In our Secondary School, we offer classes in all pathways including university, college, apprenticeship, workplace and community. We follow the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum, offering courses in each of the academic, applied, locally developed and alternative curriculum options. Our students have the opportunity to learn in small classes where teachers can focus on each students’ individual needs. All class materials are provided in whichever format is required for each student to be successful (e.g., braille, large print, text to speech, etc.). Our classroom environment allows for lighting to be adjusted in different areas of each classroom, desks are large to allow for additional room, required technology is readily available in each room and every computer is hooked up to a regular printer and an embosser so that print materials are easily accessible to every student at all times.
Expanded Core Curriculum
All teachers in our school are specialists in the education of blind and low vision students and the Expanded Core Curiculum is embedded in all areas of our school to help promote independence in orientation and mobility, social interaction, living skills, recreation, assistive technology, as well as self-advocacy. We have dedicated Orientation and Mobility and life skills instructors who teach weekly individual one on one lessons.
School Support Staff
W. Ross Macdonald has many support staff who are available to ensure that students get what they need. We have a Guidance Counsellor, Student Success Teacher, Special Education Resource Teacher, Social Worker and two Behavior Consultants. We also have access to a psychologist, psychiatrist, paediatrician, 7 full time nurses, as well as access to an OT, PT and Speech Language Pathologist through CCAC. All school staff works very closely with our school and residence staff to ensure that our students are supported in whatever they need to be successful.
Our Physical Education classes are geared specifically towards students who are visually impaired and blind. Our Phys-ed program includes sports and physical activities that are accommodated to meet the individual needs of each student, so that all students are successful. All phys-ed classes follow the Ontario Curriculum guidelines for Physical Education. Our beautiful gymnasium, weight, fitness and cardio areas, as well as pool allow for many experiences for our students. We encourage all of our students to be physically active in a safe environment, where we have high staff to student ratios at all times.
Some of the sports that our students may participate in are: volleyball, roller skating, soccer baseball, blind soccer, basketball, goalball, gymnastics, track and field, golf, frisbee golf, track and field, yoga, pilates, weight training, swimming, fitness testing which is on par with Paralympic standards.
We have 2 physical education teachers, as well as 4 full time lifeguard/swim instructors who run programming for our students. Some of the extra-curricular programs offered year round include: Cross country, year round swimming, 5 on 5 blind soccer, wrestling, gymnastics (floor, beam, trampoline, bars, rings, vault), track and field, equal opportunity for competing against sighted students in wrestling, cross country, and some track and field events.
Our mens and ladies teams performed at the Canadian Goalball championships in 2016. Men received a gold metal and the Women received a bronze medal!
Outdoor Education Program
At W. Ross Macdonald School, we believe in providing as many life experiences as possible. Our Outdoor Education program allows for our senior high school students to develop confidence through physically, mentally and spiritually challenging tasks in a wilderness setting. Students have the opportunity for personal development by accepting and attempting challenges, and are expected to enthusiastically participate in all activities to the best of their ability. They are expected to develop their social skills through interactions in a positive manner in group situations, working on trust, respect and cooperation with their peers. Through their learning, students will develop an understanding and commitment to the preservation and conservation of the natural environment and will develop the necessary skills to participate and enjoy many different outdoor activities.
The Outdoor Education program includes both shorter day trips (e.g., ziplining, rock climing, bird banding, down hill skiiing, cross country skiing, tandem biking, etc.) throughout the school year, as well as four day wilderness trips (e.g., backcountry canoe and hiking trips, winter camping, etc.), which provides students with a unique opportunity to experience the outdoors. Classes allow learning of prerequisite skills and knowledge, going over the equipment required and how to use it, assisting in menu planning, and food preparation, and assisting in packing and unpacking. Our staff to student ratio is low to provide a safe environment, with hands-on instruction for our students.
Our Music Program at W. Ross Macdonald School is designed to meet all students’ interests and individual needs. We have 3 music teachers who can teach singing, piano, rhythm instruments (e.g., guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, drums), brass instruments, and woodwind instruments. Secondary students can work towards high school credits based on the Ontario Curriculum through individual lessons, theory and music appreciation classes as well as ensembles. Staff monitor student practice throughout lunch hours and in the evenings.
Here are some of our Music Program highlights:
Music is taught using a variety of systems. Depending on the student’s ability to learn, the methods can range from rote (ear), hand over hand, large print or music braille, digital media, etc. W. Ross is at the cutting edge of technology when teaching music to students who are blind.
Our Dramatic Arts courses for students in grades 10 to 12, provide wonderful opportunities for students to develop confidence, improve body awareness, stage presence, overcome shyness, learning to think on their feet and working as a team. Often the plays are written in-house in order to showcase the qualities that each actor possesses. Students will also learn about the technical aspects of theatre- lights, sounds, sets, costumes, etc. There is nothing like the thrill of having an audience laughing at your antics, and cheering for your performance!
