Tag Archives: Canadian independent school

The Gift of a Ridley Education

The story of Ben Johnson ’17 is that of a young man whose challenges seemed insurmountable – until the kindness of a stranger and the gift of a Ridley College education changed the course of his life.

Ben always enjoyed a love of learning and possessed an innate mastery of science, but prior to Ridley, he did not have a nurturing community that would allow him to excel. After years of struggling to overcome challenges, Ben came to a critical juncture in his Grade 11 year, when he was moved to an emergency shelter.

At the shelter, he found it difficult to focus on his studies while dealing with the challenging circumstances of his personal life. In spite of the hardships he was faced with, he recognized he had to persevere and pursue his dreams. With the caring guidance of his godmother, Ben’s grades skyrocketed. Encouraged by this scholastic success, he began to explore the possibilities available to him after high school.

Ben’s drive and determination did not go unnoticed. Julia Bertollo, former Director of Summer Programmes, invited Ben to attend Ridley’s Summer Academy – which included his tuition and board. While studying during the summer, he learned more than just Grade 12 chemistry. He discovered the importance of independent living. At the same time, he took advantage of Ridley’s music department and practiced his co-curricular skills.

While Ben’s talents flourished that summer, an anonymous donor took notice and decided to fund Ben’s final year of high school at Ridley. This generous gift allowed him to attend a school where he could continue to thrive, with the anticipation of continuing to university.

While in Grade 12 at Ridley, Ben embraced the vast opportunities given to him. He became an editor for the TigerPost, Ridley’s student-run publication and was a valued member of the film club, writing the score and recording music for a student film. He immersed himself in the arts, which enabled him to experience the positive influence creativity has on one’s academic achievements.

Ben viewed his academic success as a personal responsibility and took his education very seriously. “As someone who has the desire to make the most out of an education, Ridley was an exceptional place for me to study,” says Ben. Although he was at Ridley for only one year, he ensured that he absorbed as much experiential and academic knowledge as he possibly could. He loved that he was able to incorporate his personal interests into all his classes and personalize his education.

“My Ridley experience was very well-balanced, proving to be encouraging, both on a personal and academic level. My classes were all intriguing, as they expanded on the material in a way that allowed me to discover the various areas of what I personally liked about the subject at hand. My classes, in particular, were mainly in the sciences, however, I frequently took opportunities to bridge together different disciplines in a way that was of my personal interest. I also appreciated the challenges: the workload was demanding, but it was only for the benefit of my education, as it fostered important time management skills and efficient study habits that I know will be necessary for lifelong success.” – Ben Johnson ’17

Ben was the recipient of three scholarships by the time he graduated Ridley. The first was the Brock Niagara Principal’s Scholarship, which he was awarded alongside fellow Old Ridleian, David Biggar ’17. This award is presented to students in the area that demonstrate exceptional academic results as well as a dedication to community service. Not long after, Ben was awarded Ridley’s Robert J. Malyk Prize for Biology. “I was able to meet Bob in person and thank him; he generously funds this annual scholarship to those who share his passion of Life Sciences and hold significant potential in their scientific careers,” says Ben. Most recently, he was the recipient of the PenFinancial Scholarship after he submitted a moving video that expresses the obstacles he’s overcome and the goals he hopes to reach.

This past September, Ben began his post-secondary journey at Brock University in Neuroscience, with a focus on Neurocomputing. While he has only just begun his programme, he is setting his sights on the future. “Main career pathways are research or medicine. Both interest me, however, I am currently aiming for medical school following my undergraduate programme,” declares Ben.

“[At Ridley] I had the opportunity to experience a wider scope of an education. I find this translates effectively to the university environment, as not only am I already engaging in clubs and activities on campus, but a broader skill set makes me able to make deeper connections with the new people I meet.” – Ben Johnson ’17

As a student who embraced all that Ridley had to offer and didn’t take this opportunity for granted, Ben says this: “My advice is to embrace your opportunities. You are in a position that can bring you to great success if you put in the effort. There are others in this world who do not have the same opportunities, so always be thankful. The main way to show appreciation of your opportunities is to make the most out of them, which means putting in blood, sweat and tears. But at the same time, don’t forget to take a moment and enjoy the blessings that you have, for it will help you stay motivated.”

It is hoped that Ben’s story is an inspiration, demonstrating how acts of kindness can powerfully transform the lives of talented youth.

Donate now to enable more bright minds to unlock their potential at Ridley.

