Pine Crest High School Trip

A group of YMCA Academy High School students embarked on a three day journey into the wilderness of the Muskoka region at the YMCA’s Camp Pine Crest. The trip included a stay in cabins, songs and s’mores around the campfire, portaging canoes, and a night at a backwoods campsite on picturesque Gullwing Lake.

During the paddle back to the main camp, our Pine Crest trip guides asked the Academy teachers and students for their “Rose, Thorn, and Bud”; a clever way to ask for a positive reflection, a negative experience, and a wish for the future. Students shared their enjoyment of the games, the good sleep they had, and the mental health break that the wilderness brought them as their roses. They shared about the challenges posed by the bugs, the sun, and missing home as their thorns. Students also cited the return to their own beds, seeing family that they were missing, and a reunion with their phones as their buds. One teacher, who saved his Rose, Bud, and Thorn for this very blog post, reflected that he was impressed by how dedicated students were in hauling gear and canoes through a muddy and bug-infested 300 meter portage, how he wished the adventure could have been just one night longer, and how much he was looking forward to ice cream upon his return from the wilderness.

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Glimpse into the life of a Beekeeper

The weather is warming up and pollinators have begun buzzing around our neighbourhoods. The YMCA Academy had a first hand lesson in a particular pollinating species. Though solitary bees, flies, beetles, birds, and native bees make up the most significant populations of pollinators, no insect has quite the same history with human activity as the Western Honey Bee.

This spring the Academy High School students got a glimpse into the life of a beekeeper. Academy teacher and hobby beekeeper, Brandon, brought in an empty hive and beekeeping equipment to demonstrate some of the jobs of a beekeeper. No bees were brought in for the demonstration, but the hive and equipment was enough to show the basics, and excite the curiosity of student participants. The workshop began with bee behaviours and biology, the life cycle of honey bees, the different types of bees, and the roles that bees take in the colony, and about the importance of pollinators in our ecosystems.

Lighting the hive smoker, and donning a beekeeper’s veil, Brandon demonstrated a hive inspection. He explained the parts of a Langstroth Hive, and how the bees use the space within. Making connections to Biology, Green Industries, and Careers courses, the students discussed the hazards and benefits of keeping bees.

Student questions focused on the role of the queen in the colony, what swarming behaviour is for, what a bee sting feels like, and how beekeepers get their start. At the end of the workshop, Brandon invited students to taste honey directly from the comb.

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Mental Health Promotion Workshops

The YMCA Academy has been hosting placement students from the Ryerson, Centennial, and George Brown Collaborative Nursing Degree Program. The placement students set an independent goal to develop and run a series of Positive Mental Health Promotion Workshops. High School students rotated through four workshops:

  • Affirmations and Positive Self Talk
  • Stress Ball Making
  • Mindfulness and Rest
  • Stress Management

High School students developed skills, strategies, and tools for taking better care of themselves and their mental well being. Each student left with a stress ball, a set of positive self affirmations, and a range of strategies to help prepare them for better self care.

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Midwinter Feasts Blog


As the days have gotten shorter, the weather has turned colder, and the first big holiday celebrations of the winter holiday season have begun, students at the YMCA Academy have been discussing the celebrations that take place during the winter months.

Students in the 20th Century World History Course took a break from learning about the geopolitics of the last 120 years to explore why this season is so jam-packed with holidays and important celebrations. We explored the idea of how challenging the shorter, darker, colder days can be, and how in communities of the past the need for celebration, community, and levity could be extreme during the midwinter months.

A grid of holidays, celebrations, observances, and feast days was put up on the board, students were tasked with doing research into a handful of the feast days, and were asked to write a brief description of the holiday. The holidays were selected from faiths, secular observances, and historical festivals, and ranged from the familiar to the unheard of.

Once the grid was populated with descriptions, symbols, art, and graphics, students were asked to verbally talk about the midwinter feast that they found the most interesting. The Class was very excited to learn about some of the celebrations that have been important during this time of year.

  • Bodhi Day
  • Christmas
  • Emancipation Proclamation Day
  • Hanukkah
  • Human Light
  • Kwanzaa
  • Makar Sankranti
  • Malka
  • Modraniht
  • Pancha Ganapati
  • Sadeh
  • Saturnalia
  • Sol Invictus
  • Solstice
  • Yalda
  • Yule

Neighbourhood Civics Tour


This Fall, the Canadian Civics and Citizenship class took a walking tour around the neighbourhood to see how frequently they could find evidence of the three levels of government within walking distance of our school. The answer surprised many of the students who did not realize how often they came in direct contact with the different levels of government.

The Civics and Citizenship students noted that they found examples of Municipal government the most often, but that very important features of the Provincial government were also within walking distance of the school. The Federal government was the least frequently found level of our government, though there was one great example right in front of our school doors.

Examples of the Municipal government in our neighbourhood included sewers and storm drains, public trash bins, sidewalks, street lights, traffic signals, crosswalks, parks, Toronto Police Services, community notice signs, public transportation, restaurant public health passes, bike lockups, fire hydrants, fire stations, city speed limits, and parking signs.

In our search, students found examples of the Provincial government in our neighbourhood including license plates, universities, high schools, and the Ontario Provincial Parliament, hospitals, and provincial ministry buildings.

The best example of the Federal Government being present in our neighbourhood was a Canada Post service box.

Students saw first hand how frequently they interact with their governments, and how much those government services impact our daily lives.