Sustainable Development for a Better Future

Design_InnovationI’ve always been interested in architecture. When I was little, I used to build houses out of wood, draw floor plans of my room, and play on interior design apps. As I got older, I started watching a lot of HGTV and going around the city taking photos of different buildings.

Last year, I joined Project 2050, a club that focuses on how we as a society can adapt to the environmental and societal impacts that are predicted by the year 2050. I started working on an architectural project on sustainable development and wanted to continue working on it, since it focuses on ensuring a better future. This year, I chose Design and Innovation as my elective. For the first couple of months, we learned how to use different tools in the Fab Lab and got to make a bunch of different things and, in December, we started planning our end-of-year project. Every student in the class has to come up with their own invention or concept and present it in May at the Design Fair. Because I had done a lot of research for my sustainable development project and I was really passionate about it, I decided to use it as my final project. Originally, I wanted to create floor plans and a model of my community. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to have time to do everything that I had planned to do, so I learned how to adapt. I have no idea why, but for some reason, I thought that I would be able to complete a job that takes architects and developers years to do, in the span of five months.

I decided to create a website instead, so I started learning HTML and CSS. I never expected to be learning how to code and I thought that I would probably be using the laser cutter and not much else. Being in Design and Innovation has taught me how to better adapt to situations quickly and how to work more independently. The experience that I’ve gotten so far has been great and has opened the door for so many opportunities.

Besides being in the class and in Project 2050, I’m also lucky enough to be going to San Francisco for a week in June with 10 other LCC students. The purpose of the trip is to meet entrepreneurs, visit the Google and Facebook head offices, and get a better understanding of the evolving tech community. I’m really into law and debating, but because of everything I’ve learned since I started using the Fab Lab, I’m considering going into a more tech-centred job.

Even if you aren’t interested in any of these things, and you’re not a part of any design challenge or club, the Fab Lab is still open to you. If you’re into science, there’s a doctor who is looking for students’ help in making 3D printed prosthetics for his patients. If you really like fashion, there are sewing classes every week in the Lab, there are professionals that come in every once in a while to teach courses, and the Fab Fashion challenge is going on right now. Even if you’re really into art but not that great at using technology, you can help come up with sketches for a public sculpture competition being held in NDG, or you can learn how to use different software to make your sketches a reality. No matter your interest, there’s some type of opportunity available for you in the Fab Lab.

I know you’ve all heard people say that we’re so lucky to have the resources available to us at LCC, but the fact is, that’s true. Because our Fab Lab is part of the International network of Fab Labs, your inventions can get recognized all around the world through Instagram. You might not think that Design and Innovation is for you, but you might be surprised and learn something new, just like I was. – Ella Waxman ’19

Reflections on the Duke of Ed Gold Trip to Colombia

Colombia_HikeOn March 5, 2018, I, along with 31 other students, left Bogotá in search of the Ciudad Perdida. We embarked on a journey that would eventually put our physical and psychological limitations to the test, and allow us to look at ourselves and others in a different light.

Coming from Montreal, or the West in general, we almost always take things for granted. It is part of who we are and the way in which our lives work. However, in Colombia, that is not a relatively universal concept. While hiking through the jungles and exploring the beauty that is nature, we often encountered other people – not tourists, but locals. Even our guides and staff were local Colombian workers, waking up before sunrise to make our journeys more comfortable. They would still have to hike the same treacherous paths that we did, but with the weight of cutlery, crockery, water, and several others on their backs.

The other type of locals that we observed and, in one evening, listened to, were the indigenous peoples. The native Kogui tribe has been a significant part of Colombia’s rich history for centuries. Often, they are the voice of all native tribes in the nation, unwavered by the events that have taken place, socially or politically. One of their most respected leaders discussed their culture and the context in which they live. He explained the idea of ‘Big Brothers’ and ‘Little Brothers’, the former being the indigenous and the latter being the immigrants. That idea elicited an internal reaction from all of us. In Canada, the deep-seated issues between the natives and the nationals have been the root cause of many problems that have arisen. We have all been taught about the hardships and unfair treatment that the native peoples have had to undergo. Listening to the leader of the tribe and his calmness was an incredible experience for us.

In terms of the actual hike, words cannot express our emotions and feelings. Hiking and struggling together brought everyone closer to one another, creating bonds that will definitely last a long time.

In a few campsites, we had the opportunity to go swimming in a river or creek. Personally, that was the best part about the hike. Most people don’t get the opportunity to go swimming in a native, traditional Colombian river in a winding jungle. I think that everybody took that to heart as we all jumped into the freezing waters eventually. It was an incredible experience to just look up and understand where we were. The beauty, the environment, the people – all pieces of the exhilarating puzzle that was this hike.

At night, along with playing several variations of cards, we would sit in small groups and reflect on different parts of the hike. We would mention the names of people who deserved credit on this hike. People would speak about those who were not feeling well during the hike, who were obviously struggling, but still moving. Others spoke about the people who motivated and supported. I believe everyone played a role in how we all finished the hike. If it wasn’t for the support of this person, or the humour of that person, it would have been difficult to find the courage and persistence to go on.

