The Future is Bright!

Just a few weeks ago, I was standing out front of the KCS Junior School, taking first day of school photos of my son Adam. At that same moment, a staff member from KCS took a photo of Adam as he took his first step onto the new school bus to take him to the new Senior School site for his first day of Grade 10. He put his thumbs up, ready to go see the school building that would soon open and be his new learning environment for the year. What I felt was at this moment was pride, hope, a sense of belonging to a wonderful community and a sense of comfort that I was sending Adam to an amazing high school.

Today, I am feeling even more emotions for KCS and for all that they have done for my children. Adam and Julian started at KCS in Grades 2 and 3.  Julian graduated Grade 8 last year and is now at Appleby College. Adam graduated Grade 8 two years ago and decided to be in the founding class of the new KCS Senior School.

We cannot say enough good things about being a part of the KCS community. My family has been very active in the school and today, I am so happy that through our company Roadsport Auto Group, we will once again be the lead sponsor for The Future is Bright fundraising Gala on May 13, 2023. This will be our third time as lead KCS Gala sponsor and our hope is that others in the KCS community will join us as sponsors, auction item donors and supporters.

Over the last seven years we’ve been a part of the KCS community, we have felt compelled to support the school in many ways. We have given financial support to the Galas, the Humbertown Park project, the Entrepreneurship Fund, the Senior School build and more. I am currently the Chair of the Senior School Parent Network, have been a Junior School volunteer for the Parent Network, a member of the Campaign Cabinet for the Senior School Capital Campaign, a member of Gala planning committees and volunteered at numerous Fun Fairs (formerly known as the Welcome Back BBQ). My family even arranged a catered surprise lunch for the Senior School to finish up their first week of the school year. I have been active in any way that I could and continue to make giving to KCS a priority for my family. Our children deserve the very best education and experiences and I know that our donations help to ensure they get that. That is really the most important reason we give. Our support will provide additional experiences and access to the best education possible for my children and the children that will follow.

It has been a challenging couple of years, but now THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, and I can’t wait to celebrate and have a great time at the Gala which will be held in the brand-new Senior School on Lake Shore Blvd – with my glow stick in hand!

Aneta Gauthier

Proud parent and supporter of KCS!

Welcome to 2022-23

What a great start to the 2022-23 school year. From the return of teachers and staff readying to welcome JK to Grade 10 students to saying goodbye to the kids as they finished their first week of classes, it has all been such a positive start to what I feel is going to be a fantastic year. We are all looking forward to the return of all the things that we love about the KCS Junior School and the excitement and challenge of opening the new KCS Senior School on Lake Shore.

I would like to reflect on some of the great things that have happened in the past two weeks.

On Monday, August 29, all our teachers and staff gathered for our first meeting of the year. It was the first time our returning and new staff gathered in person, and I could see everyone face-to-face.  I heard so many of my staff say how happy they were to be seeing each other again and how much they had missed the comradery that comes with working side-by-side with each other. As much as we worked as a team during the past couple of years, I must admit that I prefer seeing everyone in the school and not on a screen. That full staff meeting was the highlight of the pre-school week. The energy and enthusiasm filled the room and I felt excited to be starting this year with such anticipation of a full return to “normal”.

As the week progressed, I enjoyed getting to know our new staff. We have hired new faculty for both the Junior and Senior Schools, and a new Director of Guidance for the Senior School, as we increase our enrolment and expand to offer Grade 10. We also hired a new Director of Marketing and welcomed back teachers who had been away on leave. One of the things that makes KCS such a great place is our sense of community.  That starts with relationships. Taking the time to get to know staff and show them that KCS is a great place to work is part of my role as Head of School. The onboarding and success of our team starts with me.

