Ministry of Education
Provincial and Demonstration Schools Branch

Secondary Program

Our Secondary School follows the Ontario Curriculum, offering courses in all pathways including university, college, apprenticeship, workplace and community. We encourage a high standard of achievement and support students with appropriate accommodations so that they can achieve success. There is a feeling of community and inclusiveness, where students develop life-long friendships, confidence and independence through the many opportunities available.

Classroom environments truly allow for our students’ success. Classes are very small, with no more than 10 students per class, which allows for individual attention and a comprehensive understanding of each student’s educational needs. Lighting can be adjusted in different areas of each classroom, desks are large to allow for additional room, required technology is readily available in each room and every computer is hooked up to a regular printer and an embosser so that print materials are easily accessible to every student at all times. Students are provided with class materials in whichever formats are required so that they are successful (e.g., braille, large print, text to speech, etc.)

Expanded Core Curriculum

All teachers in our school are specialists in the education of blind and low vision students and the Expanded Core Curriculum is embedded in all areas of our school to help promote independence in orientation and mobility, social interaction, living skills, recreation, assistive technology, as well as self-advocacy. We have dedicated support staff who teach individual lessons to students to build skills and concepts, which are reinforced throughout the school day, as well as through our student lodging program in the evening.

School Support Staff

W. Ross Macdonald has many support staff who are available to ensure that students have the foundations they need to be successful. We have a Guidance Counsellor, Student Success Teacher, Special Education Resource Teacher, Social Worker and two Behavior Consultants. We also have access to a psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatrician, nurses, as well as access to an OT, PT and Speech Language Pathologist. All support staff work very closely with our school and lodging staff to ensure that our students get whatever they need to be successful.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

For students in grades 9-12, we are excited to announce that W. Ross Macdonald Schools has recently become registered to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh! The Duke of Edinburgh Award is an international, non-competitive program designed to encourage young people to develop the positive skills and lifestyle habits which will help them to become a well-rounded person. The award is a balanced, non-competitive program of voluntary activities which promotes individual challenge, and is adaptable according to each participant’s interests and abilities. The award recognizes service, skills, adventurous journey and physical fitness and allows students to independently track their progress and accomplishments through an online record book.

The Duke of Edinburgh has three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level requires an increasing level of commitment and effort. Once participants have completed their Award, they receive a pin and certificate to mark their achievement, and may be able to attend a special provincial ceremony. The Gold Award is presented by a member of the British Royal Family, it is a BIG Deal!

Benefits of The Award

  • Looks great on post-secondary applications and scholarships
  • Looks great on resumes and CVs
  • Helps young people stand out in the job market
  • Demonstrates goal setting, willingness to set goals and achieve a task
  • Ignites passion and increases motivation
  • Develops skills and acknowledges achievement in a non-academic setting
  • Encourages young people to make positive life choices
  • Instills confidence and self-worth within all participants
  • Introduces young people to the world around them

We will have select staff registered as award leaders and assessors to support our students who are interested in working towards attaining this honourable achievement. For more information about the Duke of Edinburgh Award, please visit

Physical Education

We encourage all of our students to be physically active in a safe learning environment to develop confidence and independence. All of our opportunities for students include high staff to student ratios. Our Physical Education classes are all inclusive, accommodated specifically for students who are blind and visually impaired. We follow the Ontario Curriculum guidelines for Physical Education and activities are accommodated so that, so that all students can participate, are safe and successful, and therefore they develop a lifelong appreciation of physical activity. Our fitness facilities include a beautiful gymnasium, a pool, weight, fitness and cardio areas, which allows for many opportunities and experiences for our students.

Because of the high level of support for our students, we are able to have them participate in many different opportunities such as volleyball, roller skating, soccer baseball, blind soccer, basketball, goalball, gymnastics, track and field, golf, frisbee golf, track and field, yoga, pilates, weight training, swimming and fitness testing which is on par with Paralympic standards.

