A Dialogue on Volunteerism

Electric. Motivating. Inspiring.

These are just a few of the words that could be used to describe Tuesday’s fantastic assembly in Canada Hall. Thanks to the generous support of the Kingsway College School Parent Network for the Talk That Matters Speaker series, KCS proudly welcomed an impressive panel of guest speakers whose message of volunteerism electrified our students, staff and faculty. Canadian Football legend, Michael “Pinball” Clemons, Program Director for Special Olympics Ontario, James Noronha, and Special Olympian Gohulan Rajlingam shared uplifting stories of how they came to embrace volunteerism.

With his energetic and engaging style, Pinball Clemons asked the students to pause and reflect on what it means to be in the service of others. Like The Good Samaritan or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pinball reminded the audience of people who believed in the goodness that comes from standing up for others. He spoke eloquently of his own mother, who worked very hard to raise him by herself and instill in him a deep understanding of giving back to the community.

James Noronha and Gohulan Rajlingam each shared personal stories of how the Special Olympics presented them with many opportunities to build community spirit, celebrate exceptional athletes in multiple sports and cultivate a tightly knit network of friends and families whose generous spirit connected them forever. James also explained how he was drawn to volunteerism as a thirteen-year-old student. By typing and mailing a simple letter to the Trillium Hospital, James began his lifelong journey of helping others.  After listening to these wonderful stories, what may be holding you back from reaching out and making a difference?

What makes a community great?  Without a doubt, it’s when we stand up and help others with the gift of time. Whether it is investing 5 minutes a day to make someone’s morning brighter, or five hours filling the Wall of Service, these simple gestures have the power to make a big difference. We all win when volunteerism becomes a part of who we are.

A very special thank you to our Parent Network volunteers, Mrs. Alison Bell and Dr. Christina Semler for their tremendous support of this unforgettable event. Now that deserves a Pinball Clemons high five!

The Benefits of Outdoor Education

I was first introduced to Outdoor Education as an international student completing my teaching degree in New South Wales, Australia. Although I was familiar with “Environmental Ed,” it was not until I experienced The Earth Keepers program that I acquired a deeper understanding of experiential learning. For one, I discovered that traversing the Australian back country is very different than bushwhacking through Canadian forests. The abundance of poisonous snakes, arachnids and spiny plants required a deliberate mind shift. Luckily, my Aussie instructors were quick to correct my “Canadian style hiking.” When the program concluded, many of my classmates agreed that exploring unfamiliar territory in an unfamiliar country was a learning experience that would be remembered forever.

Every September, KCS students participate in our longstanding tradition of outdoor education. Led by outdoor specialists and KCS faculty, Grade 6, 7 and 8 students are immersed in many unforgettable experiences. Each three-day program is uniquely tailored to help students reconnect with classmates, engage in team-building exercises and begin the fall term both re-energized and in a positive frame of mind.
Our students are practicing farm-to-table by preparing meals created with ingredients harvested within a hundred kilometer radius of the city. They are building trust and teamwork by navigating challenging ropes courses and testing their limits with rock climbing and rappelling at Rattlesnake Point. And my personal favourite, students are introduced to early Canadian history when they reconstruct the challenging life an 18th century fur trader.

All of these activities are linked together by a fundamental and defining thread: Hands-on learning flourishes when students take responsible risks, step out of their comfort zones and push themselves to try something new.

As many of us become more accustomed to an urban lifestyle, connecting with the outdoors has become an important issue. I am reminded of Richard Louv’s influential book Last Child in the Woods. As our cities grow and green spaces recede, Louv’s poignant observation that “direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults” seems to ring true now more than ever. In the beginning, I thought that I understood outdoor education. I thought that I was a capable outdoor enthusiast. I thought that environmental education was simply learning in an outdoor classroom. Australian Earth Keepers opened my eyes. Experiential learning at KCS opened them even wider.

Outdoor education at Kingsway College School not only encourages students to try their best, but it also recognizes that leadership, environmental stewardship, and personal development reap benefits that transcend the traditional classroom. Besides, where else can you dress up as the Mad Trapper of Norval?

 

Milestones and Moments

For students, teachers and parents, September is a month that stirs up a flood of memories.  Perhaps you can recall a vivid memory of a particular first day of school that stands out from the rest.

This week marks an important milestone for two unique groups of KCS students.  One group will take the first steps of their educational journey in our Early Learning Program; meanwhile, our grade 8s have officially marked their last “first day of school” as an elementary student.

It is said that time has wings and in that spirit, we wish the classes of 2027 and the class of 2017 a happy, successful and memorable school year.