After a packed week, including our Senior School Curriculum Night, and the Labour Day weekend, the school year was about to begin.  The Junior School Curriculum Night on Tuesday, September 6, was a full house in Canada Hall.  I met parents who I had never come face-to-face with since they registered their child(ren) at KCS. Our teachers got to meet our parents and confidently talk about what to expect this year.  I reminded people that our musical will return next March, and Mr. Magee was so pleased to be able to inform everyone that we now have a crossing guard and that the corner of Wimbledon and Dundas will be getting a traffic light – both things we have been working on for many years. Hearing our parents’ laughter, the conversations and excitement about being able to come back inside KCS again, was wonderful.

But nothing was as thrilling or as fun for me as seeing our students on Wednesday morning.  From the newest JK students to our Senior School students getting on our new school bus, it was just amazing.  There were smiles and excitement for the most part.   I enjoyed seeing the teachers and staff smiling right back.  However, as I’ve seen in my almost 30 years of opening days, not every child is happy on their first day, and there were a few tears and a few children hugging their parent’s leg or slipping behind them and being shy.  And me, in the middle of all of it, thinking this is one of the reasons I chose education as a career. 

What a day! And what a week. Our youngest students visited the library for the first time, ever. All of our Junior School children were playing in Humbertown Park and you could hear the laughter as they participated in their Be Active sessions. Our Grade 7 and 8 students were immediately off to Norval and Canterbury Hills for their outdoor education trips ,and when we send out or Stay Connected Month in Review, parents will see some of the great team building and leadership activities that happened while they were there.

Although our Senior School opening unfortunately did not occur during that first week, our faculty enacted the contingency plan we had in place since the spring.  Our Grade 9 and 10 students made use of our new bus for their orientation week.  Place-based learning happened around the Senior School and downtown Toronto, and their week ended with a surprise lunch at the Junior School donated by one of our very generous families.  We look forward to opening our Senior School facility this week. 

As I said goodbye to our students on Friday as they were leaving after their first week of school, it was nice to know we had a start that was feeling like that of the 2019/20 school year.

See you around the school.

Derek Logan

Head of School

Starting 2022 at the KCS Junior School

Happy new year! It was a big first week back full of new and exciting things – of course, being online presents its own set of new opportunities and experiences. 

It’s in times like these when the Habits of Mind, Body and Action become so important in our work, play, and interactions with each other. 

Despite not being able to be together in the school in person, activities resumed in each class swiftly last Wednesday online. While there is much to cover and many plans ready to be rolled out, I’m glad that students were able to take the time to reconnect with each other in their first Meets of the year. I know that we were all excited to see everyone again and to see what teachers had planned for the day. 

For many of us, this switch to online learning has become more familiar over the past couple of years, but for others, it is a brand new experience. It takes time to establish new routines and to learn how to mute, unmute, and listen, and be patient online. Persist and it will come together. I must thank each student, parent, and of course all faculty and staff for adjusting to online instruction this week with such a positive mindset. 

The beginning of the new year is a great time to set some goals and it will come as no surprise that this was a focus of some class discussions. The story Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution provided a discussion point for the SKs – if you are looking for a resolution, you might be inspired to follow Squirrel’s lead and resolve to be kind to someone each day.  

And a class discussion in Grade 1 prompted some writing about goals for 2022 and some reflections on favourite parts of 2021. Students thought about some positive changes they would like to promise to themselves in the upcoming year. What are some things that you want to get better at? What are some things that you may want to learn how to do? 

Students have begun their math and science lessons as well. In Grade 2, students have begun to explore states of matter, and there has been lots of activity on Google Classroom regarding math practice and homework across the grades.  

Our intermediate students have begun to focus on Black History Month. They have also engaged in a lesson to help them think critically about the role technology plays in developing countries. In Language Arts, a project on song analysis will call on students to focus their attention on identifying poetic devices in song lyrics and identifying tone, mood, and theme.

