Civic Responsibility in the Classroom: Senator Frum Visits

Civic Responsibility in the Classroom: Senator Frum Visits

High School

Senator Linda Frum

We try our very best to encourage our students to become more responsible young adolescents and contribute meaningfully to society. For instance, our students volunteered with the Waves of Hope organization and made a large donation to St. Joseph the Compassionate Mission this year. In this way, we firmly believe that acknowledging civic responsibility and participating within that space is an important component of a student’s education.

That being said,  we were very happy to have Senator Linda Frum visit our school last week. She was appointed to the Senate in 2009 and currently sits on multiple government committees, but made time in her schedule to visit us at The Study Academy on Thursday morning. During her visit, she discussed with our High School students what the Senate and its Senators do, and the value both have to our current Canadian democracy.  She stressed to our students that our Senate assists in forming the laws we live by and as such, it is the Senator’s job to work out relevant issues like literacy, poverty, and environment in forming these laws.

As we venture into a new generation, we will need new members of society to stand for new and growing causes that senators like Senator Frum currently fight for. Senator Frum encouraged our students to become more active in politics to help shape a better tomorrow in Canada.While highly informative, we also found Senator Frum’s visit a great way to motivate our students to assist in this mission and to be the very best citizens they can be.

Volunteerism as a Support Tool for Depression Among Teenagers

Volunteerism as a Support Tool for Depression Among Teenagers

Educational Research High School

Hello Readers,

teens-with-mde

Rates of teenage depression by age (years).

I hope you had a wonderful week and maybe even indulged in a bit of theatre (like our High School students). So, dear Readers, my questions for you today are: Looking back at this past week, what did you do with your leisure time? Did you participate in any sports? Did you catch up on your favourite television shows? Did you volunteer in your community? Well, as part of each student’s OSSD requirements and our educational vision, our students are actively encouraged to volunteer in activities they enjoy. We, as an educational institution, firmly believe that volunteering helps students to form important life skills that will promote growth in transitioning from student into responsible adult and citizen.

Recent scientific results published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seem to reinforce the importance of volunteering! The study, conducted at Urbana Champaign at The University of Illinois, found that students who prefer more altruistic past times are less likely to experience teenage depression. These results are so significant because teenage depression is a growing concern for today’s generation of students, with 11% of adolescents being diagnosed before the age of 19. In finding a place where students enjoy their volunteering experience, we can work together to find another preventative measure to assist struggling students!

Ventral Stratium

A diagram of the brain pinpointing the location of the ventral stratium, our reward centre.

So, how does volunteering help prevent depression? Well, Eva Telzer and her colleagues at the university discovered — while using a functional brain scan — that activity in the Ventral Striatum (the reward centre of the brain) in response to different rewards predicted whether the subjects’ depressive symptoms would worsen or lessen over time. When teenagers showed higher levels of reward activation in the ventral striatum in the context of the risk-taking task, they showed increases in depressive symptoms over time. In contrast, when a teenager showed higher reward activation in the pro-social context, they showed declines in depression over time. So then what does this all really mean? One implication is that meaningful and enjoyable student volunteerism (which promotes social connection) may be used to shape internal reward systems through varying activity in the Ventral Striatum. Further, community service may provide more to a body of students than just an OSSD requirement, it may help to promote stronger mental health.

If you are interested in reading more about this seminal study, you can find the article here:

H. Telzer, A. J. Fuligni, M. D. Lieberman, A. Galvan. Neural sensitivity to eudaimonic and hedonic rewards differentially predict adolescent depressive symptoms over time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: http://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/TelzerLieberman2014PNAS.pdf

Theatre at Berkeley Street

Theatre at Berkeley Street

High School

Hello Readers,

20130320-Berkeley-Street-Theatre-305-Photo_by_Corbin_Smith

Landscape view of the stage at Berkeley Street Theatre

Welcome back to yet another Study Academy report!  Allow me to start this post by asking you, dear Reader, when was the last time you indulged in a bit of theatre? No, I’m not talking about seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster at your local Cineplex. I’m asking, when was the last time you saw actors on stage? Well, if I were to ask our High School students the answer may surprise you!

On Wednesday April 16th, students travelled to the Berkeley Street Theatre to watch a new production of Belleville for their Integrated Arts Class. The play was written by Amy Herzog and directed by Jason Byrne, and tells the story of two happily married Americans living in Paris. But wait, there’s more! In an Hitchcockian plot twist, the female protagonist returns home one day to see her husband in a way that forever changes the dynamics of their relationship! This suspenseful play kept our students on the edge of their seats. So you see, dear Reader, how enjoyable a little bit of theatre can be? It can also be a wonderful educational opportunity.

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Allan Hawco as Zack and Christine Horne as Abby in Toronto’s production of Belleville

In fact, when I spoke to Robert Webster (lead teacher for Integrated Arts), he told me how field trips like these benefit students: “It’s great experiential learning and an opportunity for them to see possibilities for young people to explore their passions and interests in the Arts, and what kind of work and level of commitment it takes to get into that field.”

Now students have the opportunity to exercise what they have learned in their Theatre unit to write a critical performance piece just like a professional theatre reviewer! They will be evaluating the play based on its writing, directing, acting, staging, music, sound, and even lighting. What a great opportunity to demonstrate the critical analysis skills they have been developing in class!

So, dear Reader, what will you be doing this weekend to expand your mind? How about you indulge in a bit of theatre. Perhaps, Belleville?

 

 

Exploring the Deep Blue Sea: Ripley’s Aquarium!

Exploring the Deep Blue Sea: Ripley’s Aquarium!

Middle School

Hello Readers,

photo 6

Our students building their very own plankton!

I hope you all have an exciting long weekend planned. Quite a few of our students mentioned some rather fun plans they were arranging, however, that is only after speaking so enthusiastically about their adventure at Ripley’s Aquarium.  I’m sure you recall how earlier this month a group of High School students traveled there for our Workshop week. If not, please check out the post at your leisure.

Just like our High School students, Middle School students and faculty truly enjoyed this educational and entertaining field trip. So, what were some of the activities that our animated students spoke so highly of?  The Great Plankton Challenge was certainly a highlight for many and featured academic ties to the Science curriculum. You might be thinking that something as small as plankton couldn’t possibly be so interesting. Well, dear reader, I am glad to tell you that you are wrong. Students were delighted and inspired; they learned how essential the role of the small organism truly is to our larger ocean biodiversity! They were even given a chance to design their own perfect plankton!

 

photo 7

Life within coral!

Middle School students were also able to explore the multiple galleries available at this large Toronto aquarium.  In the Canadian waters exhibit, the students saw more local creatures such as as lobster and largemouth bass. In the Rainbow Reef, students learned about more tropical fish originating from the Indo-Pacific region.  There was even an exhibit called “Planet Jellies”! I bet you can guess what creatures were there! Tons of beautiful jelly fish and information on their fascinating life cycle! The fun, however, did not stop at that — students were also able to interact with the aquatic life! They were able to touch some aquatic life at the Horseshoe Crab Touch Pool, and pet stingrays in the touch tanks, as well as watch divers feed stingrays from their very own hands.

Overall, it was a very exciting and informative day for our Middle School students. Now they are all off to enjoy a relaxing long weekend, which I hope you do as well, dear Reader.

Till next week!

Community Development this Inspire Week

Community Development this Inspire Week

High School

Hello Readers,

IMG_0407

Kids club pairs mentors with younger students

Welcome back to another Study Academy Report! I hope you all are enjoying this lovely spring weather we have been having recently! Some of our High School students have remarked that it is still a bit chilly compared to where they were just a week ago. Can you guess who? Well, for those of you who have read my previous post you know that some of our High School students made a trip to Nicaragua.

