COM0014 – Blog 2: Storytelling and Communications Styles

I write constantly. I write for paid work, I write for course work and I write children’s books. Over the last 24 years, one of the most important skills I’ve honed is the ability to take a complex issue and turn it into a simple piece of writing. I apply this skill to all my writing projects to ensure I write in a way that readers grasp and enjoy. Every single project is written with the intended reader in mind. I often picture my reader sitting across from me to help figure out how to say what I need to say to them in the best way possible.

For example, I use formal and professional language in the annual reports I write, but I keep the writing simple to assist readers to understand the content. News releases, paid and social media advertisements, social media posts, election information, curriculum initiatives and speeches all require distinctive styles of writing, but they all have one thing in common: I need to hook readers at the start and keep them engaged to the end. Only necessary details are included. I am forever negotiating with our legal division over length of communications initiatives.

When I’m writing children’s books, I write specifically for my eight-year-old son. Often, I read him various drafts of projects and if his eyes glaze over, I revise immediately. If I can’t keep my kid interested, I’ll never keep other kids engaged.

Ensuring transition between sentences and paragraphs is also important. Readers quickly lose interest if you are unable to write clearly. The final trick I use is to read my writing out loud. I’ve written speeches or proposals in flowery language, only to read them out loud and realize they sound silly.

COM0014 – Blog 1: Hockey Holidays

I am a hockey mom. I didn’t discover this side of myself until I was 45, the year my son turned five and started to play. He’d been skating for three years by then, so when he suited up the first time, he was pretty confident on the ice, a natural-born player for sure.

If you are also a hockey mom, or a hockey dad, then like me, you dedicate precious vacation days to go on hockey holidays. There are tournaments to play in, camps to go to. Because I am an Iqaluit hockey mom, these hockey holidays always involve planes. This past March, we headed to Ottawa for a weekend trip to play in the Ottawa East Novice B Championship tournament. If you are unfamiliar with Canadian geography, Iqaluit is located on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut, so playing in an Ottawa tournament means flying 2,085 kilometres south to compete.

It was an eventful trip from start to finish. We almost missed the plane because of a blizzard in Iqaluit: we were minutes from being turned away at the gate. The plane ride was fun, if you like flying with a rambunctious team of eight year olds. After we landed and checked in, we grabbed a bite to eat with other hockey families and formed new friendships that are now cemented and important to our family.

We had the first morning of our trip free so we walked to the Rideau Centre to take advantage of Sport Chek. It sounds uneventful, but with all the construction happening in Ottawa this spring, a short stroll turned into a noisy and hazardous trip around cranes, dump trucks, detours and hostile traffic.

Back at the hotel, we rested before the game, making sure to eat carbs and drink lots of water. I always tell my son he has to feed the machine. I run the Facebook account for the team so I make sure to post helpful hints about prepping for games for all the players.

When we headed to the rink for the first game, the excitement was alive in the school bus. The kids felt confident as a team, even though they’d only played together twice. They easily won the first game. The second team was tougher. They had a man-sized goalie who stopped all the shots. That same team would be the only team to defeat us the entire tournament. Unfortunately, they beat us twice, the second time in the gold medal game.

Although I wanted the kids to go home with gold medals, I was disappointed in the coaches. They were more upset than the kids and instead of being able to lead them to understand they’d won silver, they were sad, thinking they’d lost gold.

As I type this, we’re taking three planes to get to Charlottetown, PE for hockey camp: another memorable hockey holiday in the works. Have I gone mad or is this just part of being committed to my son’s health and well-being?


The Facebook Success of Iqaluit Sell and Swap

Nunavut is short on shopping options. We have very few stores in our communities and what is available is high in price and low on choice. Several years ago, an Iqaluit resident helped changed this by creating a Facebook group called Iqaluit Sell and Swap,

With nearly 25,000 members and growing daily, it continues to be one of the most vibrant and successful social media sites in Nunavut. I love it: It’s like an online garage sale full of interesting and necessary things you’ve been looking for forever.

Sure, I shop online at Amazon or Old Navy, but Iqaluit Sell and Swap, and similar sell and swap sites in other Nunavut communities, have given residents of Nunavut access to a closer online market stocked with new and used items that make sense to our lives North of 60. Whether you’re looking to sell a polar bear hide or buy a parka or mitts designed to withstand minus 50 windchill, Iqaluit Sell and Swap is the place to look.

