The Last Straw: Student Personal ?· Curriculum Connections . The Last Straw: Student Personal Narratives…

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  • Curriculum Connections The Last Straw: Student Personal Narratives

    Narrative excerpts from The Last Straw It took me a few years to come back to reality, but I finally made it. My life is still a puzzle I am trying to put back together. I know that it will work out fine eventually. Until then, I have to keep my head up, and move up, not down any more. I now know that there are second chances and hope for everyone. I definitely hope that others can get something out of my story. Life is better once you try harder.

    About the program The Last Straw is a collection of personal narratives of young women students in a Womens Studies, Health and Fitness Class. The book chronicles the struggles and circumstances that led the students to seek an alternative school setting in which they could build relationships and make connections with each other and their teachers. Prior to disclosure of the narratives, a trusting classroom environment was built through trust exercises, writing activities and physical fitness classes. The collection of stories was published through an on-line publishing company. Each student writer received her own personal copy of the book.

    Impact on student learning and school culture As a safe and supportive learning environment was established, the students felt increasingly respected, accepted and willing to share their stories;

    they clearly valued the processes of writing and publishing. Using the power of story, the students connected with others who had experienced similar challenges and learned that their personal stories were


    Daily physical fitness and journal writing were integral to the students success. The importance of these kinds of activities is also articulated in the ministrys Health and Physical Education curriculum document. Fitness classes were held at a nearby gym. The gym instructors developed positive, empathetic relationships with the students, contributed to a shoe drive and collected workout clothing for the young women. Through these relationships, the students experienced first hand the value and power of community partnerships.

    Participants in the program commented that the bonding and acceptance that took place during class transferred to other situations during breaks

    and outside of school.

    More excerpts from The Last Straw

    Every step you take you are either changing or creating your future. I used to be full of hatred But now I am full of love, I used to be a bad influence But now I am a role model.

    To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contacts: Sue Pidlubny and Mary Beamer (Teachers) Durham Alternative Secondary School Phone: (905) 579-1990 421 Pine Ave Emails: Oshawa, ON L1J 2H9

    School website:

  • Social Action Culture, Dreams, Character: Creating Diversity Shields

    About the program The purpose of creating diversity shields was to show students how their past and present affect their future. Students designed and created shields representative of their heritage and culture in the shape of the universal peace sign. One section represented their cultural backgrounds, the second illustrated their dreams about how they want to make a difference in the world and the third articulated what they need in terms of character to achieve their dreams. Members of the Students Against Racism (STAR)/Kids for Change Club were involved in promoting the diversity shields and encouraged every child in the school to make one. Students shared their ideas with parents and families as they completed the three sections of their shields at home.

    Impact on student learning and school culture Students reflected on how their diverse backgrounds shaped their present and future, as well as how their character could make a difference in their

    present and future. The home component of the project allowed parents and families to reflect on how they could also help the students achieve their dreams. The diversity shields were displayed in hallways throughout the school and demonstrated the diversity of the school community. Some students extended the shields by creating a large one with contributions from a group of students, to show unity and community pride. This activitys celebration of diversity and acceptance complements the goals of the Ministry of Educations Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.

    To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact #1: Elaine Young (Club facilitator/teacher) Dr. Roberta Bondar Public School Phone: (416) 271-6730 25 Sullivan Drive Email: Ajax, ON L1T 3L3 Contact #2: Travis Belrose (Club facilitator/teacher)

    Phone: (905) 686-1080 Email:

    School website:

  • Community Partnerships The Refuge: A Lesson in Teen Homelessness

    About the program Students visited The Refuge, a centre for homeless teens, to participate in a tour of areas frequented by homeless teens and to listen to a multimedia presentation about their regions homelessness issues. Students wrote about the impact of the trip in their journals and related classroom issues to what they learned at The Refuge. The visit inspired the students to run a winter coat and food drive to support the centre. They applied for and were awarded funds to make their charitable efforts for The Refuge a permanent endeavour within both the school and the community.

    Impact on student learning and school culture Staff connected the project to the curriculum by studying books on teen homelessness in English class. Many students shared their experiences of

    their visit to The Refuge and applied their first-hand knowledge to relate to the experiences of the fictional characters they were studying. Students realized how fortunate they were and that homelessness is a real issue for teens in their region. They demonstrated their commitment by

    continuing with the project the next year. Many also began volunteering on their own time. Students realized that the needs of homeless youth do not revolve around holidays and neither should their giving. They were humbled by the

    difference their involvement in the community had made and now organize drives throughout the year, instead of just each winter. Students also encouraged the community to become involved. Some students went door-to-door looking for coats while others announced the coat

    drive in their churches. This raised awareness of teen homelessness throughout the community and benefited The Refuge. Parents talked about the impact the visit had on their children. Many joined staff in the coat and food drive donations and delivery.

    Comments from students [The visit] made me realize how lucky I am, and I am not far from being one of those kids and they arent far from being me. I found it interesting that they dont use paper plates to feed the homeless to show that they care. I never thought of the respect that regular glass plates have.

    To find out more, contact Durham District School Board Contact: Beth Mah (Teacher) Donald A. Wilson Secondary School Phone: (905) 665-5057 681 Rossland Road West Email: Whitby, ON L1P 1Y1 School website:

  • Transitions Reality High School: Passport to Success

    I never knew that I could lead people like that. After that day, seeing that everybody liked what I was doing for a change, just made me want to do it more. So I didnt quit school, and Im graduating this fall.

    Student Leader

    About the program Using a reality show format similar to that of the television show, The Amazing Race, 50 senior students with limited co-curricular involvement at Sinclair Secondary School became student leaders by planning and leading a day of activities in June for incoming September Grade 9 students. Planning was based on research suggesting that when students are involved in extra-curricular activities, they are more likely to attend classes regularly and to be more successful academically. The planning team identified a target group of Grade 8 students who had little or no prior extra-curricular involvement. They developed a marketing plan to attract them to the event with catchy statements such as Would you like to run an obstacle course? Play bungee sports? Sumo wrestle? Well you can! Five activity-based workshops were developed that focused on extra-curricular involvement. Student passports tracked completed activities for over 100 student participants. Post-event surveys indicated that the majority planned to get involved and engaged in their Grade 9 year as they began their secondary education. The senior planning team received funding for the day from the ministrys Student Voice initiative and plans to make the schools Amazing Race an annual event with this years participants as next years leaders.

    Impact on student learning and school culture Student leaders were organized, engaged and proud of the jobs that they were doing, while stu