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Secondary I Learning Community

Grades 9 and 10

Adolescence is a time of great change for girls as they move from childhood toward their teenage years.

From 14 to 16 years of age, girls are transitioning from the rapid physical and emotional changes of early adolescence, to a time when their physical growth is slowing, while at the same time, their capacity for abstract thought and moral reasoning is increasing. They develop a greater interest in the future, and their place in it. 

Girls at this stage need a balance between their emotional and social needs being the primary focus of the Middle School Community, to Secondary II’s primary focus on rigorous and specialized  academics.

At Odyssey Heights, students in the Secondary I Community (grades 9 & 10) are provided with opportunities to participate in and experience academics and real-world experiences that meet their need for a this balance, and guide them in their journey of exploring career paths, setting life goals, and in developing increased independence and responsibility.




1:1 iPad Pros with Apple Pencils & Keyboards

Facilitates organization, 21stC learning skills, multiple learning styles, communication with peers, and eliminates backpacks filled with heavy textbooks.

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Hands-On, Fieldwork Based Agriculture & Environment course

Engaging, relevant, fun, experiential, enriched, and immersive curriculum...

Hands-on, Real World Environmental Studies & Science, Equine Science, and Sustainable Agricultural Sciences

The photo collage above shows Fall 2018 fieldwork, including one of Odyssey Heights students learning about stereographic aerial photographs and topographic maps at the McMaster University Map Library fall '18. Using a stereoscope with a pair of stereo photographs makes the landforms 3D! (You can even learn to measure the heights of trees and buildings!)

Agriculture and the Environment (A&E) provides an enriching, interdisciplinary, hands-on, relevant learning experiences for girls in Secondary I. With the connections to topics in the grade 9 and 10 Ontario credit courses, particularly science, geography, careers, and mathematics, A&E is wonderful way to reinforce and extend their knowledge and skills for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma courses.

Field work labs teach our students to take risks, and that they have to figure out the answer. Unlike classroom/science labs work, there's not "perfect" answer in fieldwork. Learning technical skills like using stereo aerial photograph pairs is the first step in learning GIS.

Thank you to Gord at the McMaster Map Library for the wonderful lesson!

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Harkess Discussions

The Harkness discussion method, combined with a flipped classroom model provides greater interaction between classmates, and between teachers and students…

~Odyssey Heights is one of only three girls schools in the GTHA to use this time proven method of student centred and student driven learning. (The other school is Havergal College.)

An Engaging Student-Centred Teaching and Learning Model

The Harkness Discussion method teaches students how to learn, and, at the same time how to communicate respectfully with others. The Harkness discussion method was named after the philanthropist Edward Harkness who, in the 1930s, informed Exeter School in New Hampshire that he would make a sizeable donation if the school could create a student-centred teaching & learning model and use it in all their classes. Exter school still uses the Harkness discussion method and is one of the top private schools in the U.S..

Harkness Discussions are used in the OHS Montessori Secondary Diploma courses:

  • Agriculture & the Environment (Secondary I & Secondary II)

  • Big History (Secondary I)

  • Humanities Seminar (Secondary II)

  • Peace Education (Secondary I)

  • Peace & Conflict Studies (Secondary II)

In a Harkness Discussion Class

learning takes place through discussions held around a circular table, or tables set up in a circle/square with no student in a corner. Sitting at the table, all members of the class must question, contribute, and contemplate in order to learn and succeed. 

Harkness discussions are very organized, student driven, and respectful.

The Harkness class lessens students’ ability to simply “parrot” information. As members of the learning group, students must engage with the class by asking questions and contributing their own thoughts. … This is a process in which they must involve themselves to a much greater degree than they may normally be required: students may not simply write down what teachers say. They must search for the ideas and information and then wrestle with that which they find. Students who engage themselves with the Harkness class will finish with a greater sense of autonomy and empowerment, knowing that they know how to learn. They will also finish the class with an increased ability to verbally articulate their questions and opinions in discussions. 

It is particularly relevant for gifted students as they get to share their own thoughts, and learn to respect and encourage their peers. Students with dyslexia and written language based LDs will greatly appreciate learning through speaking and interpersonal interaction instead of just reading and writing.