Virtual clubs also began last week! I have the opportunity to lead a Makerspace club on Wednesday afternoons with a great group of Grade 7 and 8 students. As a starting point, we began with a discussion about inspiration. What are you passionate about? What inspires you to want to explore your passions further? Lucky for these students, the club time is dedicated to exploring their passions, deciding on how to act on them, and sharing them with others.

A special shout out goes to the Grade 6s –  Happy Favourite Mug Funky Friday! What a fun class event to end the first week back.

While we all look forward to being back in the building together soon, I want to encourage everyone to keep trying their best each day as you always do. Remember to reach out for help, ask questions, and persist. Whether we are at the school, or at home, keep trying your best. 

HELP US SAVE THE KCS BIRDS

(One Sticker at a Time)

In October the SK Usagi class discovered an unexpected, unfortunate surprise in the outdoor playground- we found a small bird laying motionless on the ground. After Mister C removed the bird, some of the SKs shared their ideas about what might have happened:

“Maybe it fell.”
“Maybe disease.”-MS
“Maybe it bumped its head!”-FE

We could only make guesses, but since the bird was on the ground near a window, the SKs all quickly agreed that it must have indeed bumped its head on one of the windows above. We then wondered why.

Discovering a bird in the Outdoor Classroom

Back in the classroom, the SKs conducted a science experiment using a flashlight and the plexiglass dividers at our lunch tables. We noticed that while you can see through them and the light shines through just like a window, you can also see an image on the surface called a reflection. Windows can act just like mirrors! 

Can you spot the illuminated mask reflected in the plexiglass?

We then had an extended workshop about light, and we started to learn some science vocabulary including: reflective, transparent, translucent, and opaque.

Shining a flashlight through different objects then recording our observations on a chart

Mister C added some tools in our learning centres so that we can continue to experiment with light during play. We are scientists, after all! In each centre we have flashlights and a variety of materials that are reflective, transparent, translucent, and opaque. We even have some charts to record our observations.

Shining a flashlight through some colourful transparent connectors

Using a flashlight to examine an opaque object in the classroom

Using a chart to record our findings and to copy the scientific vocabulary words

When we went back outside to play, we examined the windows and discovered that they have a strong reflection, so we wondered if the bird might have mistaken a window for the sky.

“I can see the sky there! They still don’t know it’s a window!” -LH
“If the bird doesn’t know if it’s the sky because it’s the reflection then it will just bang itself on there.” -AB

Looking up at the windows to see the reflection of the sky

We shared our thoughts about solving the problem for other birds in the future:

“We need the birds to protect theyselves.” -OB
“Make them don’t bump into the window.” -LH

Mister C shared that sometimes people put stickers called decals on their windows to interrupt the reflection and help the birds to see that there is actually glass there that they should avoid. The SKs unanimously decided that they wanted to help the birds at KCS by making some window decals of their own! 

To make our decals, first we each chose our favourite kind of bird. Then, we traced an outline of the bird on a clear acetate using a photograph underneath.

Carefully tracing an outline of an eagle

We then painted a thick coat using a solution of white glue and dish soap.

Painting on the first layer of the special solution

When our artwork was dry, we coloured our birds with permanent markers.

We had the choice of using the bird’s true-to-life colours or coming up with our own

Finally, we peeled our designs away from the acetate. We were each left with a beautiful window decal of our own!

The stunning and unique finished products

When everything was finished, we placed our decals up on the windows overlooking our outdoor classroom. Gorgeous! We hope that this will help the birds to avoid bumping their heads in the future.

We used a bit of water to help the decals stick as we gently pressed them to the windows

We had to press them very carefully, but thanks to the dish soap they stay slippery and easy to adjust

When we finished our project, we noticed that there were still lots of windows left with no stickers. We talked about what we could do, and an SK suggested that other students could help.“We [don’t] need just our class to put stickers on, we need other class to put stickers!

“More, more, more!” -LK
“We can write a letter!” -AY

We are so proud of our bird decals, but we need your help

Now SK Usagi is calling out to you! If you would like to make your own decals, please check out the following website for a tutorial:  https://ny.audubon.org/conservation/how-create-window-decals-prevent-bird-collisions.

