Geography: The Great Human Odyssey


Students in the Middle School Geography Course have taken on the job of considering early human history through the lens of Human Geography. By building on previous lessons about the spheres of the earth, Students had the opportunity to view episodes of CBC’s The Nature of Things documentary, “The Great Human Odyssey.”

Episode One taught the Middle School Students about the “evolution of adaptability” in homo sapiens. The climate throughout history has been volatile, resulting in the extinction of countless species. Climate has also affected where and when our ancestors were able to settle the earth.

This episode also features two case studies. Students explored how the San People (often called the Bushmen) in South Africa survive in the extreme climate of the Kalahari desert. They also learned about the expert breath-hold divers of Badjoa peoples of Tawi Tawi.

Students discussed the origins of humans in the continent of Africa, how early people survived drastic climate change, and how symbolic thought and art-making gives us an understanding of ancient quality of life.

By using new online tools, from video-conferencing, to Jamboard, students are building on their ability to navigate online course delivery, while exploring exciting ideas about the past, and our relationship with the world we inhabit.

Welcome to Southgard!

Welcome to Southgard, a land of fantasy adventure, swords and sorcery, and political intrigue. Our brave group of adventurers hunt for ancient treasures that unlock incredible powers from an extremely advanced ancient civilization. These lost technologies and magic are the key to power and wealth in the world of Southgard.

Even through online course delivery, and physical distancing, Academy students are still getting together to engage in shared creative story writing, and role-play gaming. In the Academy’s Play-by-Post Role Play Club, students take control of the story of a character they have created, and write their share of an adventure that unfolds before their very eyes.

Each week the players face new challenges as the Game Master introduces new narratives to which students write their character’s reactions. Through back and forth posting, students develop compelling characters, build engaging interactions, and make exciting choices. The Play-by-Post Role Play Club combines the literary outlet of Creative Writing, and the excitement of Role Play Gaming.

Take a look into the world of Southgard!:

GM Post:
“This is it. Here we enter the Bulgar Swamp. Don’t stray off the path that I walk on. There are false trails, pitfalls, and hidden bogs just underfoot everywhere.” Hilda, the dwarf woods-guide picked her way carefully under the arch of the twisted trees, occasionally prodding the ground with the butt of her spear.

The sounds of the party seemed to be muffled or swallowed by the damp air, and though there were the croaks of frogs, and the sound of small splashes nearby, the travelers could tell that sounds from further than a few yards simply weren’t reaching them. At that moment, the spongy peat moss under Nax’s feet gave way. He slipped up to his neck into cold waters. He could feel the roots of weeds and trees just under the false ground that had dropped him, and when he reached his hands up, he couldn’t push them up through the moss. The harder he pushed, the further down his head was forced, until he disappeared below the thick mat of vegetation. Trapped below the surface.

“Quick now! You’ll have to work together, and fast to get him free. Don’t lose the spot where he went under!”

Player Post – Nax the Dragonborm:
Nax clearly gasped as he fell under, keeping his eyes and mouth closed he focused. He may be what most would consider a scumbag, but he wasn’t an idiot. He wouldn’t die here, that was sure. He pointed his finger up, and starting firing his invisible missile spell off, trying to at least send them a signal as to where he was. Hoping they manage to save him…

GM Post:
In the moment Nax slipped below the surface of the Peat Moss floor of the path, Hilda leapt to where he had fallen. Just as she leaned over the spot he had gone under a burst of water, moss, and plant matter shot up into her face. A blast of pain cracked through her head.

Completely unconscious, Hilda tipped backwards, falling to her back like a stiff log.

A small round opening in the false ground, about the size of a coin, showed a pool of murky water.

~**Nax is still trapped underwater below the layer of peat moss, and now Hilda is unconscious**~

Player Post – Muffy the Human:
muffy, runs over to Hilda and grabs her spear. “Bonnie you come help me pull up nax, the rest of you tend to Hilda!” muffy barked. he carefully moved to around the area that nax fell in testing the ground with the spear like Hilda did. once sure it safe muffy yelled at the hole nax fell in “im putting down the back of the spear for you to grab onto no more magic okay! Bonnie once he grabs on help me pull him out!”

Visiting the Royal Ontario Museum

From the Eastern Woodlands of Turtle Island to the Base of the Pyramid of Giza the historians of the YMCA Academy got to walk through history at the Royal Ontario Museum. The History of Civilizations class joined with the Canadian History class on an adventure through stories and evidence from the past.

The History of Civilizations class just started the Empire Simulator unit, where students take on the role of the leader for an ancient civilization and experience the hardships of managing a fledgling empire. The opportunity to visit the ROM to see and experience some of the relics and history of these nations was a great way for students to connect with their chosen civilization on a deeper level.

The Canadian History class learned about five of the major regional groups of First Nations and Inuit of what is now Canada. The people of the Eastern Woodlands and their canoes; the Great Plains people and their spartan, mobile lifestyle; the Northwest Shore people and their incredible material culture; and the Arctic people with their deep connection to their environment.

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

Fight Choreography Workshop

It was a “Safety First” kind of day in the YMCA Academy’s Grade 9 Drama class. Jabs, crosses, uppercuts, and grabs made for impressive performances. Under the guidance of Fight Master with the Fight Directors of Canada, Simon Fon, the students learned to safely create intense scenes for the stage. Beginning with the basics of breath, stance, and hand positioning, Simon led the class in choreographing a safe, but convincing stage combat scene designed to create a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat performance.

Having taught at George Brown College, University of Toronto, York University, University of British Columbia, The Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Equity Showcase Players Academy, Rapier Wit Studios, and Fight Directors Canada National Workshops,it was a real honour Simon Fon sharing his expertise here at the YMCA Academy. The students learned a short choreography of punches, grabs, a choke, and a finishing move that was later filmed.

Fight Master Fon’s work can be seen at his website where the award winning videos Wanted, Thirst, and Heroic Bloodshed, made by his production team, Riot Act, can be found. The students left Simon’s workshop with a new understanding of how to create safe, and convincing scenes of combat on stage.

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.