Alumdepth 2013!

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Because even when TALONS ends, it doesn’t really, you know… end. From grade eleven Clayton’s blog:

Myself and a few other Talons Alumni have decided that we miss doing in-depth projects, so now that the new semester is starting, I’m beginning my blogging.

As the other alumni referred to here begin to share their work, I’ll hope to keep you updated on their progress here. Thanks to Clay for keeping us in the loop on this new incarnation of the TALONS learning journey.

In Depth (and how to choose one)

Everyone has a special hobby – a hobby that they’d love to pursue, but just don’t have time for. Maybe it’s not even a hobby, but just an activity, or skill they’d like to try. The point is, everyone has something they’d love to do, if they only had more time.

A common way of dealing with this hobby is to put it in the closet. That sounds crazy, right? People just take this amazing skill they’d like to pursue, and hide it away, trying to tell themselves that they don’t have time. Often, these hobbies are the last thing on people’s lists. They always tell themselves that it’s not important, and that they’ll get to it later. I know that I, for sure, have done that, many times before.

Other people will try to jam this hobby into a really small space. They’ll try playing the guitar for just 5 minutes, realize it’s hard and make irrational excuses like “I’m no good at it, so I might as well not try”. Instead of ruling out time, they rule out their capability.

Sometimes, these hobbies just get drowned out, by “more important” time-wasters in people’s lives. For example, have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in front of the television, thinking that you don’t have time for other activities?

In-Depth is a chance to conquer all of these invalid excuses. It’s a chance to take this hobby and make it an “important” item on your checklist of things to do. It starts with picking something you’d like to do. And when choosing what it will be, this would be my advice:

1. Choose something you care about

This is the most important part of the In-Depth selection process. In-Depth will suck if you don’t choose something you enjoy, or think you would enjoy. What you need to realize is that this is your opportunity after all these years to choose to do something youlove, and call it homework. Why choose something that’s boring? Being forced (or having an excuse) to do something you absolutely love, but have never had time for is one of the best scenarios you’ll get in your life (other than getting a fantastic job).

2. Choose something new

If you already play guitar, that’s awesome! But why play guitar for In-Depth, when you will already be playing outside of school anyways? I understand that it would be a time saver or make everything easier, but you already know how! In-Depth is a chance to try something entirely new, have time for it, have motivation for it, and always have support for it. Think about it this way – you’re going to go ahead and play guitar or play soccer or dance anyways, so why waste your In-Depth time doing that?

3. Choose something exciting

This may seem like a no-brainer (not to) but sometimes people choose “academic” In-Depths in hope of getting credits, or in hope of improving their subject skills. In-Depth is supposed to be fun and exciting! I know that getting credits in French would be really helpful and all, but do you really want to spend 5 months repeating vocabulary when you could be riding a unicycle or learning swordplay? Of course, if you have a passion for French, go for it! But don’t take it telling yourself that you need more credits. You’re in TALONS! You already have lots of extra courses and no doubt will take many more. You have 4 years of high school – you don’t need to fit every single one in now. In-Depth is an opportunity to take a break and have fun. You’d be stupid not to.

4. Choose something realistic

If you’ve taken all of the advice above, you’ll be doing an In-Depth you love. The next step is setting goals – achievable ones. Even though you will be investing lots of time into this project, you don’t have 15 years to work on a literary masterpiece – you have 5 months. Choose something that’s within this universe. For example (in 5 months), you can’t grow a tree, you can’t write a full album of songs, and you can’t juggle torches on a 15 foot high unicycle. It’s just not possible. But you can nurture a bonsai tree, you can write a few songs, and you can learn to juggle/unicycle. At the same time, make sure it lasts 5 full months. You don’t want to take lessons on how to carve for two months, then realize you have nothing left to do. In-Depth is about autonomous learning – sure, lessons are cool, but don’t rely on them for your entire In-Depth.

If you don’t know what might be realistic, ask! You have endless social media resources, endless websites full of information, even friends, relatives and teachers – endless human resources. Don’t say “It’s too hard to do this”. Go say “How long did it take you build that computer, Mr. Toering?”. You gotta remember, you have the resources. Why not use them?

At the same time, don’t pick something that is too obscure. Of course, it’s great to be unique but scrambling for resources your entire In-Depth is quite a challenge. Before you go ahead and write a proposal, check to make sure that ‘Training your Goldfish’ is a plausible skill to learn, and that there are people who know how to do it.

Lastly, you don’t have millions of dollars (unless you’re investing). Be reasonable with how much your parents will spend on you, and your crazy skill you’d like to pursue.

6. Pick it because you want to

Don’t just pick an In-Depth because everyone else thinks it would be awesome. Don’t just pick an In-Depth because you’re pressured for time. If you’re a guy, and you wanna do origami, go for it! It doesn’t matter how much your bros are telling you its for woosies. If you’re a girl, don’t be afraid to break the stereotypes and build a computer. Make sure whatever you pick what you want to pick. After all, it is your In-Depth Project, right?

In Depth Night – Liam

In-Depth Night is kind of TALONS’ graduation. It isn’t really, of course – we still have another month together. But it’s our last major event for the year, the culmination of months of practice and study and anticipation. Once In-Depth is over, we’re back to normal class,  back to working and (in theory) studying. The happiness that all students feel as summer draws closer is tempered for us by the knowledge that another year of TALONS is ending, with all the sadness, melancholy, and indeed, relief, which that knowledge brings.

But as much as In-Depth is an ending, that’s not what it is about. It is a celebration of what we have accomplished over the course of the last five months. More than than that, it’s a recognition of all that we have been through in TALONS, all we have shared and experienced together. I don’t think words do it justice – we who were there, who spent months preparing for that night, are the only ones who can really understand what it meant. But for the many people who see us from afar, who have not had the opportunity to participate in TALONS, I’d like to share a few pictures of that night, which I think represent the mood and feel rather well.

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Sustainability in action

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And that was it. It was over. The grade 9s have another year to look forward to. The grade 10s can only look back wistfully, remembering the times over the last few years. In-Depth Night is really a very special time, and all the more so in hindsight. Personally, I didn’t realize at the time how significant it was, and it was only later that it hit me. ‘Wow’, I thought. ‘I will never get to do that again.’ It’s a realization, I think, that becomes more meaningful with time.

Of course most of the grade 10s will be at In-Depth next year, but this time we’ll be on the outside looking in, rather than the other way around. I’m trying not to let this post dissolve into a reflection on what life will be like after leaving TALONS, but In-Depth night is so caught up in that idea of a celebration of another year that it’s difficult to separate the two.

Let me recede, then, from this position. There will likely be a few more reflections on the end of TALONS in the weeks to come. I would rather mention the successes we had last Monday.  Everyone who performed onstage – you were amazing. Getting up in front of that crowd could not have been easy, yet you did it and you all did so brilliantly. For those who did not perform onstage, your achievement is no less great simply for being on the ground. Every person presented what they have been working on in the way they thought best, and we all had things to teach and to show the people who visited us.

And what would In-Depth Night be without honouring the achievements of the people involved? Congratulations Megan Edmunds, for working hard enough to earn the Grade 9 Academic Award. Daniel Luo, Iris Hung, and Rebecca MacDonald, recipients of the TALONS spirit award, I think we are all proud to know you and you most certainly deserved to be recognized for your spirit and dedication to this program.

But perhaps the most important recognition was the one we students gave to Ms. Mulder and Mr. Jackson. TALONS would not be possible without you, and every word in our speeches was true. Any worldwide readers of this blog, if ever you think about the awesomeness of TALONS (which I’m sure you all do), make sure the credit goes to our amazing teachers.

We closed up the evening with a song, and I will leave you with this now. Cute and perhaps silly it may be, but…well, take it for what you will. It was our gift to our teachers, and it means something to all of us.

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