You can either add your finished decals to your own windows at home or you can bring them in to KCS so that we can add them to our windows here at school.

Our letter (To KCS: We need more stickers for the windows. We don’t want the birds to hit the windows. Will you please help us? Love, The SK Usagi Class)

If you choose to join our initiative, please bring your finished decal to your KCS Arrival door where a designated bin will be waiting!

Thank you in advance for joining us in helping to save the KCS birds one sticker at a time.

– Written by Mr.C

Place-Based Learning at the KCS Senior School

With the launch of the new KCS Senior School comes the opportunity to show what Place-Based Learning can be in the heart of Canada’s biggest city. Admittedly, Toronto is blessed with ample greenspaces, a wide variety of mixed-use neighbourhoods, and a population full of passionate community builders, artists, and changemakers. We are spoiled for inspiration and learning opportunities. This is all the more reason to launch a school that will connect student learning with such an enriched environment. Here’s how school can be.

Our year began last Thursday. After a walk along one of Toronto’s longest, mixed-use streets, our students spent the day in High Park: 399 acres of native flora and fauna, sports facilities, trails, and more. As befitting the first day, our students and faculty engaged in tone-setting dialogue and team-building challenges, all under the watchful gaze of a hawk who chose to spend the morning with us, even perching on a nearby tree when we stopped for lunch. In the afternoon, our students were introduced to the new responsibility they had as students in a place-based high school. They were paired up, given a scavenger hunt challenge, and a map with a wide range in which they could wander for the following 90 minutes to find the many items on their list. This was their introduction to the trust we had in them, and the trust they would want to maintain. All returned when expected, with the task complete. When told that offsite learning would be a regular part of the school experience, one student responded “I like that. That’s how I remember things.” Yes, we know.

Imagine what’s possible if learning were to regularly happen outside a classroom. Imagine what’s possible if learning included the sights, sounds, smells, artifacts, emotions, physical activity, and engagement with external experts that are available by stepping outside of school. This is intellectual and life-shaping enrichment that no textbook nor Google search can provide.

Our second day included two hours with an expert from High Park Nature Centre. Our guide began with the intriguing question: how does place hold time? We learned about the origin of the name Toronto (Tkaronto, where trees stand in the water) and the 5,000-year-old fishing weirs (those trees) created by the Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat nations that are still visible underwater north of Toronto. Our tour included an introduction to the white pine, also named the Tree of Peace, and the story of Hiawatha and peacemaking dating back 600 years. Another activity blended math and history by challenging the students to create a 30-foot timeline of local events, from the ice age to the 2010 resolution of The Toronto Purchase. We saw a decades-old photo of a sewer that stood 20 feet tall, which we erroneously guessed was a smokestack, before the ravine of Wendigo Creek at the northeast corner of the park was filled in to make for smooth road-building and community development. Those two hours introduced the students to the stories behind the neighbourhoods we inhabit. Those stories will support curiosity, humility, and an appreciation among our students for the role they can play in shaping their corner of the world for the better.

Learning immersed in our surroundings will continue beyond these first days. English class will include free writes that focus on characters and setting inspired by observations on walks such as these. French class will see students developing their vocabulary by commenting on their varied surroundings. Science is already planning a canoe trip on the nearby Humber River that will include an introduction to water sampling led by Swim Drink Fish, a charity committed to engaging citizens as active contributors to data collection and water quality oversight. All of these activities connect to the curriculum.

The theme that will weave through all grade 9 courses is “knowing our place”. Our collective effort as teachers will support deep insight into the nature, people, economy, challenges, history, accomplishments, and secrets of the streets and trails we’ll walk upon. Becoming intimately familiar with our small part of the world will set the stage for appreciating the depth and complexity of the unknown neighbourhoods around the globe.

