The United Nations at the Academy

After completing three previous Insight Global Education topics and simulations, the time came for our final and most exciting one of them all. The United Nations (UN) simulation. This simulation models a United Nations (UN) meeting in which the members (students) reduce the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to seven goals. Students were divided into delegates from fifteen countries and worked together to create the new seven goals, based on the past SDGs and MDGs.

The UN created the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, following the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These seventeen goals were developed to improve the lives of people and the planet by 2030. Both the MDGs and the SDGs reflect current global challenges and outline potential solutions to solving these problems.

Students developed an understanding of the overarching discourse in global development and recognized the complexities and strategies that are necessary when creating and implementing global development regimes. Student delegations worked with one another in backroom style “wheeling and dealings” in order to ensure the seven best SDGs were passed at the end of the simulation.

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

Visiting the Royal Ontario Museum

From the Eastern Woodlands of Turtle Island to the Base of the Pyramid of Giza the historians of the YMCA Academy got to walk through history at the Royal Ontario Museum. The History of Civilizations class joined with the Canadian History class on an adventure through stories and evidence from the past.

The History of Civilizations class just started the Empire Simulator unit, where students take on the role of the leader for an ancient civilization and experience the hardships of managing a fledgling empire. The opportunity to visit the ROM to see and experience some of the relics and history of these nations was a great way for students to connect with their chosen civilization on a deeper level.

The Canadian History class learned about five of the major regional groups of First Nations and Inuit of what is now Canada. The people of the Eastern Woodlands and their canoes; the Great Plains people and their spartan, mobile lifestyle; the Northwest Shore people and their incredible material culture; and the Arctic people with their deep connection to their environment.

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

Feast of Thanks Celebration

Especially in a year when many people are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, a holiday like Thanksgiving can pose challenges to communities concerned with honouring Indigenous perspectives and with the process of reconciliation. Students of The YMCA Academy worked to meet such challenges in preparing for our Feast of Thanks.

Students from Katie’s Aboriginal Voices English class presented to the whole school their research and ideas on the Indigenous past and present of the Toronto area, as well as inquiring into the question of how to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in a way that is inclusive and respectful of Indigenous experiences and perspectives. Several students even read an original short story they had written collaboratively to further address these issues. With the potluck feast set up in the cafeteria, we were treated to foods ranging from savoury turkey and roasted vegetables to homemade donuts and pumpkin pie! Our thanks to the dozens of families that contributed.

As teachers committed to inclusiveness and other social justice principles, we cherish events like this as opportunities for diverse voices to be heard, and for our community to gather together in learning from and sharing with one another. And while students were most vocal in expressing their love of apple pie, they also expressed plenty of thanks for such opportunities, and a desire to learn more.

The Academy community is also thankful for the contributions of students from Brandon’s Drama class, who applied their developing knowledge of set design and props to set up the space for everyone, and to the Literacy class, who had created posters to advertise the event and then helped clean up afterwards.

Of course gratitude should never be confined to just one weekend, but we hope to see this particular tradition of learning, sharing, and thanks continue for years to come.

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

Fostering global citizens with Insight Global Edu.

Insight Global Education (Insight) is a Vancouver based organization that’s dedicated to fostering global citizens. The YMCA Academy has partnered with Insight to deliver 4 different experiences to foster better understanding of global citizenship so that students can learn to think globally, and act locally. Each experience takes 2 hours and is delivered in successive Thursday Assemblies. Students are put through a simulation the first week, and then partake in smaller group discussions the following week to make sense of the simulation, what it demonstrated, and what its implications are on the global and local stage.

This simulation models “the Scramble for Africa,” a historical event that took place in the late1800s by Western powers in order to procure resources. The simulation allows students to see how the Western powers controlled and exploited African resources and people. They participated in the activity without the knowledge that they were re-enacting the Berlin Conference of 1884, which carved up the map of Africa. Once the simulation was over, students were brought up to speed on what they just experienced in order to prepare them for the more in-depth analysis and discussion to follow.

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

Leveling the Playing Field

YMCA Academy student using in-class assistive technology on a laptop.

On March 30, like students throughout Ontario, YMCA Academy students participated in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Unlike a vast majority of them, however, Academy students make use of a full range of accommodations to enable them to write the test on an equal footing with all of their peers.

Because The Academy is a school for students who learn differently, there are many potential barriers to their access to the testing process. Students with dysgraphia, for example, can have extreme difficulty with writing or typing. Students with language-based learning disabilities can have difficulty reading text from a page. Others, by virtue of learning disabilities or learning style differences, cannot access test materials in ways common to most learners. Such students can be fully literate (and after all, the purpose of the OSSLT is to determine a basic literacy level for all Ontario Students), but would not appear to be so without accommodations.

What are the accommodations available to students for the OSSLT? Students have access to a wide array of supports. The test is made available in a variety of formats, including text to speech, large type and Braille versions. Laptops are available to access these formats. As well, students can use computers to compose their responses. According to their specific learning needs, students can type their responses, dictate them using speech to text software, or even have a person scribe their answers.

Students with processing speed issues can be given extra time to complete the OSSLT; those with attention issues can be given an individual or small group setting for their test. They are allowed periodic supervised breaks and the supervising adult can prompt them back to work as needed.

Students with learning style differences can be at a disadvantage if they are not appropriately supported. At The YMCA Academy, we ensure that the full range of supports is in place to give our students the best possible opportunity for success – on the OSSLT, in school, and beyond.