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!

Feast of Thanks Celebration

On Tuesday, October 15th, our whole school attended the YMCA Academy’s annual Feast of Thanks in the school cafeteria. The feast was an opportunity to hear presentations from students and guests as well as to eat a lot of delicious food, generously donated by students and families!

Our class, a Grade 11 English class focused on Indigenous voices, led the organization and created posters, artwork, and presentations, while Brandon’s drama class set up the space, and Rein’s food and nutrition class took charge of heating up and setting out the food. In our presentations, people learned about some of the background to Thanksgiving and about Indigenous traditions related to gratitude and the harvest. Students and staff also heard about Indigenous storytelling, and listened to a story that a student had written about being thankful.

We were also joined by two staff from the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, who talked a bit about what the centre does, and then opened the feast with a smudge and a prayer of thanks. While the smudging shell, filled with fragrant, smoking sage, made its way up and down the long tables of students, a few volunteers, led by our guests, put together a “spirit plate” with food and an offering of tobacco for the ancestors. Eventually, the hungry students were also able to fill their plates with savoury food, which was soon followed by dessert.

Students said that they really enjoyed the food, especially all the pie! Of course, there was plenty of cleaning up to do afterwards, and we are thankful for Todd’s civics class taking on most of the clean up duties. In the end, we hope that everyone who attended the Feast of Thanks has a better understanding of the historical aspects of Thanksgiving, Indigenous perspectives on Thanksgiving, and how we can show our gratitude every day.

– From Katie Freeland’s Grade 11 English class

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