Odyssey Heights School for Girls/École pour filles Odyssey Heights is one of only thee girls schools in the GTHA to use this time proven method of student centred and student driven learning. (The other schools are Havergal, and St. Clements.)

View the TEDx Talk below to learn more.

(Quotes in this section are from Katherine Cadwell’s detailed article entitled “What is the Harkness Method?”

A classroom revolution is overdue, not only for improving learning but for the health of our democracy. In this inspirational talk Katherine Cadwell shares how after 30 years in education she completely flipped her classroom and teaching style.

A State of the Art Learning Management System

Used in Agriculture & the Environment, Peace Education & Big History: An Online Learning Management System That Goes Way Beyond Just Google Classroom…

A Digital Classroom that Allows Students to Work at Their Own Pace, but Still Interact With Their Peers

Canvas is used for all Odyssey Heights Secondary I courses (Agriculture & the Environment, Big History, and Peace Education).

Given the flexible pacing needs of Odyssey Heights students having a true Learning Management System/Content Management System (LMS/CMS), that: 

  • guides students though an organized learning roadmap, 

  • facilitates teachers creating carefully curated content, 

  • provides rich assessment data for both students and teachers, 

  • doesn’t make money from tracking, storing, and selling students’ online history,

  • Integrates apps (YouTube, Quizlet, Khan Academy) so students don’t get distracted using multiple apps and windows.

  • allows team teaching

  • lets teachers copy and export their courses easily

  • all at a price that doesn’t add to tuition fees. 

Canvas is the one LMS/CMS that meets all these requirements. While the yearly fee for large schools is over $5K US, the free teacher account for small schools has all the features (and more) that Odyssey Heights students and staff need.

Click here to read an article by a high school teacher using Canvas.

Book your tour and information system to see how examples of Secondary School I courses on Canvas.

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21st Century Team Teaching:

Odyssey Heights & Blyth Academy Teachers team teach all OSSD credit courses. This means that Secondary I students have a maximum 5:1 student to teacher ratio in their credit courses, and individual and small group in person academic coaching and instruction by Odyssey Heights teacher. …

Plus a choice of over 100 Ontario Secondary School credit courses taught by a BAO Ontario Certified Teacher.

Why Partner With an Online School, and Why Blyth Academy Online?

As a small school with students who need a very low student to teacher ratio it would be impossible for Odyssey Heights to have specialist teachers for every subject and to offer a wide range of Ontario Secondary School credit courses. Partnering with a well respected and well established independent online school allows OHS student to have OCT certified specialist teachers in all their credit courses, to select from over 100 credit course options, and to have two teachers for every course - one online, and one in person guiding and supporting them in their unique learning needs.

Blyth Academy Online is an academically respected private online high school in Ontario offering more than 100 online Ontario Secondary School credit courses. Their comprehensive curriculum and engaging content, combined with their empathetic teaching and guidance staff ensure that their student success rate is unsurpassed.

Over 100 Awesome Credit Courses to Choose From

In addition to the core subjects such as math, science, English, French, Blyth Academy Online has a wide range of engaging credit courses that even some large independent schools don’t offer. Some of the awesome credit courses that BAO offers include:

Team Teaching & Staff Leadership

Partnering with a respected, established online school also allows 21st Century team teaching. Blyth teachers design each Secondary School credit course in accordance with Ministry of Education requirements, provide subject specific feedback, do all the marking, and schedule exams. This frees up OHS teachers to academic coach each student individually and small groups. Odyssey Heights and Blyth teachers communicate via phone and email throughout the school year - making this a true team teaching environment.

Partnering with Blyth Academy Online also allows our principal to focus on our students unique needs, and running our wonderful active OE3 program of trips and school-wide equestrian program - instead of the mountains of Ministry of Education paperwork required to offer each Ontario Secondary School credit course.

