History Trip: Germany & Poland

This spring break, some of our Grade 11 and 12 students are visiting Germany and Poland. The aim of this excursion is to support student learning of the history of modern Europe. Read the trip updates below:

DAY ONE 
Kathryn, Gr. 11
After three long flights, we finally landed in Berlin! We first stopped at the hotel to check in our bags, then left to sightsee for the day. We saw lots of famous buildings that were incredibly beautiful. Next, we went to the German History Museum and a huge chocolate store. Lastly, we climbed 267 steps to the top of a cathedral and saw an amazing citywide view. Overall, we had a great but busy, first day in Berlin!

DAY TWO
Megan, Gr. 11
The first thing we did in the morning was eat breakfast at the hotel. We had an awesome view over Berlin and the food was delicious! After breakfast, we visited the Holocaust memorial site which was such an incredibly powerful site with amazing architectural choices. The Holocaust memorial museum was full of personal stories and history. We got to read letters of families, reflect on the war, and our personal lives. We had a chance to get lunch after visiting the museum at a small cafe close to the Berlin wall.

After lunch, we walked to the Berlin wall and our teacher taught us a little bit more of the history behind it and how it would have affected our lives depending on which side of the wall we lived. Following the Berlin wall, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie and down to the train station to take a train to the Stasi Museum. There, we got to see the actual headquarters with a guided tour. They taught us about their technology and methods of spying. Our last stop of the day was the Bundestag, which is the German Parliament. We had a wonderful guided tour of the entire building, including where they do the actual voting. At the end of the tour, we went up to the garden rooftop which had a breathtaking view over the city. Finally, we got back on the train and picked up dinner at the train station and went back to the hotel.

DAY THREE
Julianne, Gr. 12
Good morning! We woke up still in Berlin and headed off to the Pergamon Museum, where we saw elegant antiquities, beautiful Islamic art, and fascinating historical objects from the Middle East. After that, we had a quick (but yummy) lunch near the train station and boarded at around 2:30 pm for our ride to Poznan. It was a very relaxing few hours on board the train, and most of us were able to catch up on a few hours of sleep or stayed awake to socialize or play games.

Once we arrived in Poland, we were introduced to Conrad, Chris, and Veronica (who will help us on our visits to the children later in the week) and were welcomed to Poznan with a warm dinner and a leisurely stroll through the magical town. After checking into our new hotel, we finished off the day by splitting off into two groups according to the children we would be visiting the next day, and wrapped their presents.

DAY FOUR
Jadyn, Gr. 11
After waking up early in Poznań, Poland, we split into two groups taking our luggage and presents with us to visit the kids. Our group visited Damian, Rafał, and Martyna, and we had a lot of fun playing games, getting to know each other, and drawing. We ate dinner pizza for dinner and celebrated Talia’s 17th birthday with cake in Bydgoszcz after wrapping presents.

DAY FIVE
Saphren, Gr. 11
After long car rides filled with scenic views from our window, we spent an excellent day visiting children and delivering presents. Although we had enjoyed our time with all three kids, we had an especially fun time with a 16-year-old boy, where we got to tour around his small town. After visiting the beautiful lake, which was just a five-minute walk from his home, we then walked to their local school, where we met many of his friends and other community members. At the school, the Yorkies spent over an hour playing in a fairly competitive, but incredibly fun match of volleyball against a few of their students. At the end of the day, we met up with the other group of girls who were visiting another group of children to have a tasty pizza dinner. We then settled at our local hotel in Gdansk, Poland and got ready for the next day.

DAY SIX
Taylor T., Gr. 12
Today we are in Gdansk and Malbork. We had breakfast in the hotel and headed out to Malbork Castle. This fortified monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest castle surviving castle in the world, used by the Teutonic Knights. Following this, we went to Westerplatte, the peninsula site of the first battle in the Polish invasion during WWII. After, we went to the Museum of the Second World War, where we were given a thorough and in-depth examination of WWII from its beginnings to its conclusion, and lasting its impacts. After this, we went to dinner which was attended by one of the wish children and her family who we had visited the day before and really connected with. Then we went for a brief walk in the dark around the Gdansk Old Town area and went back to the hotel to wrap presents for the next day’s visits.

DAY SEVEN
Hannah, Gr. 11
Today we began our day in Gdansk and drove to three different children’s homes, making our way to Warsaw. Each of these children have varying terminal illnesses, making visiting them both emotional and rewarding. The first young boy was very shy at first, but was extremely excited by the gifts and warmed up by playing games with us. The next little girl constantly had a smile on her face. She gasped each time she opened a present and was overjoyed to solve a puzzle with us after. Finally, the last little boy we visited was a checkers champ and beat Mr. Cropley in a hard-fought game. All of these visits were so unique and really immersed me into the Polish culture. We have now arrived in Warsaw and are excited for the days ahead!

