Academy Hosts Workshop About Healthy Eating

students in classroom participating in presentation

Last Friday, the Academy’s Grade 11/12 Workplace English class and Food and Nutrition class took part in a workshop about healthy eating, and about how millions and millions of animals are being killed for the food that we eat. Tracey Timmins from the Educated Choices Program explained what we consider food and what we do not consider food, and the health risks of food.

Tracy talked about how animals were slowly being led into slaughterhouses to be killed for food. She also talked about how killing animals can have major impacts on the environment. “It’s important to learn where food comes from,” says Russell, an English student. “It made me feel more motivated to make changes in my daily life to save the environment.”

It is really important to learn these things so you know where your food is coming from. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat meat. You can have a balance with meat and things that are not meat. If you feel like you don’t want to eat meat, that is your choice, but this is something that you should know about. “I feel like we organized this, because students everywhere need to learn about animals, and why we need food every day to survive,” says Lucas, another English student. This presentation is helpful, because it teaches everyone how to live a better life and feel happier.

The presentation happened so that we could learn how to eat healthy and save the environment. It’s important because the presenter talked about how we should eat less meat and more healthy foods. “I think this topic is very important because we are killing animals for our food and it is also having an impact on our diet and health,” says Russell.

“I felt sad and angry at the same time,” says Lucas. “I felt like I had to take action by following Tracy’s presentation facts and details of making the world a better place.”

A student named Cole concluded, “The presentation impacted me, because even though animals do get killed for food, it’s wrong to just take a bunch of animals into a horrible place and just murder them. I also think that we should take a stand. Animals are nature. Without nature, there won’t be anymore animals to take care of. I realized when I was watching this presentation that I can choose to eat less meat and more plant-based things.”

– By the Grade 11/12 Workplace English class

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Dogs with superpowers, a ketchup race, amazing animals, delicious food, and a whole lot of fun: Academy students from four very different classes came together to experience all this, and much more, earlier this month at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The Royal is a longstanding Toronto tradition, and a fantastic place to extend learning through experiential opportunities that activate (literally) all the senses. This also means that it’s perfect for cross-curricular learning; at a seminar hosted by faculty and students from the Centre for Food at Durham College, we learned about how ketchup is made — including investigations of chemical processes, food science and safety standards, career connections, and sensory feedback. It was a supercharged lesson for our students from the Food and Nutrition, Grade 10 Science, Career Studies, and Grade 11 English classes.

At the Academy, we’re constantly working to find ways large and small to break down the walls of the classroom and provide authentic learning experiences. And when we can combine that with free cheese samples and a pack of adorable Superdogs? Well, that’s absolute perfection.

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!

Mental Health Literacy Day

Singing in unison. Planting seeds and digging in the dirt. Reading graphic novels. Eating a delicious meal. Journaling. Making art. Exercising. These are more than just fun activities: they are all powerful tools to reflect on and make changes in your mental health and well-being. And on Friday, May 10, YMCA Academy students did all of these things, and much more, at the school’s second annual Mental Health Literacy Day.

This event is the latest in a long line of Academy initiatives built to help young people understand and manage their mental health. As a school, we’ve long taken a holistic approach to student support, and we were an early adopter of making mindfulness exercises a daily part of school life. Earlier this year, we launched a unique interdisciplinary course in mental health advocacy and awareness. “We are really looking to empower students so that they are building up their skill sets while they’re here,” says Kaili Glennon, the Academy’s Assistant Head of School and Guidance Supervisor. “That way, when they leave, they have the capacity to be healthy and happy on their own.”

With that in mind, Mental Health Literacy Day was designed with a hands-on, practical approach. The workshops and guest speakers each provided students with resources and knowledge they can use right away to improve their mental health, and become more literate in mental health issues. “This event is about starting a conversation about mental health, and making it a regular part of our speech,” says Dayna Dann, Academy teacher and creator of the new mental health course. “We want to give students the language to communicate their feelings in a positive way.”

For Bailey, a YMCA Academy student, the impact was immediate. “On Mental Health Literacy Day, I learned lots of things,” he says. “I learned that walking can help with your mental health, which I had no idea would help. I also learned lots about how to sleep better and how to manage my sleep.”

Bailey sees a range of benefits to events like these. “First of all, it informs everyone about mental health and some people forget about it,” he says. “As well, it can give the students a break and relieve the stress and anxiety of school.”

Duncan, another Academy student who is also enrolled in the school’s new mental health course, agrees. “I think it’s very important to discuss and do events surrounding mental health,” he says. “There is a lot of stigma and negativity surrounding mental health. So it’s very important to learn about things like that.”

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

Allan Gardens Trip

On Friday, April 12, Zoe’s Art class and Dayna’s Mental Health class went on a trip to Allan Gardens. The Art class had just learnt about Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful paintings of flowers. The goal of the trip was to take a zoomed in and abstract photo of a flower to then recreate as a watercolour painting in class. Students took some really interesting photos of different flowers. Some photos were so up close that you could hardly tell it was a flower at all!

Dayna’s class was focusing on relaxing and appreciating beauty in nature. Prior to the trip, the class has spoken about how there is a connection between mental health and the outdoors. Allan Gardens is a place the students can visit to experience serenity only 15 minutes away from the school. Overall, the trip was enjoyed by both classes, because of both the beauty and the warmth of the greenhouses!

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