Two Secondary School Diplomas

Much like some older independent secondary schools (e.g Appleby College), Odyssey Heights graduates receive two high school diplomas - their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), and either the Odyssey Heights Secondary School Diploma or the Honours OHS Diploma. The OSSD is awarded by Blyth Academy Online, and the OHS Diploma or Honours OHS Diploma is granted by Odyssey Heights School for Girls/École pour filles Odyssey Heights

Guidance Services:

Students have Access to Secondary and Post-Secondary Guidance Services at BOTH Odyssey Heights and Blyth

As both Odyssey Heights and Blyth Academy students, girls at OHS have access to the specialized guidance services and university trips at Odyssey Heights, plus access to guidance services at Blyth’s campuses.

Odyssey Heights Guidance Services:

Odyssey Heights focuses on specialized services for our students passions and needs including:

  • environmental, equestrian, agriculture, and arts post-secondary programs

    • This starts in grade 7 with trips to universities Upcoming trips:

      • Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 Trent University Faculty of the Environment (with hands-on learning!), and university life campus tour. [Grades 7-10, on the way back from the Canadian Ski Marathon in Quebec]

  • Accessing and understanding individual university’s supports for students with dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, anxiety, and other documented learning needs.

  • Helping our students understand and prioritize their needs and goals for post-secondary and careers.

  • Referring students to mental and physical health supports when needed (see below).

  • Maintaining the required monthly record of mental health checkups for all students, and providing early intervention for any academic supports.

Blyth Academy Guidance Services

Our campuses have a dedicated and compassionate guidance counsellor that provides course selection advice, emotional support, access to workshops and skill improvement resources, as well as university preparation, selection, university visits, and application advice. … Guidance Counsellors at each campus provide individual students with the support and advice they need when it comes to university applications.

Blyth Academy has an average of one guidance counsellor for every 70 students; other public and private high schools average between 200 – 400+ students for every counsellor. This allows our guidance counsellors to provide individual attention and relate to students on a personal basis, providing ongoing advice throughout the school experience.

Reach Ahead Secondary School Credits for Middle School.

Partnering with Blyth Academy Online also allows our Middle School students to take Reach Ahead secondary school credit courses in grade 8 - (based on their achievement in grade 7). We are currently discussing having OHS students, who have good performance in grade 7, take Grade 10 Visual Arts: Fashion and Textiles, and Grade 9 English in grade 8. Francophone or DELF B.1/B.2 level French students may also be able to take their Grade 9 Academic French credit in grade 8. Highly gifted/advanced grade 7s may also be allowed to take Reach Ahead credits based on the approval of the BAO principal.

The two Reach Ahead courses in grade 8, allow Odyssey Heights students to take 7, instead of 8 credit courses in grades 9-10.

Why the switch from The Independent Learning Centre (ILC) to Blyth Academy Online?

As mentioned above, Blyth Academy Online provides an amazing choice of over 100 Ontario Secondary School credit courses plus SAT and AP prep, and post-secondary guidance services.

In addition, while not publicly announced yet, Blyth Academy Online is launching grades 7 & 8 math and language courses in 2019 and 2020. To ensure a smooth transition from grade 8 to grade 9, Odyssey Heights students will be enrolled in BAO grade 7 & 8 math if the courses are launched in fall 2019, and grades 7 & 8 language if the courses are launched in January 2020.


Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)


School Year: Three Terms (Trimesters) & July Term, +

Two Year Alternating Academic Schedule


Fall Term: September to December

Winter Term: January to March Break

Spring Term: March Break to Mid-June

Summer/July Term: 4-4.5 weeks after Canada Day


Having a two year alternating schedule allows students in our two year age groupings to work together on the (surprisingly) many grade 9 and 10 Ontario credit courses that have no prerequisites. This allows grade 10s to have a leadership role, and grade 9s the opportunity to learn effective study habits and behaviours by watching and interacting with their classmates who have more experience with OSSD credit courses (in addition to being specifically taught these skill by their teachers).


