M5S 1W4

Academy members please enter TARTU through the Event Space entry around the corner at
#3 Madison Avenue

Workshops on a range of topics in the arts, sciences, and current affairs are generally offered every two weeks. The workshops are led by member-facilitators, and topics are researched and presented by the members of the class.

Workshops listing:

Pandemics – Past, Present, and Future: What Can We Learn? – New for 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Friday  2-4, Week 1   
space available

Pandemics have been with us since ancient Greece and have occurred throughout the centuries. The Black Death plague and the Spanish Flu killed millions, but we don’t commemorate them as we do wars.  In our lifetime we have witnessed AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Zika, and now Covid-19. This workshop will look at epidemics, plagues, and pandemics and their impact on society. What can we learn from past pandemics?  How do societies change after pandemics?  Are conspiracy theories and scapegoating common? How do politics and epidemics interface? What are the implications for civil liberties and privacy? Are pandemics inevitable? What’s in store for the future?  Each participant will be expected to research one topic and make a presentation to be followed by discussion.  Suggested topics and references, with many online articles, will be provided.

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Physical Fitness and Aging – New for 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Monday 10-12, Week 2
space available

This workshop will cover the science behind the physical fitness imperative and the various ways we can become fit or maintain our fitness as we age. Each participant will pick from a number of topics dealing with the science of fitness and the various modalities that are available. Presentations will be given and discussed in the first hour. In the second hour you may choose to try some simple exercises, while seated or standing, to illustrate the techniques discussed. Additionally, some techniques will be demonstrated so that participants may try or practice them at home. While this is not a fitness class or a work-out, participants are encouraged to wear loose comfortable clothing and to bring a tennis ball and stretch band to the workshop.

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Privacy in the Technological Age – New For 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Monday 2 – 4, Week 1
space available

Join us for a wide-ranging discussion of ‘privacy’, what it was, is now, and where it might go in the future with the advent of even more technology. In 1999 the Chief Executive Officer of Sun Microsystems said, “You have no privacy, get over it.” Was he right then and is he right now? Since 2000 there has been an explosion in the use of electronic devices and social media. What information is being collected? Are ‘smart’ devices, like Alexa, acquiring even more information about our behavior 24/7? Did you know that some Silicon Valley companies have amassed vast wealth by obtaining our behavioral data from our devices and social media? This data is being  sold in the new “behavioral futures market” to enable better predictions about our behavior and greater influence over our future choices –  how we vote, even how we think. Do some organizations have too much privacy? What privacy rights exist in Canada, and elsewhere, and what can we do in these perilous times to protect ourselves?

Participants are asked to select from a list of topics and prepare a 20-minute presentation.

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Propaganda: The Power and Ethics of Persuasion – NEW FOR 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Thursday  10-12, Week 2
space available

Propaganda has existed as far back as reliable recorded evidence exists. Now thought of as a nefarious thing; prior to WWI it was an accepted way to shape ideas.

Through presentations and lively discussion, we will explore:

  • the definition of propaganda
  • techniques like radio, film, speeches, print/posters, music and iconography
  • the role that propaganda has played in areas like war; science and health; religion; politics; advertising; and journalism
  • current issues in the era of social media and “fake news”
  • great propagandists like Hitler, Julius Caesar, Michael Moore, Stalin, and Tokyo Rose

Each workshop member will be required to give a 20-minute presentation. There won’t be a required reading list, but we will develop a detailed bibliography for further exploration.

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Public Parks as Contested Spaces – NEW FOR 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Friday 2-4, Week 1 – Fall term only
space available

Public parks, both in Canada and around the world, are spaces for recreation, sports, conservation, education, commemoration, community and economic development, political protest and more. They also serve as cultural spaces for music, theatre, dance and film and in literature.

Public parks can be contested public spaces: To what extent do they reflect the struggle or cooperation between public and private actors, indigenous people and park authorities? What are their historical roots? Who has access, who is excluded? Do they honour indigenous rights? When and how do park visits degenerate into over-tourism? How have social media altered park use? When and why do parks serve as the site of political and social protests? How are parks used in wars and what is their role in climate change?

