Cross Curricular Connections: Woodland Art Meets Ecology

Last week two classes took advantage of the beautiful weather and went for walking field trips exploring Woodland art and Ecology.

The Indigenous studies class visited a mural by the woodland artist Philip Cote called The Original Family. After recording their descriptions of the mural, through audio notes and sketches, the class identified features of Woodland art, and learned about the history and significance of the art form. The class then sauntered over to Allan Gardens and applied their newfound knowledge to sketching native species in the woodland art style.

The science class is currently studying biology and we recently learned about the levels of ecology. We wanted to connect our learning to real life so we went on a mini adventure to identify levels of ecology in our own surroundings. We walked to Allen Gardens in order to observe the living organisms and non-living matter. We admired the scenery then categorized what we saw into either an organism, population, community, ecosystem or biosphere.

The science class and the Indigenous studies met up after they finished their respective activities and shared what they learned. As a final cross-curricular learning challenge the scientists identified the level of ecology of each species the artists had sketched.

“Our Rights” ART Exhibit

Every child under the age of 18 has rights. These are things that allow us to live a full life and allow us to live to our fullest potential. Every child around the world has the same rights!

In our “Dynamics of Human Relationships” class, we learned about the rights and responsibilities of children by studying the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Every student chose a right from the Convention and creatively campaigned for it through art, posters, song or video.

This assignment was about celebrating children as active participants in their own lives and in communities, as active citizens who can and should meaningfully contribute to decision-making-being the loudest voice in the crowd!

“I chose Article 31:The Right to Play and Rest. I picked this ‘right’ because I feel like it is very important that we let people have the chance to play and rest and get to experience life in their own way. I think that playing is important because that is how we learn and grow. I wrote a song about my ‘right’ because I really like music and songwriting and it is something that I really enjoy. I feel like it is a good form of self expression and I think that if I write a song then it would be a good way to get the point across.” AB

“I chose Article 38: The Right to Protection And Freedom From War. I chose this right because war is a traumatizing thing to see by young eyes and so I chose it because everybody needs to be protected from hatred. The message I expressed was in a painting. I enjoy painting very much and I decided to put it into a painting. It’s the one way I can truly express myself.” QK

“I chose Article 23: The Right to Special Education and Care If You Have a Disability. I decided to do this ‘right’ because it is significant for me and other children with disabilities to get extra support to practice their writing, speaking, reading and understanding skills so they will get an education to help them for their future and to learn how to get support when they need it.” AE

“I chose Article 31:The Right to Play and Rest because I think that playing and sleeping as a child is one of the most important things you can do to grow up.” I was inspired by the Unicef videos my teacher showed in class so I made my own video to show my ‘right.’ OS

The Power of Words

During the first week of Dynamics of Human Relationships, we spent a lot of time learning about self-esteem, self-concept, and how the two factor into healthy relationships. We took a closer look at how our self-esteem can play a role in what we post on our social media accounts, as well as how our self confidence impacts how we interpret what we see online. During these lessons, we had many open discussions in which students shared some factors that influence their self-perceptions. Students shared stories from the past and present, disclosing incidents of bullying, social trends, and online activity. One student shared of an incident dating back to grade 4 and detailed how she still carries the hurtful comments from almost a decade ago. In order to show the lasting impact of hurtful comments and negative self talk, we participated in a class activity.

We started the activity by each taking one crisp, clean, blank sheet of paper. We then took turns “bullying” and talking negatively to our paper, crumpling the paper with each hurtful comment. We heard comments such as “you will never find love”, “you are worthless”, “you are dirty” and “you are weak”. We stopped bullying our pieces of paper once we had them crumpled up into small balls. We then took it in turns to apologize to the piece of paper for what we had said and tried to flatten the paper back out with each apology. We ended up with creased, ripped, holey and damaged pieces of paper. Despite how much we apologized, we could not fully erase the damage that we had done.

