ArtStarts in Schools Logo

Barbara Nickel

Discipline: Writing
Homebase: Chilliwack
Languages: English

Barbara Nickel is an award-winning poet and children's author who has presented workshops and readings to students across Canada, including at the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest. She was selected for a month-long ArtStarts residency, Poetry for the Earth, which inspired students to undertake eco-projects and write poems about them to celebrate both National Poetry Month and Earth Day. Barbara has also toured with TD Canadian Children's Book Week and the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils. Her novel for children, Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach, was nominated for the Governor General's Award and won the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize. A new picture book, A Boy Asked the Wind, was released in the Fall of 2015. Barbara holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia, where she has also worked as an instructor.


Barbara Nickel's level of artistry, pedagogy and inspiration makes her an absolutely wonderful instructor for students of all ages and levels. The students were so inspired and excited by her presentation that at the end of the workshops, they were lined up to purchase signed copies of her books. Angela Goddard, Strings Specialist, West Point Grey Academy
Barbara Nickel's collection for young readers is beautifully organized... In this collection she shows that she can write for the young with virtuosity and clarity... The sensory richness of the book makes it universal: it will make sense in St. John's and Victoria because the writing recreates the experience.. Review of From the Top of a Grain Elevator in Canadian Children's Literature
During Ms. Nickel's time as an artist in residence at Yarrow Community School, she played a pivotal role in the creation, planning and implementation of our school-wide Poetry for the Earth project. Ms. Nickel provided instruction on environmentally-themed poetry for all students from Kindergarten to Grade 6. By inviting students to notice special things in the world around them and providing them with age-specific writing skill sets, Barbara inspired our young authors to keep journals and create writing that was soulful and passionate. Her ability to meet kids where they are and her calm, yet enthusiastic approach provided the safe, warm environment that allowed the students' poems to blossom. It was an absolute honour and privilege to have had the opportunity to work with this very dynamic, talented author. Tracy Wagner, Principal, Yarrow Community School

Project Examples

A Boy Asked the Wind (Picture Book)

A boy asks the wind, "Where do you live?" and follows it around the world on a pounding, rollicking, sea-foaming adventure. Winds in the Canadian west, off the coast of Nicaragua, in Capetown and the Middle East are evoked with poetic text and muscular, powerful illustrations by Gillian Newland. Slides, songs, sounds and maps are all key features in this interactive presentation of Barbara's new picture book, A Boy Asked the Wind, suitable for K-5. An information sheet outlining the book's many connections to BC's new Grade 3 Curriculum is available by contacting Barbara through her website.

Hands-On Historical Fiction

Wigs, music, maps, and mazes. Enter the realm of historical fiction, where the past comes alive on the page and history is told in compelling stories. Barbara invites students into the historical settings of her novels for children (Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach, and The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart), giving them a chance to hear and see aspects of life in the 18th century. Readings from the novels are integrated with discussion and questions, and a Q & A period follows on the writing and editing process and other questions that may arise.

The Poet's Tool Box

Students in this hands-on workshop will listen to poetry and try exercises designed to give them the tools, from image and metaphor to rhythm and sound, to write good poetry. In addition to drawing from her children's poetry book, From the Top of a Grain Elevator, and accompanying Teacher's Guide, Barbara uses a cross-curricular approach that explores a range of subjects including music, science, geography, and physical education. This workshop can also be adapted from a one-hour school visit to a long-term residency focusing on a particular theme.

Browse Artists in the Classroom Directory