Middle School Paints and Plants

The start of this school year looks a little different than those that have past, but the Middle Schoolers at The YMCA Academy started the year by bridging the gap between in-school and online learning experiences with a community building activity. Whether in person or on the web, students shared the experience of painting pots and planting their own plant. Students learned how plants can benefit mental health and promote learning, and over the school year, they will continue to learn about and care for their green friends.

Green Our Homes With Green Industries


When Green Industries had to make the shift to online learning, it was a bit of a bummer, as it meant we weren’t going to be able to do all of the hands-on learning and field trips that we had planned. But I like to look at the opportunities that situations like this can present us. Now that we had to learn at home, why not use this opportunity to improve our homes, indoors and out, by greening them!

Students Green Their Homes With Green IndustriesWe began by learning all about the benefits that immersing ourselves in nature can have, and how adding a few plants into our living spaces, and participating in gardening can improve our mental health in trying times. We practiced propagating plants from ones that we already had growing in our home as well as growing our own food from kitchen scraps, getting artsy while making plant labels from upcycled materials found around the house, and preparing garden beds outdoors.


Now that it is warm and sunny out, the students are moving their growing from the indoors to the outdoors, and we are continuing the greening process from the comfort of our own yards!

Gr. 9 Science – All About the Body


The Grade 9 Locally Developed Science class has been learning all about body systems in their unit “Biology: Staying Alive. Usually this unit involves a lot of hands-on activities as students discover how their organs work together to complete life sustaining processing. With our move to distance learning some activities have been adapted to engage students while they learn online.

To learn about the digestive system students started with an online interactive simulation. They had to put the organs in the correct order and then watch as the food moved through the system. To make the content more engaging, we simulated the digestive system using household items. Starting with a piece of bread that moved from a bowl, through a toilet roll, into a ziplock bag, and through a nylon, the class groaned as “poop” was made in front of their very eyes. While many thought it was disgusting, they were reminded that this process was happening inside all of them at that very moment.

Students also learned about the respiratory system with slide presentations and fun and informative videos. They each researched how the respiratory system differs among various types of animals and presented their findings to the class. Presenting online means that students don’t have to physically get up in front of the class, which can ease some students’ nerves.

To bring together the digestive and respiratory systems we went through a virtual frog dissection. Virtual dissections are very beneficial as they offer an ethical means to study anatomy, which can be tailored to suit students’ needs. The class was able to make connections between what they had learned in their lessons and the anatomy of the frog and most found it quite interesting.

Students are now working on an animal research project to present to the class and we look forward to learning about how different animals are suited to their environments.

It has been fun learning about body systems, but understanding how the human body works is actually quite important for leading a healthy life. So, keep learning and stay safe everyone!

Minecraft – Building Virtual Worlds

On Wednesday April 29th, 15 curious explorers embarked on a grand adventure to explore a new world. One by one each player opened their digital eyes to a small river winding its way through lush green hills, surrounded by a dense forest cuddled at the bottom of a mountainside. After some brief exploration of their new environment, the first foundation block of a new village house was built and placed in the ground, and with that The YMCA Academy Minecraft world was born.

During the first session, we spoke about the challenges players may face interacting in a virtual world. Students were asked to create a list of community guidelines, rules and outcomes for specific scenarios and behaviours that may happen in a living, breathing virtual environment where many complex issues can arise. How do we resolve conflicts? What happens if there is a land dispute? Who gets to claim resources to the south of the village? The discussion was very thorough and students came up with a list of how they would like to govern this new virtual frontier.

After we had reached a consensus on how we will interact as a community the first bold steps were made to establish our new village. We had agreed to carve out a specific piece of land, which was designated the communal village, and inside these borders no player could claim ownership of property, or build without approval from the rest of the community. Within the span of a few hours, several small huts were constructed just outside of the village, to act as personal homes, and a base where students can build, craft, and launch expeditions from. As the day went on, groups of explorers left the communal village and explored the depths of the forest finding new resources, treasures, and even another village inhabited by NPCs (non-player characters).

The first session of the Academy’s Minecraft club surpassed my expectations in almost every way, and I eagerly await the adventures to come this coming Wednesday as we continue to explore and socialize in this new virtual world.

Cooking in Quarantine

Over the last couple of months, the pandemic has given everyone an opportunity to take a closer look at their eating and shopping habits. It has also forced many of us to cook more and encouraged some of us to get creative with the foods we have on hand. With all this in mind, the Academy’s Cooking Club has started doing online sessions, where students can come together and make easy, versatile recipes at home.

Normally students show up to Cooking Club with the ingredients laid out in front of them, and then sign up for a job. Everyone does their task and then we put it all together to make a meal. Now, with students making food in their homes, they are responsible for all parts of the meal, including sourcing the ingredients, preparing the food, and cleaning the kitchen. This is even better practice for developing independence and preparing for living on your own.

This week for our first official session we had 16 students, along with several parents and siblings, come together to make pizzas. Students and their families were given guidelines on what they would need, but one of the great things about pizza is that it can be made in many ways with many different ingredients. Some students made homemade dough in advance, others had pre-made crusts and many used naan or pita bread as the base. Each student shared what toppings they were putting on their pizza and we got to see everyone assemble their creations through our video call. We waited patiently for our pizzas to cook and then got to enjoy them together while catching up with what everyone has been doing at home. It was a great success and we are looking forward to next week when we put together some Tex-Mex creations!