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.

A Day in the Life of a Teacher Online

Life has changed considerably for all of us over the last six weeks.  Different routines, working from home, finding time to be away from screens, making time for exercise, etc.  For many of us, we have never been challenged to change so much in our lives over a such a short period of time.

For the most part, teachers are creatures of habit. Schools are built around timetables and routines that shape our daily lives. But in this current world of physical distancing and remote learning, our teachers have had to develop a whole new set of daily routines in order to teach their students, adjust their programs, plan ahead, assess work, and – of course – find time to look after all the other “life stuff” that has become much more complicated over the past month. Of course, the challenges of COVID-19 are global and wide-reaching, which means that everyone in our KCS community – not just teachers – are living much different lives these days.

Every teacher has come up with their own system to stay organized and teach effectively. Ms. Meleca in SK teaches some of our youngest students – a cohort that (unsurprisingly!) presents a number of unique challenges when it comes to learning at home. When she’s not spending time with her students on Meets (daily full class Meets, along with one-on-one and small group Meets throughout the week), she spends most of the day building and evolving an Early Years Program that is accessible, engaging, and appealing for five-year olds. Luckily for her, she’s part of an ELP team, all of whom are sharing resources and ideas during multiple WhatsApp chats and small group Meets every day. Those same ELP teachers also participate in a weekly Zoom PD meeting with teachers from other independent schools, where ideas and innovations are discussed. When she finally manages to tear herself away from her laptop, she can usually be found running errands for her sister (who is at home with a new baby!) or her parents. Oh, and she’s also trying to find time to re-plan her upcoming wedding, which was supposed to happen at the end of May! Busy times, indeed!

Another teacher who is planning and iterating with colleagues is Ms. Tenebaum. When she’s not in her grade 6 homeform, language, or social studies Meets, Ms. T can usually be found collaborating with her teacher partner Ms. Phillips. During those meetings, they plan upcoming lessons, reflect on what is and is not working well, develop support plans for individual kids, assess work, create organization strategies to share with their students, and brainstorm creative solutions to new problems. They usually meet up to four times a day. When she’s not working with Ms. Phillips, Ms. T spends time emailing with students and families or reaching out to the grade 6 specialist teachers to check in on how her students are doing in other classes. She also regularly participates in online learning and connects with colleagues from other independent schools to learn from each other. In the evenings, she checks in on her own kids’ schoolwork, shoots some hoops with the family, does a few household chores, and then relaxes with some TV or board games.

A positive daily routine is important for well-being, which is why some teachers have found that sticking to a consistent schedule is helpful. But probably nobody is better at that than “Ironman” Hayes! Here’s a peek at his daily routine: 4:59-6:00 AM – Wake up, make coffee, check email, and plan for the day. 6:00-7:30 AM – Ride indoor bike trainer while simultaneously filming “Working Out with the Hayes” instructional PE videos. 7:30-8:30 AM – Shower, shave, and get own kids (grades 2 & 5) ready for the day. 8:30-9:00 AM – 5S Meet. 9:00-10:00 AM – Work with own kids on math. 10:00-11:00 AM – Math class Meet or math extra help Meet. 11:00-12:00 PM – Science class Meet or science extra help Meet. 12:00-12:30 PM – Lunch with family. 12:30-1:15 PM – Go for 4-6k run with son. 1:15-2:00 PM – Work with kids on language/science/social studies. 2:00-3:00 PM – Planning and prepping for upcoming lessons, along with filming math videos. 3:00-3:30 PM – 5S meet. 4:00-5:45 PM – Bike ride and walk the dog. 5:45-6:30 PM – Spend time with his wife. 6:30-7:00 PM – Dinner. 7:00-8:30 PM – Brooklyn 99 time! 8:30-9:00 PM – Bath and bed for kids, and bedtime for Mr. Hayes as well! Whew!!!

As many of us have realized, working from home means that you often find yourself having to find new ways of doing things, as many of our typical approaches and strategies just don’t work in this new context. That’s something Mrs. Robins knows very well, as she and Ms. Hurley spend hours each day planning, reflecting on best practices for primary students in this learning environment, and developing new resources for their grade 3 students to use at home. She tries her best to provide resources like video lessons that the students can review on their own as often as needed, in order to better support their ability to do work with minimal parent involvement. Of course, these types of lessons and activities are not the ones she was providing just a few months ago, so it requires a significant amount of time to find and create these new resources. There’s also been a learning curve when it comes to technology for all our teachers, and Mrs. Robins is no exception. Along with learning new tech such as Google Meets, Jamboard (for “live” lessons), Screencastify, and more, she has also found time to support families and students with their technology learning. There’s also regular communication with families to ensure that the students are keeping up with the work and are not struggling academically, socially, or emotionally. Throw in the class Meets and small group lessons each day, and you see why virtual Pilates and family movie night have become a welcome break in the evenings!

We know that this is a stressful time for everyone. The teachers at KCS love what they do, and they are deeply committed to helping each and every one of their students manage this new learning experience the best they can. They have rolled up their sleeves and developed entirely new lessons and programs, all because they want their students to not only keep learning, but to also have a degree of normalcy in the midst of a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Sure, things aren’t always perfect, but that’s what happens when you are “building a plane while flying it”. We know you and your kids are working just as hard. So together, we’ll keep working, keep figuring things out, and come out at the other end stronger and more connected than ever.

 

Reconciliation and Land Acknowledgements in Grade 3

In this blog, our KCS Grade 3 homeform teachers – Meghan Hurley and Kerrie Robins – talk about the ways in which they and their students are evolving the Grade 3 Social Studies curriculum to better reflect the ongoing dialogue around Indigenous peoples and reconciliation.

Social Studies is a wonderful subject to teach – because it’s all about learning how to explore our shared history and experiences in a thoughtful and meaningful way. In Grade 3, a large part of the Social Studies curriculum is built around the experiences of different communities in Canada between the late 1700s to the mid-1800s.

When we were kids, that mostly meant learning about European pioneers. But over the past number of years, schools have made a real effort to incorporate into the curriculum the experiences of Indigenous communities during this time period. Here at KCS, we’ve been making the same effort for many years. But this year, we decided to begin our Social Studies program by focusing on those Indigenous experiences, in order to help our students better understand the need for an active and engaged approach towards reconciliation.

We began with some introductory events around Indigenous peoples in Canada, during which the students developed their own initial questions and identified areas they wanted to learn more about. This was followed by lessons around the ideas of apologies and reconciliation, out of which came a few key questions. What does it mean to apologize? What does reconciliation mean? How do we make things right when we’ve made a mistake? These open-ended questions led us to one core driving question: Why should our government be apologizing to Indigenous people?

Using techniques we learned during our professional development at the PBLWorks Institute this summer, we helped the students develop a series of questions that grew organically out of our driving question. We then used their questions to inform our planning for the remainder of the unit.

Throughout the unit, we explored this topic from a number of different angles. We talked about the legacy of residential schools and learned about the purpose behind the Orange Shirt Day initiative. We invited a guest speaker – Talitha Tolles from the TASSC (Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council) – to come and speak about her culture and language. She shared stories about her own family’s experience with residential schools, and she worked with the students to build an Indigenous history timeline.

After that, the students took part in a group project where each group studied an Indigenous nation from a historical perspective. We also learned about treaties, what traditional land KCS is on, the Toronto Purchase/Treaty 13 (the treaty that governs the western half of Toronto), and the land acknowledgments that are currently taking place at other local schools.

Obviously, this was a significant amount of new information for our students to process. We gave them time to think about all they had learned, and we began to use this information to answer our driving question: Why should our government be apologizing to Indigenous peoples? Once we had some answers to this question, we asked the students, “What do you want to do?” After much discussion, the Grade 3s decided that they wanted to make a difference by starting a land acknowledgement at KCS.

Both classes sent letters to Mr. Logan and Dr. Mosun asking permission to create a land acknowledgement for KCS. These letters were received with enthusiasm, and they encouraged the students to work with our current artist-in-residence – Lindy Kinoshameg from Wiikwemkoong Unceded First Nation – to develop and write an acknowledgement. This process has begun and will continue to evolve over the next month or so. Our hope is that the students will be ready to present our KCS land acknowledgement during an assembly in January.

For us, the most powerful piece of this journey can be summed up with two of our Habits of Mind, Body and Action – “Lead to Make a Difference” and “Make the World Better”. When we began the year, some of the students felt like this was a problem that couldn’t be solved. As one student said in September, “We can’t do anything, we’re just a bunch of kids.” But now, that same student is saying, “We’re doing one thing, and it’s making a difference!”

We are so proud of this group of students and the ways in which they have opened their minds to new perspectives and taken on the challenge of making the world better. We look forward to sharing their land acknowledgement with the entire school community in the new year!

Meghan Hurley & Kerrie Robins

Then We Listened Some More: KCS Senior School Update #7

“All stages of research indicated support for the Senior School approach…”                          – Donna McPhail, Market Researcher

We were one year into our effort to establish a Senior School. Our Task Force had completed well over a hundred hours of research. We’d created a prototype. We had listened to thought-leader Grant Lichtman, the members of our Task Force, and the many educators from leading schools we had interviewed. And though we knew our model was rooted in the practices of North America’s leading schools, we also knew we needed to listen to local families, both current and prospective. It’s what they said that mattered.

In September 2018, we engaged an external agency to lead our market research. The effort began with a review of secondary research that related to education trends. This work affirmed our own. The primary research, with local families of students in grades 7 and 8, began that December. We hosted four focus groups of four to six participants, each at KCS: two with KCS parents and two with KCS students. In addition, we hosted five focus groups with non-KCS parents and students.

Participants began with an ice-breaker activity where they were asked what they valued in secondary schools. Answers were common among parents and students:

  • Academic standards
  • Programs and facilities
  • Post-secondary admissions
  • Variety of courses and learning
  • Supportive teachers
  • Positive environment, and
  • Location

Interestingly, students, more than parents spoke about school environment, expressing their preference that it be energetic, friendly, supportive, and calm.

Parents and students were then given hints about features of our model through photos and text. The dialogue that followed was recorded and analyzed. The result? Overall, parents and students responded positively to our model and would like the core curriculum to be covered well. And they want more. They accepted that focus on a student’s passion would enhance their engagement in learning. They believed that exposing students to additional ideas and areas of learning would lead to more passions and greater engagement. External partners and experiential learning were recognized as powerful motivators for understanding. In addition, students notably appreciated the opportunity to explore their area of interest from multiple perspectives, as well as learning experiences that enhance self-confidence, self-motivation, leadership, collaboration, empathy, and engagement.

The KCS student participants went beyond expectations with one of the exercises. When asked to make a collage from text and photos provided, they added their own words to properly complete the task. Here is some of what they documented about their ideal secondary school:

  • Authenticity
  • Creative energy
  • Individuality and more
  • Your place in the world
  • Acceptance
  • Backed up by teachers who want you to succeed
  • Important life skills and strategies taught!
  • Ask questions?!!!
  • Free to explore your interests and be as involved as you want in all areas

Our model provoked much dialogue. It also provoked questions. In addition to earning support, the exercise made clear that we needed to communicate the model and the process shaping it with care and clarity. The final market research report, 109 slides long, propelled us forward.

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Much More Than Just a Place to Rest

At any given time of day, we may find ourselves feeling that we could use a buddy – someone to lend an ear or lend a hand – someone to be there for us.  And when you are a student feeling a little left out at recess time, which is often the best part of their day, it can be a lonely experience.

This past year, Grade 5 student Oliver knew that a Buddy Bench was just what KCS needed after reading a story about a similar idea with his sister Scarlet, Grade 3.

Oliver recalled when he was new to KCS that he felt isolated at recess. He approached Hallie McClelland, Director of Advancement with his idea and his desire to get involved with the Humbertown Park project, stating, “this is my chance to be a buddy for someone else.”

As part of the Four Doors to Learning Program, the KCS community instills and encourages social responsibility across all grades. Oliver put these life skills into practice by donating funds towards the Buddy Bench from his personal earnings. Other KCS students also donated to the project, which resulted in the bench eventually being a gift from KCS students to KCS students.

This past October, the Buddy Bench was installed at Humbertown Park. If you haven’t sat on it yet, I encourage you to do so.  It’s a comfortable log, situated next to the pathway, facing the middle of the playground, overlooking the park.

More importantly, when you see the Buddy Bench, recognize that it is more than just a place to rest; it’s a special spot where our children will learn about how to help and to be there for each other.

In recognition of all student fundraising, a recognition plaque will be added to the Buddy Bench in 2020. Please contact Hallie at hmcclelland@kcs.on.ca if you have any questions about the Invest In Play Campaign in support of the Humbertown Park Renovation Project.

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Our Vision, Made Real: Senior School Update #6

“The KCS vision for a new type of high school in Toronto is remarkable on three fronts: it is in demand; it will serve the needs of an entire population of forward-thinking families and students; and the incredible depth of study and research that is going into the design, based on what leading schools all over North America are doing…” – Grant Lichtman

Our fundamentals were established. Our vision document was clear. In January 2017, a Task Force of 40 parents, past parents, board members, and staff set out to research how these two things were being realized in leading schools all over North America. Many hours and 100 pages of research later, the group convened to build a prototype.

What would the student experience be exactly?

What timetable framework would enable our vision?

How would learning partners help enrich student learning?

How would the facility be designed to encourage deep learning?

How would assessment practices support optimal learning?

