Each school year begins with a guided ‘odyssey’ trip, a trip that takes the class of Grades 7, 8 and 9 away from the school and out onto the land for about nine days. For example, on the Northern Lights’ odyssey trip, students leave on the first day of school and travel by bus, train and canoe to the Native Cree Community of Moosonee/Moose Factory on James Bay.
Each year there is a different Odyssey trip so that the experience is new for returning as well as new students. Each adventure sets the tone for what is to come in the classroom, and is a key learning and bonding experience that students cherish for a lifetime. Odyssey trips allow students to physically and mentally challenge themselves, in a safe way, as they bond together as a community.
Through concrete experience the trips introduce students to the physical geography that forms our land, the experiences of those who lived, explored and developed our country, and the reality of life for Canadians in different communities than their own. When the students return to the classroom, the Odyssey trip informs and animates the academics throughout the year.
Odyssey Trip (September 2015)
Cooking Lunch for Themselves
Student cooking teams are responsible for following a budget, sourcing recipes, and grocery shopping in order to provide the class community with a well-balanced, nutritional lunch three times a week.. The students carry out the entire preparation, service and clean-up of the meal.
Each year students work in groups to develop a small business for their group such as baking and selling breads. Through this activity students create items of real value which they can exchange for real money, learning about entrepreneurship, production and exchange. Students take responsibility for all aspects of their business which provides countless opportunities for learning. This experience is essential to the development of self- reliance and economic independence in the adolescent but also meets the requirements of the Grade 9 Business course.
Regular seminars provide the students with the opportunity to read articles on a variety of subjects and come together to share their perspectives, engage in discussion to further their understanding, and develop the ability to participate in group settings.
Weekly meetings provide students with the opportunity to review what the group achieved in the previous week. “Thank yous” are expressed and favourite moments are reflected on. This is also an opportunity wherein the students can identify any needs of the community and arrive at agreed upon solutions.
The e1 students work with the faculty to find appropriate community service opportunities. Junior High students work together on community service projects such as raking leaves for neighbours, harvesting crops for the food bank or delivering Christmas packages to seniors.
The Physical Education Program
The Physical Education Program at The Element is focused on adolescents’ interests and includes a range of individual, team and competitive activities. The guiding principles of the physical education program at The Element are:
• Development of the individual student’s fitness level
• Skill development
• Instruction by experts and professionals
• Exposure to a variety of sports and activities
• Student input
The program is comprised of a variety of units each with their own focus. During each unit, students have the opportunity to learn and hone a variety of skills and techniques in regards to a specific sport or activity. In addition to classes taught in or around The Element’s campus, students often learn from experts or professionals in the specific field. For example, during the “badminton unit”, Kenny Yuen, the Head Coach for the University of Ottawa Badminton Team and practising athlete sponsored by Adidas, came to teach our students some of the technical aspects of the sport.
The Great Lawn and the Aberdeen Pavilion are excellent and picturesque venues for our Spring and and Fall activities, including badminton, soccer and ultimate frisbee. During the winter, students participate in a personal fitness unit. The personal fitness unit involves working with a certified personal trainer at Glebe Fitness, dance instructor and trainer at KV Dance Studio and a yoga instructor. The students, with the guidance of professionals, are tasked to develop their own personal fitness plan, dance, yoga and personal training expose our students to a variety of means of reaching their personal fitness goals.In addition to these units, students often create clubs and teams based on their interests. For example, many students at The Element are passionate about volleyball and as a result, they have chosen to practise their volleyball skills for the majority of the school year. Currently, students are practising twice a week before school at the OMS Montessori gym. Students will have the opportunity to put their skills to the test when they participate in the Ottawa Independent Schools Athletic Association (OISAA) season once it begins at the end of February. Students at The Element also participate in other OISAA tournaments based on their interest and skills.
The Element also encourages daily activity and being in Lansdowne Park provides many opportunities to be physically active throughout the day. Students often use the skateboard park, basketball courts, skating rink (and canal) and toboggan hill during their daily lunchtime recess.
The arts are a critical venue for adolescents to process their experiences and development. Adolescents are highly expressive when provided a safe environment and professional mentors. At The Element, a variety of arts are available to the students based on their interests. The interdisciplinary nature of The Element, as well as its flexibility, allows students to integrate the arts into their other courses.
Students participate in an intensive five-week dramatic study. This annual session culminates in a 40 to 60 minute theatrical production with matinee and evening performances. Working with a professional director, all students learn lines and practice staging. Students are also responsible for all the technical aspects of the production. In groups, they develop the sets, props, lighting and sound, costumes, publicity and programs.
Students participate in a weekly guitar lesson with a professional musician. The lessons are broken into four different levels – beginner, intermediate, intermediate-advanced and advanced. Students have additional time to practise the guitar during their Independent Work Periods so it is common to see a group of 3 or 4 students playing guitar in a “cabin”. This makes for great background music!
Music is also an integrated part of the program. For example, students often use their musical skills to enhance the annual theatrical production (see below).
Art is integrated into the six e1 sessions in different ways. We often teach students about culture through art. For example, during the Asian unit of study, students participate in an oriental painting and calligraphy workshop led by a professional artist. In the African unit of study, they work with an artist from Sudan, who specialized in masks and acrylic painting.
In addition to participating in formal art workshops that complement a session, art is used to enhance math and sciences throughout the year. For examples, students will be asked to design and build an art piece inspired by 3D geometry or create a 3D cell model.
At The Element, we see music, drama and art as an integral part of the day and we encourage students to explore their individual areas of interest.