We have 2 physical education teachers, as well as 4 full time lifeguard/swim instructors who run programming for our students. Some of the extra-curricular programs offered year round include: Cross country, year round swimming, 5 on 5 blind soccer, wrestling, gymnastics (floor, beam, trampoline, bars, rings, vault), track and field, equal opportunity for competing against sighted students in wrestling, cross country, and some track and field events.

Outdoor Education Program

At W. Ross Macdonald School, we believe that it is life experiences that help to enrich the lives of our students. Our Outdoor Education program gives our senior high school students the opportunity to develop confidence through physically, mentally and spiritually challenging tasks in a wilderness setting. Students have the opportunity for personal development by accepting and attempting challenges, and are encouraged to enthusiastically participate in all activities to the best of their ability. They develop their social skills through positive interactions in group situations, working on trust, respect and cooperation with their peers. An understanding and commitment to the preservation and conservation of the natural environment blossoms and students’ skills flourish as they participate and enjoy many different outdoor activities.

The Outdoor Education program includes both shorter day trips (e.g., ziplining, rock climbing, bird banding, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, tandem biking, etc.) throughout the school year, as well as four day wilderness trips (e.g., backcountry canoe and hiking trips, winter camping, etc.), which provides students with unique opportunities to experience the outdoors. Instruction includes the learning of prerequisite skills and knowledge, gathering and understanding the equipment required and how to use it, assisting in menu planning and food preparation, and assisting in packing and unpacking. Our staff to student ratio is low to provide a safe environment, with hands-on coaching for our students.

Music Program

Music is at the centre of all our celebrations and events at W. Ross Macdonald School. Our students are able to focus on their passion and interests in music through performance in our choirs, small groups or solo endeavours, through composition, arranging, recording, music appreciation and theory. Our 3 music teachers work with students in all instrument groups including woodwind (e.g., flute, clarinet, saxophone), brass (e.g., trumpet, trombone, french horn), string (e.g., violin, string bass, guitar, ukulele), and percussion (e.g., drum kit, world drums), as well as piano and voice. Secondary students can work towards high school credits based on the Ontario Curriculum through individual lessons, theory and music appreciation classes as well as ensembles (e.g., choirs, ukulele club, and small instrumental ensembles). Besides their lessons, music teachers monitor and support student practice throughout lunch hours and in the evening.

Music is taught using a variety of systems, depending on the student’s needs, including rote, hand over hand, large print or music braille and digital media. W. Ross Macdonald’s music program is at the cutting edge of technology of teaching students who are blind and low vision!

Our music facilities are unprecedented and include:

  • 5 teaching classrooms
  • A Piano tuning shop run by our own piano tuner, for repairs and teaching students piano tuning
  • 20 practice studios equipped with piano, media players, and several with the LIMELIGHTER (a large screen for low vision students)
  • 50 pianos including 7 grand pianos on campus
  • A MIDI Lab with 5 work stations equipped with a professional recording program (SONAR) which uses speech to assist the students, as well as music notation programs for the blind (Goodfeel and LIME), a scanner, braille display, a small mixing board, and a MIDI keyboard
  • A Control Room and Live Room recording studio where students record musical and dramatic performances, individual projects, as well as jingles for morning announcements, language arts development, and the school’s yearbook, the AUDIBLE OTTER, which captures audio footage compiled onto a CD
  • A Theatre that is equipped with ETC lighting system, full audio system, theatre projector with a 25 foot screen which is ideal for concerts and assemblies

Drama Program

Students develop confidence, improve body awareness, stage presence, overcome shyness, learn to think on their feet, and work as a team through our Dramatic Arts program. Often plays are written in-house in order to showcase the qualities that each actor possesses. Students also have the opportunity to learn about the technical aspects of theatre including lights, sounds, sets, costumes, etc.. We have a fantastic improvisation group that practices, performs and competes throughout the year. There is nothing like the thrill of having an audience laughing at your antics, and cheering for your performance!