Engaged with their art projects and preparing for their outdoor education trip to Norval–our youngest and our oldest students mark their KCS milestones

Learn, Adapt, Launch, Repeat – Design Thinking at KCS Part 1

HeadandArrowssmallEarlier this year I wrote about our debut with design thinking. For readers still unfamiliar with what that means, here’s my attempt to describe it:

Design thinking is a process that takes a group of people from ‘complex problem’ to ‘solution’ in ways that are exceptionally correlated with success. Design thinking deeply engages all stakeholders, requires them to empathise with all affected, and reins in the more typical ‘rush to conclusion’ so creative win-win thinking has time to emerge.

While the specifics can vary according to task and organisation, the method is clear and comprehensive. Thanks to Project 2051 at the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Leadership Institute last summer, I became acutely aware of its power and potential. Inspired, we have adopted design thinking, adapted it to meet our needs, and launched two new innovations that are rocking our world.

The earlier blog explained how we’ve established a new form of student leadership that allows all interested senior students and staff to work together to make KCS the best it can be. Here’s the design thinking process we’re following:

  1. What is the design challenge?
    1. What problems are you aware of that need fixing?
    2. What challenges are you aware of that are worth addressing?
    3. What opportunities have occurred to you that are worth pursuing?
  2. What do you need to know?
    1. Who is affected?
    2. What are their perspectives?
    3. What research can inform you?
    4. What can you learn from others’ experiences?
  3. What ideas address your design challenge?
    1. What can you think of?
    2. Which are win-win for all?
    3. Get feedback from a larger group
  4. Act
    1. Pilot at a small scale
    2. Reflect and iterate
    3. Expand to address the challenge

We started as a small but intrepid group. Since our November launch, the group has quadrupled in size. The design challenge we’ve chosen to pursue first, identified by a grade 7 student, is the following: “How do we better enable differentiated learning at KCS?” We’ve since conducted a survey with the grade 6 to 8 students to learn more about how they best learn. Later this month, we’ll be launching this year’s Student Voice topic so we can hear from all students about differentiated learning and how to improve it. The KCS by Design members are currently preparing frequency distribution graphs and PowerPoint slides so they can share their findings through presentations to faculty, senior students, and the whole school (separately), as well as through presentation boards in the foyer for parents. Finally, Mrs. Drummond and I have launched a new elective as a prototype that makes more differentiated learning possible at KCS. That exciting venture will be Part 2 in the story of “Learn, Adapt, Launch, Repeat”.

This is what all leadership should be built upon. Engaging, listening to, learning from, prototyping with, and informing the whole school community makes smart innovation possible. I can’t wait to see where this journey goes. The inspiration that began with Project 2051 energises every step of the way.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Build Pride and Confidence in Reading and Watch Self-Esteem Soar

There’s a young student at school who I have worked with for a couple of years now. When I first met her, she was a bright-eyed, energetic child, with a wonderful imagination, who delighted in challenging me to games. When she was able to surprise me or beat me at a game, the laugh that rang out of her was pure joy.  She was an absolute delight – confident and happy.

But the next year, she was less enthusiastic, especially when it came time to read out loud. In fact, she would often have spontaneous aches, pains, or itchy bug bites that would prevent her from reading to me. I soon realised that she was no longer feeling confident about reading, and no amount of reassurance from me seemed to help for more than a few minutes.

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Ms. Pollett-Boyle working with Lexia. Her holiday outfit courtesy of KCS Spirit Day – Beach Day.

Mid-year, I introduced her to Lexia.

At first, she needed encouragement to use the program, and a little support to help her understand the instructions. But once she had a little taste of success, that started to change. Soon, she was regularly coming up to my desk to tell me about the 20-second humorous videos that tell the student they have met the target number of correct responses for that task.  (As we know, brain research shows that humour creates new neural pathways which help move new knowledge to long term memory.)

Passing a level in Lexia is the equivalent of a third of a grade level – or one term. Each level has scenes from a particular place, and the mini videos are connected to that location. Students travel the world as they progress. The day this student received her first visit from our Assistant Head, Academics, Mme Fanjoy, to congratulate her on moving up a level in Lexia, it was a real turning point in her motivation. It was an enormous achievement, and she knew it – and it also meant she was leaving London and going on to explore Paris!

Her new motivation to pass another level was evident. Each day she would stop me or Mme Fanjoy to tell us she had worked on Lexia the night before (a fact I already knew, because teachers can check on their students’ progress online). One day she came into class and told me she was having “Lexia dreams” at night, in which she passed 30 levels all at once.