This hike, overall, was unbelievable. Sitting atop the Lost City and looking out changed the perspective for many. We all found something we never knew about ourselves and about each other. And that, in essence, paved the way for the rest of our lives. – Sahil Tyagi ’18

Student Exchange: Adventure in Australia

2017_2018_Rebecca_Yedid_001Since arriving in Melbourne, Australia, two weeks ago, my experience has been really eye-opening.

I am attending Carey Grammar School with my exchange, Taylah. This school is so different from LCC. To get from class to class, you have to travel outdoors, so we spend most of our free time outside. This is a very big contrast for me because at LCC, the only time we go outside is for lunch recess and gym in the warm weather.

One of the many differences from LCC is that the year is split into two semesters (four terms) and for each semester they have three electives. Their electives are things that we at LCC would never think we would learn, like fashion, wood, food (cooking), CSI (as a class), and law and order. I participate in indigenous studies, where we learn about the relationship between the Australians and the Australian indigenous peoples. It is very interesting.

On Thursday, we had summer sports day, a day where all the houses compete in a number of sports, including volleyball, cricket, softball, water polo, patanque and tennis. I played volleyball with a couple of new friends and it gave me the chance to meet some new friends inside and outside my house.

Last weekend, I attended a regatta, which is like a rowing tournament. It was a unique experience and one of the highlights of my trip here. It gave me a chance to meet some more people and create some great friendships while my exchange was racing. Now that I know how the races work, I will be training with my own crew of exchanges from England and will be racing in Head of the River, an overnight regatta this coming weekend.

The Yarra River, where rowing practices take place, is a river that goes right through the city. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to take a ride on a little boat. This was a very unique way to experience the city, and a big contrast to the way I saw it on foot. There are some cool spots to eat, including one right on the river. It is such a beautiful city.

My exchange and I have done a number of interesting things throughout these two weeks, like going to the fashion festival in Melbourne, the Ed Sheeran concert, and a wildlife sanctuary where we got to see many animals. Although moving into someone’s house and lifestyle across the world can be tough, this experience has been really enjoyable and I don’t know how I am ever going to be able to get on a plane and come back to Montreal. I love it here. – Rebecca Yedid ’20, Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Head’s Blog: Reflections on Black History Month

Black_History_MonthOn this last day of Black History Month, let’s reflect on the history of black Canadians and the particularly difficult early years when slavery was the norm. It is important to remember that African slaves were introduced into what was then “British North America” in the latter part of the 1600s. They were violently stolen from their homes in Africa and forced into lives of servitude very far away.

As you know, slaves possessed no rights and were coerced into forced labour, which actually brought economic benefit to this country and even more so to the US where the number of slaves was much larger.

Slavery ended in Canada in 1834 but lasted until 1865 in the US, after the American Civil War. That 30-year period is when the “Underground Railway” of slaves seeking freedom in Canada became so famous. In total, slavery in the US had a significant 250-year legacy, with about four million slaves in the US when they were emancipated in 1865 (about 13% of the total population.)

Despite their emancipation, African Americans were not immediately offered the same freedoms and privileges as white Americans. Open segregation endured in the American south well into the 1960s during the era of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.

Today, many writers, activists and commentators – both black and white – point to many inequities that persist today between the African American population and the white majority. Perhaps one of the great indicators of the long-term impact and challenging legacy of slavery and inequity in America today is the large-scale and disproportionate imprisonment of African Americans, especially males.

A few years ago, I gained a better appreciation of this topic by listening to a passionate presentation by African-American lawyer, writer, and social activist, Bryan Stevenson. Some have compared Stevenson to a modern Martin Luther King, and others have called him America’s Mandela. After that speech, I bought his insightful book Just Mercy.

Mr. Stevenson works closely with men in prison, including men on death row. He emphasizes that one of the great divisive issues in the US today is the disproportionate number of African American males in prison. Approximately 2.3 million prisoners, or 40% of all American inmates, are African American, while the black population only represents 13% of the total population. This incarceration rate is five times the rate of white Americans.

To put this in perspective, there are more African- American men imprisoned in the US today than the total prison populations of Canada, India, Argentina, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined (Antonio Moore, Huffington Post).

In Canada, we have a total of 40,000 people in our prisons, compared to America’s prison population of close to six million people – about 150 times as many.

Yet, even here in Canada, while our black population represents approximately 3% of the total population, 10% of the total prison population is black, and that rate is growing quickly.

Bryan Stevenson is in his mid 50s and attended an all-black high school in Alabama. Restrictions on African Americans were such that even his father was not allowed to attend high school. Stevenson was a very good student, the first in his family to graduate from high school, and he earned a full scholarship to university in Philadelphia, followed by Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

But despite being at outstanding universities, he says there was little meaningful discussion about inequity, its causes and possible solutions. While most of his Harvard classmates went to work on Wall Street or in fancy law firms, he was drawn to helping condemned men receive proper care and support. He realized that greater social justice had to be supported by action, compassion and empathy.