Our Visual Arts classes allow students to the elements and principles of design, and use the creative process in the creation of their artwork. Students are encouraged to experiment with drawing and painting using pencil, pastel crayons, acrylics, watercolour and oil paints, and explore ‘arts and crafts’ with projects such as papermaché, print making, crayon melts and fabric paints. Art history will be explored, including learning about well-known artists and artwork, and the students’ are encouraged to share their personal reactions to the art. Students in our visual arts classes learn through collaborative group projects and proudly display our creations at our Artists’ Café and the local Glenhyrst Art Gallery. The Visual Art class fosters students’ creative skills, imagination and self-awareness but also develops confidence, flexibility, appreciation of diverse perspectives and other positive attitudes.
The pottery room is a hub of creativity giving the students hands-on experiences with a valuable, fun and age-old art form! From a lump of wet clay, students learn the basics of wedging, pinching and rolling. The tactile nature of molding clay is a perfect artform for any student. They learn how to add texture or make impressions in the clay. We learn patience as we follow the clay through the various stages of drying, firing in the kiln, painting the clay with various types of glazes and finally seeing the finished product after a second kiln firing. We are lucky enough to have all the necessary tools, glazes, clays and kiln right in our classroom! In the more advanced classes, we use the slab roller to make sets of dishes and the electric pottery wheel like the professionals! Whether students are interested in making a pinch pot toothbrush holder, a wind chime for the garden or a fun animal shape to decorate their room, the projects reflect their personal choice, style and ability so that every student has a number of beautiful creative pieces of pottery to take home by the end of the semester!
The Grade 9 and 10 French courses focus on all the strands of communication – reading, writing, listening and speaking French as a second language. We build on our language skills learned in grades 4-8 by adding new grammar points, more vocabulary and francophone culture, using dialogues and stories with teenage characters. By the end of Grade 9, students can communicate French sentences in the past, present and future tenses. Authentic materials such as songs or news articles help to make the language learning more interesting. Group activities such as our French Café are wonderful learning experiences for the students. Grade 10 classes use short novels, more creative writing activities as well as presentations to practise and increase their language skills. Senior level French courses continue with additional verb tenses, vocabulary and literature studies. Language classes are beneficial to brain development.
Our transportation course introduces students to the service and maintenance of vehicles, aircraft, and/or watercraft. Students will develop knowledge and skills related to the construction and operation of vehicle/craft systems and learn maintenance and repair techniques.
Student projects may include the construction of a self-propelled vehicle or craft, engine service, tire/wheel service, electrical/battery service, and proper body care. Students will develop an awareness of related environmental and societal issues, and will explore secondary and postsecondary pathways leading to careers in the transportation industry.
To enhance the students’ knowledge of transportation, students visit the Brantford military museum where many examples of military vehicles of conflict can be experienced.
Work Experience Program
The Work Experience Program at W. Ross Macdonald School provides students with opportunities to develop the essential skills and habits required for success in all types of workplaces. The learning experiences help students make informed decisions about future careers. Students explore career interests through participation in the workplace and become actively engaged in all aspects of their placement. During the course, students study workplace safety information (WHMIS), preparing to enter the workplace and expectations of the workplace, job readiness skills, interviewing skills, resume writing, cover letters, applications forms and self-assessment/personality dimensions. Students also develop the work habits, attitudes and job skills necessary for a successful transition from secondary school to the workplace or to post-secondary education. The Work Experience Program is a full year endeavour.
There are various opportunities for students to share the exciting things going on at their placements during "round table" discussions on Friday morning classes. Students in the Work Experience Program help in preparing for and being active participants in the "Ways to Work" day which is held every year in April. At the end of the year students also host an "Employer Appreciation Luncheon" for their employers. Being actively involved in this luncheon is a highlight for both the students and the employers.
Our work experience students get the opportunity to visit a former student and experience O'Noir in Toronto!
There are many opportunities and placements available for our students to gain work experience in the Work Experience Program!
Special Individualized Program
The 'Special Individualized Program' (S.I.P.) is an alternative program for students with multiple disabilities as well as a visual impairment. The students in this program are of high school age working towards alternative expectations appropriate to their individual strengths, needs, and learning styles. They receive intensive intervention to learn functional academic and basic living skills to enable them to attain the highest level of independence possible when they leave school, usually at age 21. Upon graduation, students go on to live in group homes or with family, attending day programs and possibly have jobs with assistance; volunteering or otherwise, through Community Living and other organizations.
The S.I.P. program incorporates functional math and language, social skills, interpersonal skills, OT and PT (fine and gross motor skills), orientation and mobility, hygiene, self-esteem, etc. Students learn by ‘doing’ by participating in concrete, hands-on learning using real materials in natural environments, and through unifying experiences such as field trips and study units with involvement in all aspects of an activity.