Year Long Course:

  • Core French as a Second Language: FSL1D Core French Academic, or Core French Open

Fall Term:

  • Mathematics: Grade 9 (MPM1D) or Grade 10 Math (MPM2D)

  • Canadian & World Studies: Grade 9 Canadian Geography (CGC1D)

Winter Term:

  • Science: Grade 9 (SNC1D) or 10 Science (SNC2D)

  • Physical Education & Health: Grade 11 Health for Life College (PPZ3C)

Spring Term:

  • English:

    • Students who started at OHS in grade 7:

      • Grade 10 or (ENG2D) or Grade 11 (ENG3U)

      • (Most students who start at OHS in grade 7 will take Reach Ahead Grade 9 English in Grade 8)

    • Students who started at OHS in grade 9:

      • Grade 9 (ENG1D) or Grade 10 English (ENG2D)

  • Visual Art:

    • Students who started at OHS in grade 7:

      • Grade 11 Visual Arts - Photography (AWQ3M)

    • Students who started at OHS in grade 9:

      • Grade 10 Visual Arts - Fashion & Textiles (AWI2O)


Year Long Course:

  • Civics & Careers (2x 0.5 credits): Civics (CHV2O) - September to January; Career Studies (GLC2O)

Fall Term:

  • Mathematics: Grade 9 (MPM1D) or Grade 10 Math (MPM2D)

  • Canadian & World Studies: Grade 10 Canadian History Since WW1 (CHC2D)

Winter Term:

  • Science: Grade 9 (SNC1D) or 10 Science (SNC2D)

  • Business: Grade 9/10 Introduction to Business (BBI1O/BBI2O)

Spring Term:

  • English:

    • Students who started at OHS in grade 7:

      • Grade 10 or (ENG2D) or Grade 11 (ENG3U)

      • (Most students who start at OHS in grade 7 will take Reach Ahead Grade 9 English in Grade 8)

    • Students who started at OHS in grade 9:

      • Grade 9 (ENG1D) or Grade 10 English (ENG2D)

  • Visual Arts: Media Arts Grade 10 (ASM2O)


Students who choose to take an 8th credit course are required to attend July term. This optional 8th credit course starts in October, and ends at the end of July term.

FAQ: Students at other schools take 8 Ontario credit courses each year, why is this different at Odyssey Heights?

Answer: The majority of students starting at Odyssey Heights should not need to take 8 Ontario credit courses in any year because they most students take two Reach Ahead credit courses in Grade 8, thus only needing 7 x 4 courses in Secondary I and II to earn the required 30 courses for the OSSD.

  • English (ENG1D/ENG1P) and

  • Grade 10 Visual Arts - Fashion & Textiles (AWI2O)

Odyssey Heights students take OHS courses in Agriculture & the Environment, Big History, and Peace Education. Taking July term is essential for students to deeply learn and succeed when taking more than 7 courses.

Some optional 8th credit courses:


Ontario Core French as a Second Language Credit Courses

The Ontario FSL credit course required for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma is taken as a year long course (September to June) in Year A (2019-2020, 2021-2022). Students can choose either the FSF2D Academic Level, or FSF2O Open Level (absolute beginner) if they have little to know French experience, or have an IEP for dyslexia or other language based LD.


The three things that parents want most for their children are for them to be safe, healthy, and happy. 

At Odyssey Heights School, girls develop life-long healthy living habits though both hands-on experiences and academic studies. Students cook on the overnight trips, and are increasingly responsible for the planning meals and shopping for the food for trips. They learn how to keep themselves safe, and develop skills to continue to learn more about their physical, mental health and wellness.

In addition to the Health and Health for Life  OSSD credit course, Secondary I students participate in a mandatory a co-curricular Health & Wellness program that includes guest speakers, workshops/discussions, and assignments. All the content for the co-curricular Health & Wellness program is posted in each students’ Canvas account so even if they miss school, they still have access to important information. 


Students take three, 2-year Montessori enrichment courses at Odyssey Heights. Click on the green links below to view each course’s dedicated page.

Big History: 13.7 Billion years of history from the Big Bang to the future. Big History provides a big picture look at the world and the universe and helps students to develop a mental framework to organize what they are learning both in and out of school.

Agriculture & the Environment: Equestrian program, overnight trips, environmental fieldwork, sustainable agricultural ecosystems, farm operations (management, marketing, machinery - including how cars and trucks work),

Peace Education: Girls participate in the Nobel Prize nominate PeaceJam program learn about Indigenous peoples, organize peace & environmental projects, cultivate inner peace though mindfulness & yoga, and learn to care for their community with respect, compassion, thoughtfulness, and responsibility.