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Ridley Becomes the First Visible Wellbeing™ School in North America

Three years following the launch of our Strategic Plan, Ridley is confidently enacting our mission to inspire flourishing lives in a novel and intentional way. Recently, our school launched an exciting two-year partnership with Professor Lea Waters (PhD), a leading researcher and global expert in the field of positive psychology – making Ridley the first Visible Wellbeing TM Foundational School in North America.

Developing well-rounded individuals has been a focus at Ridley for over a century, however, over the past five years we have deliberately and consciously applied the science behind positive education – the notion of improving students’ emotional, psychological and physical well-being in order to help them flourish in the classroom and in their lives.

In 2012 Ridley began to effect applied positive psychology methodologies, such as Martin Seligman’s PERMA-V model, which breaks down the core elements of psychological well-being and happiness. Since then, our faculty has been participating in professional development, becoming deeply familiar with key frameworks and integrating them into their classrooms, on the sports field, within the boarding houses and even in their own lives. Today, it would not be out of the ordinary for one to walk into the Grade 3 class to witness mindfulness breathing exercises taking place, or to hear students at the lunch table talking about their top character strengths.

With this school-wide exposure to positive psychology, the introduction of a dedicated Upper School Counselor and the PERMA-V model being adopted by faculty and Ridleians alike, it became clear that Ridley was quickly becoming a leader in positive education within North American schools. It was with this realization that we decided to embark upon a fundraising effort to bring a world-class expert in this field to Ridley. With the support of our generous community, Ridley successfully raised more than $100,000 towards a ‘Positive Education Fellowship’ during the 2016-17 Annual Fund campaign.

The search for the most suitable positive psychology expert, who would advance our school’s mission, led Ridley straight to Professor Lea Waters.

    

Although she playfully refers to herself as a “pracademic,” Professor Lea Waters is more formally a psychologist, researcher, author and facilitator who specializes in positive education, positive parenting, and positive organizations.  She is the Founding Director of Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Melbourne – where she has also published over 90 scientific articles and book chapters in 21 years. Professor Waters is the President of the International Positive Psychology Association, has affiliate positions with Cambridge University and the University of Michigan and is the Ambassador for the Positive Education Schools Association.

Among her many contributions to the field, the multi-award winning research professor has designed and developed a framework known as Visible WellbeingTM (VWB), which is an approach that combines the science of well-being with the science of learning and teaching to make well-being visible in all classes and across co-curricula. Over the next two years, Professor Waters will bring her scientifically-grounded techniques in VWB to Ridley, which will enable teachers to use the learning process itself as a delivery mechanism to build student well-being. Unlike some rigid curriculum, VWB is a flexible approach which can be applied in a trans-disciplinary manner across all grades and amongst faculty and staff. With the VWB approach, academic learning and well-being are truly integrated and produce a positive feedback cycle.

Professor Waters’ drive to develop the VWB approach was in reaction to staggering global rates of teen depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide. According to the World Health Organization, 10 to 20 percent of children and adolescents experience mental disorders worldwide. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death amongst 15 to 19-year-olds. Ridley responds to this teenage need for support, explains Head of Upper School, Michele Bett, “At Ridley, we believe a child’s physical and emotional, psychological well-being will underpin everything they do – not just in school, but beyond school.”

To launch VWB at Ridley, Professor Waters recently spent two days facilitating faculty and staff workshops. During these dynamic sessions, she introduced concepts such as the SEARCH Framework, which helps identify character strengths, as well as delivery methods and measurement techniques for VWB. Professor Waters also shared why she was keen to partner with Ridley. “What made me feel that [Ridley] would do well by Visible Wellbeing is that I know that the intention of Ridley is truly and genuinely to make flourishing lives. It’s not just a statement on a document…The school has the right structure, it has the right people, it has the right ethos…From an organizational psychology perspective it ticks all the checklist of organizational readiness for change,” says Waters.

Professor Lea Waters facilitating Visible WellbeingTM workshops with faculty and staff.

“I truly feel that the adoption of Professor Waters’ Visible Wellbeing approach and positive education expertise will provide the exact direction, resources and consistent language that our community requires to forge ahead as the trailblazer for positive education in Canada…and North America for that matter,” remarked Headmaster, Ed Kidd. Ridley looks forwards to enhancing the student experience through this ongoing VWB initiative and to sharing our outcomes with other schools around the world.

