Dungeons and Dragons Club

Video games may have become the norm for most high school students looking for the thrill of solving puzzles, navigating political intrigue, and combating evil monsters. At my school, however, we sit around a table with pencils, paper and dice. The classic fantasy strategy game, Dungeons and Dragons, has made a major come back at the YMCA Academy. Instead of being powered by a computer or gaming console, Dungeons and Dragons games unfold in the minds of a group of people through shared story telling. Rather than quietly staring a screen and clicking buttons on a controller, the YMCA Academy Dungeons and Dragons Club members cooperatively scour maps, lay out plans, brainstorm solutions, and tackle enemies all through the power of imagination.

This week the companions trekked across dangerous, forested wilderness on their way to gather some key information at an abandoned town a few days’ march to the north. The party is tracking their missing Dwarven employer who was captured by a band of goblins. Their investigation has taken them from a sleepy mining town, through damp caverns, through wild forests and to an abandoned ruin of a village where a dragon has made his lair.

The world of Dungeons and Dragons is only possible through the power of shared story telling. As the Dungeon Master, I set the scene by narrating the opening sequence of a story: I describe the scenery, the time of day, what local people or creatures are nearby, and I explain any activity that is taking place. Players then make decisions based on their character and what is taking place. The outcomes of those decisions are determined by the roll of dice. Then I describe the outcome based on the dice roll, and the cycle starts over again.

I can’t express enough the value of this game. Besides the literacy, numeracy, problem solving, divergent thinking, communication, conflict resolution, and geography skills that are practiced, the social benefits of the game cannot be ignored. Every Monday, a group of students, who range from boisterous to downright shy, join together as a close-knit team to overcome a series of new challenges. Players come out of their shells and take on newfound confidence in leadership roles, they learn to encourage and uplift one another, they learn to listen to one another, they learn to recognize the power of choice, they learn to laugh at mistakes (and bad dice rolls), and they learn celebrate one another’s victories.

WWII Newspapers – Touching History

YMCA Academy Grade 10 Canadian History students excitedly crowded around a Montreal Star newspaper dated August 11th, 1943, laughing at the prices of new business suits at $5.95. Once the stack discoloured papers were distributed to each student they were asked to become historical investigators and look for clues about the past in the articles and advertisements. Primary sources offer a window into historical perspective that many historical texts, and papers can’t match. There is something exciting about being able to reach out and touch the past.

An advertisement for Leg Tint caught the eye of some students, leading to a discussion on why women from Canada in the 1940s would want to tint their legs. The concepts of rationing, standards of beauty, price inflation, modesty, and paratroopers all organically sprang up from the conversation around a single advertisement from 1943. It made sense that nylon was being diverted to making parachutes making nylons to come by for women during the war. It was surprising to learn, though, that women would use makeup to tint their legs and draw fake seams in order to give the appearance of wearing nylons.

Students also discussed the feelings that people from the past might have had when reading about certain victories and defeats in the newspaper. These stories may have inspired pride, or fear, or anger for a variety of reasons. The hands-on, experiential inquiry that can happen with objects and documents from the past allowed the Grade 10 Canadian History class to get a little bit closer to seeing the past through the eyes of those that lived there.

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Remembrance and Peace Ceremony

On the morning of November 10th students at The YMCA Academy gathered for the yearly remembrance and peace ceremony. The Grade 10 Canadian History class ran the event, introducing the idea that Remembrance Day is an opportunity to reflect on the significance of armed conflicts, and the steps we can all take within our communities to promote peace. The presentations focused on honouring the past through poetry and first hand accounts, acknowledging the present by learning about the Canadian Legion and current conflicts, as well as looking to the future through a discussion on how to promote peace.

The remembrance and peace ceremony was echoed the next day with a minute of silence at 11:00am, to mark the anniversary of the end of the First World War. In class students continued the conversation about the importance of remembering past conflicts, and how it can help us today to promote peace in our everyday lives.

Grade 12 History students push back against their teacher to simulate Boudicca’s Rebellion

The YMCA Academy’s Adventures in World History course experienced the discipline needed to work as a single unit in the Roman Infantry. With shields at the ready the would-be Legionnaires cooperated to overcome uneven terrain and push back the opposing force.

By taking the Historical Perspective of Roman Soldiers and British Iceni Warriors the students determined that in the conflict of Boudicca’s Rebellion, the Iceni tribe had the offensive advantages of manoeuvrability over many terrain types, and could employ guerrilla tactics. The Romans, on the other hand, had the defensive advantages of a solid shield wall, and immovable block formations, making them a difficult enemy to overcome.

Just as the teacher couldn’t hold back the students in formation during the pushing match, the Iceni couldn’t hold back the inexhaustible numbers, and relentless discipline of the Roman Empire. Even though she was able to win many battles, Boudicca’s Rebellion did not end the Roman occupation of Britain.

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