IMG_1405

Trenching foundations of the soon-to-be school in El Manzano # Uno

On March 29th a select number of students and teachers packed their bags, boarded American Airlines and travelled to the beautiful land of Nicaragua in Central America. This was an absolutely exciting experience for all of them! Nicaragua has an abundantly rich culture, being known simultaneously as The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes as well as The Land of Poets (home to many renown Nicaraguan writers such as Ruben Dario and Ernesto Cardenal).

IMG_1488

Horseback riding on the beach

For one whole week, our students participated in a community development project associated with the Canadian Not-For-Profit organization known as Waves of Hope. The Waves of Hope organization has worked tirelessly towards improving educational opportunities, investing in local infrastructure, and helping to create a thriving community within Nicaragua. Our students contributed to this mission by helping to build a school in El Manzano # Uno. They tossed aside their wireless devices and dug right into their work! Ha, did you see the joke there?  Well anyway, our students were mixing cement, digging trenches, and painting walls among other building tasks, all to assist in improving the local Nicaraguan community.

When students were not lending a hand, they were residing and taking part in the fun activities at the El Coco Loco Resort on the Northern end of Nicaragua.  When speaking to one of the returning High School teachers, he remarked that they had the opportunity to take in the local cuisine (fresh fish, pineapple, mango, and peanut butter) all fresh and from the very neighbourhood in which they were staying! They were also able to enjoy the private beach, swimming, surfing, and horseback riding!  You can check out all the fun the students were having by checking out our Nicaragua  Trip 2014 Photo gallery (http://thestudyacademy.ca/nicaragua-trip-2014/)

Overall, this was a perfect mixture of community development, personal growth, and fun for our students. Volunteering with Waves of Hope was a wonderful chance to provide for others and put aside personal needs. I urge you, if you are interested in learning more about how you can experience a trip like The Study Academy’s or if you would like to learn about Waves of Hope’s initiatives contact Jamie or Ben.

Till next week!

Workshop Week

Workshop Week

High School

Hello Readers!

Remember me? It’s me – the humble Study Academy blogger!  I apologize for the gap in our regular blog schedule, however, as you can see there have been numerous updates to our website. That being said, I am happy to welcome back our old readers as well as welcome all of our wonderful new readers that have found their way to our Study Academy blog!

Students line up for Ripley's Aquarium to see the variety of aquatic life!

Students line up for Ripley’s Aquarium to see the variety of aquatic life!

So let’s get started shall we? I’m sure some of you are aware that we had a select number of students travel to Nicaragua to participate in volunteer work with Waves of Hope. I assure you all that when they return, I will upload their photos and tell you all about their exciting adventure! However, while some of our students were away, we didn’t want to leave the remaining High School group without their own exciting adventures in Toronto. During the week of Monday March 31st to Thursday April 3rd, students at The Study Academy engaged in a variety of educational and enriching activities. They travelled to such places as Ripley’s Aquarium, Ryerson, and Casa Loma, as well as took part in scientific, cooking, and chocolate making workshops right here at our school!

Ice Cream using Liquid Nitrogen

James surrounded by students as he mixes the ice cream

The students were quite excited for their educational outings this week. They were truly given a deeper appreciation for our planet when they visited Ryerson to lean about their Environment and Sustainability program. Similarly, their visit to the ever popular Ripley’s Aquarium was an absolute delight! Where else could a student see a shark and a clown fish in the heart of downtown? Casa Loma also had much to teach our students, especially in-line with our Integrated Arts class. In a tour entitled “Hollywood” students learned about the cinematic history of Casa Loma.

the science of bridge making

Our students test the strength of their bridges!

No one can say that within our classroom walls, our students aren’t entertained! On Monday, our High School teachers took science to a whole new level, making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Yes you read that correctly! In an entirely safe environment, under the charge of chemistry teacher, James S, students learned how to make ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, sugar, and cream.

Hand made pasta!

Hand-made pasta

I did have a taste and I must say that it was delicious! And so quick to make too! The students also designed and built bridges and boats, which they later

tested for strength and buoyancy, respectively!  Later in the week, students took part in a cooking challenge, which they all also enjoyed. It was the precursor to the final act, where students made a dessert. Participating in the Chocolate Fun Factory, students were taught how to make lovely (and delicious) chocolate truffles. While I am sad to say I wasn’t there to try them, I’m certain that they were great!