Ridley faculty show off their copies of The Strength Switch by Professor Lea Waters (PhD), the selection for this past summer’s professional development reading.

“This is a world-class school to take on this new innovation and to marry together the science of learning with the science of well-being to help everyone thrive at the school.” – Professor Lea Waters (PhD)

Celebrating the Arts at Ridley

The arts play an integral role in leading a flourishing life. The opportunity to explore creativity and practice self-expression allows Ridleians to define who they are, gain confidence in their talents, unlock the potential to innovate and contribute to culture. Great importance is placed on this aspect of student development at Ridley. Students are given the opportunity to create in any way they see fit. Ridley offers both academic and extracurricular options to explore music, drama, visual arts, digital arts, design or the spoken word. Students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate programme have a creativity element integrated into their curriculum as well.

In support of this approach, Ridley recently hosted Arts in April. This series of events captured all aspect of arts on campus. Members of the Ridley community were encouraged to attend and engage with our talented musicians, performers, artists and film makers.

Visual Art Showcase

Arts in April began with a visual art exhibition at Brock University’s Rodman Hall. The Visual Art Showcase allowed our Grades 7 to 11 students to display their artistic works in a public art gallery. The exhibition held its opening night on April 6th, with Headmaster, Ed Kidd sharing his excitement for the partnership between Brock University and Ridley. For the remainder of the evening, members of the community, Brock and Ridley perused the collection, speaking with the artists and admiring the wonderful works on display. The exhibition was open to the public until April 16th.

View photos.

IB Graduate Art Exhibition

“The IB art exhibition was an unforgettable experience; I was not only able to present and reflect on my works as an artist, but also suspend my belief and dissect them as a viewer.” – Monika Morcous ’17

From April 18th to 20th, the Griffith Gym was home to a large collection of art created by IB Art students. All senior IB student were given a section of the gallery where they could display several of their pieces. The works of art on display for the IB Graduate Art Exhibition were taken from a series of studio works undertaken over the two year IB Visual Art course. These works make up the exhibition component of the course, in which each student is required to generate series of artworks that reflected a specific theme and evidence of mastery using a chosen medium. Students enrolled in the SL (Standard Level) course were required to complete seven works of art and students enrolled in the HL (Higher Level) course needed to complete 11. In addition to the exhibition component of the course, students were required to complete a process portfolio and a comparative study paper. Each display was unique, allowing a glimpse into the artists’ creative process, style and technique. The sheer talent, creativity and focus of our IB Art students was impressive.

View photos.

Ridley Independent Film Festival

On April 19th, a red carpet was rolled out in the Mandeville Theatre for the 9th annual Ridley Independent Film Festival, better known as RIFF. This film festival is entirely student-run and was an opportunity to showcase the creative works of the IB Film Studies students.  Each student group was tasked with creating their own short film, from conception to execution. As each film premiered, it was clear that each student involved – videographer, producer, editor, actor or otherwise – was committed to creating a top-quality short film. For several students, this was the perfect opportunity to build a portfolio and get first-hand experience.

View RIFF films.
View photos from the red carpet.

Celebration of the Arts

On April 25th, the Upper School gathered together for the annual Celebration of the Arts. The event began in the Mandeville Theatre, where Head of Upper School, Michele Bett, inspired students with the trying stories of artists, musicians and performers from throughout the ages.

“Rationality, or thinking with the head, is one half of our human inheritance; the other half is creativity, or thinking with the heart. And I submit that this is the place of the arts, both at Ridley College and in our culture as a whole. The place of the arts is the heart.” – Michele Bett

To follow, students from the Music, Performing Arts and Digital Arts programmes performed pieces for their peers in the audience. Our string musicians played a spectacular piece from Star Wars, followed by a song from Hamilton, the musical. Raylon Chan ’19 rapped alongside them and brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation. A number of IB students showcased their studies during a theatrical piece that told a story through movement. The Jazz Band also performed on stage, after a playfully animated video on the negative effects of climate change. When the spectacular display of performing arts concluded, students reconvened in the Griffith Gym for a visual art exhibition, showcasing the works of both Upper School and Lower School students.

