While we couldn’t cook at school, or share our culinary creations with each other during a potluck, the Food and Nutrition class made the best of our situation, and moved our meal preparations into the comfort of our own kitchens. Over the course of the 5 week octomester we had 4 “cookoffs”, in which the students practiced a variety of important meal preparation skills in the very environment that they should be applying those skills now and in the future. Each meal required that the students demonstrated specific knowledge or skills that they had learned and practiced during each unit. By cooking at home they were able to develop some comfort and familiarity with their own kitchens and in doing so make cooking for themselves and their families more accessible. Though I cannot be certain, as I was unable to taste test them myself, by all indications they made what appeared to be some super yummy creations.
It’s somewhat hard to believe that a year in lockdown has already gone by. To say it has been an interesting year would be an understatement. After all is said and done, and this human experience is in the rearview mirror, there is a lot that will be looked back upon and analyzed. One of the major realms that will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention will be education, particularly virtual learning.
Virtual learning is by no means a new idea or phenomenon. Virtual schools have existed for years now, but such schools were created for educational reasons and designed for specific situations. The pandemic, however, has thrown the vast majority, if not all of the world’s education systems into some form of virtual learning. Those who choose to attend virtual schools do so (for the most part) of their own volition. Over the last year, everyone has been thrust into virtual learning whether they wanted to or not, whether they thrive in such a situation or languish.
There is a notion in education as to whether or not the growth and implementation of technology will one day lead to a future where students can learn solely from an artificial educator. The current education system is built on top of a framework that was designed to educate students to have the skills and knowledge to be effective and efficient factory workers. In the early days of education, students would sit in desks and listen to a teacher at the front of a classroom. The teacher was a source of information that they would disseminate to their students, a sage on the stage. Fast forward to today, and the only difference in many of today’s classrooms is the colour of the board at the front of the room.
Education has gone through many “revolutions” where this, that, or the other thing was going to radically change how students learned. From radio to television and tablets, no one invention or innovation has really changed education in a fundamental way. The internet, however, offers one place that holds more information than anyone can ever hope to consume, and essentially renders the idea of a person at the front of a classroom who knows a lot of information obsolete. So who needs teachers? Are they commodities who will one day be completely replaced by screens and algorithms?
In my estimation, the past year of learning mostly online – which has had teachers using a lot of digital resources such as videos, podcasts, and the like – has shown us that replacing a classroom teacher with digital content is not a scenario that leads to optimal learning environments. Granted, our small school full of dedicated and passionate teachers has been able to make the best of the world’s current situation; it is likely that many students have found virtual learning less than ideal. Although having one-on-one guidance for each student would be the ideal scenario, even if you could fabricate a digital Aristotle to tutor every student based on his or her individual needs, it could never replace a real – in the flesh – educator. As technology continues to advance, the sage on the stage needs to transform into the guide on the side, helping students navigate the world wide web of information overflow and teach them how to learn and not necessarily what to learn.
Cooking Club has been great, still continuing during the pandemic. I have been going to cooking club for the last 5 years and I am still participating virtually, talking to my peers and learning cooking techniques with Katie every Wednesday online. I believe that this club is really important because we will need to know these skills for when we go to college, or university or at a job. It’s also nicely social as we connect with the same people and meet new ones. This year we have made muffins, dumplings, quesadillas, risotto, egg foods, cookies and three sister stew. It used to be vegetarian back when we went to school without masks or covid 19 protocols but now Katie has made an exception because it’s virtual. For the new students who are thinking about joining cooking club, it’s not too late to sign up for action packed recipes and excitement.
This February, students in the Adventures in World History class united the realities of distance learning with the excitement of a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. Students were introduced to a series of objects and specimens from around the world and across vast periods of time. From the time of dinosaurs, to Ancient Egypt, to New France, to the 19th Century Northwest Coast, to species at risk today, Academy students experienced the stories of some of the most popular objects in the Royal Ontario Museum’s collection of over 13,000,000 objects.
Our guide explained the significance of several objects from the collection, the history of their journey to the ROM’s collections, and the stories behind them. The object most closely connected to the lessons of the course was the Mummy of Djedmaatesankh. This wealthy, land owning woman lived during the New Kingdom period of Ancient Egypt. CAT scans of her remains show that she likely died of an infection in her jaw. The art that encases her includes inscriptions about her career as a chanter in the temple of Amun Ra. The clues that this object offers us about the role of women, the types of work, and the burial practices of Ancient Egypt are priceless.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for us over the last 10 months, with one of the most significant challenges being our limited social interactions and lost time with loved ones. This has had a ripple effect into our school, with students not being able to fully embrace the social components of being in the classroom. As a school, we try to support all aspects of student wellbeing, including their social health, which is why we have taken the extra step to create some (safe) opportunities to socialize!
Before the winter break, our Student Life Counsellor, Jamie, and our Educational Assistant, Brydie, played a friendly – socially distanced and masked – game of Basketball with two of our highschoolers. There was a lot at stake; the losers had to bake for the winners. Needless to say, Jamie and Brydie spent the following weekend baking! Unfortunately the stay-at-home order meant that they couldn’t plan anymore basketball games in the foreseeable future…but it gives them a chance to practice for the next one!
Since moving online after the break, our Middle Schoolers have expressed their struggles with the switching back to virtual learning, after being on-site and in-person since September 2020. Acknowledging this drastic switch and second loss of social interaction, we started a weekly after school “Hangout” where the Middle School students can have some supervised non-academic fun! Our first week was spent creating communal rules to ensure a safe space, then starting our comic books by designing our avatars and making a 3-page comic on what we would be doing if we had unlimited freedom! Our participants didn’t hesitate to get creative, become the President of the United States, and soar into space!
With the end of Octo 4 fast approaching and the extended remote learning announcement, we look forward to having something fun planned for the High Schoolers to interact with one another soon… watch this space!