Where Lie the Rewards

KCSWe have our Wall of Service, Wake Up With the Arts, ‘Save that Species’, ‘Free Hugs and High Five Fridays’, Compliment Friday, and House Captains who are second to none. We have four more championship banners, top three finishers in the local Royal Canadian Legion Remembrance Day Art Contest, and a third place finish out of fifteen schools in the regional First Lego League robotics contest. We have over a dozen students writing books – yes, books to be published – through our YAKCS program. We have data showing the tremendous progress our students are making with our new reading program. We have all of this, and so much more.

With choice, patience and persistence, great things grow. If you choose carefully what’s worth sticking with, and nurture it along the way, you’ll reap the rewards widely sought but seldom found.

There’s plenty we’re working to improve at KCS, because that’s what we do here. But this has been an outstanding term and it’s time to step back, and notice what’s working, and why. Here’s a sampling of what I mean:

The House Captains – They used to be elected, then appointed. When neither of those models worked to our satisfaction, we had none at all. Then it occurred to us that the best way to find great House Captains was by having them go through a three-part application process, including the expectation that they teach a game to our primary P.E. classes. Now we have House lunches, House Days, House cheers, House spirit items, and numerous spirit-raising events such as the recent ‘Name that Celebrity’ contest. The House Captains bring joy beyond what we could have imagined.

Wake Up With the Arts – This emerged from a desire to make more opportunities for performance, and particularly opportunities with less pressure and more freedom for responsible risks. The idea was to have live performances from willing students in the foyer, with a backdrop of student artwork, complemented by coffee and muffins for those parents who could stop and enjoy some culture at drop-off. In its early days, we had about four or five performers, and a small audience. Now in our third year, our latest performance lineup was so long it went past the bell to get to class, and will spill over into an ‘Open Mic’ session in the near future. The audience was at capacity for our spacious front lobby. And the mix of musical performances made KCS the most heartwarming place to be in Toronto.

The Wall of Service – We came up with the idea of recognizing and spreading word of student acts of service twelve years ago. The process evolved over a number of years and it continues to gain momentum. Now we have a backlog of bricks to share. Students from SK to grade 8 are making the world better in countless ways and educating the school community as they do so, thanks to this program.

Everything we do has a story that’s rooted in choice, patience and persistence. Some of these things are now pretty great. Others are on their way there.

Choose carefully what’s worth sticking with, and persist in nurturing it along the way. There’s lots of room for schools to do so. The rewards we seek lie there.

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

There Was A Buzz Around Here Today

Today was an amazing day at KCS.  Five of our teachers, including myself, had their heads shaved in support of The Terry Fox Foundation.  You can see the before and after photos below and on our KCS Facebook page and through our KCS Twitter feed.

We set a goal at the beginning of the school year to raise $25 000, and if we reached the goal, the six of us had agreed to have our hair cut by Cos and Jackie from Cos on the Kingsway Salon/Spa.  To see the excitement in the school leading up to today was tremendous.  The students would come up to the each of us and say things like:

  1. “Are you looking forward to having some taken off the top?”
  2. “I can’t wait to see you bald!”
  3. “Bzzzzzzzz.”
  4. “Can ‘I’ cut your hair?”
  5. “It’s going to get cold soon.”
  6. “Hope you are enjoying your hair as its going to be gone soon.”
  7. And my favourite, “Isn’t this great that we are helping people and their families who have cancer?”

Achieving a goal such as raising over $25K takes a little effort from a lot of people.  We realize how our the parents, staff and faculty helped us raise the $25 000.  A special thanks to our students who opened up their piggy banks, who asked for money for their September or October birthdays in order to donate it, and who went out into their neighbourhoods and asked for donations.  It just goes to show that when many people contribute to a cause by doing what they can, it is possible to accomplish wonderful things.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Each year KCS holds school wide fundraising activities for three designated charities:  The Terry Fox Foundation, The Get Ahead Project, and Camp Oochigeas. As well, individual students help to support many other worthwhile charities through various other service learning projects.  As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, our school decided to set a goal of raising $25K for The Terry Fox Foundation.  And as an incentive, a number of teachers and I agreed that we would have our heads shaved if we met our goal by October 25th.  This goal was a bit of a stretch for our school, as all worthy goals should be, but in the first nine years of holding a Terry Fox Run at KCS, we have raised over $170 000, so the goal we set back in the summer is certainly attainable.  As of the writing of this blog, we have raised $24,747.

