Shad2021 brings together more than 900 students from six time zones across Canada to 16 university campuses for a 20-day online experience like no other. Shads hear from inspiring speakers and participate in hands-on workshops from home – while exploring their passions, career paths, and new connections. Julia Wright, Ryan Marshall, and Kaatje Fulford tell us all about getting out of their comfort zones, learning and creating with their design teams, and building friendships that will last long after the program is over.

Julia Wright


Julia Wright (they/them), a Grade 11 student from Halifax, Nova Scotia, shares what an exhilarating day at Shad UBC looks like in the Atlantic Time Zone.

8:00 AM I wake up, and usually have time to do some school work and volunteering since Shad starts later in the day for me. I’m taking Grade 11 Physics this summer; I didn’t know that I was interested in coding until this past March, so I need to take physics to apply for software engineering programs. I’m very interested in gender equity, so I volunteer for an organization called Bridging Gender Divides; we’re working on creating a STEM outreach program for girls. Volunteering is a huge part of my life and a passion of mine, so I make time before Shad every day for it.

11:50 AM I log in to Shad on my computer, and my Program Director Jess plays us in with some fun pop music. When I logged on the first day, I was skeptical about what we were going to do for six hours everyday, but I’ve been loving it. I never expected I would have this much fun – I don’t know another program that could do that!

UBC Shads being welcomed into their daily Zoom call.

12:00 PM Morning announcements with our Program Directors and Facilitators. Every day we listen to two ShadSpeaks – 3-minute videos we made before Shad on anything we’re interested in. Mine hasn’t been played yet; it’s about ambulance fees. I had to take a few ambulance rides in 2018, and I just assumed they were free because they’re part of the healthcare system. When I saw the ambulance bills that got sent to my parents, it was over $400. I strongly don’t believe they should exist, so that started a chain of events which led to me now editing a documentary advocating against ambulance fees.

Behind the scenes of a coding workshop.

12:30 PM It’s design team time – we’re coming up with a solution for greywater (domestic wastewater from all sources except toilets). My design team gets along really well and we all complement each others’ working skills. We’ve learned how to create a storyline to pitch products or services, how to use design thinking, and how to bounce off different people’s perspectives when working in our team. I do a lot of things individually because of convenience, but I’ve had such a good experience that it might lead me to seek out more group work with people I like and can be creative with.

2:00 PM We take a break – some people will go outside or rest, or we can stick around in the Zoom call and talk to each other. We also have committees at Shad UBC that are responsible for different initiatives during the month. I’m on the Shad Pride committee, tasked with creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ people and allies. On the very first day, Shad UBC had a motivational speaker named Drew Dudley talk about why you should just live your life and not care what other people think. It honestly changed my entire worldview and inspired me to come out as non-binary to my friends and family, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time but never actually done. He taught me that life’s too short to stay in your comfort zone all the time – you get so much more out of life when you go into your “stretch zone” as our Program Director Jess calls it. Jess always says “courage over comfort”, and that has really become ingrained in me throughout Shad.

3:00 PM We have either a lecture we all attend together or workshops we get to pick from. Our facilitators run the workshops and share their talents with us. I went to a really interesting one on body language and how it works in different cultures. I came second in our Kahoot competition! One of our facilitators, Kent, ran a workshop called “Beak, Feather & Bone” which is a collaborative role-playing game where we get to build and name a city. We’ve also learned about kinetic art sculptures and worked with coding for arduinos – it’s all really interesting.

Julia asks a question to national keynote speaker Dr. Toni De Mello.
Playing online games at Shad UBC.

4:30 PM We usually wrap up each day with an all-campus activity. One of these is UBC Hangs – we get put into random breakout rooms on Zoom with two other people we haven’t worked with before and get to know each other. We’ve also had game nights, and activities where we use items from our “Shadvent Calendar”. Shad UBC surprised us and sent this absolutely gigantic box, filled with items that make our activities really hands-on. We get to open something new every few days, and the mysterious labels like “12=13”, “Don’t lose focus”, and “Science Snackers” make sense when we do the activity all together.

6:00 PM Shad ends for the day. I’ll take a break from looking at my screen for about two hours and go outside, have dinner, and hang out with my family.

8:00 PM Sometimes my Shad friends and I will play online games together, use our chat platform to message each other, or prepare for the talent show we have coming up. It’s been super cool to meet new people – who I’m going to be friends with for a long time. I’m kind of an introvert, and the school I go to only has 20 students, so getting out of my comfort zone and talking to people from across the country has been a huge highlight. It’s so worth it to spend a month of your life getting to know different people; wherever you go in Canada now you have a connection with someone. I’ve never had that kind of friendship before.

Ryan Marshall


Ryan Marshall (he/him) lives in East St Paul, Manitoba, in the Central Time Zone. This Grade 10 student walks us through a compelling day at Shad Dalhousie.

8:00 AM I wake up, eat breakfast, and have time to read a book for a relaxed morning.

Pirate dress-up for one of the spirit days at Shad Dalhousie.

9:45 AM I log on to Shad, and our facilitators put up a fun prompt like “Dumbledore vs Gandalf” or “Is soup a cereal?” and we have great (and sometimes heated) conversations to start us off. It’s a fun way to start the day as a campus and get to know each other better.