Read Mrs. Bett’s full speech.
View photos.

Upper School Art Awards

To conclude Arts in April, students from Grades 9 to 12 joined in the Mandeville Theatre one last time for the Upper School Art Awards on April 26th. This award ceremony is an opportunity for our students to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of their peers. Interspersed throughout the award presentations were musical and theatrical performances. Faculty members from the Department of Music: Scott Vernon, Clyde Dawson and Ken Hutton joined Anthony Nguyen ’18 on stage for a fantastic musical performance to begin the night. Dramatic Arts students performed scenes from Ridley’s production of The Tempest.  The String Orchestra, Cadet Band and Senior Choir all performed on stage – sharing both classical and modern songs. Finally, audience members were treated solo performances from Petrina Mo ’17, Alessia Guarducci ’18 and Jim Li ’17. To conclude the event, Senior students, Petrina Mo ’17 and Padraic Odesse ’17 spoke of the importance of the arts at Ridley; not only as a means for self-expression, creativity and culture, but also as an opportunity to expand one’s horizons and make connections.

View photos.

While Arts in April may be over, Ridley’s dedication to the arts continue. In May, our youngest Ridleians are showcasing their creative works at the PYP Visual Arts Showcase, followed by a musical performance by the entire Lower School student body.

Adding Flow to a Positive Education

In recent years, researchers have identified predictors of success as well as keys to living a satisfying, happy life. 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 for success in our global community. At Ridley being a student is about more than passing tests and meeting standards, it is about flourishing.

Flow is an optimal psychological state that people experience when engaged in an activity that is appropriately challenging to their skill level, often resulting in immersion and concentrated focus on a task. This can result in deep learning and high levels of personal and work satisfaction.

If you’ve ever heard someone describe a time when their performance excelled and they used the term being “in the zone”, what they are describing is an experience of flow. It occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand are equal.

Flow can be experienced in any task, in any field of activity, including academics, athletics, and the arts. Teachers at Ridley try to understand flow in order to help their students optimize their learning. The experience of flow is universal and it has been reported to occur across different classes, genders, ages, cultures and it can be experienced in many types of activities, making it a perfect tool to incorporate into the multinational learning culture at Ridley.

Flow was first recognized by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist and distinguished professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Inspired by Carl Jung, he has spent more than 25 years researching flow, a state of “intense emotional involvement” and timelessness that comes from immersive and challenging activities. Through his research he found that people were most creative, productive, and often, happiest when they are in this state of flow.

Flow is one of eight mental states that can happen during the learning process, which Csikszentmihalyi outlines in his flow theory. In addition to flow, these mental states include anxiety, apathy, arousal, boredom, control, relaxation, and worry.

Flow is the optimal state for learning, as it is where skill level and challenge level of a task are at their highest. This creates an opportunity for learning and intense focus, where learners can even feel that they lose track of time because they are so immersed in the task. Flow is a constant balancing act between anxiety, where the difficulty is too high for the person’s skill, and boredom, where the difficulty is too low.

“Inducing flow is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is a dynamic rather than static state, since a properly constructed flow activity leads to increased skill, challenge, and complexity over time. Since skill doesn’t remain static, repeating the same activity would fall into boredom; the flow reward inspires one to face harder and harder challenges, as skill increases.

The experience of flow in everyday life is an important component of creativity and well-being. it is also intrinsically rewarding, the more you practice it, the more you seek to replicate these experiences, which help lead to a fully engaged and happy life.

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is more likely to happen when students find the right balance between the skills they have and the challenge they face. Pursuing this path can enable them to flow, focus, finish, and as a by-product, flourish.

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.

Ridley’s Basketball Future Bright in OSBA

The Ridley First Boys’ basketball season came to a close after a successful first season in the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA), the premier league for prep and sport school basketball in the province. With one of the youngest teams in the league Ridley will continue to develop and train in preparation for next season.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” – Tarry Upshaw, Head Coach of First Boys’ Basketball Team

On April 6th, Ridley lost their OSBA quarter-final game 96-71 against defending champions the Athlete Institute; putting an end to their successful season. Aleksandar Simeunovic ’17, led the team with 31 points in a close fought game—Ridley was within five points of the Institute with six minutes left in the game.

