Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day Two

On day 2 of the trip, The YMCA Academy students went on a boat ride to the west coast of the island. We went in the narrow waterways that leads to the the ocean for about an hour before hitting the open water. We saw a large ship which was the Coast Guard. We drove around in the open waters for a bit. We saw sea lions and got so close that we could smell them.

We landed on the beach at Ts’aahl Village for a picnic. As one of the crew cooked us a fresh salmon lunch, our guide showed us around the area, he also showed us really old totem poles. After lunch, our guide said “tide’s out, time to each” and he went scavenging in the ocean. He showed us what was edible and some of us tried a few sea creatures. After a couple hours on the beach we were off again on the boat and took a bit of a detour to show us the seals and puffins. We roamed around for a bit more before going back to the docks for dinner.

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Blog written by: Jake and Josh

Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day One

On the first day, we all went to the Haida heritage centre. Before it started, two Haida students led me to the back to see the beach. But we ended up walking down a crazy path and we climbed down slippery rocks. Afterwards we did a tour talking about totem poles. We learned about the poles of the different Haida clans. We also learned about the history of the Haida people during the time of European invasions. Afterwards, we went on a scavenger hunt of creatures on the beach during low tide. We found all kinds of stuff like crabs, squid eggs, sea cucumbers, etc.

After lunch, we went on a guided walk of the Spirit Lake trail led by a local forester. He taught us all about the trees and other vegetation on Haida Gwaii and the impact of the introduced species, such as the deer. We learned how to core a tree to determine its age and also won prizes for guessing the height of another tree. We got a little lost hiking around the lake, but everyone made it back in time to cook dinner over a fire on the beach.

In the evening we went to carve paddles and Jonathan also carved a miniature paddle. The paddles were started by the students at Living and Learning school. We helped by using some tools to carve the paddles and some of the students were distracted by eagles.

When the fishermen came into shore, they tossed the fish organs and eagles started scavenging the leftovers. As the eagles feasted on the organs, Josh stealthily got an arms length away from the eagles. Near the end of the trip, we were presented with one of the paddles we had worked on that night. An eagle was painted onto it due to the enthusiasm of some of the students.

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Enabling Change

In the beginning of May the YMCA Academy participated in the program Enabling Change. Throughout the week students from 3 classes spent the day in wheelchairs to experience some of the challenges and barriers people in wheelchairs may experience within the school and the neighbourhood. At the end of the week Enabling Change came to the YMCA Academy and brought in some athletic wheelchairs. They gave us the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball with a professional wheelchair basketball player.

One of the ways OWSA (Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association) educates people on wheelchair athletics is through allowing people to participate in a game of wheelchair basketball. We learned that wheelchair basketball is a way for people in wheelchairs to continue to live an active healthy lifestyle. Students at the Academy were very excited to have the chance to participate in this activity and learned a lot about the sport.

Enabling Change is a program within the OWSA. It is an organization that aims to educate students about; invisible and visible disabilities, proper vocabulary when talking about disabilities, understanding the barriers faced by wheelchair users, inclusiveness and respect. The YMCA Academy decided to participate in this program to see how accessible our school is, and to see if any improvements need to be made to make our school to be more accessible.

These are the few things that some of the YMCA students had to say about the activity:

“I now realize some of the difficulties people in wheelchairs face because maybe their favorite place isn’t accessible, and how we should make those places accessible” – Archie Grant

“ The moment I sat in the wheelchair I didn’t even know how to turn, it was a really hard and time consuming thing to learn but eventually I got the hang of it. I now see how people in wheelchairs feel”- Mahadir Khan

“This activity showed me more about the daily life of a wheelchair user and showed me the struggles of it and the benefits” – James

“This program is a good way of recognizing some barriers within our school and community that you would never have thought about, as well as strategies to make our community more accessible to everyone.” – Jonah

Overall this opportunity was a very positive experience and left the students with a better understanding of the daily life of someone in a wheelchair. Enabling Change helped give us a new insight into how accessible our school and community is. The students at the school found a new perspective towards wheelchairs and realized how accessibility is important not only in school but all over our community.

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Introducing: Meatless Mondays!

YMCA Academy students participate in the "Meatless Mondays' program
On Monday, March 24th, Lunch Duty Supervisors, Katie and Rein, along with help from Rein’s Food and Nutrition Class kicked off our weekly participation in Meatless Mondays.

The idea of Meatless Mondays is to commit to eating meat free, one day a week, in order to improve our health, the environment and consider animal welfare. The Food and Nutrition class visited all Period 3 classes, presented the concept, and encouraged their participation at the school by bringing in, or buying, a meat-free lunch every Monday.

With roughly half the school population participating, we expect that this movement can be sustained long term, with the hopes of eventually having the whole student body participate. Every Monday, I find myself greeted by excited students, eager to show off their meatless meals.

Katie and I will be tracking participation, and collecting recipes from students to share with everyone interested in joining the movement.

Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Six

On April 28th, 2017 it was the last day of the Youth Exchange before the twins had to leave. We had an amazing day but to tell the great tale you must read till the end. Starting off with Ripley’s Aquarium at 10 am in the morning the YMCA students and twins saw lots of cool things, like seahorses and sharks. It was amazing seeing all of them swimming around. Evan: “It was awesome because all the fish were very cool”. And one of the teachers Rein thinks: “I like how the inspiration for Drake’s Hotline Bling video came from the luminescent jellyfish tanks!” So Ripley’s Aquarium was pretty fantastic, and I don’t think it could have been any better.

Now for the CN Tower- it is one of the coolest places to be in Toronto! YMCA Academy students and the twins saw how tall the CN Tower is but we weren’t scared, we laughed at how tall it is. Just joking, but we all had a great time and we enjoyed the glass floor and taking pictures and videos of the city. After taking the long elevator ride down we checked out the gift shop. Then we had some free time to do some more shopping at the Eaton Centre and games store before enjoying dinner at our school, the YMCA Academy.

After dinner we went to the Rogers Centre for the Blue Jay’s game. It was a fun, exciting evening! Waiting in the line I could feel the excitement in the air. Everyone was “Pumped up”, after waiting in line everyone got in and got to enjoy the game for the night. It was an awesome and fun game to get to watch and experience.

Our twins (People from Haida Gwaii) seemed to be excited for the game since some of them would not have ever been to a baseball game. During the game the Jay’s were in the lead for most of them game but in the usual bad luck the Jay’s eventually lost that lead and ended up losing. Overall it was a fun evening. We then had to say good-bye to our twins until we see them in Haida Gwaii in just a few weeks!

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