10:00 AM We get together in our groups of seven for design team time. My team is really collaborative, and our project is based on the question: How can we help Canadian teens improve their water use? We spend this time brainstorming, talking to experts, interviewing other Canadian teens, and improving our product design. A highlight for me has been getting away from traditional learning (even though that’s amazing, and my academic brain loves it), and focusing on creating relationships within our team.

12:30 PM We take a break, but some days we all just hang out while we have lunch. It’s surprised me how we’ve been able to get past the online barrier and still have so much fun.

1:00 PM Shad brings in the most interesting people from all over Canada to speak to us – it can be a national keynote or just within the Dalhousie campus. Some of the speakers talk about issues related to our design theme, and sometimes it’s just things they’re passionate about. We had an astrophysicist, Dr. Arthur McDonald (who’s also a Nobel Prize winner), come talk to us about the discovery of neutrinos, which was incredibly engaging.

National keynote with Nobel Physics Prize winner, Dr. Arthur McDonald.
Coding with the Texas Instruments Innovator Hub.

3:00 PM At the end of the day we do a bunch of cool activities. Shad is the one place in Canada where all the brightest minds and coolest people come to meet, so when we do things like an online escape room, it’s really great because we’re all in the zone and working with logic and working off each other. They managed to get so much hands-on activity and interactive learning this year despite being online – like when Shad Dalhousie sent us a package of popsicle sticks, and we were making things with them and rolling a golf ball down them. The learning happens off-screen too, right here in our own homes. We’ve also used our Texas Instruments Innovator Hubs and they’re teaching us how to code by writing songs and making lights flash on these little machines that were mailed to us. I’ve started spending time outside of Shad learning how to code as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I kept doing it for years. I want to get good at it because it’s a cool skill to have but also it’s really fun – I’m thinking about some kind of engineering field for after high school.

3:45 PM We finish off each day with a short campus meeting, and reflect about what we learned that day. Shad is different from school because I go to have fun, participate in the activities, and listen to amazing people talk, and by the end of every day I just happen to learn so much – as opposed to “You’re here and you’re going to learn this material”. You get so much experience and new skills out of it. It’s opened opportunities that I never would’ve thought of.

5:00 PM In the evenings I work at a pizza place, so I go there after Shad ends. When I’m not working, I read, have dinner, then wind down before bed. Some nights we get together and play online games with our new Shad friends. I was intimidated about Shad at first, but after being there I know not to think like that. It’s not about what you come in with, it’s more about what you come out of it with.

Dalhousie Shads playing online games together.

Kaatje Fulford


Kaatje Fulford (she/her) just finished Grade 10 and is spending her summer at Shad York. She shows us a day in her eye-opening Shad life from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in the Mountain Time Zone.

8:30 AM I get up and get ready, and hop on to join Shad right away.

Kaatje’s view of the morning Shad News.

9:00 AM We chat as everyone is joining in, and watch Shad News that some of our Shads put together about what the day’s going to bring. I’m naturally introverted and I tend to shy away from situations where I have to meet a lot of people, so Shad has pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone and interact with everyone.

9:15 AM We join our team meetings. I love getting to interact with all the other Shads. I haven’t really met people that I felt like I could connect with and relate to so well before the program started, and it’s been so nice realizing that lots of people feel the same way I do about school. We learn from each other and give advice on our academic struggles, like perfectionism, and it’s comforting to hear what their takes are.

10:30 AM Lunch is earlier for me because of my time zone! We usually play games and get to know our Facilitators better. I’m for sure going to have a lot of friends after the program that I’ll stay in contact with for years. I’ve met so many amazing people from all over the country.

11:00 AM We’ll spend about two hours with our design teams, going through our projects, talking about our ideas, trying to figure out what the best possible solution is, making compromises, and getting a better view of the whole situation. I love my design team so much because we’re all from different parts of Canada, but we have so many different experiences that it’s just so cool we have our own things we specialize in. It’s really interesting to see how we work as a team and I’m really grateful for all of them. A lot of us want to see how it goes afterwards and if we can turn our project into a business.

Designing 3D printed keychains with the design team.
Watercolour painting workshop.

1:00 PM This is when we have a national keynote or a fun staff lecture. We had one where we painted with an Inuk artist which I really enjoyed. I was expecting Shad to be very academic-focused and intense, but I was pleasantly surprised that we get to do art and it’s very well-balanced; there’s a lot we do beyond STEAM.

3:00 PM The official end of the Shad day, but we typically choose to stay after and hang out with everyone. I’ll do some work for my design projects or send Shad Notes – notes we send to other Shads and Facilitators about how grateful we are for each other and what we appreciate about them.

6:00 PM In the evenings, I have dinner with my family. Before I go to bed, I write about what we did that day and put my reflections into my Shad Passport that the team at Shad York sent us to keep track of our memories from the program. I can already look back and see that I’m learning to put myself out there and take risks. Shad is transformational and is showing me what the world really holds for me.

Virtual field trip to Ripley’s Aquarium – with Kaatje’s cat Freya!

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