Flourishing Lives through the Arts

By Duane Nickerson | Director of the Arts

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

The arts are different. Unlike most activities, the product of art activity is not useful. Art does not feed us or make our lives more comfortable. It seems the very nature of art is to be without practical use. So why is it that evidence of art making through music and painting pre-dates the invention of writing by over 30,000 years? Why is it that art making traditions have existed in all human cultures throughout history? Just what is it about this activity that compels us to invest time and energy making it, consuming it and storing it in museums?

Picasso touches upon the answer. Art allows us to feel, to sense the wonder and complexity of existence that is ever elusive, that defies encapsulation within language or numbers. Making art is a hard-wired compulsion that can be seen in children who spontaneously make up songs, dance, draw and act out imaginary scenarios. Watch any four-year-old and you will see evidence of this compulsion and the sheer joy that it brings. Children express themselves freely until they move into adolescence and become more self-conscious and invest more time learning the argotic codes required for social standing. Too often the capacities of the artist are left to atrophy as children move through educational institutions that leave behind rigorous arts curricula and thereby denigrate this activity as less important. Children get the message: art is not valued by the adults here so I’ll attend to those things that are valued. The loss of potential is enormous, the capacity for full experience diminished.

At Ridley College, the arts are not left behind.

At Ridley, we aspire to nourish flourishing lives that tap into all facets of our humanity. We aspire to facilitate the full development of the child so that they can reach their maximum potential as productive, creative, happy people. At Ridley, children are exposed to music and art education by specialist teachers beginning in Kindergarten and are able to access increasingly specialized and demanding arts curriculum as they move through the programme into Upper School.

Many of our senior students find that, for them, a flourishing life is one infused with the joy experienced when engaged with art in the studio and on the stage. This joy comes from a state of flow. In a state of flow, a person is fully immersed in an activity because the challenge of the task is matched with their level of competence required to complete the task. As a teacher of visual art, observing students immersed in a state of flow in the studio is one of the most rewarding features of my job. A child who is fully immersed in the process of hands-on creation is a flourishing child.

As Ridley continues to build upon its reputation as a world-class school, its arts programme will grow to facilitate higher levels of performance and deeper engagement. The tools that we use to make art are also expanding to include a wide array of electronic media. More than ever, cultural industries are emerging to encompass large swaths of economic activity in an increasingly automated world. Thus, in the arts, we are also preparing children for rewarding careers as well as ensuring that they keep in their lives the joy and fulfillment that comes from engaging with the arts.

For all of us throughout our lives, we are faced with the task of building identity and generating meaning. Throughout history, the arts have played a vital role facilitating meaning making and affirming cultural identity. Beyond developing artists’ capacities, Ridley’s role as a school is to ensure that its students move on to adulthood with a deep-seated appreciation for the value of art in their lives. If Ridley can do this, it has done its part in ensuring our culture and civilization will continue to nourish our humanity and thereby make the world a better place.

Students Venture to Winnipeg for Speaking Arts Competition

By Paul O’Rourke | Assistant Head of Lower School & IB MYP Programme Coordinator

Ridley participated in the annual International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Competition co-hosted by the Gray Academy and Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nearly 150 students from over 40 teams throughout the globe were involved in this unique event that features a wide range of the speaking arts- debate, drama, and public speaking. Schools from Canada, the U.S.A., Bermuda, Korea, Peru, Scotland, England, Hong Kong, India and South Africa competed in a five-day tournament that brought together some of the best high school debaters and public speakers in the world.

Each participant selected three events from various categories that included: persuasive, after-dinner, and impromptu speaking; parliamentary and cross-examination debate; dramatic interpretation, interpretive reading, and radio newscast. Ridley was ably represented by returning junior, Bart Skala ’19 along with first time competitors Faraday Kenny ’18 and Rahul Walia ’19. Bart excelled in parliamentary debate and after-dinner speaking, reaching the finals of parliamentary debating, and narrowly missing the finals in the latter event. Newcomer Faraday Kenny competed successfully in persuasive speaking, interpretive reading, and parliamentary debating. Her speech on whether kneeling for the national anthem is un-patriotic was both topical and informative. Rahul Walia earned strong marks for his performances in impromptu speaking and persuasive speaking, in addition to good parliamentary debate rounds.

While in Winnipeg, all competitors enjoyed the unique experience of visiting the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It was a fitting place for the top debaters and speakers to spend an afternoon exploring this spectacular venue in the heart of the city. The school venues were unique as well, situated as they each are on First Nations and Metis Treaty One lands. Organizers and hosts underscored this unique historical fact whenever possible.

