million could create a community of 50 tiny homes. Those 50 homeowners would pay the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) back the cost of the tiny home and have a self-sustained home so that they can work in Whistler.

Criteria could be set so that only long-term locals get to live in the tiny-home community. I've lived here over 16 years and I think it's a fabulous idea!

These tiny homes can be purchased online and delivered to any location. Or they could be built in Whistler — locals building locals' tiny homes.

What if the RMOW purchased 50 tiny homes and plopped them down somewhere the buses could be sent to? It would be a tiny-home community that Whistler could boast about.

I can imagine it. Can you?

Tara Bowland

Thanks for turf support

Thank you to the more than 100 Whistler Youth Soccer Club (WYSC) members and parents who came to the Resort Municipality of Whistler budget open house to lend support to upgrading our tired community fields.

Thank you to Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, council and staff for your vision towards a better field-user experience for all Whistlerites. This vision is set to bring more programs, more opportunities for grassroots development, more community coaches, more cross-sport training and more affordable sporting options for all athletes.

The WYSC is committed to fundraising and working with community businesses to reduce the cost of enhancing the project.

We are excited to see expanded future opportunities. We are a committed and diverse group of kids, coaches and parents who are passionate about Whistler — that much was evident at the budget meeting!

PJ O'Heany
WYSC President

Wood is good

I am writing in support of the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) logging plans.

It is time that we all see logging as a net benefit to the community and our planet.

Forestry in Whistler is sustainable and a net contributor to one of the solutions of global warming. The more sustainably harvested (of which the CCF is) wood we use as a planet the better off we are.

Wood stores carbon. When we harvest trees and then plant new trees that will become a net increase in stored carbon.

We should use our community forest to espouse the benefits of wood to our visitors and be proud of the fact that we are tree farmers, as well as mountain bikers, hikers and skiers.

Don McGregor
West Vancouver

Definitive research needed

The superintendent of SD48 met with me, following my last letter to Pique (Feb. 9) on gradeless report cards. She informed me that the studies available on gradeless reporting are conclusive enough to implement a gradeless system and that the purpose of the SD48 pilot project was to gradually change the culture and acceptance of gradeless reporting in a baby-step fashion.

The purpose of it was not to yield more evidence for or against gradeless reporting, as she felt that the existing evidence is already conclusively in its favour.

Since that meeting, I have attended SD48's presentation at Whistler Secondary School on Feb. 15, read all the references provided in that presentation, tracked down related references from those references, and researched gradeless reporting at UBC's Education Library.

With this effort, I found only four articles comparing gradeless to graded reporting longitudinally in elementary and high school. Two of the papers could not be reviewed, as the study data was not available through the UBC library.

Of the two papers that could be reviewed, one compared gradeless reporting with formative feedback to graded reporting with minimal comments to 104 students in Grade 7 in Wales (Smith E and Gorard S, 2005). Those receiving grades did better in English, Math and Welsh than those getting formative feedback without grades. The investigators seemed disappointed, and concluded that gradeless reporting with formative feedback is harder to accomplish in real classroom situations than the available research would suggest.

The second study retrospectively looked at 8,558 students born in Sweden in 1967 (Klapp A, 2014). Half of the students had received grades until Grade 6 and the other half had not. All students were subsequently graded in Grades 7 to 9. There was no significant difference in the overall grades between each group for Grades 7 to 9.

The investigators then looked at whether the variables of sex, cognitive ability and socioeconomic status had any effect on the later achievement of graded and ungraded students. They found that high-cognitive ability students did better in later years if they were graded prior to Grade 6, but low-cognitive ability students did better if they had not been graded.

Of the other two papers, a study that compared pass/fail to traditional grading in high-school chemistry was only available in abstract form (Gatta L, 1973). The conclusion was "that a pass fail grading system is not a solution to the problems with grading."

The other was a nonsystematic review highlighting 16 studies conducted in the late '60s and early '70s in the U.S. using Standardized Achievement Testing as an endpoint (Pavan B, 1973). The results of the studies were mixed, some showing a superiority to grades, others showing no difference and others showing a superiority to gradeless reporting.

