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!

Intersectionality in Gender Studies

There are lots of topics and concepts to cover in Gender Studies. One of the earliest, and most important, concepts we covered was “Intersectionality”. “Intersectionality” is a framework used to help understand the many intertwined, complex identities that make up an individual. It also provides insight into how these identities may open individuals up to certain levels of privilege or discrimination. This privilege or discrmination can occur on an individual level and/or at a more institutional, systemic level.

One of the first activities our Gender Studies class did was called “Identity Signs”. Using a Google Jamboard, there were 7 questions that required students to reflect on where they stand and have stood in reference to privilege, discrimination and their multiple intersecting identities. When the questions were asked, some students immediately knew where they were dragging their post-it note! While others took their time and thought for a minute about it. It was really interesting to see where students moved and there are even some questions where many students shared the same feelings. Students were invited to share their “choice” if they wanted to, which some did, but no one was forced to. This kind of activity can be vulnerable and open students up to reflections and feelings that may not come up on a regular basis. All students participated and were incredibly honest, patient and kind towards their peers.

We have used the framework of intersectionality to better help us analyze events in class. Most recently, we have used the framework to discuss the shootings in Atlanta, where 8 people were murdered and 6 of them were Asian women. We also applied the framework to try to understand why there are thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children in Canada. Intersectionality will come up in class again and again and the hope is that this framework will help students analyze events, especially where race and gender are involved, long after the class is done!

Virtual Book Fair

This week and next, the YMCA Academy is hosting a virtual Scholastic Book Fair! You — and family and friends — can help support our school and classroom libraries by purchasing books using our unique link. And Wednesday is “family night,” with free shipping to your home on all orders. 

Here are some ideas to make reading a family activity:

  • Plan a regular time for reading (separately, but together), and build it into a habit. Habits take time to form, of course, so be patient but persistent. 
  • Read aloud, or listen together. Young kids are not the only ones who love being read to, although an older teen might prefer an audiobook. Try listening to an audiobook that interests everyone together — at home or in a car. 
  • Make an inviting space for reading. It doesn’t need to be spacious, only comfortable. And ideally, it should provide access to some books! (However, it could also be used for listening.)
  • Check out what others in the family are reading or have read — even if it isn’t what you would normally choose for yourself. A parent might be surprised by how much they enjoy that YA fantasy novel, and a teen might find an essay or book more interesting than they had expected if they just give it a chance. And this also connects to the next point… 
  • Talk about books, characters, newspaper articles, or interesting magazine features together. What was the most interesting thing each family member read about that week? What was something challenging? Or get creative: If a favourite character was at the dinner table with you, what would they eat? 

We hope you find some good books to help get some of these conversations started here!

Expedition to the Toronto Island!


This past Friday the middle schoolers took their afternoon studies outside and did an expedition to Toronto Island. The journey began with the boat ride over and ended with sticky marshmallow fingers, dirty pants and smiling faces. During these strange times it’s important to give students the opportunity to let loose and have fun for a while. That is absolutely what we did! The students collected wood and built a fire, explored the shoreline, and toured the island on bikes. We hope that we are able to do an excursion to the island some time soon – maybe next time there will be snow!

Tapping into the Entrepreneurship Spirit


We are just a week into the Entrepreneurship class but have already covered a wide range of topics. The class consists of a terrific mix of students, some of which already have entrepreneurial experience, and others who bring forth new and exciting ideas to the table.

Thus far, students have completed an entrepreneurial self-assessment, examined the pros and cons of becoming an entrepreneur, and identified essential qualities, skills and characteristics of an entrepreneur. In addition, students presented a brief profile of an entrepreneur of their choice, studied famous Canadian inventors and innovators, watched pitches from the Dragons’ Den show, and explored various different leadership styles.

Things will only get more exciting as students test their leadership skills in fun games and challenges, interview existing entrepreneurs to gain additional insight straight from the source, and develop their very own business plan.

There is no question of the severe impact this pandemic will have on our economy. There are many jobs, businesses, and industries that have been forced to shut down or are barely staying afloat. In some rare cases, there are examples of businesses that were fortunate enough to adapt and stay healthy during this time of crisis. As part of the course, students will analyze the ways in which different businesses have reacted to the change in market conditions.