Every day, a constant stream of new items is advertised for sale, including traditional and modern Inuit clothing, artwork, housewares, houses, vehicles, tools and food. Iqaluit Sell and Swap has something for everyone. And the beauty of it: it’s 100 per cent free to advertise your wares. Say good-bye to classified ad fees. You just need access to your Facebook account.

Prices are generally reasonable, and have led to significant inter-community sales in Nunavut, and to other parts of Canada. For example, the harvest of caribou on Baffin Island is currently limited to give local herds time to repopulate. In the central and western regions of Nunavut, the herds are more populous so often, hunters advertise their fresh catch for sale on Iqaluit Sell and Swap. Facebook has been so successfully used by hunters that wildlife officials warn of possible adverse impacts on other herds, and local airlines are struggling to keep up with the demand for cargo services.

Similarly, many Nunavut artists have had great success in selling their products worldwide using this Facebook site, as well as their own personal Facebook pages. Iqaluit Sell and Swap has provided filmmakers, artists, jewelers, musicians, writers and seamstresses with a free tool to reach international markets and audiences.

And if you can’t find the item you’re looking for listed on the site, simply post a want-to-buy (WTB) message and chances are within a few days you’ll have exactly what you wanted.

But, buyer beware: more and more people are using Iqaluit Sell and Swap fraudulently. People pay for items they never recieve or in some cases, the item they receive is not what they paid for. Just like when using any social media site for any purpose, exercise extreme caution.

So, whether you live in a remote community with little access to shopping options or you just want to shake up your online shopping experience, start a Facebook sell and swap site. You won’t regret it. Happy shopping.

Facebook Promotion Post:

Looking to buy a polar bear hide or sell your mother’s wedding dress? Have we got a site for you! Check our Iqaluit Sell and Swap,

Twitter Promotion Post:

Looking to buy a polar bear hide or sell your wedding dress? Something 4 everyone. Check our Iqaluit Sell and Swap,

Setting up Your Own After-School Cooking Club: What Not to Do!

I’ve written lately about the joys and successes that come with running the #MamaqtuqNanookCookingClub, I’d be remiss to leave out the many failures I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned. These might be helpful to you if you’re thinking of starting your own club. Keep in mind, we think failures in and out of the kitchen are important for kids to learn how to cope with a complex world

No Gingerbread Houses

I’ll start with this, and though this may seem like an odd statement from someone who loves kids and baking, I encourage you to heed my words: Never, ever undertake assembling DIY gingerbread houses with 30 kids under the age of 10. Don’t do it. They’ll be crazy excited because it’s fun and Christmas is coming. Teachers and parents know this means chaos at the school. Add gumdrops and candy canes and icing to this and they’re uncontainable, one could say unmanageable. All that frenetic energy means one thing: heat. This means the icing will not set and none of the walls will stay up; the roofs will all cave. The kids will cry. Some will get angry. Others will eat all the candy. You get the picture. That nostalgic memory you tried to create will go up in flames. Even opening the school door to the Arctic winter to cool things down won’t be of much help. Still determined? Good luck.

No Big Topic Discussions

Early on, the kids caught on to the idea of field trips into the community and to guest speakers coming in to speak to them. They were immediately receptive to the idea of fostering community spirit and volunteerism, whether it was in the form of raising money for club infrastructure or feeding people in our community. This is now one of our main principles and we reinforce it weekly. All good. However, I learned that discussing this topic for 20-30 minutes with a pack of kids isn’t such a good idea. I thought we were off on the right track at first. What constitutes volunteerism, I asked. Picking up garbage, helping out a feast, were some of the answers I received. Why do we help people? To help them. What can we do in our communities to help? Pick up your shoes. It deteriorated from there. It was just a bit too sophisticated for young kids. I guess what’s most important is to teach them to volunteer early in their lives so it becomes ingrained in them.

Flour is Flammable

We make pizza a lot. After three years, I have helped develop dozens of seriously good pizza makers. I’m proud of this. But, make sure you wipe the flour off the bottom of the pizza pans before you put them in the oven because flour is flammable and you’ll have to deal with a bunch of freezing kids and the fire department at 40 below.

Keep it Simple

Don’t overestimate the kids or your cooking space. Kids and complex recipes, like croissants, are best left for home and not two hours on a Friday afternoon. The most important thing is to teach them the basics of food preparation and to have fun.