I could not find a proper systematic review or meta-analysis of all this data to make any sense of it. Some of the data was unpublished and some was published in PhD dissertations that could not be accessed from UBC's dissertation database.

I sent my findings to SD48's superintendent, the director of instruction, and the members of the board of directors, asking if they were aware of any other longitudinal studies that I might have missed. They have not directed me to any other studies.

Personally, I consider this level of evidence both poor and inconclusive. The results of the few available studies are mixed in their conclusions. I am surprised that the school district is ready to give their full support to gradeless reporting.

I believe that external motivators can be very powerful, even more powerful than internal motivators, if the price is right. My intuition tells me that marks can motivate student if done right. The current grading system needs to be improved, not scrapped.

I have some beliefs that could make it better:

•Use percentage points rather than letter grades to better approximate a continuum of learning and proficiency in a subject. Offer formative feedback during the course of a learning project, but offer grades at their completion.

•Make grading much harder, particularly at the top end. Make getting top grades painstakingly impossible, such that there is always room for improvement.

•Offer a measure of standard deviation from the mean in conjunction with percentage points. If universities took this second metric into account as well as grades for admissions, mark inflation would stop abruptly.

•Reward harder, riskier tasks with higher marks (just like freestyle ski judges).

•Encourage students, feeling defeated from getting lower marks, that they could do better with more effort or a different approach.

•Award creativity and process with better marks as well.

•Teach children that life success and happiness is not necessarily a function of marks; a course highlighting successful people, who did not do well in school, as well as the secrets to their success, could tremendously further this cause.

•Promote self-esteem outside of academics (i.e. sports, social improvement projects, arts, etc.)

•Give honest feedback to students and their parents about their strengths and weaknesses. Allow students to play to their strengths and focus on their weaknesses only to the extent necessary to get by in life.

I recognize that these opinions are just my intuitions and beliefs. I fully accept that my intuitions and beliefs could be wrong. Fortunately, we don't need to be dependent on intuition and belief, either mine or anyone else's. A well-designed study, pitting an optimized grading system against an idealized gradeless system, over an extended period, using standardized markers of academic achievement as a primary endpoint, and could unambiguously end this discussion.

I am still looking for this study. SD48 should be looking for this study too. If this study exists, it should have been presented at the Whistler High School meeting for parents on February 15. The existing studies certainly raise enough doubt about grades to justify a study like this and its expense.

If SD48 is keen to pursue gradeless reporting, pioneering this sort of study is the only ethical way to proceed. Without this definitive proof, it will only be a matter of time before the tides of change dismantle a gradeless system in favour of grades. There will always be reasons why one system is better than another.

Denton Hirsh

Function Junction community plan

There is a population of approximately 950-plus permanent residences currently sandwiched in the commercial-industrial Function Junction (FJ) zone of Whistler and this area is expecting another 250 people in Cheakamus through the Whistler Housing Authority next year.

In addition, its commercial district employs about the same number of people. (There are also) many who patronize and play in this unpolished neighbourhood.

FJ sees a great number of people each day — an estimated 2000-plus bodies navigate its streets daily (except during GranFondo and Ironman). No matter its zoning or originally intended land use, Function Junction is now a hub of activity and (business) facilitates.

With a new development slated for its entrance — a gas station by the reputable Cornerstone Developments looks to be getting the green light — and an inevitable migration of industrial enterprises, FJ is organically evolving and rapidly growing (and there is) a long list of unanswered issues (associated with this).

With some focus and some strategic planning, the community can get ahead of these challenges and turn them into opportunities — but the window of opportunity to influence the future is closing quickly.  

In early 2013, a pedestrian-walkway strategy was designed and submitted to the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) as a result of several community forums. (The forums) produced a committee (Brent Harley, Dave Williamson, Steve Bayly and myself), (which was to focus) on spearheading this proposal.

The RMOW responded with a shortsighted plan to change an effective two-way intersection with a flawed three-way stop at the Millar Creek intersection, (flawed in that it created back-ups onto CN's rail crossing), then later amended to the more complicated and hazardous two-way traffic flow we are subject to today.

