Everyone Gives a Kahoot about Drawsaurus


If it isn’t apparent by now, the trivia challenge is this club’s favourite game. Yet again, the group wanted to play several rounds of trivia on Kahoot. As always, we started off by challenging ourselves with weekly trivia from the past week’s current events, and then went on to play another three rounds testing our knowledge about diversity, flags, and desserts. Having appeased our trivia craving, we moved on to play another popular game, Drawsaurus which is a digital version of pictionary. Although we don’t play it as much as Kahoot, the group still enjoys guessing what each member is trying to draw.

Pitching New Food in the Lunchroom!?


Learning at home means that students have lots of opportunities to learn more about the nutrition habits they and their families have. After learning about the big ideas from the new Canada Food Guide, how to use an Eat Well Plate to create and analyze healthy meals and researching nutritional information for specific foods, students demonstrated their learning by imagining that they were pitching a recommendation for a new food provided in the YMCA lunch room.

The products of this project ranged from posters, to slide shows and written reports; with one student even being featured in a corporate Instagram post on pizza-dough-making!

Virtual Worlds: The Great Wall Initiative


As of this week there is an abundance of personal homes, gardens, farms, mines, industrial areas, and road networks built by students. When we first created this virtual world we had disabled “monsters” or ‘mobs’ as they are called in the Minecraft community (A mob is a living, moving game entity. The term “mob” is short for “mobile”). These creatures offer an element of adventure and challenge but often can be overwhelming for new players as they have to learn both the building, creating and crafting aspect of the game, alongside survival and fighting off potential monsters and creatures in the wild.

Now that everyone is well situated, has a home, and equipment crafted for survival, hunting and protection several students in the community were advocating for mobs to be turned back on in the world for making adventures exciting and unpredictable as well as to be able to harvest rare materials needed for more advanced building. There were also those students that did not want Monsters enabled as they like having a sense of safety and not having to constantly be on guard and to put their creations at risk, etc.

Both positions had very valid points! After discussing the issue with the entire community last week, we all agreed to a compromise, and our first community project was born – The Great Wall Initiative. We agreed that before we re-enable mobs we will need to secure our communities, towns and homes, therefore we decided to build walls and gates around all areas we wish to be secured from Monsters.

This way we can achieve:

  • Community Safety inside the borders of towns
  • Adventure and Risk outside the borders.

Students have been coordinating how and where to build wall segments, different designs for walls, using different materials to keep out different creatures, (for example jumping spiders!)

Some excerpts from our Minecraft Google Classroom:

“I would really appreciate it if some of you would help me get some stone bricks for the village walls. Then put them in the chest that I made, so that I can use it to either start making the wall tonight or tomorrow. Depending on how much you guys help me, i could finish in 2-3 days. If you guys don’t help we might have to wait until next week for mobs since it is going to take a while to make the amount of stone brick I need for the wall.

Also, I know cobblestone would be easier, but I personally think that stone brick looks better.”
– Jack S.

“I and Oliver are offering to make walls around your houses so we can get mobs back easier, if you are interested, please leave a comment under this post about it.
You can also be specific of how big you want it to be”
– Fionn B.

As of today, many of the student built communities and houses have walls and gates protecting them from the wilderness, once we finish the entire project we will re-enable monsters in the world to create a new sense of excitement and adventure, as venturing outside the walls will now have an element of risk, where players will need to carefully think of supplies they will need, and rely on each other for safety.

Check back again next week to see how this new phase of our Virtual World has evolved!

Team Unbreakable Virtual 5K!

Students participate in last years Team Unbreakable running event
Photo from last years Team Unbreakable event

Well, while this whole pandemic has put a damper on our training it can’t keep determined athletes from keeping fit! The YMCA Academy’s Healthy Active Living classes hit the ground running when the lock down struck and spent the first couple of weeks researching the best ways to keep active during this predicament and constructing plans to keep fit at home. And If I have been led to believe correctly, all of my Healthy Active Living students have been doing just that.

Now it’s time to put our money where our feet are and cap off the year by taking on the Team Unbreakable Virtual 5K. This year, we won’t be gathering in a large group to complete the distance, but rather participants can run or walk 5 km on their own, at their leisure, at any point between 9 am and 9 pm on Father’s Day, Sunday June 21st. It happens to be the perfect way to celebrate your dad! If you feel like joining the team please check out the Team Fundraising Page of YMCA Academy where you can sign up.

I hope to see you all out there! … virtually, of course.

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.