Facebook Promotion Post

How to avoid calling the fire department and other important tips for setting up your own after-school cooking club

Twitter Promotion Post

How to avoid calling the fire department and other tips for setting up your own after-school cooking club


Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: Feel the Community Love

There’s that old saying that it takes a community to raise a child. Those are words we live by at the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. Without the tremendous support of so many people, businesses and organizations in the community of Iqaluit, our after-school cooking program wouldn’t be nearly as vibrant or have such meaningful impact on the lives of our participants.

To recap, the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club is a weekly after-school cooking program that we offer to Grade 1-5 students at Nanook School in Apex, a tiny suburb located outside of Iqaluit, Nunavut. We receive a small amount of funding from the Brighter Futures program each year to run the program. Between 20-30 students show up each week. We try to offer a fun mix of cooking lessons, literacy exercises, physical exercise, field trips, outdoor activity and guest speakers over the school year.  I coordinate the program, (write proposals, budget, plan, shop, prep, clean) and work with a teacher at the school to host the program every Friday. We’re in our third year and it’s getting more popular every year.

Why We Rely So Heavily on Social Media

The popularity of the program with people who don’t attend it each week is a direct result of the reach of social media. Every week before the class begins, I use Facebook to let parents and other community members know what our plans are for the week. This builds interest. During the program, I photograph each stage of the lesson and post these images on Instagram. Everyone loves to see the progress the students make each week. At the conclusion of the program, I post the images and a short summary to the school’s Facebook page, which is linked to the Twitter feed so our activities are immediately broadcast to our audiences using social media.

This social media presence is very important to our program. Because of the positive conversation that we have generated, we receive continuous donations of food, discounted services, free transportation, financial donations, and simple words of praise. This all helps build and promote our reputation as a successful program, which continues to provide leverage when we go to our primary funders.

Donations Make Our Program Thrive

Our budget is small and our cost of food is high. This is why it is so critically important to maintain a strong reputation on social media. We need businesses to fall in love with us so they will continue to want to support us. For example, the local small-guy grocery store, Baffin Canners, gives us a five per cent discount on all purchases. This makes a big difference. We also have the amazing support of Doug Cox who runs the Uquutaq Men’s Shelter in Iqaluit. He receives a lot of food donations and he is generous enough to share with us. This is Doug with one of our young cooks during a field trip to the shelter. Teaching the kids to volunteer and give back to their community is a mainstay of the program.


Nanook School is gracious enough to let us use the school, its kitchen, lobby and gymnasium for free every week. This is Mat Knickelbein, the principal of the school. He’s very supportive of our program. That’s Doug again, and all the cooking club kids sitting in front of the new stove, microwave and range hood we bought in year number two after hosting a community car wash. We raised $2,000 by washing cars one summer afternoon. We advertised the event on Facebook and it was a huge success! Again – community love.


One of our local airlines gave us a break on the freight to fly the appliances to Iqaluit. To say thanks, we hung up their banner and invited them down for a meal one Friday afternoon. Part of the arrangement was that we would thank them publicly on Facebook.


And then there’s the monthly field trips. Community organizations open their doors to us every year. We still plan to get to the grocery store, a restaurant and the homeless shelter again this year. And how do we get there? By school bus, donated by RL Hanson. We’re always sure to thank them using social media so that our audiences know how generous they are.


We are inundated with community visitors each year. For example, we have a Star Wars group in town. The kids dressed in all their finery that day. They still talk about that a year later.


Because the vast majority of the kids at our school are Inuit, I also try to make sure there is a cultural component. This is Joanna Awa talking about what it was like to grow up in Nunavut 50 years ago. She talked about hunger and the importance of seals and taught the kids a game to play with seal bones.


Get Out and Volunteer!

Without Facebook , Twitter and Instagram, we wouldn’t have community members and businesses lining up to volunteer in our program. So, the next time you’re leisurely scrolling through Facebook and see a call for volunteers, get out and volunteer! You’ll make your community a better place to live.

Facebook Promotion Post

You’ll never know how much love there is in a community until you start to volunteer! Check out the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club ( and see how some residents in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada’s tiniest city, unite behind an effort to teach kids how to cook!

Twitter Promotion Post

You’ll never know how much love there is in a community until you start to volunteer! Check out Iqaluit’s #mamaqtuqnanookcookingclub.

Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: Tackling Hunger One Friday At a Time (COM0011 BLOG#1)

Long before I was a teenager, I was cooking meals for my family. My mother worked outside the home and I identified a need to pitch in early on. I started with relatively simple things: meatloaf, onion soup, sandwiches. I started baking at the same time. I still remember the awful tasting cakes and cookies I made until I learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder.

When I became a mother at 40, it became very important to me to make sure that my own child would be a proficient cook. Just a few days after I gave birth, I strapped my son to my chest and started cooking. He took to it immediately and before he even started Kindergarten, he was rolling out pizza dough and making cookies with me. I started to think about hosting weekly cooking classes for kids in my home, but when he started school at Nanook School in Apex (just outside of Iqaluit), Nunavut, I had an even better idea: ask the principal if I could teach a weekly after-school cooking class for kids.  The school embraced the idea and the rest is history.

We are now halfway through the third year of the program that we call the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. Loosely translated from Inuktitut, Mamaqtuq Nanook means tasty polar bear, an appropriate name for a cooking club made up of mostly Inuit kids. The City of Iqaluit provides me with funding through the Brighter Futures program and every Friday from 3:15 – 5 pm, we prepare, cook and eat a simple meal.



We’ve also started to keep track of our recipes in homemade cookbooks to integrate more literacy into our program and to give the kids and their families a souvenir of their efforts.

15940912_1157007634419381_364141200563396615_nWe go on field trips around Iqaluit, invite guest speakers and cooks to join us, and always have a solid period of exercise outside or in the gymnasium. We all leave with full bellies. Check out our school and look at lots of photographs of our activities!

Many of you will have read or heard about the food security crisis faced by many residents of Nunavut. Many families don’t have the resources to regularly buy or hunt food, so many kids go to school hungry. This was one of the reasons why I started the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: if you teach children to prepare food from scratch, they may be able to stretch their dollars further and buy more food, and possibly make healthier choices about the kind of food they purchase to feed their own families in the future. Food insecurity is a very complicated issue, but the cooking club might possibly make a small contribution to the community I call home. Want to learn more about Nunavut’s food security crisis? Read this:

It’s too early to determine how well this long-term goal is going to be met, but I can tell you that the short-term success of this program is overwhelming. These kids, between 20-30 of them every week from Grades 1-5, are quickly developing serious food preparation skills. Every time we cook, they become more skilled.



For example, last Friday we travelled by school bus (thanks for the donation to RL Hanson!) to the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre in Iqaluit and prepared hundreds of meatballs for soup kitchen clients.

The amount of time I budgeted for the kids to roll the meatballs was way too much and we ended up calling the bus to pick us up early.


The club participants have catered a meeting, volunteered and prepared food at many different locations around town, hosted a community feast and three Christmas concerts, and raised enough money through their efforts to buy a new fridge, stove, range hood and tables for the school.

We’ve been very fortunate to be so well supported by the community of Iqaluit. So many people contribute their time and energy in different ways. The grocery store gives us a discount, we get a free bus ride each month, we have parents and community members who work with us from time to time, and the school staff are always willing to give us the opportunity to showcase our developing talents to our families and community. We’ve also been treated very well by the traditional media.

For the next several weeks, I will write about different aspects of the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. I’ve used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected with cooking club families and the community, but I really hope the blog works out because it would be an even more effective way of keeping in touch with people and documenting our work. I think broadcasting the work of clubs like ours through social media and a blog could be very successful in helping other schools around Nunavut set up their own cooking club.

I hope you enjoy the read! Please let me know if you want to contribute in some way to our program  or if you have any great tips or tricks for teaching kids to cook. I look forward to hearing from.

Kerry McCluskey


Facebook Promotion Post

Do you ever wonder what kids in the Arctic do on a Friday afternoon after school? Wonder no more: Check out this great blog about the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club, an after-school cooking program offered at Nanook School in Iqaluit, Nunavut. We discuss how we teach kids to read and write recipes, shop, prepare and cook food – all on a budget in one of Canada’s most expensive cities. Grab a coffee and a snack and sit back for a fun read! You may even be inspired to set up a cooking club at your own kid’s school. Check us out on Facebook at

Twitter Promotion Post

The #mamaqtuqnanookcookingclub has a new blog. Stay tuned as we learn to cook and contribute to Iqaluit and Apex!