Students in the YMCA Academy middle school recently completed a mechanical system design project as part of their most recent unit in the school’s Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) program. During this project, students shared and extended each others’ ideas as they applied knowledge of simple machines to build complex mechanical systems. Along the way, they developed practical understanding of fluid properties that could be used to improve their designs through inquiry-based use of hydraulic and pneumatic systems. Instead of battle bots, students participating in online-only learning engineered their own mousetrap-powered cars, developing the same understanding and skills while completing these devices. In the end, each student engineered a unique machine, their own complex system designed for friendly competition.
Cooking Club has been great, still continuing during the pandemic. I have been going to cooking club for the last 5 years and I am still participating virtually, talking to my peers and learning cooking techniques with Katie every Wednesday online. I believe that this club is really important because we will need to know these skills for when we go to college, or university or at a job. It’s also nicely social as we connect with the same people and meet new ones. This year we have made muffins, dumplings, quesadillas, risotto, egg foods, cookies and three sister stew. It used to be vegetarian back when we went to school without masks or covid 19 protocols but now Katie has made an exception because it’s virtual. For the new students who are thinking about joining cooking club, it’s not too late to sign up for action packed recipes and excitement.
There are lots of topics and concepts to cover in Gender Studies. One of the earliest, and most important, concepts we covered was “Intersectionality”. “Intersectionality” is a framework used to help understand the many intertwined, complex identities that make up an individual. It also provides insight into how these identities may open individuals up to certain levels of privilege or discrimination. This privilege or discrmination can occur on an individual level and/or at a more institutional, systemic level.
One of the first activities our Gender Studies class did was called “Identity Signs”. Using a Google Jamboard, there were 7 questions that required students to reflect on where they stand and have stood in reference to privilege, discrimination and their multiple intersecting identities. When the questions were asked, some students immediately knew where they were dragging their post-it note! While others took their time and thought for a minute about it. It was really interesting to see where students moved and there are even some questions where many students shared the same feelings. Students were invited to share their “choice” if they wanted to, which some did, but no one was forced to. This kind of activity can be vulnerable and open students up to reflections and feelings that may not come up on a regular basis. All students participated and were incredibly honest, patient and kind towards their peers.
We have used the framework of intersectionality to better help us analyze events in class. Most recently, we have used the framework to discuss the shootings in Atlanta, where 8 people were murdered and 6 of them were Asian women. We also applied the framework to try to understand why there are thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children in Canada. Intersectionality will come up in class again and again and the hope is that this framework will help students analyze events, especially where race and gender are involved, long after the class is done!
It’s no secret that natural disasters have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods and the surrounding environment. Although millions of people are affected every year, we can reduce the human, physical and financial cost of disasters by understanding the risks of applying the best methods of prevention and mitigation.
In our unit on natural disasters, students played a game that tasked them with managing the impacts of a natural disaster of their choice. They played realistic disaster scenarios and their role was to plan and construct a safer environment for their town in order to minimize the damage of the natural disaster.
Students needed to know how the natural disaster formed and the risks it posed in order to prepare for what was to come. They started out with a set budget and had to determine where to spend it. It’s not hard to spend money, but it is difficult choosing which areas to protect, where to place your defences and how to save as many lives as possible.
With multiple playthroughs, students gained a better understanding of the logistics and factors involved in preparing for such terrible events. They began to realize that they didn’t have an infinite amount of money, they had to carefully consider all options, and they often had to make very difficult decisions. Overall, it was an engaging experience that forced students to think about the consequences their actions carry and how the decisions they make directly involve the people they are trying to save.
This week and next, the YMCA Academy is hosting a virtual Scholastic Book Fair! You — and family and friends — can help support our school and classroom libraries by purchasing books using our unique link. And Wednesday is “family night,” with free shipping to your home on all orders.
Here are some ideas to make reading a family activity:
- Plan a regular time for reading (separately, but together), and build it into a habit. Habits take time to form, of course, so be patient but persistent.
- Read aloud, or listen together. Young kids are not the only ones who love being read to, although an older teen might prefer an audiobook. Try listening to an audiobook that interests everyone together — at home or in a car.
- Make an inviting space for reading. It doesn’t need to be spacious, only comfortable. And ideally, it should provide access to some books! (However, it could also be used for listening.)
- Check out what others in the family are reading or have read — even if it isn’t what you would normally choose for yourself. A parent might be surprised by how much they enjoy that YA fantasy novel, and a teen might find an essay or book more interesting than they had expected if they just give it a chance. And this also connects to the next point…
- Talk about books, characters, newspaper articles, or interesting magazine features together. What was the most interesting thing each family member read about that week? What was something challenging? Or get creative: If a favourite character was at the dinner table with you, what would they eat?
We hope you find some good books to help get some of these conversations started here!