From Todd D, a parent:
The DaVinci program was the best educational experience that our son has ever participated in. He has been fortunate to experience a wide variety of education including a private school in Australia and the gifted program. However, the DaVinci program was superior to all other experiences. The DaVinci program allowed for differentiated learning, hands-on learning and provided the stimuli for higher level thinking skills. The site for the classroom in the Arboretum at the University was unique and helped to stimulate hands-on learning through access to the Arboretum and the University. Visits to the University library and science labs were tremendous learning opportunities and gave students a glimpse of university life. The field trips were excellent ways of helping to provide contextual learning and created strong bonding opportunities for the students. The art show was a fantastic summative project that all students could participate in and take ownership over. The teachers were outstanding leaders, mentors, and facilitators of learning. This program most definitely should be supported and continued. It helps teens to grow intellectually, emotionally, and personally.
From Sam B, a former student:
My semester in the DaVinci program was the most beneficial, engaging, and enjoyable time of my high school career. This program was empowering for me at a time in my life when I needed to feel like I had intellectual, creative, and social value. Every day of the program, I felt like I was contributing directly to something, and applying my unique perspectives to subjects we studied while openly exposing myself to others' perspectives. Thanks to DaVinci, I went overnight camping for the first time, and learned that I could hike up a mountain without keeling over. Thanks to the diverse creative projects, I was able to focus in on my passions for songwriting, acting, and working with children, all of which I've continued to explore after high school. This program helped me build deep, meaningful friendships such as I never had before. This program got me outside every day, and taught me that animals from birds to beetles are extraordinary, beautiful, biologically fascinating things.
Most importantly, DaVinci taught me to try new things, optimistically and enthusiastically, with as much frantic creativity as is possible.
From Erin H, a parent:
Divinci is a wonderful program that expands learning beyond the confines of the classroom. I heard my son talk about what he was learning in ways that demonstrated excellent engagement - his critical thinking abilities were stretched and developed in ways that I rarely see in his regular classroom semesters. Thank you for providing this very important program. All kids should have the chance for this kind of learning opportunity.
From Christina T, a parent:
Our daughter just completed the Da Vinci programme for 2016 and had an absolutely amazing experience.
As parents we are always on the lookout for opportunities that will challenge our children both educationally & emotionally, to help them grow and discover who they are, and we were very excited to learn about the Da Vinci programme.
As teenagers the journey through high school can be quite challenging, as they try to navigate the world around them and determine how they fit into that world. Through the Da Vinci curriculum, the educational environment, and the guidance of the dedicated teachers, we saw our daughter take control of her academics through skills like increased self motivation, time management, self governance and develop true friendships with her classmates. And while this was fantastic, we also saw her develop something we weren't expecting, a passion for learning. It's amazing when your child comes to you and says "I love going to school, I wish it wasn't Friday today", where in the past, the weekend couldn't come soon enough. This semester she was so engaged in her studies and couldn't wait to get to class. To us, this passion is invaluable and is something that will continue to benefit her throughout her academic journey.
Our daughter is such a hands on visual learner and the way the biology curriculum is taught was absolutely perfect for her. We were just talking about past courses and course options for grade 12 and she mentioned biology and I said to her "I thought you hated biology?". Her reply just reinforced to me just how much of a hands on learner she is because she said "I did in grade 10, but this year I totally got it because I got to see everything......the heart, inflate the lungs, see the veins, etc. It all clicked for me". Going to the labs at the University was amazing and totally changed her attitude.
We are so happy that she was able to have the Da Vinci experience - a true game changer!
From Sadie C, a former student:
Before daVinci I thought I had myself all figured out, but I was so wrong. The person that I became by the end of that semester was who I truly am; daVinci made me better. Both Ms. Hubner and Mr. Lacelle never doubted a single 16 year old, they invested every ounce of their time, energy, and passion into our ideas and efforts, and that is why we are all confident in saying it was the best semester of our high school careers. We were provided with challenges none of us thought we could accomplish, and just when we thought we couldn't possibly handle any more, we were told that we could, and we did. I had never felt more productive, proactive, and optimistic about my life then I did during my time at the nature centre. Our ideas were never shut-down, we were never underestimated; always treated like our ideas mattered. The daVinci program was open arms, listening ears, and open eyes at a time when we all craved individual attention. It was advice to problems (no matter how big or small), living life by example, a curriculum with clarity and purpose, intellectual conversations, and most importantly, trust. DaVincians are respected as young adults, with the work created during the program being of a very high caliber. This is attributed to the responsibility and independence we thrived off of. Every Sunday night I was excited to meet the week ahead of me. Every morning I woke up eager to see what the day would hold, which was a feeling I had never before felt towards school. Without a doubt, the first semester of grade eleven was the best part of my four years at high school. I had no idea when I sheepishly applied in grade 10 that I would enter a community that I will never leave, as daVinci sticks with you, and I am grateful every day that it does.
From Dr. Allison T, a parent:
My son just completed his semester with the Da Vinci Program. He is a sensitive and very intelligent person, who also happens to have ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder. He was overwhelmed in the crowded high school corridors and with the fast paced class rotation at his normal high school and was actually schooled from home for much of the grade 10 year for this reason. The small consolidated group format, outdoor learning, and single class setting with only two teachers who were able to get to know him, allowed him to thoroughly enjoy this semester and learn effectively. He is now back at Ross and very much misses this program. The Da Vinci program is invaluable in many ways. It allows students to connect with the outdoors which is essential for feeling grounded and centred in today’s busy industrialized environment. It provides for a more personalized learning experience for those many students who do not thrive in the standard education setting. It also promotes the formation of stronger peer bonds as the students stay together throughout the day. He and myself wish this program was a permanent option for all of the semesters throughout high school. I sincerely hope my younger children will get a chance to experience it as they reach grade 11 in the next several years.
From Amber D, a former student:
I'm about to enter my third year at University of Ottawa in Environmental Sciences. I do lots of work with the outdoors club, leading trips and managing our gear rental program. I also help grad students in the Earth Sciences with lab and field work (I got to spend 3 weeks in the Yukon last may!). I'm involved with jeVote-iVote which runs events on youth voting and involvement in politics. When I'm not in school I can often be found out in the wild, learning about edible plants and bushcraft. Or being a stone mason or a solar installation tech or heavy equipment operator. My current big project is launching a folk-school to foster self-sufficiency and sustainability through hands-on workshops that build community and positive reconnection between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. DaVinci remains a part of my life in two main ways: my friends and values. The friends part is easier to explain, so I'll start there. Quite simply being plopped in the woods with a diverse group who all share a few commonalities for a semester forces one to push past difference and get into the good stuff. Many of my closest friends today I came out of DaVinci with. The values one is a bit more complex, as obviously one's values are built in a myriad of ways. DaVinci was foundational in helping me understand the interconnections in all things, to accept my own love for both the arts and sciences, for the natural world and social justice. It came at a critical time in my development: from childhood polarized opinions to a complex network of systems. DaVinci was a supportive space to explore and create what is truest for me, something I deeply wish for every young person. DaVinci helped me see the infinite beauty in this world despite the enormous challenges we come up against. It was a space for us to look at challenges in the current systems and come out saying "I can!" I am endlessly grateful to all the people that enable such a program to exist. One day when I have children of my own, I will be sure to live in a place with wonderful alternative education options like this.
I really wish I had kept a journal during da Vinci. I'm glad that I have bits and bites, and scraps and snippets of the memories. I am even more thankful that I have all of you to relive those beautiful and hilarious memories with. Hearts cut from candy wrappers, warm fuzzies and old bus passes are little reminders that our adventure together was more than a dream.
A beautiful classroom full of our works of art. Mornings spent with brushes in hand or days filled with eco-artists, eating on the grass, snowshoes and Hunger Games. A basement with microwaves, ratty couches and good tunes. Cold walks to the bus stop but the warm sun above us. Greeted each morning with Mama Hub's warm smile. A place where Mischa and Olive became the regular and technology was never reliable. As if the trees themselves were trying to tell us what was really important.
I miss the Cornucopia and the Art Gardens. I miss the familiarity of the chickadees and watching how the kids lit up when the birds would eat from their hands. Nature Names and sustainable art. I YEARN (ha!) for a time when we can all be together again in the Arboretum.
Not a day goes by where I don't think about each and every one of you. Because art is a weapon and your mom goes to college. Maybe we will run into Radiohead in a rainforest or make the trip to stand at the top of Silver Peak again. What I would give to re live anyone of those days, even if it meant collecting urine samples or having to fake a smile for Tom Harrington. A bad day at da Vinci still tops even the best days at school. Because school is no longer a 'one room school house is Southern Ontario' where campus police patrol all day and the place where the Nature Man teaches us how to tag monarch butterflies and perform bird calls. School is no longer the place where Lacelle teaches us how to be better human beings, and how to be. Home has no location, but if it did it would sit halfway between College and Stone Road and have all of your beautiful faces in it. If home was a place it would be daVinci 2012.