The stacked Athlete Institute’s roster featured seven players already committed to NCAA schools. Ridley was the second youngest team in the league and will have most of its players back for next season.

That youth hasn’t gone unnoticed, as scouts from across North America have come to campus to check out the talented roster. According to Mr. Upshaw, 21 NCAA Division 1 scouts have visited Ridley, schools such as UConn, Vanderbilt, Oregon, and Columbia; while 16 scouts from the CIS have been to the campus.

“We’ve built something special in a short period of time. It’s exciting and it’s only going to get better.” – Tarry Upshaw, Head Coach of First Boys’ Basketball Team

The OSBA, consists of the best prep and sport school basketball programmes in the province, with many of its student athletes going on to play in the NCAA and CIS. Ridley finished sixth overall, in a promising first season in the league.

Ridley’s basketball team previously competed in CISAA and OFSAA, where they won back-to-back championships in both leagues in 2014 and 2015. As the first team to hold both titles simultaneously, it was decided to take the next step for the programmes’ development by joining the OSBA.

Preparation for this level of competition includes daily court sessions, strength training, and active recovery. Training and competition are supported by an experienced coaching staff, Ridley’s athletic therapy and school medical team, a strength and conditioning coach, and other professional instructors.

Ridley qualified for the playoffs by defeating King’s Christian Collegiate in a play-in game 86-66, held in the Griffith Gym. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support of students and faculty,” says Upshaw. Other coaching staff for the team include Michael Bett, Brad Taylor, and Paul De Vellis.

With the season coming to end players will enjoy a short break, before beginning off-season practice and development “We don’t stop,” says Mr. Upshaw. “The sky’s the limit for our team.”

Despite the end of their OSBA season, exciting news has still been circulating for the Tigers, as fellow player, Jaden Bediako ‘18, was chosen to play in the BioSteel All-Canadian All-Star Basketball Game. This marks an impressive accomplishment for both Jaden and Ridley’s basketball programme.

We look forward to seeing our Ridley Tigers back in action in the next school year.

The Value of an Arts Education

This April, Ridley celebrates the arts as a distinct and valuable part of the Ridley educational experience. The various arts events being held across the school represent a wide range of student achievement in Ridley studios and classrooms.

Ridley’s arts programme is designed to inspire students to develop their inner muse by exploring their creativity and skills in drama, music, visual, digital, and spoken arts.

 

“My favorite aspect of the arts is that arts can be anything, regardless of the medium, the subject matter and can be made regardless of time and place. There is no right or wrong in arts and no barrier of entry. Everyone can enjoy the beauty of arts.” Helen Wang ’17

All students at Ridley have the option to work in the studios, perform with an ensemble, act on a stage, and explore their creative talents once the academic day is done. Students learn from faculty members, who are accomplished professionals in their artistic field. In class, students can explore a variety of styles and mediums. Many student produced artworks are prominently on display in hallways throughout the school.

At Ridley arts education has two key roles. The first role of art education is to facilitate the development of fundamental skills that enhance a student’s physical and mental capacity to engage with the myriad of day-to-day tasks that require fine motor skill, creative problem solving, and fluent expression. Through careful study of the auditory and visual world, students also develop heightened sensitivity and awareness.

“Arts is a unique type of education that develops intellectual wealth of a person. It helps me to recognize my personality and to discover my environment. Arts itself might not provide me any knowledge that will explain the fundamentals of this universe (like physics and chemistry), but it enhances my ability to observe and to reflect on the world around me. The creativity part of arts also train me into a better learner, in terms of finding alternative pathways to solve problems.”                              Helen Wang ‘17

The second key role of art education is the development of an awareness of art as an essential component of civilization. Through an array of artistic experiences, students acquire knowledge of the important achievements of artists throughout the ages and across cultures.

“Many people view arts as unnecessary, but in fact it is not. Arts can exist in different ways and is not limited to visual arts. It blends in our life and contributes significantly to the Ridley community,” says Helen. “There are many aspects of life that involves arts, it’s just we don’t often realize these.”

The work of Ridley artists—past and present—can be seen on display all over campus. Through the arts, students gain an understanding of why creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of aesthetic form are fundamental aspects for the foundation of a flourishing life.