In more recent months, some barriers to separate the foot traffic from the multi-ton commercial vehicle traffic were added across Alpha Lake Road at the Re-Use-It Centre to appease the grumbles escalating from our community.

In even more recent weeks, the RMOW called a meeting with the original Pedestrian Strategy Group, which revealed that the municipality still has no interest in making any space in its budget for infrastructure improvements in the area (which was backed up by a void of any budget line item for FJ in its recent budget presentation).

Recognizing that the RMOW is maintaining its course on FJ being restricted to its intended use of commercial and light industrial, it is time for the community to band together to steer its own fate.

There has been considerable movement in recent months on building an association or committee to represent the interests of Function Junction's business owners and residents, and to champion community engagement.

I have been a part of this effort since its establishment as a concerned resident, as well as my affiliation with the business community through my family's business (Whistler Brewing Company), and hope to continue to be engaged in this work.

The business community and residents must work in tandem to create a voice that is loud enough to be heard by the resort's key influencers.

As a response to the impacts of growing density in both residential bed units and commercial activity, the association should consider the following initiatives, each to (ideally) be actioned by one or more sub-committees:

Priority — infrastructure:

• Pedestrian Safety — lighting, sidewalks, speed/ traffic control, etc.

•Access — transit, valley trail, highway crossings, highway closures

Secondary — community:

•Beautification/ Community Engagement — signage, landscaping, garbage removal, Christmas lighting

•Community Events — fundraising initiatives, community engagement events

The above model will facilitate a unified voice between the two entities that embody the DNA of this neglected community.

Complementing the infrastructure needs of FJ's businesses with community engagement initiatives will ensure this area, which has the potential to one day service all of Whistler's locals through careful and collaborative planning, has a sustainable community plan and is a development tactic that is in keeping with most urban municipal models.

Whistler needs a place that locals can claim for themselves.

Whistler's steady and unrelenting growth is imminent and the new ownership of Whistler Blackcomb (could create) a boom of visitation of nuclear proportions.

Creating a thriving, sustainable community in Function (and arguably Creekside) is a way to unclog the village artery and get some circulation back into Whistler's extremities.

Here's what you can do right now:

• Check out www.facebook.com/FutureOfFunctionJunction for a review of what began in 2012;

• Show this to three people you know who have any interest in seeing a safer, more accessible, high-functioning community;

• Write a letter to the municipality;

• Email me for more info on being a key member of the FJA: chantellemadean@gmail.com.

The only way to move forward is to take a step!

Chantelle Dean

(For more of this letter go to www.piquenewsmagazine.com. We recommend letters be no longer than 450 words.)

A heartfelt thank you

The 2018 Girl Guide Europe Trip participants from Pemberton want to thank everyone who made our Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction on Feb. 24 a massive success!

A huge thank you to everyone in Pemberton who came out for the amazing chicken teriyaki dinner, prepared by Chef Yutaka Shishido, and silent auction. Your support was incredible!

To the Royal Canadian Legion, Pemberton — thank you for your wonderful hospitality and contribution!

To the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, thank you for donating all the food for the dinner — we are so very grateful!

To our silent-auction sponsors — we could not have done it without you! A big Girl Guide thank you to: Animal Barn; Pemberton & District Community Centre; Ivy Esthetics; Kufuka Fitness; Mile One Eating House; Mountain Rose Parlour; MYNT Salon; One Earth Collection; Pemberton Fish Finder; Pemberton Music Festival; Pemberton Valley Wellness; Pemberton Valley Supermarket; Rona Pemberton Valley Hardware; Samurai Sushi; Scandinave Spa Whistler; Small Potatoes Bazaar; Wag 'n Wash; Whistler Blackcomb; and Whistler Fishing Guides.

We had so much fun and are so grateful to everyone for helping make our dream come true.

Reimi Shishido, Kacey Cox, Katie Day, Lauren Kish, Brenna Nott and Patti Nott