So you see, dear Reader, it was really quite an exciting week for the High School students. Stay tuned in for next week’s blog post about our other High School students’ adventure in Nicaragua with Waves of Hope.

Till next time!

Survey Results: Educational Expectations and Opinion of Teachers

Survey Results: Educational Expectations and Opinion of Teachers

Educational Research

Hello Readers,

As promised, I am going to have today’s blog post be about the results of the Teachers Opinion survey. Like in my  previous post about the Student Opinion results, this survey reflects how individuals, in particular Educators,  feel about their experiences within the Educational system. Overall, the survey asked for the opinions on varying subject matter and included a mixture of both male and females teachers with an age range of 25 to 50. So let’s get started shall we?

http://joshsherin.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/self_improvement.jpg

http://joshsherin.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/self_improvement.jpg

Teachers do indeed want to see their students prosper, especially when it comes to their students’ future career path. Similar to the opinions of the students, there was a strong agreement that Education should be a tool for career preparation. However, teachers felt more strongly that Education should also be a place where one can develop intellectually (83.3%) and foster self improvement (66.3%). In fact, 60% agreed that Educational institutions should spend more time and resources assessing and addressing each student’s needs. This paralleled the agreement that there needs to me more classroom aids.

All agreed there should be greater communication between parents and themselves regarding the child’s learning development as well as greater communication between parents and child to reinforce their efforts as Educators. It is, however a very careful line to tread for parents when getting involved with their child’s education and teachers do recognize this. One reported that, “As an educator, I found that parents who where actively involved in their child’s education performed better at school. However, the parents should not be so involved that they become a hindrance to their child’s education. I have also believed that both parents and educator should be scaffolds for the children.” So you see, there needs to be a healthy balance between all three participants for the child to grown and prosper in their school environment.

Neurofeedback training for ADHD

An example of how The Study Academy implements research into our school!

Educators who took the survey all felt that they should only be educated in the field, but  also agreed that schools should be completing research in the classroom as another way of providing an enriching educational environment for students. However, while there was agreement that schools should be implementing new research findings into teachings, there was still 17% that disagreed with this.  One possible explanation of this can be found in the response of one of the survey participants: “I agree schools should be implementing new research findings into teaching practice. However, teachers need to be properly in-serviced to implement these new practices. Too many times, teachers are left on their own with insufficient training to interpret new findings.  As a result, these practices fall to the wayside because the teachers were not properly prepared.” So in this way, research can indeed be useful,  but must be carefully implemented to ensure the best possible outcome.

Overall I hope these results have given you, my readers, a good perception of how Educators truly feel about the current Educational System. Perhaps some of the results even gave you a pleasant surprise? Well. I certainly tip my hat off to these diligent individuals who serve future generations through their guidance and instruction. Don’t you?

 

The Study Academy Lab Campaign : Turning Science into Smarts

The Study Academy Lab Campaign : Turning Science into Smarts

Educational Research High School Middle School

Hello Readers,

I also wanted to mention to you all the exciting news about The Study Academy Lab’s campaign to build the first Canadian K-12 Educational Research Lab! In an interview with Principle Jason Krell, he states that “there has been some considerable work going on to initiate funding for not just research activities, but for a fully operational lab at The Study Academy.”

Neurfeedback training for ADHDWell, today they have launched their campaign with an Indiegogo crowd-funding platform and an additional video to communicate their vision (http://vimeo.com/69015735) .The footage was taken by Vlad Lunin (http://vladlunin.com/)  at the school and is a mixture of the old and new; old in the images of the building and in the personal interaction between student and teacher, and new in the implementation of novel and groundbreaking technologies (Neurofeedback headsets in school).