Our students are regularly outside, they are active, they are learning in unforgettable ways, and they are growing as independent learners and leaders. This is the beginning of place-based learning at the KCS Senior School. This is the start of our story of what high school can be.

KCS Senior School Update #10 – Where We Were

The last blog in this series was dated Feb 11, 2020. “And So We Begin” shares the excitement of our January 2020 announcement: that we had secured a site for the Senior School and would be open for grade 9 in September 2021. After the effort of a generation, it was finally going to happen.

We had no idea that our largest obstacle was yet to come.

I’m willing to guess most adults have a vivid memory of where they were when the provincial lockdown announcement was made last March. I was in the middle of a quiet March Break. A trip my husband and I planned had already been cancelled and was replaced with a solo trip to Ottawa to visit my father. On the drive along the 401, I joined senior management and Board members on a call to discuss the implications for the Senior School. Though the ensuing ten months weren’t at all what we expected, they became part of the Senior School story.

Where have we been since the last update? Those in the KCS community know we launched a fully online K-8 program by the third day post-March Break. Then we redesigned anew to provide our In-School/At-Home program, including substantial commitment to pandemic mitigation, this past fall. What many don’t know is in the midst of these unprecedented transformations, some of us explored possible paths forward for the Senior School. Could we get construction done for 2021? Offer grade 9 at the Junior School until the Lake Shore site was complete? The unpredictability, and the need to focus on the Junior School, pushed these ideas aside.

By October, attention returned to include the Senior School. It was clear the Lake Shore site couldn’t be ready for 2021, so the updated construction timeline and financial modelling had September 2022 as our opening date.

That’s when our Senior School founding families entered this story.

They reminded us that we could make 2021 happen. They wanted our Senior School for their children currently in grade 8. The pandemic brought into focus what mattered most for them – the school they respected, offering the experience they believed in, and the attention to safety they expected. If nothing else, the pandemic had taught us all to be patient. They were willing to be patient when it came to the Lake Shore site. Their determination to help make 2021 happen reignited our own.

We figured out what a Bridge Year could be. The founding families re-registered, and external families are joining this founding group. A terrific new partnership with Centauri Arts meant we would have a compelling location for grade 9 in addition to some impressive expertise joining our program. On January 20th, almost one year after that first major announcement, it was confirmed that we would indeed be offering our first grade 9 class in September 2021.

This was a lengthy detour, and a test of our mettle. The excitement marking our achievement in early 2020 is now fully returned at the imminent offering of grade 9. I will be teaching again, we have some great new KCS staff joining our team, and we’re securing Learning Partners to further enrich our program. Our story is far from over, but we’re back where we were, making this dream a reality.

Year-End Reflections from a First-Time Submarine Captain

Over the past few months, I often found myself thinking about an article I read by an American nuclear submarine officer. There was one line that really stuck with me – “If there is one thing my experience as a submarine officer taught me, it’s that you get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Since COVID-19 turned our lives upside-down back in March, I’ve felt like a captain of a submarine. Because since then, everything that I took for granted about running a school has become anything but comfortable. The way we deliver our curriculum, the way our students interact with each other, the way our faculty works together, the way we run our clubs and assemblies – all of it needed to be re-thought, re-planned, and re-invented. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and quickly.

The first few weeks after we closed our facility was the most intense experience of my professional life. I felt a bit like a first-year Head of School again, because so much was totally new and unfamiliar to me. But this time, I had to make all those new decisions in an incredibly short period of time. By all rights, it could have been a total and complete disaster.

Of course, sailing a giant pressurized metal tube with no windows hundreds of meters underwater should be a recipe for disaster as well. But the reason submarines work is very simple. It’s because of teamwork. No submarine captain can – or should – try to check every valve and plug every leak. Captains are only as good as their team of officers, sailors, and support staff onshore. Our KCS submarine has been successful these past months for many of the same reasons we’ve been successful in the past: because we’ve all been supported by an amazing community of students, faculty, staff, Board members, volunteers, and families.