Then, on one sunny spring day, I was out on yard duty for recess. I watched as this student ran full speed toward me, all the way from the entrance of the park, with a huge smile on her face. Of course I already knew what she was going to tell me (I had been rooting for her at home the night before, when I checked in to Lexia to see how she was doing), but nothing could have beat that look of pride and confidence that she had when she told me she had passed another level. Goodbye Paris – hello NEXT LEVEL CITY!

Teresa Pollett-Boyle
Learning Strategies Teacher, Drama teacher, Arts Coordinator

Drinking From the Stanley Cup

Three or four of you might have watched the conclusion to the NHL season last night.  If you are really interested, you may have watched the postgame celebration on the ice and in the dressing room with the Cup.  You may have asked yourselves, I wonder what the liquid is they are drinking when they pass the Stanley Cup around.  A KCS grade one boy has the answer.

Last week, I was sitting at my desk at the end of lunchtime, when two grade 1 boys asked if they could come in and speak to me.  The first boy asked me if I could do anything I want in my job.  Before I was able to respond, his sidekick looked over at a poster I have in my office with Bobby Orr drinking out of the Stanley Cup after winning it in 1972.  At the bottom of the poster it states:  TRIUMPH:  “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”—Thomas Paine.  He asked me who was in the photo and why is he drinking out of the Cup?

I told him the photo was of Bobby Orr and it was taken in the dressing room right after the Bruins won the Cup.  This caused him to pause, look at the poster and then back at me and ask, “So he was really thirsty so he poured some water into the Stanley Cup and had a big drink?”  “Exactly,” was my response.

Derek Logan
Head of School

KCS: Known In Ottawa

Last night, my wife and I attend a fundraiser for CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).  I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. David Goldbloom, the newly appointed Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.  You may recall our school was very fortunate back in January to have Dr. Goldbloom lead our Encouraging Dialogue panel on Mental Health and Our Children.

On Tuesday, he was attending a conference on Anti-Stigma and Mental Health in Ottawa.  As he came out of the conference, our grade 6 students were getting off their bus.  Our students are in Ottawa for four days as part of their end of the year trip.  He asked them where they were from.  One of our students said, “KCS”.  His response was, “You mean that great school in Etobicoke, Kingsway College School?”  The student was incredulous that he knew about KCS, but in his words, the “group were obviously very proud of their school.”  As Head of School, I love to hear these stories about our students and school.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Sandbox Learning

Imagine our Habits of Mind, Body and Action were grains of sand in a sandbox.

Mixed in the sand are heaps of creative and flexible thinking, collaboration, clear communication, and persisting. There’s sharing what you know, listening to understand, finding humour and making the world better. There’s even some showing self-control in the sandbox, but those grains may be a little less numerous somehow…

Now imagine playing in that sandbox.

Thanks to our electives pilot, I don’t need to imagine it. I get to play in that sandbox. Every Wednesday five grade 6 students and I meet for the Modern Languages Mash-Up elective. With the full support of Rosetta Stone language learning software, each student is learning the third language of their choice. Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Filipino are now languages being learned at KCS.

The sandbox part of the elective is the video we made for the showcase. The students had learned they were required to make a multi-lingual video where they each speak their respective languages. The rest was up to them. Thanks to all the various Habits, we were well on our way to making a tale of global conflict at high sea. Though we all brought various skills to the task, none of us had ever done all we attempted for this project. One jumped at the chance to write the script. Another set to work on Garageband, composing the musical track that would capture the mood of our saga. A third suggested we use Lego to enact the story, an idea that was met with a resounding “YES!” (and resulted in the precipitate drop in showing self-control – Lego is a powerful temptation apparently). Two others worked on the visuals, from building the Lego ships to putting together the iMovie. Most of us, at one point or another, didn’t know how to do what we were trying to do. That’s when we most felt we were in a sandbox. And that’s when I knew my little group of students and I were honing our lifelong learning skills. Our Habits were getting a healthy workout.

Much has been said about the unprecedented challenges and opportunities inherent in the decades to come. If ever the world was straightforward, it is decreasingly so. Tomorrow’s workers will likely face pretty bleak sandboxes sometimes, where they don’t know what to do but they must act anyway.

Our students will bring the Habits to their sandbox, plus some special experience playing in it.

I’m not yet sure how our movie will be received. Our plan, is for it to go viral once it’s posted on our KCS YouTube channel. You see, dreaming big is also part of playing in sandboxes.

But if it doesn’t reach blockbuster status, the educator in me knows it was all still worthwhile. The Habits have value beyond the making of this video.  And playing in sandboxes has value beyond the playground.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics