Ms. Elizabeth McCready, Director & Founding Principal
Welcome. I'm thrilled that you want to learn more about Odyssey Heights School for Girls for your daughter.
Odyssey Heights is a truly unique school and community. Our mission is to meet the challenges of girls in the 21st Century by applying current cognitive neuroscience research, kindness, and a healthy dose of common sense to develop: Resilience, Empowerment, Academics, Creativity, & Health (R.E.A.C.H.) in all our students. Odyssey Heights girls R.E.A.C.H. higher, and have the skills, confidence, compassion, tenacity, and bravery to succeed in life.
How students learn at Odyssey Heights School makes sense. In our very active Outdoor Ecological and Experiential Education ("OE3") program students:
- visit observatories, streams, forests, farms, 2-3 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves and lakes for science,
- visit historic sites, museums, and fur trade canoe routes for history,
- use the outdoors to survey and create real maps for trigonometry and geography,
- apply their horseback riding and equestrian studies to learn math, physics, biology, history, geography, and physical education,
- Spend 25-35 overnight days each year living, cooking, and learning with their peers in the outdoors
- make their own Raspberry Pi computer, program their own robot, create and edit videos, learn graphic design on Adobe and Apple products, in over 40 Project or Going Out days ("POGO" days) a year
- Spend time painting and sketching in Algonquin and Killarney Parks just like the Group of Seven did,
- Constantly find the connections between the arts and the sciences
- Plan the annual "Family and Friends" camping and cabin trip in June - and learn "Oh, this is what I need that math for!"
- Travel to: the Alberta Rockies for a 3-5 day backcountry horsepacking trip; Iceland and Copenhagen for geology, history, hiking, whale watching, riding, literature, and dance; and
- Plan their grade 12 graduation trip to France
The Journey of Creating Odyssey Heights School for Girls
Since 2001, I've been working in my private academic coaching practice with students whose schools (both independent and public) do not work for them. Too many children and teens are sleep deprived, lack daily physical activity, and have poor eating habits. Families are stressed trying to stay on top of homework, and get tweens and teens up in the morning. I've seen too many students with giftedness, dyslexia, anxiety, ADHD, and learning disabilities, have to fight for accommodations and/or have to try to fit into a style and speed of learning that doesn't work for them. Artistic and athletic children and teens want to move to learn, but are forced to sit for hours in uncomfortable plastic chairs instead of using their talents to learn.
Over the past 17 years I've seen a dramatic increase in anxiety disorders in students, especially girls. As January 31, 2018 marks my 12th anniversary without a panic attack, I deeply understand the toll anxiety takes, how to manage it, and the many causes of anxiety disorders. Sleep, exercise, nutrition, work-life/school-life balance, family and friends, digital vs real life balance, and a sense of humour are key.
Thinking back on my own best experiences in school, and ones that my students and their parents have shared with me, as well as my knowledge as an educator I know that:
- Fun is not the opposite of learning - it's another word for "engagement" which is essential to learning.
- Both "hands-on" and book learning prepare students for university
- Real world learning helps with success in university and life, and builds resilience, thinking skills, and creativity
- Family time needs to be respected by schools
- Homework isn't essential to learning, but it's often detrimental to mental health and family life
- Back to School shopping is stressful, time consuming, and expensive. Schools should help with this. (Except for a few shoes/boots we do almost all of the Back to School errands for families!)
- Most children and teens (and adults!) learn more lasting skills and knowledge at summer camp, and in scouting, guiding, and cadets than in school.
- My high school OE3* program "Earth Odyssey", the Outer's club, and the teachers that started both changed my life, and hundreds of other teens' lives.
- Thank you to Paul Von Bulow, and Mr. Frank Sambells. They engaged a bored, anxious gifted student, and started me on a lifelong journey of teaching, leadership, and community service
- Comfortable seating choices facilitate learning
- Children learn at different rates, so a multiage classroom where everyone is guided by teachers in learning at their own pace, makes sense.
- Starting every day with physical activities that can become lifelong habits activates the parts of the brain responsible for learning, and deactivates the flight or fight response.
- Eating together builds community and relationships.
- Anyone can learn French or improve their French - if it's taught in a way and pace that works for them
- At Odyssey Heights students graduate functionally bilingual because of very small group AIM French lessons, multi-sensory learning, and because the graduation trip to France gives them a fun goal to work towards.
- Interior design matters and students should be able to share their input.
- A school can excel in both the Arts and the Sciences.
School can be done better.
That's why I started my journey in 2013 to create Odyssey Heights School for Girls. Odyssey Heights soon went from being "my school" to "our school" as I met and started working together with a community of partners such as our CFO Arthur Stern of The CFO Centre, all the OE3 service providers, HR partners, teachers. Now prospective parents and students are becoming part of the journey as well.
I invite you and your daughters to become part of this wonderful experience of creating Odyssey Heights School and making Odyssey Heights School for Girls your school.