As soon as I realized that we would have to close the school, I knew that everyone on our team would be ready to jump in, help out, and support each other. That’s because I’ve seen it happen again and again throughout my years at KCS. But seeing that kind of amazing teamwork in action on such a grand scale has been incredibly rewarding and humbling. These are intense times, but they have reminded me how lucky I am to be surrounded by such a great community of people.

That includes our parents and families as well. Just like our faculty and staff, our families have rolled up their sleeves and helped us make it through this experience. They have been our own “front line workers” these past three months, and we could not have made it work without their tireless efforts on the home front! I’m also very proud of how hard we worked as a school to give families the opportunities to ask questions or raise concerns, as their experiences at home gave us valuable insights and feedback that helped inform our thinking and decision making.

But even with all this support and teamwork, the pressure can build up. For years, I had a simple strategy that helped me deal with the stress of leadership. I would just walk down the hall, wander into a classroom, go outside for recess, and start chatting with our students. Believe me – if you want to feel grounded and rejuvenated, nothing beats a conversation with a student in one of our youngest grades. Five minutes of that puts everything I do back into perspective.

In many ways, not having that ability to regularly connect with our students has been the hardest part of this whole situation for me. That’s probably why I found myself looking forward to my weekly Hockey Card Club meetings.. Spending a half-hour just talking with grades 1-3 students about cards helped me remember why I do what I do. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about connecting with people. Every individual in our community matters, and maintaining that sense of connection between all of us at KCS has been our number one priority these past months.

I know that I’ll never actually be a captain of a submarine (I was in a Soviet submarine once, but didn’t enjoy the tight quarters given my size!). But this experience in the last three months has shown me that becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is not just a survival tactic for submariners. It’s also a good reminder that navigating choppy waters is a lot easier if you’ve got teamwork, positivity, and a strong community on your side.

As we cross the finish line of a very unusual but ultimately rewarding school year, I hope everyone in our community enjoys a happy and healthy summer. As I reminded our graduates at closing ceremonies, be sure to always let our three school rules guide you. They served me very well these past few months, and I know they will serve all of you well, no matter where you go or what life throws at you.

Have a great summer KCS. I can’t wait to see all of you again soon!

-Derek Logan

Along with “How a Nuclear Submarine Officer Learned to Live in Tight Quarters”, another great read on the subject of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is “Planning Your Future Is Pointless. The How and Why of Embracing Uncertainty”. Both articles provide interesting insights into how to handle the unique challenges of our times.

Supporting Well-being with Drama and Technology

One of the things I’ve always loved about teaching drama is the element of human connection. Drama helps us tell stories in ways that connects with our need to be seen, heard, and understood. It is an art driven by facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language – all elements of a shared common language that we each embody in our unique way. In other words, drama is a universal language that is also highly personal.

We know that connections are vital for well-being. So now, more than ever, our students need to feel connected to their community. And I believe that nothing builds connections better than sharing and hearing our stories. But how do you make those connections when we are so physically separated?

That’s the question I brought to my weekly meeting with drama educators from around the world. My Canadian colleagues in Korea, Spain, and NYC all shared what they have learned during their time at the heart of the COVID-19 crisis. They all agreed that students need the emotional connection of theatre, and many of them recommended I look into Flipgrid, an online video-sharing tool created by Microsoft.

Basically, Flipgrid is a way for students and teachers to communicate via short videos. It is highly customizable, has excellent privacy settings, and is presented in a way that is very engaging and accessible for a generation that is growing up using apps such as TikTok or Snapchat.

Alongside our wonderful students and fellow teachers, we took a responsible risk and piloted the use of Flipgrid in a number of different classes. It has proven to be a remarkable tool – not only in drama classes, but in many other disciplines. We’ve also incorporated it into student speeches, social studies projects, and games such as “All About Me” and “Guess Who”. We’re also using it as the backbone of our upcoming KCS’ Got Talent @ Home Edition!

