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.

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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.

2017 Valentine’s Dance!

The YMCA Academy Leadership and Peer Support class hosted a Valentine’s Day dance on February 14th, 2017. The tickets were sold at the price of $5 during lunch from Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, and also at the dance (if you were last minute). Our Leadership and Peer Support class worked to plan and setup the dance for about a week and half. Students requested many songs to be played at the dance and our very own DJ B tried his best to get each student’s request to be played in one long list.

At the Valentine’s Day dance students had fun by dancing, hanging out with friends, eating nice treats made by our very own Cooking Club runned by Katie Clay. All the money that was raised by the Leadership and Peer Support class will be going to the YMCA Youth Exchange Program. The amount raised was a whopping $172.95. All in all the dance was a successful night and everyone in the dance seemed to enjoy their stay. For people that think this might be the last dance. Think not. There will be more dances to be hosted in the near future!

Thank you to Central YMCA for letting us book the auditorium!

Written by: Mahadir & Bailey

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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.

WWII Newspapers – Touching History

YMCA Academy Grade 10 Canadian History students excitedly crowded around a Montreal Star newspaper dated August 11th, 1943, laughing at the prices of new business suits at $5.95. Once the stack discoloured papers were distributed to each student they were asked to become historical investigators and look for clues about the past in the articles and advertisements. Primary sources offer a window into historical perspective that many historical texts, and papers can’t match. There is something exciting about being able to reach out and touch the past.

An advertisement for Leg Tint caught the eye of some students, leading to a discussion on why women from Canada in the 1940s would want to tint their legs. The concepts of rationing, standards of beauty, price inflation, modesty, and paratroopers all organically sprang up from the conversation around a single advertisement from 1943. It made sense that nylon was being diverted to making parachutes making nylons to come by for women during the war. It was surprising to learn, though, that women would use makeup to tint their legs and draw fake seams in order to give the appearance of wearing nylons.

Students also discussed the feelings that people from the past might have had when reading about certain victories and defeats in the newspaper. These stories may have inspired pride, or fear, or anger for a variety of reasons. The hands-on, experiential inquiry that can happen with objects and documents from the past allowed the Grade 10 Canadian History class to get a little bit closer to seeing the past through the eyes of those that lived there.

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