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!

Feast of Thanks

On Tuesday, October 11th, the YMCA Academy community celebrated the school’s Feast of Thanks for the fifth year. With dozens of families contributing food — from savoury turkey and ham to delectable desserts — for the potluck feast, we gathered in the cafeteria at lunch, to hear and view presentations from students and from our special guest, and, of course, to feast.

Students from Katie’s Aboriginal Voices 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. Meanwhile, Brandon’s Origins and Citizenship class contributed visual displays looking at Thanksgiving and related festivities from a newcomer point of view. As teachers committed to inclusiveness and other social justice principles, we cherish this event as an opportunity 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 meat and homemade cookies, they also expressed plenty of thanks for such opportunities, and desires to learn more.

For the second time, we were fortunate and honoured to welcome Darlene King, who took time out of her busy day at the nearby Native Women’s Resource Centre to speak briefly to students about her own experiences, as well as to bless and open out feast. After thanking our students for their thoughtful presentations, Darlene spoke of her own background and the importance of learning about, and in some cases reconnecting with, Indigenous knowledge and cultural traditions. She also opened our feast with an Anishinaabe prayer, and then began it by preparing a “spirit plate,” a plate of food reserved to acknowledge our ancestors. Darlene would later take this food with her in order to return it to the earth.

The Academy community is also thankful for the contributions of students from the Literacy class, who helped set up on Tuesday and had created posters to advertise the event.

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

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

Exploring ancient stories of the night sky

Visitor to the YMCA Academy Astronomy class shares stories about constellations in the night sky.

Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. As long as humans have been able to look up at the sky, we have done so, wondering what our place is in the universe, where we came from, and how the universe itself came to be. Many (if not all) ancient civilizations have creation stories of how the universe came to be, and of constellations and celestial objects. As we started our new unit of Earth and Space exploration, we had the pleasure of having master orator Jim Adams share Aboriginal stories about celestial objects, constellations, and the universe as a whole.

We first heard a story about Sky Woman, which connected the Earth and the sky. Next, we heard about Atima and Atchaksuk, the dog and light/star respectively. Lastly, we heard three stories about constellations. The first story was one about a wolf which related to the little dipper. The second story was about Mista Muskwa (the big bear) which is commonly known as Ursa Major which has the Big Dipper as part of it. The last story was about the Pleiades constellation. By the end of the class, students were still thirsty for more stories. We may have to call in Jim again in order to appease the students’ desire to hear more Aboriginal stories.

Grade 9 English – Handprint Mural

Jim Adams, recent recipient of the Ontario Arts Council’s Aboriginal Educator in Schools grant, spent a week with our grade 9 English class. He shared amazing stories of creation, his personal experiences and other themes and taught us all how important stories are to our past, present and future.

We created a shared story through images, art and words on a mural, beginning with the most unique part of ourselves: our handprints!! Thanks Jim for an amazing experience and we hope you come back again soon.

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

Learning about Complementary Medicine

The healthcare fundamentals unit in the grade 11 health care class is a very long and involved one. After learning common health care terms and learning about the major bones, muscles and organs in the body, we have shifted our focus to the topics of homeostasis, lifestyle choices, and disease prevention and treatment. When looking at disease prevention and treatment, we not only look at the conventional western modalities, but also focus on complementary methods such as massage therapy, meditation, acupuncture, and herbal remedies. The grade 11 health care class was fortunate to be able to look at First Nations Rituals of disease prevention and treatment. We had the good fortune of having the Academy’s good friend and master orator Jim Adams who led two classes on the aforementioned topic.

On the first day, students looked at how Western medicine differs from Indigenous medicine, focusing not only on the differences, but the similarities as well. Jim talked about the medicine wheel and its teachings as well as the seven chakras of the body.

On day two, students were treated to cedar tea at the start of class and informed about its health benefits. Jim focused on the use of energy centers to achieve balance to overall health during the first half of the class, and answered student questions during the second half. Overall, students were very engaged and intrigued by the wealth of knowledge and stories Jim presented to them.