The Y-Fi: Creating a Digital Student Magazine in Magazine Club

Y-Fi Magazine

This year in the magazine club, a group of students has been working to publish a quarterly magazine for their YMCA Academy peers. In creating the first issue of The Y-Fi Magazine, available to the student body next week, the group has learned a lot about collaborating with each other: sharing ideas, making decisions together, giving feedback, and sometimes compromising.

The magazine includes all sorts of sections: puzzles, birthdays (of those who’ve opted to have them shared), seasonal recipes, music, movies, opinions, and more. Each section has a different editor, but students have also been eager to help each other out and offer encouragement. Many of the skills students are making use of, from writing and editing to design and digital literacy, have been developed in different courses, and it has been wonderful to see them apply these outside of class.

The process of creating a first issue has taken some time, but the learning opportunities have been many along the way. We had initially started out working with Canva, which would give us both a print edition and an online version of the magazine. However, with the move to fully virtual extracurriculars, we ran into a few challenges with this platform. Specifically, students wanted to be able to edit simultaneously without accidentally losing anyone’s contributions. With this in mind, we settled on Google Sites, as this free tool checked off all the boxes students felt they needed in order to work together successfully, and to create something that would appeal to their peers. For now, the magazine consists of text and visuals, but future issues will likely include video and audio content as well.

Finally, active Magazine Club members aren’t the only ones whose voices can come through in The Y-Fi Magazine — all Academy students can submit their ideas, artwork, letters, or feedback, and new contributors are always welcome.

Sharing Information about the Toronto Public Library



With so many of our interactions with other people and places in the city dramatically altered right now, it can be harder to find the community resources that enrich teens’ lives — and support their growth and learning. However, as the Literacy Skills class has learned and wants to share, the Toronto Public Library remains accessible in a variety of ways. And, once we’re able to connect more easily and frequently in person again, there will be even more services and programs for youth at library branches throughout the city.

The Grade 9 and 10 students in the class were tasked with collectively creating an informative website for their high school and middle school peers about a few different aspects of the library. Having a whole-school Google Classroom page means that this site is easily shared with all Academy students.

The first step, of course, was to gather the information. And while two of the city’s most impressive branches, the Toronto Reference Library and Lillian H. Smith, are within walking distance of the school, students were not able to visit these this year, so all the information had to be found on the library’s website. Fortunately, the site is filled with information, and gave students a chance to practice some of the reading skills they have been developing. Once they had gathered and collaboratively sorted their notes into different topics, students chose a topic and each wrote a paragraph to inform other teens on the subject. They then pasted and organized their writing into different web pages to create a Google Site, using various text features and graphics to make the information clearer and more engaging for their audience. They may have had a little too much fun with the images, but you can see how they were able to prevent this from distracting their readers too much by checking out their site here!

Writing for Change: Advocacy Letters

Students learning to write Advocacy letters during social distancing

Over the past years, Academy students have been known for making their voices heard in both the school and in the broader community. Whether it’s the Civics class organizing a walkout in support of a current, relevant health curriculum, or several students from our school speaking from the podium at Toronto’s first youth climate rally, they have shown themselves to be eager advocates for their communities, and for a better future.

Of course, there are fewer opportunities to get involved in community action under the circumstances, but students in the literacy skills class have been doing just this by writing thoughtful, persuasive advocacy letters to various leaders and decision-makers. This is not my first year assigning and preparing students for this task, and each time I love to learn what issues matter to them. There is always such a diversity of ideas! Here are just some of the (student-chosen) topics this year:

  • why we should do more to combat racism
  • homelessness and affordable housing in Toronto
  • neighbourhood traffic safety
  • the importance of art, music, and physical education in schools
  • funding for autism services
  • the need for more library branches

In writing their letters, students are learning not only to express and support their opinions in organized paragraphs, but also to write for a real, authentic audience. Moreover, they are learning that literacy skills are not just for school or for getting a job, but can be powerful tools for bringing about positive change. And especially right now, it’s my hope that we can equip them with more of these.

Grade 11 Law – Sharing and Presenting Online

 

Sharing and Presenting Learning Online: A Website from the Canadian Law Class

As we settle further into emergency remote learning, one of the many things we miss is students sharing their learning with peers — and with the school community as a whole. Posters on the walls, class presentations (and sometimes presentations to other classes), and project fairs not only give students a chance to show what they have learned, but also allow for the sharing of knowledge and ideas with peers, teachers, and even parents. In our new environment, however, we have to find alternatives. And so, the Grade 11 Canadian Law class has created a website to put their knowledge and thinking on display, and hopefully to pass on some of what they have learned.

For a few weeks, students learned about how their rights and freedoms are protected in Canada and about how the law tries to balance competing needs and concerns. We focused in particular on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, learning about some notable cases and examples, and looking at whether, in real life, everyone seems to benefit equitably from these protections. The class also studied when and how different rights might be justifiably limited, a topic that found particular relevance in our present circumstances as we take unprecedented measures to keep people healthy and save lives.

For a summative assignment, each student demonstrated their learning by creating a web page for one section of the Charter, or alternatively, by identifying a section that does not exist but perhaps should. You can view the site that the class has created together (but apart) here!

The Academy Show!

Again this year, the afternoon of the last day of classes in December features an exciting annual tradition: the Academy Show! Students were once again encouraged to pair up or collaborate in groups, and in total, twelve acts shared their passions and talents with the school community. From popular songs to dance performances to original spooky Christmas stories, and even a Shakespearan monologue, the performers’ courage and creativity was a delight to witness.

Our student MCs — Ali, Alex, and Dot — not only introduced the performers, but also kept us entertained with jokes and skits between acts. There was even a special performance by Brandon and Todd, who had been rehearsing their rendition of “I Do” from Bob’s Burgers, all week.

We hope that seeing their peers (and teachers) get up on the makeshift stage inspires even more students to sign up next year!

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