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!

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

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.

Special Ballet Creole performance at the YMCA Academy!

The Toronto  based dance company Ballet Creole brought their performance of Saraka to the YMCA Academy. The performance of drum and dance was a celebration of African and Carribean music, song, and dance in a colourful and vivid show that we will not soon forget.  Some students even got in on the act and took their hand at drumming.  The show was brought to us through a generous donation from an Academy family. Thank you to Ballet Creole for this incredible performance and for sharing your artistry with us.

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)