The closing banquet was held at the Shaary Zadek Synagogue on the bank of the Assiniboine River, again underscoring Winnipeg’s diverse roots. Although Ridley did not claim any of the individual or team awards, each student demonstrated growth and progress throughout the tournament.  All students are congratulated and thanked for their outstanding efforts and contributions.

Ahead next on the debate calendar is the National Qualifier at Country Day School on November 21- a tournament that involves both debate and public speaking – followed by the Fulford Cup hosted by Maclachlan College on November 25.

New students are always welcomed at this activity that meets Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in room 203 of Lower School.

Adding Grit To A Positive Education

One of the advantages of a Ridley education is that the experience of being a student is about more than passing tests and meeting standards. In recent years, researchers have identified predictors of success as well as keys to living a satisfying, happy life and this is something our school consciously enacts.

At Ridley, we are infusing the best of this research – centred on grit and flow – into a Ridley education to help instill in our students the lifelong habits they need to flourish in our global community.

The concept of grit is one aspect of Positive Education that Ridley has incorporated into school culture. Grit is defined as the tendency of a person to sustain interest and effort in pursuing long-term goals. Grit allows people to pursue challenges over the course of years.

In her groundbreaking research, Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Psychology and MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellow, determined that passion, perseverance, and stamina outweigh IQ as a predictor of success. In other words, grit is the key to lifelong success.

“Educational policy has not yet taken adequate note of the whole child. Kids are not just their IQ or standardized test scores. It matters whether or not they show up, how hard they work,” says Duckworth, in an interview with the Washington Post. Duckworth has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Ridley encourages students to discover and pursue their passions and equips them with the capacity and determination to persevere through challenges, risk failure, and develop grit and resilience, while creating a supportive culture that allows students to face adversity in a positive and engaging environment. Accomplishment and engagement are essential elements of a flourishing life, and both can be fostered through conscious effort, grit is a fundamental element for achievement.

“The importance of the environment is two-fold. It’s not just that you need opportunity in order to benefit from grit. It’s also that the environments our children grow up in profoundly influence their grit and every other aspect of their character.”     – Angela Duckworth

Duckworth’s research began by searching for an answer as to why some people succeed while others do not. Being ‘gritty’ means consciously deciding to push forward in the face of adversity, failure, and physical or emotional pain, without knowing when the adversity will be over.

“One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t,” explains Duckworth. “Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.”

Self-control and grit are often confused, says Duckworth in her research, while they are related there are key differences. Grit allows people to pursue challenges over the course of years, while self-control, helps to maintain focus, in the face of distraction, in the pursuit of those goals.

The concept of grit has been around for some time. In 1889, the year Ridley was founded, Dr. Francis Galton reviewed the biographies of eminent individuals, throughout history and concluded that success resulted from intellect combined with “zeal” and the “capacity for hard labour”. The modern study of grit continues in examining single-minded perseverance over the very long-term.

“I believe grit will for many adolescents be more evident in activities pursued outside of the classroom–in the school play, on the football field, in the school orchestra, in community service, and so on.” – Angela Duckworth

At Ridley we are empowering our students to do more themselves, by increasing opportunities for Ridleians to play an active role in their school communities so that they can gain the necessary habits, skills, and practice to lay the foundation for flourishing lives.

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. Ridley will continue to review the latest research in education for new ideas to ensure we are a leader and innovator in molding the minds and lives of our students.

Student Filmmakers Ready for the Red Carpet

On April 19th, the lights will go down in the Mandeville Theatre, for the 9th annual Ridley Independent Film Festival (RIFF). This festival showcases an array of films made by Grade 11 and 12 Film Studies students.

Eleven student films will be screened; ranging in genre from comedy to horror. The entire festival – not just the films – is a student initiative. “They are involved in every aspect of the festival,” says Ms. Danielle Barranca, the Film Studies teacher. The students coordinate the gala, write scripts, host, and produce programmes.

Seeing their work on the big screen is one of the highlights of the course. “I think it’s the moment you see your ideas on the screen,” says Amelia Ritchie ’17. Her film Meaning, is a coming-of-age drama about two kids who meet at a driver’s education course and challenge each other to discover the meaning of life.

RIFF, like many film festivals, will feature a red carpet for the student directors, actors and writers to walk down, while being cheered on by friends, family and fans. “It’s a chance to be the star on the red carpet,” says Ms. Barranca.

The student produced films are the largest project of the year, worth 50 percent of the final grade. Students spent the year learning about films, techniques, writing, editing and everything they need to make a film. “I like being able to create something from beginning to end,” says James William Gross ’17. “Being able to make whatever you want.”

His film Smart Casual, is about how people interpret socio-cultural norms and breaking them down. “It takes a lot of interpretation to understand,” says James, who plans on studying film in university.

Before filming begins, students must submit their proposals, write their own scripts, create storyboards and have a detailed filming schedule. The students often spend many hours filming and editing to have their films ready for RIFF.

“It becomes more interesting every year because of technology. The technology has allowed it to come a long way in terms of the quality, polish, and effects that students have access to.” – Danielle Barranca, Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Through filmmaking, students can pursue their creativity and self-expression, while problem solving and persevering through the myriad of challenges that come with making a film. RIFF continues to gain momentum, with an audience of alumni, parents and guest filmmakers growing in size, waiting to see the latest student creations on the big screen.

We invite all members of the Ridley community to come and enjoy this free event, that takes the audience on a visual and dramatic journey. Join us on April 19th at 7:00 p.m. in the Mandeville Theatre.

For now, enjoy a few of this year’s trailers:

Watch trailers on Youtube.

Top 10 March Break Trip Experiences

During the 2017 March break, six groups of Ridley students embarked on life-changing trips around the globe. With many adventures and memorable stories, it was almost too hard to limit the list of amazing experiences to just ten.

1. Bonding with the talented students of the Jacaranda School in Malawi through music lessons and theatre.

2. Putting the finishing touches on the Centre of Hope – a school for special needs children, that Ridley Students helped build in El Progreso, Guatemala.

3. Earning scuba diving certification at Sodwana Bay – South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Visiting the Vimy Memorial in France just before the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

5. Rowing with the Canadian National Team, who were training at Shawnigan Lake, in British Columbia.

6. The Days for Girls group presenting 50 feminine hygiene kits to girls in Malawi. Having worked tirelessly, for weeks, to prepare the hand-sewn packages.

7. Climbing one of El Salvador’s highest peaks, the Santa Ana Volcano.

8. Experiencing a mock elephant charge at Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa.

9. Attending the Last Post Ceremony, at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, which has been held every night since 1928.

10. Visiting with Old Ridleian, Gaby Florigo de Luna ‘99, in Guatemala.

Ridley Exploring Mindfulness as Part of a Positive Education

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development, to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. For this reason, our school was an early adopter amongst independent schools, embracing positive education as a fundamental approach to learning.

Being on the leading edge of positive education means continuing to explore new ideas and research as it becomes available. This semester, the students of Lower School have been part of a pilot programme to evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on students. The programme developed by Jacqueline Oscvirk, creator of The Mindful Family, involves students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 practicing mindfulness twice weekly.

Mindfulness meditation focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of the past or future. It is a way to calm the mind and develop clarity, calmness, empathy, and positivity.

Within educational systems, mindfulness has shown an improvement in students’ attention and focus, emotional regulation, creativity, as well as problem solving skills. Studies have shown youth benefit from learning mindfulness, in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being. These benefits may lead to long-term improvements in life.

“Our intention is to equip all of our Lower School students with the tools to overcome everyday challenges.” – Hanna Kidd, Lower School Counsellor

There is substantial evidence that skills which increase resilience, positive emotion, engagement, and meaning can be taught to school children. In this way, without compromising either, Ridley teaches both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement.

“It’s another tool for teachers to use,” says Hanna Kidd. The Grade 7 and 8 students will begin their mindfulness training in early April, with the goal of using mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety as they prepare for exams.

Ridley is incorporating the latest research in positive education from around the world. Discoveries such as gritthe ability to persevere through challengesby Dr. Angela Duckworth, and flowthe ability to become immersed in a challenging taskby Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, have already been added. Based on this science, Ridley equips students to deal with the daily demands of life and learning by creating an environment that:

• Generates positive emotions
• Practices mindfulness
• Builds on strengths not deficits
• Models grit and resilience
• Nurtures positive relationships
• Encourages goal setting and accomplishments
• Fuels our vitality

Ridley students are empowered to embrace their individuality, develop who they are, strive for who they will be, and define the lives they will lead. They develop the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed. They are inspired to acquire the knowledge, explore the truths, and nurture the values that will allow them to lead flourishing lives.