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

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Ending Homelessness – One Youth At a Time

 

Students and staff from the YMCA Academy once again braved the cold to help support Youth Without Shelter.

On Friday, February 1st, 25 students and staff participated in the 9th annual Time4Change (formerly Tokens4Change) fundraising event. The money raised goes to providing youth access to transit and empowering support programs at Youth Without Shelter, an emergency residence and referral agency in Etobicoke. Transit fare allows youth to attend school, seek a safe place to call home, find employment and new beginnings.

In January, the entire school participated in a workshop led by Youth Without Shelter, that educated students on the important programs they provide and why it is such a need in Toronto.This led many students to sign up and through the event gain deeper understanding through learning. Our students had the opportunity to teach commuters about the issue of homelessness and be engaged in powerful discussions. One youth was approached by a woman currently living in shelter who thanked them for their efforts. Another person commended us as they had volunteered at this event before and knew how challenging it is. Some passersby were impressed with our chants and enthusiasm, while others donated so that we would be quiet! Either way we were able to educate the public and bring in lots of donations, big and small, which helped make the event a success.

This year’s Time4Change event saw almost 600 volunteers canvassing at 27 locations. The grand total raised in just one day was $88,000!

Thank you to everyone who participated and donated to this great cause!

Visiting the Toronto Humane Society

The YMCA Academy aims to develop programming based on students’ interests and needs. Among our students there are currently lots of animal lovers and many interested in pursuing animal related careers. This lead staff to plan a trip to the Toronto Humane Society so students could find out more about the possibilities that lie ahead.

All three Learning Strategies classes came together for this trip based on the curriculum link to career exploration. Students learned about how the Humane Society helps care for homeless animals and were led on a tour of the facility. They got to meet lots of adorable cats, dogs, and small pets and were excited to learn their names, take pictures and interact with them from the other side of the glass. Students also had a chance for some up close animal visits inside the education center where puppies were brought in to play.

The primary objective of the trip was for students to learn about animal related careers and how they might one day get to work with animals. We heard from two Humane Society employees, a dog trainer and the manager of shelter care, about their jobs and how they got where they are. They told us that to do their jobs it takes a love of animals, a lot of dedication, and strong people skills. One important take home point for the students was that related experience, for example volunteering or dog walking, is really valuable when trying to get an animal care job. This information points many students towards the next step in a pathway to their dream job.

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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.

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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!