Participants may choose from a variety of topics and are expected to make a 20-minute presentation. There will be recommended readings for each topic, but none that are required of everybody.

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Religion in the 21st Century: Life-Affirming Belief vs Violent Extremism – New For 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Monday 2 – 4, Week 2    


The readings for this workshop will focus on four major themes:

1) the five major religions and current inter-faith dialogues among them;

2) the nature of religious belief;

3) the rise of global inter-religious hatred and violence; and

4) how prominent individual believers translate their religious beliefs into a life well lived.

We will begin the workshop with a discussion of Stephen Prothero’s God is Not One: Eight Rival Religions that Run the World. Some other books that  we will consider include: Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and History of Violence; Barbara Taylor, Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others; Edgar Bronfman, Why be Jewish? and the Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.

An extensive bibliography will be provided with books available in multiple copies through the Toronto Public Library. Participants will be asked to do a presentation of 20 minutes on all or part of the book of their choice.

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Socio-Political Feature Films

Biweekly, Thursday 12-4, Week 2    
workshop full

Feature films are an excellent way to highlight current and historical social and political issues in order to inform and arouse a broad public. This workshop aims to stimulate thought and discussion through such films. We will view the films together, giving the opportunity for immediacy of reaction to the issues. Before viewing, one participant will briefly introduce the film, its director, actors, the making of the film, etc. After viewing, a second participant will address issues the film raises. Both presenters will suggest discussion questions. All films will be subtitled to assist hearing. Examples of films viewed in 2019-20 were Breaker Morant (1980) and Vera Drake (2004).

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Stand-Up Comedy

Biweekly, Thursday 12-2, Week 1
space available 

In this fun-filled workshop you will have an opportunity to mine your life experiences to develop your own unique approach to humour. We create a “writing room experience” so participants can help each other develop and refine original jokes. Our textbook is Comedy Writing Secrets3rd Edition by Mark Shatz with Mel Helitzer, Writer’s Digest Books. This book features practical tips on how to structure jokes and each chapter ends with writing exercises to hone your comedy skills.  Each workshop participant chooses a favourite comedian and prepares a short presentation on how that comic got their start in the business, what makes their approach to humour unique and how they get laughs. We use video clips of stand-up performances on YouTube as teaching aids.

At the end of the workshop in March 2021 the group will, if they wish, perform a comedy show of their own material for Academy members. No memorization for this course is required –participants can write their jokes on index cards if they wish.

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The Human Brain: Refreshed! – New for 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Monday 10-12, Week 1
workshop full

The human brain is an extraordinary instrument. As seniors we may be subject to the incidental wear and tear of the aging process:  a faltering footstep, partial hearing loss, clouded eyesight, digestive rumblings, and creaks in the old wineskin. However, the fact that we have chosen to be members of a self- directed Academy for Lifelong Learning testifies to the stubbornness of our still active brain. In this workshop we will explore many different perspectives of the human brain drawn from sources as diverse as neuroscience, evolution, art history, psychology, technology, the self, the senses, and what dreams are made of. Each participant will get to choose from a wide variety of topics and then be prepared to give a 20-25-minute presentation.

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Toronto: City of Neighborhoods – New for 2020 / 2021

Biweekly, Wednesday 10-12, Week 1
space available

The intent of this workshop is to delve into the diversity of Toronto’s uniquely various and vibrant neighbourhoods. Presenters will choose a neighbourhood and research its history, significant buildings, unknown (to many people) attractions, parks and landmarks, development over time, changing demographics and future prospects. There are a lot of options for choosing a neighbourhood: a family connection; where you live/ moved to/ grew up; stories from family or friends; or simply researching a neighbourhood that interests you. Some workshops could be supplemented by field trips. Photographs then and now, based on research via the Toronto archives/library, etc. are a possibility.

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