The fact that students can rehearse and do multiple takes before uploading a final version has been a huge boon for those students who might normally feel uncomfortable speaking in front of a class, as it gives them a sense of control and agency over their responses.  Because videos go directly to the teacher, students who would rather express their ideas 1:1 feel empowered to have a voice. And for those who don’t like seeing themselves on camera, they can use filters, post-it notes, or a virtual whiteboard instead of their own talking head!

But probably my favourite aspect of Flipgrid is the way in which it allows students to build connections with others. Once a video is uploaded, students and teachers can post video responses to give individual feedback or accolades. Seeing your teacher’s facial expressions and hearing the tone of their voice as they talk to you about something you have made is a deeply rewarding and empowering experience. Kids who were feeling isolated or lonely suddenly feel seen and heard. Their social connections to others are strengthened, simply through the power of communal conversations.

Times of crisis are also times of opportunity. While the COVID-19 situation has given us many challenges, it has also helped us move outside our comfort zone and explore new and innovative approaches to teaching. This experience has reminded me to never stop trying new things, especially when it comes to exploring new avenues that help our students become more empowered, balanced, and connected.

-Teresa Pollett-Boyle, Arts Coordinator

Passion-Driven Learning at School and Home

The wisdom of the ages has taught us to strive for balance. To the extent that we practise it, we see the value it offers in health, happiness, and success.

Balance is also behind transformational learning.

For far too long, education has been designed with well-intended imbalance. The half of the equation most focused on – curriculum-driven learning – is absolutely valuable. For generations, students have shown up to school and worked their way through a long list of knowledge and skills. Learn the alphabet, count by tens, contemplate history, write with persuasion, dabble in science, and – of course – show what you know and can do with the content and skills adults choose.

This is a critical part of school. It helps students practise core skills as steps to mastery. But more is possible. Making room for students to bring their full selves – their passions, curiosity, and talents – makes for the full value in education that students deserve and we all need them to have. Balancing the school experience with time devoted to passion-driven learning means students not only learn in the area of their passions; if done right, it develops their core knowledge, skills, and habits of mind in precisely the directions we rightly seek in the curriculum.

Here’s how this works at KCS:

When students pursue their passions at school, they usually practise their research skills. Their curiosity is exercised and they develop their question-asking and problem-solving. Because they care, they read more (and read more complex text), they learn more, take more notes, and write with greater attention to quality. When expected to share their learning, which our teachers ask of their students, this information is synthesized and turned into a coherent written project or public presentation. In the case of some passions, sharing often means creating something to show their classmates. This might include building a model (real or virtual), coding a robot, drafting a business proposal, making a video game, creating works of art, composing music, or writing a book. The ownership and empowerment are palpable. While initial steps are often modest, robust seeds are planted that fuel intrinsic motivation, responsible risk-taking, persistence, and creativity.

Passion projects are a journey of self-discovery and determination. Animation, cooking, activism, architecture, and interior design are just a handful of topics currently being pursued and shared among our students. Infused with positive emotion, these are presentations that engage and move listeners, making what they’re hearing ‘stick’. They also inspire listeners, either to try their hand at what so excites the speaker or just to double-down on their own passions. In fact, there is copious scholarly research that demonstrates how passion is contagious. (For more on this, look no further than this TEDx Talk from the University of Waterloo.)

Our commitment to passion-driven learning is even stronger in this unusual time. From day one of our KCS At Home Learning Program, passion projects have been part of the Weekly Learning Plan (WLP) going home to every student. Encouraging students to devote part of their school week to pursuing their passions is as much about learning as it is about our other priority: well-being. Our facility closure and the physical distancing that has removed much of what used to bring happiness has also taken away much of our students’ healthy sense of control. A significant part of mental health is rooted in the feeling that we have control over important parts of our lives. Passion projects that are rooted in one’s own passion and pursued in a way of their choosing, at a pace that’s right for them, bring a powerful sense of control and source of joy back into our students’ lives.

