Academy partners with Digital Literacy + Coding pilot!

The YMCA Academy has always leveraged computer technology in the service of student learning. Laptop-based assistive technologies are at the heart of the supports we provide to a wide range of learning styles. Thus, when we had an opportunity to partner with the Brookfield Institute in their “Digital Literacy + Coding” pilot project“, we jumped at the chance.

The Academy has committed to running eight 12-week sessions to introduce youth in the GTA to the logic and practice of coding. We see this pilot as providing our students with additional expertise and knowledge that will be hugely important in the job markets they will face when they graduate. These sessions are free of charge, and laptops are provided.

By introducing Digital Literacy + Coding to a wide variety of youth, including youth who are underrepresented in this growing field, The Academy hopes to help shape the future.

The program will introduce youth to a variety of activities leading to a final project that each participant has chosen. They will be “remixing” websites, games, and other web-based applications to get a better understanding of how they work, and how elements of the code affect the final product.

The Digital Literacy + Coding pilot will focus on several languages, particularly HTML, CSS, and a brief introduction to JavaScript. These are the languages that are the backbone to complex and engaging web pages. This program is an excellent way to help youth begin the journey of sparking passion for STEM-related fields by learning the basics of the coding languages of the web.

 

Announcing our Grade 7 & 8 Program

Spring Open House Promo

As Head of School at The Academy, I get many opportunities to speak with the parents and guardians of prospective students. Each caregiver has a slightly different story to tell: of their child’s learning challenges, of the supports they might need, and of their previous experience in other schools. In every case, their stories speak of anticipation — their child is moving to a new educational environment, one which is rich in resources to support a wide variety of different learning challenges.

The supports we are able to offer, whether it be laptops available for each student, assistive technologies designed for their specific learning challenges, Certified teachers with Special Education qualifications, and/or our counselor on site, are impressive. The program is so well designed that families often comment to the effect that “we wish all this was available to us in earlier grades!” Such comments have caused us to re-examine our program in this connection.

We are very pleased to announce that we are, therefore, expanding The Academy program to Grades 7 and 8! Earlier introduction to the supports that will enable lifelong learning for each of our students is clearly something to be desired. We feel that we can successfully prepare students in Grades 7 and 8 for success throughout high school and beyond.

To learn more about our program, and to apply for admission, please join us on Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 11 am to 2 pm for our Open House!

2017 Graduation & End of Year Ceremony

Among the many amazing things about a YMCA Academy graduation, the one that stands out for me is the sense of shared celebration. We are members of a close and inclusive community of learners, who support one another socially and academically. Many of our students come to the school with little hope of success based on their experience within the education system; in their admissions interviews with me prior to enrolment, many of their parents and guardians express their sense of hopelessness for their children’s academic and life success.

So, the sense of celebration, of having achieved beyond their expectations, of heading off to new challenges well-equipped for success — this is what is behind the entirely positive vibe of the night! The fact that this was our largest graduating class to date only added to the energy of the evening.

Each member of The Academy is fully invested in the success of our students, and we all experience with them the sense of accomplishment and excitement for what comes next. That this is a shared experience is clear from every conversation I have that evening. It’s clear as well from what was shared on various social media.

Have a look here:

I am so proud of my youngest daughter Emma. In spite of all the challenges the world through at her, she persevered and…
Posted by Ben Mair on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Such an amazing Graduation Evening last night. Many thanks to Don Adams, the teachers, and staff. YMCA Academy is a…
Posted by Jules Steele Clyde on Thursday, June 29, 2017

As we move into a new academic year, I keep the graduation in my mind as motivation. See you next year!

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

Leveling the Playing Field

YMCA Academy student using in-class assistive technology on a laptop.

On March 30, like students throughout Ontario, YMCA Academy students participated in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Unlike a vast majority of them, however, Academy students make use of a full range of accommodations to enable them to write the test on an equal footing with all of their peers.

Because The Academy is a school for students who learn differently, there are many potential barriers to their access to the testing process. Students with dysgraphia, for example, can have extreme difficulty with writing or typing. Students with language-based learning disabilities can have difficulty reading text from a page. Others, by virtue of learning disabilities or learning style differences, cannot access test materials in ways common to most learners. Such students can be fully literate (and after all, the purpose of the OSSLT is to determine a basic literacy level for all Ontario Students), but would not appear to be so without accommodations.

What are the accommodations available to students for the OSSLT? Students have access to a wide array of supports. The test is made available in a variety of formats, including text to speech, large type and Braille versions. Laptops are available to access these formats. As well, students can use computers to compose their responses. According to their specific learning needs, students can type their responses, dictate them using speech to text software, or even have a person scribe their answers.

Students with processing speed issues can be given extra time to complete the OSSLT; those with attention issues can be given an individual or small group setting for their test. They are allowed periodic supervised breaks and the supervising adult can prompt them back to work as needed.

Students with learning style differences can be at a disadvantage if they are not appropriately supported. At The YMCA Academy, we ensure that the full range of supports is in place to give our students the best possible opportunity for success – on the OSSLT, in school, and beyond.

September Blues?

I remember having the September blues as a student. For me, as for many of you I’m sure, making the best use of our all-too-short summer was a priority. Something new was bound to happen every day, and we were absolutely engaged in life. The return to school represented the loss of this engagement, the curtailment of unbounded physical activity, back to the regiment of rows of desks, seating plans, and hours of listening to the voice of the teacher filling us with knowledge like a pitcher with water. Charles Dickens satirized this in the mid 19th century in his novel, Hard Times:

“In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!”

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.

These memories are so engrained, in fact, that each year I am surprised by a different September phenomenon. We keep the school open throughout the summer, and every week we get a visit or two from present students of The Academy — just dropping by to say hi, to see what’s happening during the summer, just to be back in this great school. Invariably, they say they are looking forward to September.

That’s something that I heard from many of you as well on September 2 – students were actually looking forward to school!

I think I know why: engaging classes; constant variety of experiential activities; supportive friends and classmates; a first-rate facility; a fabulous, compassionate staff. By designing an educational program around each student’s needs and strengths, we are able to change the old paradigm of education. It is indeed good to be back!

Charles Dickens would be proud.

Don Adams – Head of School