On June 15, 2018, we identified the features of the KCS Senior School model. While our full output was too long for this blog, here were some we intended to embrace:

Student Experience

  • Deep, relevant projects
  • Regular engagement with external experts
  • Community-based experiential learning
  • Student-driven learning (including passion-driven learning)
  • Relationships (Collaborative projects, Advisory, open as community hub in off hours)

Time

  • Math and French courses all year for optimal learning
  • Other courses semestered or trimestered
  • Longer periods for most courses
  • A protected time block when students are tasked with self-directed projects and learning experiences
  • A quality Learning Management System for every course so students can easily access course-related learning when and as much as needed

Partners in the System

  • Identify the different roles learning partners can play, from one-off engagement to co-op placements
  • Build a large roster of willing partners from within and outside the KCS community
  • Identify an online tool that will facilitate and help manage student/teacher/partner engagement
  • Assign an administrative role to provide oversight and support
  • Engage students in the identification, selection, onboarding, and design of the student/partner experience

Facility

  • Quality space for learning of all kinds for students, teachers, and learning partners
  • Lots of room to display student work and to support entrepreneurship (products for sale)
  • Places to build community, enjoy a snack or meal, hold assemblies, give presentations
  • Fitness room and easy access to outdoor space for nature and physical activity
  • Makerspace, art, and recording studios

Assessment

  • Leverage e-portfolios to capture learning journey and growth
  • Authentic assessment via performance tasks
  • Assessment of competencies in addition to knowledge and skills
  • Ongoing student reflection
  • Traditional assessments where worthy

We left the prototyping exercise in agreement, knowing our work wasn’t done but that our progress was palpable. The next step was to put our thoughts in front of others. What did they think? Ever serious in our efforts, that was a task that merits its own update.

 

 

Zeena Zaiyouna Conducts Ontario Pops Orchestra

Our very own Zeena Zaiyouna is this season’s assistant orchestra conductor of the Ontario Pops Orchestra, under music direction of Carlos Bastidas and is playing principal oboe in the orchestra.

Zeena has performed with orchestras including Harthouse Orchestra, Counterpoint Orchestra, Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Kindred Spirits Orchestra, Kingston Symphony Orchestra and the York Chamber Ensemble. She is a Toronto and Ontario Arts Council recording artist recipient and she most recently was featured as a conductor with the Canadian Independent School Music Festival performance at Roy Thomson Hall.

Together with a performance degree on oboe from Queen’s University, Zeena has studied under the guidance of Barbara Bolte and principal oboist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Hansjörg Schellenberger. Her orchestral conducting background and experience includes private studies with Maestro Andre Presser from Holland and Maestro Harold Faberman at Bard College in New York state.  She has completed university studies in Denmark, Spain, and Canada and has had a unique opportunity to design and implement transdisciplinary arts-based teacher training and curriculum on four continents. Currently, Zeena teaches instrumental music at Kingsway College School and concurrently works as a private studio oboe and piano teacher for young aspiring musicians.

Zeena will be assisting the orchestra conductor of the Ontario Pops Orchestra on Saturday, December 14 at 8:00 p.m. at the Humber Valley United Church. We are incredibly proud of Zeena and her achievements outside the walls of KCS! If you would like to see her in concert, please visit http://www.ontariopops.com/.

Learning Partners Come in All Sizes

At KCS, we’re deeply committed to looking outside our school walls in order to connect with a range of learning partners in our city and beyond. But sometimes you don’t have to look that far to find experts who are ready and willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

At the end of the last school year, Madame Fanjoy heard about a young boy named Ethan in grade 1 who wanted to start a rock club at KCS. She supported the idea wholeheartedly, but it just couldn’t get rolling in the short time left before summer. The first week back in grade 2 she asked about his plan to start a rock club, and discovered that he was still very determined to share his love of rocks with his community.

Madame Fanjoy said that the grade 4’s were about to start studying rocks and minerals, and asked if he would visit the class as an expert. He immediately embraced the idea and started explaining what he would do to prepare. It was amazing to see his passion and commitment, and hear him speak about his “process” and “Plan Bs”! He quickly reached out to me (the grade 4 science teacher) to lock down a visit. He also let me know that his Uncle Ben was a geologist who travelled all over the country exploring potential mine sites, and that he might want to come and visit as well. This was going to be an exciting opportunity for both Ethan and the grade 4s!

A few weeks later, both Ethan and Ben ended up sharing their collective wisdom and knowledge with both the grade 4 classes. Ethan shared his rock collection and talked about how he learned so much about rocks, while his uncle talked about mining engineering, mine safety, and ways in which we can minimize the environmental impact of mining.

What was striking to me was the way in which the grade 4 students treated both their guests. They treated the “grown-up” guest with great respect and manners, and peppered him with a number of insightful questions and interesting facts. How did Ethan fare with this group of students? They listened attentively, spoke to him as an equal, and treated the entire experience with great gravitas and sincerity.

We take it for granted that we learn from those older and more experienced than us. And yes, in this case, we learned a lot about mining and engineering from a professional geologist with an impressive resume filled with university degrees and real-world experiences. But we also learned another valuable lesson from a grade 2 who just happened to love rocks. Namely, some of the best teachers and learning partners come from the most unexpected places, and that everyone who walks into a KCS classroom deserves our respect, attention, and willingness to learn from them.