Hot Docs Documentary: Chasing Asylum

YMCA Academy students attend Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema to watch Australian documentary Chasing Asylum

As teachers, many of us believe that documentary films are often excellent resources for exploring, and exposing, the realities of our world, as well as for looking at the different ways this reality can be shaped. And so, more than 30 Academy students headed out on a chilly morning this past Thursday to attend a special screening at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema of the Australian documentary Chasing Asylum, which exposes Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, including their indefinite detention in bleak offshore camps.

The film, from Eva Orner, had just won Best Feature Length Documentary at the AACTA Awards (a.k.a. “the Australian Oscars”) only a few hours earlier, and is notable for combining secretly filmed footage from inside the detention centres with more traditional interviews and clips. Viewing it wasn’t exactly an easy or pleasant experience, but was a powerful and revealing one. I believe that many of us left the cinema with great appreciation for the efforts of all those involved in the documentary, some of whom could, under current Australian law, face up to two years in prison for exposing injustice and abuse from a government that claims to respect the rule of law, freedom of speech, and international human rights agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Around the world, December 10 marks Human Rights Day, and every year around this date, the Docs for Schools program features a rights-themed film that includes a speaker from a collaborating organization as well as a Q & A with the filmmaker. This year, the discussion had to be held via Skype, but Ms. Orner had risen at 3am (in Australia) in order to answer the thoughtful and perceptive questions posed by some of the few hundred youth in attendance, including from a keen young Academy attendee.

This is the second year in a row that a group of Academy students has attended the December event, and students have enjoyed a number of other Docs for School screenings. Coming back from this particular film, students here were full of probing questions, deep concerns, and impassioned pleas for action. On the other hand, most of the seats were empty when Chasing Asylum screened at the Australian Parliament, with only one MP and one senator in the small crowd that turned out despite thousands of invitations being sent out. Most other screenings of the film, including ours, have been fully booked. Hopefully, this is a sign that the next generation of decision-makers will be more willing to at least inform themselves of what is happening to some of the most desperate and vulnerable people of our world.

Trek Talks: Bridging Science and the Arts

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the debut of Star Trek, a show that has captured the imagination of its fans, inspired the creation of many technologies, and most importantly, given viewers an encouraging vision of the future where the human race has learned to work with one another in a utopian society. In honour of this milestone, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Lightbox Theatre has put together a series of events to celebrate the occasion.

One such event is Trek Talks: Bridging Science and the Arts. This is a panel style discussion on Star Trek and education which includes a physician (Sonny Kohli) a Canadian astronaut (Jeremy Hansen) and Royal Ontario Museum Managing Director (Marianne Mader). The panel will discuss how science can inspire the arts and how the art in turn can inspire science. The panel will also discuss how film and television projects like Star Trek inspire careers in science, space, technology, math, arts, and engineering.

Since Star Trek embodies so much science, it was (as Mr. Spock would say) a logical conclusion to take the grade 10 science class to partake in this discussion. And so on star date 10.13.16, the grade 10 science class, along with their Captain and the Academy’s Technical Analyst officer, boldly navigated their way to the TIFF Lightbox Theatre at warp speed, and listened in awe to the stories and anecdotes of the presenters.

After being introduced to the panel, the audience was shown a video montage of a variety of scenes from the various Star Trek television shows that visually demonstrated the science and art themes of the event. The panel discussed and explored a variety of questions and topics audience which included:

  • How Star Trek influenced their career path
  • What aspects of Star Trek have allowed its legacy to last for 50 years?
  • The importance of scientific accuracy in television shows
  • The ethics of scientific progress
  • The advantages of a scientifically literate society
  • Star Trek’s influence on the development of technology
  • The importance of risk taking in scientific exploration

After listening to the panel members’ personal and enthusiastic answers, the audience were granted an opportunity to ask questions to the panel. Three of our student’s posed their questions to the panel and listened with curiosity to the answers. After the event concluded, we had the honour of taking a group photograph with one of the panel members, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

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

To watch the entire panel discussion see below! (To skip to our student questions, forward to time index 1 hour, 31 minutes)

Silk screening with Kingi Carpenter

Our fashion class recently visited the legendary Kingi Carpenter, owner of Peach Berserk, at her west-end home and studio for a silk screening extravaganza. We made our own screens, learned about the application of light-sensitive coatings, created individual art work and made our own t-shirts, sweaters and bandanas with our designs. It was a full day of hard work, but the final products were amazing and we proudly wear them to school and beyond. Thanks, Kingi, for your awesome hospitality and the chance to try out this unique type of hands-on fashion!

Check out the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page

Fashion class casts on with knitting workshop

Winter may be over but the YMCA Academy’s Fashion Class is in full swing with knitting and crocheting! Using a variety of tools for all of our different needs, we have created some fun fashion accessories including scarves, hats, hairbands and ties with gorgeous multi-coloured wool. A big thanks to Peg for coming in and helping us along the way. We suggest you take up knitting, crocheting or both because they are great for relaxation and also they sure add to your style!

Check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!

Toronto musicians visit Academy music class

This semester, for the first time, The YMCA Academy is offering a music class. As part of the learning experience, the class welcomed two special guests in the first weeks of the semester: singer-songwriters Luke Correia-Damude from the band PEERS, and Graydon James of the group The Young Novelists.

Luke shared with students his approach to writing songs, and demonstrated how a song starts as an idea and builds into a finished product. “I liked the songs he sang,” says Lita, a student in the class. “They were real.” Ben, another music student at the Academy, agrees. “I liked the music that he made,” he says. “I’d never seen that before.”

Graydon focused his visit on the experience of being a live performer. He discussed stagecraft, and explained how musicians set up tours and make a living through their art. “He was a pretty cool guy to have,” Ben says. “I didn’t know you can travel to different cities. This was new for me.” Lita adds, “I just liked hearing stories about how he toured.”

Inviting people from the community into our school is a vital way to provide authentic, experiential learning opportunities. This is especially important in the arts; hearing a wide variety of creative voices helps our students shape their craft and discover their inner artist.

Check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!