I am looking forward to having my hair shaved off for a number of reasons:

  • No more hat head.  I can’t wait to start wearing toques in the winter and baseball caps at the gym without wondering whether it looks like I just got out of bed once I take the hat off.
  • Having less hair should help my gazelle-like running speed.
  • I won’t have to be checked for lice when The Lice Squad comes into the school.  And they will come as they do every year.
  • “Be Like Mark” (he’s our new Senior Kindergarten teacher)
  • Savings on shampoo, conditioner and hair spray during the month of November can be converted into paying the grocery costs for one of my 15 year old son’s five “snacks” a day
  • I will be able to sleep in two minutes longer as I won’t have to “do” my hair in the morning
  • A bald head will be perfect for my Halloween costume
  • Finally, we will have met our goal of raising at least $25K for the Terry Fox Foundation.  All of our families have been impacted by cancer; every dollar counts to finding better treatments for this disease.

Stay tuned to see if we met our goal on October 25th. Knowing our students and our community, the five teachers and I are confident we will surpass this goal.

Derek Logan
Head of School

What We Learned at Camp

Me to We Leadership CentreDuring free time, they returned to the familiar: basketball, soccer, Zombie Tag, and chatting with friends. It was a whole different story, however, when the grade 7 and 8 students at the Me to We Leadership Camp were in class.

Me to We is an offshoot of Free the Children, a charity established 18 years ago by a young man from Thornhill. What began as one 13-year-old’s mission to fight child labour has become a world-wide movement to inspire compassion and action among the young.

So, what did our students work on at their leadership and outdoor education camp? As rich and manifold as the jambalaya served at dinner, here is what I observed them directly learning:

To persist
To have the courage to share difficult thoughts
To reflect on how fundamentally our lives can differ from others in the world
To be silent
To listen
To be grateful
To work as a team
To be honest
To be mindful
To work through confusion
To question what happiness really is
To take responsible risks
To think by yourself
To experience some of the adversity that affects others in the world daily
To observe how difficult it is to DO what is right even when you KNOW what is right

“Goodness!” you might be thinking. What did the students think of that?

The first report received from a parent was that her son came home with two thumbs up, saying that was the best trip EVER.

And I’m reminded once again that the world is in good hands and will be a better place thanks to this young man and the many others who joined us at camp.

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

Students Speak Through Music

Tracking Change Tracking ChangeIn the elective, Tracking Change, students are in the midst of composing a music track that connects to a social justice movement for change. Students have composed music tracks that connect to issues of education, equality, anti-bullying, and animal rights. The complexity of these issues is further highlighted by the multiple layers and texture of the compositions themselves.

Seeing these tracks on the computer screen and seeing the students working collaboratively and creatively is inspiring. The issues, while different, are linked. Students somehow find ways to connect to one another throughout the process. Using Apple’s GarageBand, it’s amazing to see and hear how students have managed to create a track that speaks to us through music.

A visit to Humber College Studios introduced students to the exciting world of sound engineering. It was interesting to learn that our work with loops, controlling dynamics, balance, and instrument recording were similar to what was being done in a professional studio.

Since our visit to Humber, students have begun editing their final tracks. Instrument levels are being adjusted, voices are being recorded, loops are being softened. The tracks are growing and changing just like the issues they represent.

Now in our eighth week, some students have decided to take their tracks another step further. In order to really drive home their messages, some are incorporating the music tracks into an iMovie project.

It is incredible to observe this creative process and to see how passionate the students are when it comes to creating a track for change.

Who knows where the next couple of weeks will lead us? Stay tuned!

Matina Mosun
Music teacher

Hope for Habits for Today and for the Future

Love the EarthThis past week was National Volunteer Week and Earth Week. The thing about celebrating weeks like this is that we hope that we raise awareness of important ideas. What we really hope will happen is that those ideas spread!

