YMCA Academy Community Garden

The YMCA Academy is located right in the heart of the downtown core, however we do our best to stay as connected to the environment as possible. We have a green wall, plants all around the school and even a vermicompost! One of the highlights of our annual YMCA Cedar Glen trip is the time we spend on the farm, planting, harvesting and caring for the grounds. It is so nice to see the students getting their hands dirty, being outside away from technology, and finding relaxation in this work. For all of these reasons we decided to build our very own urban garden on one of the terraces connected to our school!

Step 1: Design
Our Green Industries class designed sub-irrigated planter boxes. With the location of the terrace, distance of a water source and direct sunlight, it was important that the planter boxes were designed with these limitations in mind.

Step 2: Create
Students in our Gardening Club, and Green Industries class worked together to build and assemble the bins. Building these bins required students to have a strong grasp of the design, collaborate with each other and follow the design instructions.

Step 3: Prepare
Our Personal Fitness class spent the morning hauling heavy soil and materials to the terrace garden. Each of the bins required several bags of soil so the team had lots to carry! Students were instructed on proper carrying techniques to avoid injury.

Step 4: Plant
Every student in the school was assigned one plant to bring in for the garden. Once they were all brought in our Green Industries class organized and planted them. Students brought in an excellent variety of herbs, vegetables, fruit, and flowers that attract bees and butterflies.

Step 5: Care for
As a community of staff, students and volunteers we all play a role in caring for our garden. Depending on the weather, the gardens are watered once a week and checked on each day for changes, needs and the opportunity to harvest.

Step 6: Harvest
The fresh vegetables in the garden were harvested by students daily, many vegetables and herbs such as cherry tomatoes, chives, and green were harvested for lunch time snacks and cooking club. The majority of hot peppers were harvested by the students in the 7 / 8 program and made into hot sauce!

It has been incredible to see the impact the garden has had on our school community since the garden has been built and begins to grow. Many students and staff have expressed how much they love getting the opportunity to spend time outside and around the plants. Many of us are over the moon when something begins to grow, fruit, or is ready for harvest. One of our students in particular has expressed that a quick visit to the garden helps to settle him, reduce stress and anxiety and gets him ready to focus in class.

Overall the garden has been a great success and we are looking forward to expanding our garden even more next season!

Take a look at our Hot Sauce blog to see what we did with this years harvest and check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!

Community Garden: Design, Create, Prepare | Community Garden: Plant, Care, Harvest

5km Bold and Cold Run!

On Saturday, November 24th, the YMCA Academy participated in the annual 5k Bold and Cold run organized by Team Unbreakable. Many students from the YMCA Academy showed up to either participate in the run, help out with the organization or show support for their peers. The 3 degree Saturday morning was the perfect weather for the 5K run the students had been training towards for the past months. Two of the Academy’s gym classes had been training for two months leading up to the run. As people arrived excited to run, it was some of their first times participating in a run and some were experienced runners but all were waiting and excited to begin. The energy in the crowd of people who had assembled to participate was extremely positive with encouragement throughout the group and eagerness to run.

Each student had their own personal goal that they had been working towards. Javier, a student who had never participated in a run before, said his goal was simply finishing. “I didn’t want to do it”, he said about leading up to the race, but “the support of the teachers” is what made him participate in the run. Seth, a student who is an experienced runner had a goal of finishing in under 25 minutes. He ended up finishing in 21 minutes and 40 seconds! “I felt accomplished,” said Seth about how he felt finishing the run, adding that “Nils came in every Wednesday to help us train for the run so that was very helpful”. The Academy had partnered with Team Unbreakable leading up to the run and Nils, a representative of Team Unbreakable, came in every week to help the Academy gym class students train for race through interval training. He helped each student achieve their personal goal.

The run had the students excited about participating in physical activity and helped educate them about mental health. “The run was a great experience” said one of the students, “and I hope to participate in the next one in spring”.

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

Written by: Jonah M.

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.

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

Contributing to the Urban Forest!

On September 12, three classes from the YMCA Academy took a field trip to the beautiful Toronto Islands to help plant native trees and shrubs to contribute to the urban forest! The Grade 10 Personal Fitness class, Grade 11 Math class and Grade 7/8 class all participated in this great initiative, organized by the City of Toronto. It was a beautiful, sunny day outside and the student’s ended up taking the ferry to Ward’s Island and then walking east towards St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church. The walk was long but ended up being a nice warm up hike before getting to planting.

Once the classes arrived, a City of Toronto worker gave the students a tree planting demonstration. There are lots of important steps involved in planting a tree, especially making sure that the hole is big enough for the tree to grow in. After the demonstration, student’s paired up and started planting! The students worked together really well and got better at digging and planting with each tree they planted. It was great to see older students pairing up with and the Grade 7/8’s. About 2 hours later, the job was done! Together with other volunteers, our students helped to plant more than 200 trees on the Island! Though it was hard work, the classes did hands on work for a great cause. All students had a great time and were grateful to have spent their morning in such a beautiful place contributing to Toronto’s urban forest.

Food and Nutrition Class Potluck

On Friday, March 2nd, The Food and Nutrition Class had a potluck. We had this potluck so we could learn how to cook and bring in our meals to show to the class. The whole class was there and some of the other teachers outside of class like Dayna, Zoe, Luka, Andres, Zee and others came to try our food. Everyone enjoyed it. It was exciting to see what other people had made and to try everyone’s meals and to bond as a class and watch a movie while eating. Some of the meals that people brought in included:

  • Mac And Cheese (Rosie)
  • Crusty French Bread (Charlotte)
  • Pizza Rolls (Owen)
  • Pizza (Logan)
  • Grilled Cheese with Ham (Adrian)
  • Beef Stir-fry and rice (Spencer)
  • Addie brought some delicious mac and cheese It Was LIIIIIIT.

After having a huge buffet, I think everyone was stuffed at the end! There were leftovers and we ate them at home over the weekend. We are really looking forward to the next potluck, in April. Yum yum!

Blog post written by: Students of the Food and Nutrition Class