Balance has always brought value to the KCS experience. Passion projects and “learning for the love of it” bring value to student learning. They also bring happiness, motivation, and inspiration at a troubling time. We’ll keep sharing internally and on our social media channels (#KCSPassionProjects) where those passions take our students. And we hope our sharing will inspire all in education to find the balance all students deserve.

Andrea Fanjoy
Head of Senior School

Dr. Matina Mosun
Assistant Head, Academics

Preparing to Make the Leap Online

There are a million aphorisms about the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin

“I don’t believe in luck, I believe in preparation.” – Bobby Knight

“Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today” – Bruce Lee

Some would argue that it was impossible to prepare for an event like COVID-19 and the subsequent move to online learning. But at KCS, we have actually been preparing for situations like these for some time now. Over five years ago, we created and put into place our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan, a comprehensive set of responses to a number of drastic “what if?” scenarios that is audited and updated annually.

One of those scenarios outlined in the plan is a situation where the school’s building is no longer accessible, but the technology infrastructure is still in place. And as we all well know, we found ourselves in exactly that situation back in March of this year. Knowing that this situation – along with many others – could one day arise, we have been preparing for the worst by making regular strategic updates over the past few years to our technology infrastructure.

We transferred workloads and data to the cloud, along with our email system. We drastically cut down on local applications that have to be saved on laptops, and moved instead to web-based subscription programs. We also made an intentional choice to move away from desktop computers and towards a full fleet of microphone- and webcam-enabled laptops for all faculty and staff. Additionally, our faculty and students received a great deal of tech training to help them get used to Sesame, Edmodo, and the Google suite of apps. All of these decisions meant that our technology was nimble, mobile, and ready for remote teaching and working, long before COVID-19 came onto the scene.

When March rolled around and we realized that we had to “flip the switch” and move to an online learning scenario, we made the leap and got everyone ready. The academic leadership team developed an at-home learning plan that incorporated strong academics, mental well-being, and meaningful connections between faculty and students. We then took this plan and used it as a guide for our next steps. We had all staff and faculty take part in intense, focused, and scaffolded professional development designed to help them make effective use of Google Meet, Edmodo, and Sesame as communication and teaching platforms.

On the first Wednesday after March Break, we officially launched the KCS At Home Learning Program with homeform Meets at every grade level. Each class was assigned a “homeform buddy”, who would set up, record, manage, and post each Meet. By the second week of classes, we were hosting specialist classes for each grade, and all faculty were well versed on how to set up and run Meets.

Knowing that there was a huge amount of learning for our entire community, we decided to provide additional support for all our faculty, staff, students, and families. We set up a dedicated email for at home learning questions and reassigned staff to increase our Help Desk team from one full-time person to two full-time and three part-time people. Over the first month, that team also provided a great deal of one-on-one training to families and students, to ensure that everyone was able to get online and access all learning resources. That team also provided one-on-one training to faculty, to help them master a range of different strategies and tools that would help them teach online in an effective and engaging manner.

Of course, all the planning and preparation in the world doesn’t mean anything if the people you are working with don’t follow the plan. But if these past few months have taught us anything, it is that we are blessed with a culture of growth and flexibility here at KCS. Our faculty and staff have gone way out of their comfort zone and embraced this situation with positivity, professionalism, and drive. Additionally, our families and students have epitomized our third school rule – Try Your Best! All our students and families have worked incredibly hard to take on these new challenges, and we could not be prouder of them.

If you’ll indulge us one more preparation-themed quote, we like this one from Colin Powell. “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” We couldn’t agree more, and we think our success in making the leap online comes from the hard work and preparation of our entire community.

  • Stacy Marcynuk (Director of IT, Curriculum) & Adam Stoyles (IT Manager)