The video conveys The Study’ Academy’s Lab’s motto of turning “Science into Smarts”. The lab will work on the premise that change in Education must be recognized from the grass-root level, with the emergence of empirical evidence. In fact, it is the Study Academy’s vision to develop such empirical evidence with tools and methods for training wisdom through developing cognition, training attention, and goal setting.

The three main goals of the lab are

  1. To bridge the gap between research and pedagogy which the public and private school systems have ignored. We will be researching methods and tools that will augment traditional learning processes and replace worn out teaching models.
  2. To give students the ability to better use their brains to allow for more effective learning. In other words, we want to train students to intelligently use their intelligence.
  3. To design tools and better implement technology that will train students’ attention, problem solving abilities, thinking and rationality. In essence, we want students to gain not only knowledge but wisdom as well.

The research lab will offer an unprecedented opportunity to work with existing basic research findings from the fields of Cognitive Science, Psychology and Neuroscience and to generate and test hypotheses in the classroom.

Also,w e have a great team to head this growing research lab, including Patrick K Dolecki as the Research Coordinator, Jason Krell, John Vervaeke  (http://www.newcollege.utoronto.ca/academics/new-college-academic-programs/buddhism-psychology-and-mental-health/centre-for-buddhism-and-psychology/the-buddhism-psychology-mental-health-program/faculty/dr-john-vervaeke/), a University of Toronto Professor and our Research Advisor and Anderson Todd as our Creative Advisor. They have all been working hard to create this facility from the ground up!

John Vervake giving a talk about Mindfulness Meditation at a Ted Talk at U of T

That is why we need your help, Readers. Through the website Indiegogo, The Study Academy hopes to raise money that will assist their researching and designing projects.The funding will contribute to such things as providing wages for the research team, pay for a 3D printer, new hardware (including neurofeedback, headsets, eye tracking devices and motion detection cameras), cloud back up services to secure data, software and a small business server to handle such lab software.

The Study Academy Lab will be of great interest to a rather wide audience including families of school aged children who have an interest in new educational model that will empower their children and prepare them for the careers and independence that await them; to educators and school administrators who support the need for the educational reform and progressive and evidence based teaching methods; and to students who have an interest in participating in learning activities directed towards their specific profile.

Thus, it is the hope of The Study Academy to join the conversation of what education “should be” and how it will reform in the coming years. Here at The Study Academy  “we not only want to teach students, we want to make them smarter.” Please help support our cause so we can create a better tomorrow for students. They deserve it.

Fun Times at The Study Academy’s Brain Camp

Fun Times at The Study Academy’s Brain Camp

Middle School The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

It has certainly been busy these past few days at The Study Academy and I’m here to tell you that there are only more exciting things to come this week. Never a dull moment, eh?  As I had mentioned in an earlier post, children had the option to spend two additional weeks after the end of the school year to engage in creative and educational activities at our Brain Camp. Small classes benefit student learning.

I was able to contact the head teacher of Brain Camp, Meghan Patrick, to discuss what has been going on at camp so far. I was told that In the morning the students engaged in collaborative story writing activities and practiced parts of speech with mad lib games on the smart board. This was intended to ensure that the students got their “creative juices”, so to speak, flowing for the rest of the day; however one must also recognize this was an excellent way to assist the children in expanding their diction and structure.

butterfliesThe students also have started all afternoons with collaborative drama games. This week, students gathered round in a circle in the gymnasium and acted out assigned characters or scenes on their own or with a partner chosen by their teacher. The intention behind this activity was so that students could continue to work on their communication skills, especially in non verbal areas of communication.

Students also practiced a bit of video game creation that focused on creating shorelines based on earlier lessons on Medieval times and ancient Egypt. This had been possibly the most exciting part of the day for the kids, as they put their knowledge towards a fun and tangible goal. As Brain Camp will be ending off this week, the teachers have arranged a wonderful  trip for the students to the Ontario Science centre to check out the IMAX movie, “Flight of the Butterflies”(http://www.si.edu/Imax/movie/71). As you can tell the students coming to The Study for this final week of Brain Camp are really going to be having fun right to the end!