The students seemed to connect with this activity and appreciate the visual aid of irreparable damage. Not only is this an important lesson for when we’re talking to and about others, but it’s also important to recognize that the effects of negative self-talk can be just as long lasting and influential to our self-esteem.

Fostering Relationships in a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for us over the last 10 months, with one of the most significant challenges being our limited social interactions and lost time with loved ones. This has had a ripple effect into our school, with students not being able to fully embrace the social components of being in the classroom. As a school, we try to support all aspects of student wellbeing, including their social health, which is why we have taken the extra step to create some (safe) opportunities to socialize!

Before the winter break, our Student Life Counsellor, Jamie, and our Educational Assistant, Brydie, played a friendly – socially distanced and masked – game of Basketball with two of our highschoolers. There was a lot at stake; the losers had to bake for the winners. Needless to say, Jamie and Brydie spent the following weekend baking! Unfortunately the stay-at-home order meant that they couldn’t plan anymore basketball games in the foreseeable future…but it gives them a chance to practice for the next one!

Since moving online after the break, our Middle Schoolers have expressed their struggles with the switching back to virtual learning, after being on-site and in-person since September 2020. Acknowledging this drastic switch and second loss of social interaction, we started a weekly after school “Hangout” where the Middle School students can have some supervised non-academic fun! Our first week was spent creating communal rules to ensure a safe space, then starting our comic books by designing our avatars and making a 3-page comic on what we would be doing if we had unlimited freedom! Our participants didn’t hesitate to get creative, become the President of the United States, and soar into space!

With the end of Octo 4 fast approaching and the extended remote learning announcement, we look forward to having something fun planned for the High Schoolers to interact with one another soon… watch this space!

The Art of Procrastination


As adults, we are all too aware of the struggles of procrastination. We are tempted by the pull of instant gratification, making it easier to choose the small, easy or fun task(s) first. It is much more satisfying to see the results of a quick tidy up rather than be content in knowing you have scrubbed every surface in a full spring-clean, especially when you would rather be BBQing, reading, or spending time with your loved ones. I sense some of our students are currently trying to manage similar struggles regarding their school work. In fact, one of our middle schoolers showed me this interesting TEDtalk that she stumbled upon, ironically while she was procrastinating. It is much easier for us to tell our children/students the importance of paying attention to school and staying current with their coursework, than it is for them to avoid the distractions of working from home.

With the YMCA Academy online classes taking place in the morning, students essentially have the whole afternoon to try to manage their time wisely for completing any additional or outstanding assignments. There is of course the 1pm-2pm help session available, and students can book time with staff to work 1:1 on assignments. Below, I have also compiled some tips that may help avoid distractions and procrastination for other parts of their day:

  • Turn off notifications on devices
    This may be a challenge for some students, but setting their devices to “Do Not Disturb”, Airplane Mode or turning off notifications can be a huge benefit to their attention span during class times/additional work sessions.
  • Leaving devices in another room
    Even with notifications turned off, it can be tempting to check for messages or scroll through social media sites. Leaving your cell phone or tablet, etc, in another room (or across the same room) can make it easier to ignore the urges to check a device.
  • Pomodoro Technique
    This is a technique that is designed to break large tasks down into smaller ones. It essentially requires 25 minutes of focused work, with a 5 minute break, repeated four times until you take an extended 20 minute break. This is a long time to expect most of our students to sit and focus, however this same concept can be used in smaller time frames.
  • Set a deadline/timeframe
    This transition into online learning has understandably been a challenge for many students. Setting a deadline or timeframe for school work each day can help students avoid feeling overwhelmed with course content.
  • Create a schedule
    Creating and using a schedule can be a great way for your child to learn how to manage and prioritize their time, a skill that will help them throughout their lives. We are happy to assist any student with making a schedule that suits their needs.

This is a generic list of tips and tools available, and may not be suited to each student. As always, we are happy to work with students who are struggling and have many supports in place to assist all of our students. If you have any concerns about your student, please feel free to contact us!