Visual Arts

The creative process is the pillar of our visual arts program at W. Ross Macdonald. Students use the elements and principles of design to create personal and meaningful artwork and are encouraged to experiment with drawing and painting using pencil, pastel crayons, acrylics, watercolour and oil paints, and explore ‘arts and crafts’ with projects such as papermaché, print making, crayon melts and fabric paints. Art history is explored, including learning about well-known artists and artwork, and students’ are encouraged to share their personal reactions and reflection on the art that they are studying. Students in our visual arts classes learn through collaborative group projects, and proudly display their creations in many places throughout the school and lodgings, in the Artists’ Café, and the local Glenhyrst Art Gallery. Our visual arts classes fosters students’ creative skills, imagination and self-awareness but also develops confidence, flexibility, appreciation of diverse perspectives and positive attitudes.


The pottery room is a hub of creativity giving the students hands-on experiences with a valuable, fun and age-old art form! From a lump of wet clay, students learn the basics of wedging, pinching and rolling. The tactile nature of molding clay is a perfect artform for any student! They learn how to add texture or make impressions in the clay. We learn patience as we follow the clay through the various stages of drying, firing in the kiln, painting the clay with various types of glazes and finally seeing the finished product after a second kiln firing. We are lucky enough to have all the necessary tools, glazes, clays and kiln right in our own classroom! In the more advanced classes, we use the slab roller to make sets of dishes, and the electric pottery wheel. Whether students are interested in making a pinch pot toothbrush holder, a wind chime for the garden or a fun animal shape to decorate their room, the projects reflect their personal choice, style and ability so that every student has a number of beautiful creative pieces of pottery to take home by the end of the semester!

Family Studies

Our new state of the art family studies room houses 3 teaching kitchens, where students develop confidence and familiarity in the kitchen in a supported and hands-on learning environment. An emphasis is placed on safe food handling practices, teamwork skills and general kitchen organization. Food preparation, food service and developing independence is at the forefront of the family studies program and is achieved through special events, fundraisers and in-school catering. Students are continuously improving their skills and expanding their knowledge of kitchen terms, tools and techniques through the use of large and small appliances in order to become confident and successful in preparing recipes. The skills learned in the family studies program are lifelong, practical and important.

Work Experience Program

Our Work Experience Program offers opportunities to develop essential skills and habits required for success beyond high school. At W. Ross Macdonald School we offer the traditional Co-Op program where students can earn 2 credits per year in the “Navigating the Workplace” Course (GLN40C). We also offer students who are completing the OSSC the opportunity to participate in the STEP program (Skills Training Educational Program) through “Discovering the Workplace” (GLD201) course. These learning experiences allow students to make informed decisions about their future careers. Students explore career interests through participation in the workplace and become actively engaged in all aspects of their placement. During the course, students study workplace safety information (WHMIS), preparing to enter and expectations of the workplace, job readiness, interviewing skills, resume writing, cover letters, applications forms and self-assessment/personality dimensions. Students also develop the work habits, attitudes, job skills, and self-advocacy skills necessary for a successful transition from secondary school to the workplace or to post-secondary education.

Students have the opportunity to share exciting things going on at their placements during “round table” discussions on Friday morning classes. Students in the Work Experience Program develop their leadership skills in helping to prepare for, and being active participants in the “Ways to Work” day which is held every year in April. At the end of the year students also host an “Employer Appreciation Luncheon” for their employers. Being actively involved in this luncheon is a highlight for both the students and the employers.

Also within the scope of the Work Experience Program, students who are actively involved within the K level programs have the opportunity to explore experiential work experiences, supported employment opportunities both inside and outside of the school and to be introduced to basic pre-employment skills which are needed to be successful in the workplace through the “SWEEP” program (Supported Work Experience and Educational Program) associated with the KGWANO course – Exploring the World of Work.