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.

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Digital and Smartphone Photography Workshop

On October 24th, the Grade 11 Media Arts class and the Grade 10 Communications Technology classes participated in a Digital and Smartphone Photography workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Students were taken on a tour of several galleries and instructed on how to use their cell phones to take pictures. We spent the afternoon browsing a variety of galleries. The first photographs we saw were done by artists who were competing in the AIMIA|AGO Photography Prize. There were four photographers in this gallery, all from different countries around the world: Russia/Ghana, Haida/Canada, Japan and Uganda. We were shown all of their different styles of photography and then were able to cast our vote in the end! Each was very interesting in their own way and the students seemed very inspired by the very different types of photography by each artist.

Next we went on to see a gallery called Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood. This gallery focused on artist’s depictions of Canada from the perspective of those that have been left out of the dominant narrative. In addition to photography, there was painting, sculpture, fashion, video art and more in this gallery. Students used this gallery, and the photographs in the AIMIA Prize gallery, to practice their photography skills. As they took photos of the art, they were encouraged to focus on using the Rule of Thirds and different angles to photograph the works of art.

The tour ended with analyzing some famous European works of art, such as Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens, and understanding the techniques and tools that the artist’s used. Students also put their critical analysis skills to good use by interpreting the message of the painting.

Overall it was a great experience touring the AGO and the student’s left feeling inspired!

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Annual Cedar Glen Trip

Ah the yearly Cedar Glen overnight trip. The three day, two night trip the Academy gleefully looks forward to every year during the latter part of October. This year, from October 18th to the 20th, students and staff made the annual pilgrimage with a bit more excitement than most years based on the splendid weather forecast promised by meteorologists. During the three day trip, everyone was delighted that they were not lied to by the weather experts, as we enjoyed three days beautiful, sunny, and warm weather.

During our first day, students participated in several new experiences. First, they participated in their second Insight Global Education simulation (this time about equity and resource allocation). Later that evening after dinner, students partook in an Aboriginal quilt activity where they learned about and discussed about the trials and tribulations the indigenous peoples of Canada endured at the hands of European settlers. After an eventful first day, students shared a campfire at night before heading to bed.

After breakfast, our second day saw students lending helping hands at Cedar Glen’s farm, doing various tasks such as mulching, de-weeding, and harvesting of crops. Upon completing their farming tasks, students were given a workshop on mapping and orienteering, a skill which they would need for their afternoon challenge! When the afternoon rolled around, six student teams competed against one another in the Academy’s Cedar Glen Amazing race, where they implemented their mapping and orienteering skills for the ultimate glory of boasting supremacy should they win the race. The evening saw students participate in a variety of indoor games, capped off by a night hike, game of dungeons and dragons, or watching a movie (whichever option tickled their fancy).

On our last day, we went down into Cedar Glen’s valley and participated in our traditional teachers vs. students animal survival game as well as archery. Our memories filled yet again of familiar activities (new ones as well), and of delicious food, we ate our last lunch and headed back to school. We impatiently wait for our return next year!

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Album One | Album Two | Album Three

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.

Feast of Thanks Celebration

Especially in a year when many people are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, a holiday like Thanksgiving can pose challenges to communities concerned with honouring Indigenous perspectives and with the process of reconciliation. Students of The YMCA Academy worked to meet such challenges in preparing for our Feast of Thanks.

Students from Katie’s Aboriginal Voices English class presented to the whole school their research and ideas on the Indigenous past and present of the Toronto area, as well as inquiring into the question of how to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in a way that is inclusive and respectful of Indigenous experiences and perspectives. Several students even read an original short story they had written collaboratively to further address these issues. With the potluck feast set up in the cafeteria, we were treated to foods ranging from savoury turkey and roasted vegetables to homemade donuts and pumpkin pie! Our thanks to the dozens of families that contributed.

As teachers committed to inclusiveness and other social justice principles, we cherish events like this as opportunities for diverse voices to be heard, and for our community to gather together in learning from and sharing with one another. And while students were most vocal in expressing their love of apple pie, they also expressed plenty of thanks for such opportunities, and a desire to learn more.

The Academy community is also thankful for the contributions of students from Brandon’s Drama class, who applied their developing knowledge of set design and props to set up the space for everyone, and to the Literacy class, who had created posters to advertise the event and then helped clean up afterwards.

Of course gratitude should never be confined to just one weekend, but we hope to see this particular tradition of learning, sharing, and thanks continue for years to come.

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