Glimpse into the life of a Beekeeper

The weather is warming up and pollinators have begun buzzing around our neighbourhoods. The YMCA Academy had a first hand lesson in a particular pollinating species. Though solitary bees, flies, beetles, birds, and native bees make up the most significant populations of pollinators, no insect has quite the same history with human activity as the Western Honey Bee.

This spring the Academy High School students got a glimpse into the life of a beekeeper. Academy teacher and hobby beekeeper, Brandon, brought in an empty hive and beekeeping equipment to demonstrate some of the jobs of a beekeeper. No bees were brought in for the demonstration, but the hive and equipment was enough to show the basics, and excite the curiosity of student participants. The workshop began with bee behaviours and biology, the life cycle of honey bees, the different types of bees, and the roles that bees take in the colony, and about the importance of pollinators in our ecosystems.

Lighting the hive smoker, and donning a beekeeper’s veil, Brandon demonstrated a hive inspection. He explained the parts of a Langstroth Hive, and how the bees use the space within. Making connections to Biology, Green Industries, and Careers courses, the students discussed the hazards and benefits of keeping bees.

Student questions focused on the role of the queen in the colony, what swarming behaviour is for, what a bee sting feels like, and how beekeepers get their start. At the end of the workshop, Brandon invited students to taste honey directly from the comb.

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

Environmental Action Plan

In our Biology unit, the grade 10 students spent time learning about the environment and how long certain materials take to decompose. Once they had completed their research, we decided to spread awareness by making a fun 3D display! The students brought in items and worked together to build the display. Most students were shocked by what they had learned, and made Environmental Action Plans to spread awareness and commit to changing something about their lifestyle. Some replacement items included:

  • Reusable or recyclable coffee pods
  • “Unpaper towels”
  • Bamboo toothbrushes
  • Concentrated cleaning detergents with reusable bottles
  • Biodegradable dog poop bags
  • Steel, paper or glass straws
  • Reusable coffee mugs

  • While reflecting on what they had learned, this is what they had to say:

    “The numbers don’t surprise me but I want to help because a lot of harm can be done by these things in the amount of time that it takes for them to decompose.”
    -Jasper G-S

    “These numbers surprise me a lot! I’ll be able to make adjustments to the products that I will use after learning this. I will start to recycle more.”
    -Ryan dV-C

    “I can’t believe that Aluminum cans take between 80 and 200 years to as long as a million years. I might recycle more.”
    -Lex B

    “Some of these do surprise me because it takes so long to decompose. Some of the ones that surprise me are plastic bags that take 10-1,000 years to decompose. Another one that surprises me is Chewing gum takes 5 YEARS. Candy wrappers take 10 to 20 years. Glass bottles take a million years to decompose or they don’t decompose at all!”
    -Claire K

    “All of these numbers did surprise me because I never knew that it takes that long for things to decompose!!!! I will make adjustments to the products that I use regularly after what I have learned in order to help save our world!!!!! I would also recycle more because it is better for the environment!!!!”
    -Melia M

    “A lot of these numbers surprise me and I will start to make adjustments to the products I use by using more environmentally friendly products and after learning this I will start to recycle more”
    -Erin R

    “There were lots of things that surprised me when I was learning about how long everything would take to decompose. It takes 1000 years for a plastic toothbrush!” -Matthew S

    Our class challenges YOU to consider your environmental impact and make sustainable changes!

    Worms Compost Food Waste in Middle School


    Vermicomposting began by setting up two worm bins on the Academy’s main floor, preparing a habitat for the wiggly decomposers before placing them in their new home. From here, students used the worm bins to deepen their understanding of natural and human-made systems, learn worm anatomy, graph and analyze waste management and much more! The amazing vermicomposter was the perfect tool for integrating multiple curricula at the start of the middle school’s Living Things and the Land unit.

    Taking Action for Climate Justice

    Nearly three years ago, about 30 students from our school attended the first Global Climate Strike led by Fridays for Future, with several YMCA Academy students even speaking from the podium that day. And since then, we have continued working to empower our students in demanding action on the climate crisis facing our world.

    In this spirit, and in line with our commitment to learning that is cross-curricular, experiential, and concerned with social and environmental justice, our students’ learning and activities this past Friday revolved around climate justice. While field trips, assemblies, mixed-grade advisory groups, and cross-curricular learning have long been things that we try to incorporate into our lessons and days, our new schedule of Friday “Flex Days” allows for these to be a regular, consistent part of our students’ learning experience.

    To begin the day, students from both the middle school and high school spent the morning learning about climate change, climate justice, and what we might do about these. The presentation and discussion was then followed by a particularly fun, and sometimes messy, activity: sign making for the climate march. In the afternoon, most of the high school headed to Queen’s Park for the youth-led Global Strike for Climate Justice (where COVID-19 health protocols were in place).

    We are of course fortunate to be located so close to the action, but we are also lucky to have such a passionate and engaged group of students at our school. At the march, this passion and energy was on full display: from leading chants to taking on the task of carrying the giant inflatable globe creation on loan from Artists for Real Climate Action, all with a combination of enthusiasm, respect, and a willingness to keep learning from the experience. A handful of students remained at the school, but did not miss out on opportunities for action, as they created posters teaching us about young climate activists or wrote letters to government leaders.

    Despite the criticism teenagers can get for being materialistic or glued to their devices, or the accusations of not knowing the value of things, many young people are clearly aware of the impacts of unrestrained human activity on the environment, and of how this threatens our very existence. What they may not have learned is to limit value only to that which has been deemed measurable in our economy — and it now seems clear that this is something we should be grateful for. On this day, as on so many others, the students were also the teachers.

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

    Constructing Cold Frames


    Teaching a course like Green Industries can be tricky in the fall season, headed into a cold Canadian winter, as a big emphasis of the course involves growing plants. This presented a perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of “cold frames”, which allow gardeners to keep growing crops outside even in Canadian winters. What’s more, we were able to upcycle the pallets that we had our soil delivered on, and use them as the material to construct our cold frame. Waste management is another emphasis of the course, and learning about reusing materials to build something practical and productive, as opposed to sending them to a landfill is a win-win-win. Stay tuned to see how our crops flourish in the next month!