Stevenson has actively challenged an entrenched bias against the poor and ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He reminds us that some 10,000 black teenagers under the age of 18 are currently in adult prisons in the US – something he sees as intolerable. Stevenson has helped achieve court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death, or to life imprisonment without parole. He has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for poor people, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

He is also working to establish The Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama, which will document each of the nearly 4,000 lynchings of black people that took place in the 12 states of the South from 1877 to 1950.

Here is an extract from his book:

“I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavoured, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated… But simply punishing the broken – walking away from them or hiding them from sight – only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.” 

Stevenson invites us all to go to what he calls “places of despair” to create change and to build hope, because agents of hope are key to moving all societies forward. He reminds us that in the US and Canada, we can and must do better. In the spirit of peace, equity and social justice, I think we should all consider how to honour all those who have suffered from the abuse of injustice and racism. Where possible, we should take action. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Millennials as Global Citizens

RSlogo-smallRecently, I attended the Heads’ and Reps’ Annual Regional Meeting (ARM) of Round Square. Our membership includes a diverse group of 40 schools across the Americas, which comprises Canada, USA, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. In addition to planning and dialogue between schools, we also ask ourselves: what impact are our global education programs having on our students longer term?

One of our conference sessions included presentations and dialogue involving two impressive young adults formerly from Palmer Trinity, the host school in Miami. The two engaging twenty-something alumni addressed the topic of millennials as global citizens. Their perspectives were certainly interesting and noteworthy.

Andrea is a Mexican-American who graduated a year ago from Harvard and is on a coveted Fulbright Scholarship this year. She works directly with young marginalized Latino immigrants in the USA, many of them known as “DACA Dreamers”: born in the USA, but children of undocumented immigrants. There are approximately one million so-called dreamers across the country. They are currently under the threat of deportation by the Trump administration, which is the focus of much negotiation between Republican and Democratic leaders. In fact, this is the central issue that led to disagreements on funding several weeks ago and the subsequent two-day shutdown of the federal government due to a budget impasse.

The other student, Dax, is a Colombian-American who had lived in five South American countries before landing at Palmer Trinity in Miami for high school. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. He noted that while living in Brazil as a boy, he witnessed horrendous environmental conditions in major cities, including raw sewage openly running down steep slopes into peoples’ homes, and serious pollution in the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. His concern for the environment led to the creation of an organization called the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), which has inspired thousands of youth around the world to stand up and act on ways to improve the ways we treat, protect and conserve our precious oceans.

These young adults were clearly excellent students, but they also possessed more than just classroom smarts. During and following high school, they have been passionately engaged in social and environmental causes beyond traditional schooling.

In fact, both Andrea and Dax thanked their school for providing meaningful global opportunities that challenged their norms, their perspectives and day-to-day experiences. This included foreign exchanges, service opportunities and classes, such as the study of Buddhism that delved into the true meaning of compassion and empathy. They reiterated that these experiences today form the primary lasting and impactful memories of their high school years. They insisted that experiential and activity-based learning helped create more meaning and relevance for them as teens, which has stayed with them as they have grown older.

They remarked that those global experiences as students were also key in their personal development, as they helped expose them to difference and allowed them to see people as different, but equal. They expressed concern that in society at large these days, too many young people don’t really know much about people who are very different in terms of socio-economic class and life experience. Andrea was moved by an experience while at Palmer Trinity and on exchange in France. It was the simple fact that her exchange host in a public high school in France could never afford to go to a cinema for a movie unless she worked as a babysitter. This wasn’t Andrea’s experience, living an upper middle-class life in South Florida – it was a bit of a wake-up call.

Andrea and Dax reiterated that they are committed to service and improving their communities. Ultimately, they shared that true service is about people, and how to help those who are marginalized and on the fringes. Dax noted that perspective matters a lot and Palmer Trinity school helped him challenge his perspectives. Yet, he is concerned that information is now being disseminated online in a manner that is very targeted and divisive – so-called fake news, a development that is both important and dangerous.

There is a lot of talk these days about a “Facebook bubble”; only connecting with people like you online, sheltered from true diversity in rest of the world. Last week, I asked our students if they live in such a bubble? How and when are their views, values and priorities fundamentally challenged? Do they actually seek different perspectives, or are they living under the illusion that they can simply wait and start to do so when they get older?

It was powerful to see confident young adults – “millennials” – remark on what has had the most profound influence on their lives, their character and their priorities. It was a great reminder that embedding global experiences shouldn’t wait. Our students should feast on all the global opportunities afforded them because the lasting impact will be significant. Next fall’s Round Square International Conference theme is Bring Your Difference. My advice to students is that they should begin to seek and invite more difference into their lives now and they will certainly be richer for it. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster