World Geography Integrates Deep Learning Close to Home

Students enrolled in the Grade 12 world geography course at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) this year will be evaluating urban plans on a piece of property very familiar to them --- the corner development at Bathurst and St. Clair.  

“Students will be evaluating and assessing the plan from a variety of perspectives,” says Miko Romano, Co-Head of the SMCS Accounting and Geography Department. “They will also explore its ‘fit’ in the area, how it will impact the neighbourhood, all modes of traffic flow, and much more.”

SMCS world geography students learning about urban development.

St. Michael's College School world geography students meet with Josh Fullan, an industry urban engagement expert and principal of Maximum City.

The year-long deep learning initiative will serve as the students’ final summative for the course. It brings together the curriculum, mentorship from industry experts, and real-world application.

SMCS has partnered with Josh Fullan, an industry expert to provide mentorship throughout the year.

SMCS world geography students on an urban walk, a deep learning activity.

Fullan is a 15-year industry urban engagement expert and principal of Maximum City, a multidisciplinary team of designers, teachers, and urban planners that work with schools, communities, and levels of government.

“Josh has a strong external perspective through his current and historical understanding of urban issues in Toronto,” says Romano. “He is actively involved with various members of Toronto city council on an ongoing basis and provides a unique insight into urban projects.”

“His expertise in the industry will help students continually build their knowledge base through real-world application. Through this partnership, students will be provided with the knowledge and perspective to complete their deep learning assessment by effectively analyzing the plan for the corner and recommending possible improvements.”

The project will include virtual sessions with Fullan, covering a variety of topics that focus on urbanization.

“We are working on urbanization as one the great challenges and opportunities that students will face in their lifetime, and on developing the skills and knowledge they need to thrive as part of the first global urban generation,” says Fullan. “More specifically, we are looking at intensification around Bathurst and St. Clair, and how the students can contribute their creativity and insights into neighbourhood change.”

Fullan has already worked with the class on four occasions, twice in-person and the other two virtually via Zoom.

SMCS world geography students on an urban walk, a deep learning activity.

“Mr. Fullan took us on a walk around the neighbourhood and showed us that urban development is all around us,” says Ryan Formoso, a Grade 12 student at SMCS. “I did not realize that there are so many buildings, streets, and parks in the area that have significance and history until Mr. Fullan pointed them out. He is an example of how I can take everything that I am learning and apply it to a possible future job.”

Plans are in place to have students work with Fullan for a total of 10 sessions throughout the year, concluding with the submission of their final summative.

SMCS world geography students on an urban walk, a deep learning activity.

“It’s early, but the class is clearly engaged, inquisitive, and starting to form connections to the school neighbourhood that didn’t exist before,” says Fullan. “It’s important to us that they know their neighbourhood, and the factors and people that create and change it for the better. We want them to look at the urban world around them differently after we leave.”

The Fullan name has a long history at the school, starting with Josh’s grandfather, Gerry, who managed the arena from 1962-82 and continuing with his father, Michael ’58, the Global Leadership Director of New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.

“It’s personally rewarding to be part of the SMCS community given my rich history of family ties to the school. The class is very lucky to have Mr. Romano as a teacher --- he always goes above and beyond for his students.”

John Walsh ’73, manager of the school’s Community and Learning Partnerships programme, is also adding value to an already enriched world geography course experience. He has arranged for additional community leaders such as Joe Mihevc ’73, a long-serving Toronto city councillor and current visiting Professor of Human Geography and Urban Studies at York University, to serve as a guest speaker.