DAY EIGHT
Taylor S., Gr. 11
We all slept in a bit today which was nice, and our first stop was a military cemetery. While we were there we learned a bit about the Katyn Massacre and details about the people that were buried at this cemetery. Next, we went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum where there was a guided tour. The museum was really nice and there were a lot of authentic props that helped our learning. For lunch, we went to a big mall and also got a bit of free-time to shop as well. Our final destination was this Invisible Exhibition where it was pitch black, and we had to use our listening skills along with our sense of touch to move around which was an incredible experience. Our guide was also blind, so we experienced (almost) the same thing as her. For dinner, we went to a really fancy Italian restaurant where there was a lot of pizza and pasta, then went back to the hotel for an early night.

Category: Senior School
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Head Lines: March 2018

Julie Rousseau on Cultivating Creativity

In my 26 years as an educator, I have seen many educational trends come and go.  Like in many sectors, there will often be the “flavour of the day”. From shifts in school choice to personalized learning to online learning, the educational landscape is constantly evolving. This, for the most part, is a good thing. But one constant in education that I have noticed taking on increasing importance is the need for us to cultivate creativity with our students.

Of course, the focus on foundational literacies and academics continue to be of significant importance but cultivating creativity in all aspects of the curriculum is key to the success of our Yorkies as they prepare for future careers.

In this popular Ted Talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the powerful point that students leaving our classrooms and universities will be entering a workforce that none of us can visualize. Learning a narrow or specific skill set no longer has the value in today’s world that it once did. With increasing use of technology and globalization, the tasks and jobs that once were held in the hands and minds of humans are increasingly being taken over by automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. As such, it is important for us to recognize that creativity is what will distinguish humans from automation and augmented intelligence and why creativity is a skill and disposition that will be highly valuable in the future workforce. This trend toward valuing creativity goes beyond the “innovation” buzzword that we often see. In fact, a 2010 survey of over 1500 executives found that creativity is valued as one of the most important skills of the modern world. This article, by Anthony Wood, further solidifies that creativity is the engine of progress in our modern society.

So what does this mean for the learning environment we wish to create for our Yorkies? It means that we need to see our students’ creative capacities for the richness that they are. At York House, our teachers continually seek to empower our girls to engage in cognitive, social and/or physical learning experiences that allow them to develop their creativity. On a daily basis, our girls are encouraged to:

  • Generate ideas: We encourage our girls to keep generating ideas through graphic organizers, mind maps, and a plethora of reflective activities.
  • Continually Review: We encourage girls to draft and redraft an idea, concept, solution, or product from varying perspectives such as audience and cultural viewpoints.
  • Dialogue: Our Yorkies participate in structured conversations where dialogue with reflection can lead to new ideas. This year we have introduced the Harkness approach to dialogue in our English classes at the Senior School.
  • Make mistakes through trial and error. Finding issues or problems is a great opportunity to see a new approach or design something better.
  • Give things time. Providing an opportunity for ideas to percolate for some time is a great way to return to creative work with a fresh perspective. Great work takes time…ask an artist!
  • Keep a work portfolio. Many of our teachers have students keep a journal or workbook where they can sketch out their thoughts and see the progression of their ideas and concepts. This is a great way to make student thinking visible.
  • Research! Yes, research is a way to become more creative. Researching allows students to deepen their knowledge and to find out about new ideas and/or recycle old ideas into new ones.
  • Critiquing work. At all grades levels, we encourage our girls to reflect not only on their work but to provide feedback and suggestions to their peers. This is a great way for students to express their thinking and to also think about their thinking which is what is called, “meta-cognition”.
  • Problem find and problem solve. Whether it occurs in the science lab, math class or sewing class, students are encouraged to find problems and in relation to these, discuss, ideate, prototype and design solutions to these problems.
  • Communicate. Communicating thoughts and ideas in various ways is a great way to express one’s creativity, uniqueness and identity.

Being creative means continually refining these skills and ensuring that we seek to educate the whole child. I am thrilled to invite you to view this video about our Junior School STEAM program which seeks to do just that. Our student response to this type of learning has been overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to expanding these types of experiential learning opportunities at all grade levels. This will require creativity on our part as well as we support the development of this type of learning environment for our students and teachers both in and outside of the classroom.

As we head off for spring break, I hope that you and your daughters will have time to recharge and re-energize. Whether it is on the court, in the classroom, or on a canvas, I am sure we will have many more opportunities to witness our Yorkies’ outstanding creative works during their final term at school.

Sincerely,

Julie

Category: Head Lines
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