We have Earth Week activities at KCS:

  • Meatless Monday
  • Trashless Tuesday
  • Walk to School Wednesday
  • Turn off the Lights Thursday
  • Fill your Water Bottle Friday
  • Grade 7 service learning students reminded classes about energy conservation, water conservation, recycling, rain forest preservation, and more.
  • Grade 1 students participated in workshops presented by older students about water conservation and recycling.
  • Grade 2 students read books, wrote poems, and made posters about helping the planet.
  • Grade 3 students planted seeds and prepared soil experiments.
  • Grade 4 and 6 students cleaned up the school grounds and surrounding areas.
  • Grade 5 students will be calculating their eco-footprint using a carbon footprint calculator online.
  • Grade 7 students did a creative assignment about sustainable happiness. Sustainable happiness is ‘happiness that contributes to individual, community and/or global wellbeing and does not exploit other people, the environment, or future generations.’ (C. O’Brien)
  • Grade 8 students viewed Sharkwater, a film about sharks, their habitat, and the effects of humans on their ecosystem.

What we hope will happen is that our community learns about being friendly to the environment. We hope that they incorporate green habits that they will have for their whole lives, not just during Earth Week. We show this by having green habits integrated into our daily lives at KCS.

Similarly, we love and appreciate our volunteers at KCS! We don’t wait until volunteer week to thank them! Increasingly, our students are volunteering in our school and in the surrounding community. Once one person tells others how they volunteered to help, many of their peers are willing to join in the joy that comes from helping others. We are grateful to them and proud that they are making a difference.

Here are some of the many ways that students are volunteering:

  • Mentoring younger students
  • Providing lunch leadership to younger students
  • Leading chapels and assemblies
  • Conducting tours of our school to guests
  • Making gift baskets for local women’s shelters
  • Helping at a local church fundraiser
  • Refereeing basketball games for Special Olympics Ontario
  • Teaching younger students at figure skating
  • Caring for neighbours when they are sick
  • Sorting food at a food bank
  • Helping seniors at a retirement home

We hope that students see volunteering as one of the habits that they continue to do well after they have left KCS. We don’t have green habits only during Earth Week. And we don’t just volunteer or thank our volunteers during National Volunteer Week. But here’s to the happy future that comes from the habits learned at KCS!

Ms. Gaudet
Citizenship Coordinator

Practising Leadership

Imagine Create InspireEvery Friday we have a school-wide assembly. Here’s how a recent one unfolded:

  1. Three grade 8s presented their regular ‘Save that Species’ game show/skit to promote awareness of endangered species.
  2. Three other grade 8s announced the conclusion of their successful Winter Coat Drive, thanking the KCS community for donating 101 coats to families in need.
  3. Another five grade 8s came to lead our weekly ‘Compliment Friday’, inviting students in grades 1-4 to come up and give a public compliment to anyone they felt made a difference over the holidays.
  4. Four girls in grade 6 reminded the community of their Poster-to-Canvas contest, with submissions due early February.
  5. A group of House Captains from grades 7 and 8 announced the upcoming House lunches.
  6. About thirty students from grades 1-8 came forward to present the ‘brick’ they earned for our Wall of Service. Each brick represents an initiative that makes a positive difference, and included acts such as running in marathons for charity, donating birthday money, distributing food to families in need over the holidays and many, many more.

And these represent a mere fraction of the leadership projects that are currently underway.

Practice makes perfect. The world could use more perfect leaders, or at least great ones, so KCS is working on it.

How do we do it?

First, we’ve taken the mystery out of great leadership. Every student at KCS knows the traits that lead to not only personal success but also a meaningful life that makes a positive difference. The KCS Habits of Mind, Body and Action are the undeniable, timeless attributes that make one a leader in all aspects of life.

Second, we’ve made leadership accessible to all. Leadership isn’t reserved for our oldest students, nor to students winning elections, or to students arbitrarily chosen by others. Leadership opportunities are as infinite as the imaginations of each student. If they can dream it, and we can help them make it happen, it can be pursued. We also make it clear that leadership is not always a big and bold undertaking – it can be as small and impactful as facing a daunting personal challenge, standing up to others doing something wrong or helping someone when they’re hurt.

Third, we’ve made it imperative. We don’t see leadership as optional in life – it’s as important as the academic skills that underlie any undertaking. Leadership is practiced in smaller ways among our youngest students, unless individuals choose to pursue a more substantial leadership project. By grade 6 it’s a timetabled subject and all students are given the time and guidance to imagine and deliver on an idea that makes a difference. Many choose to support groups in need, others choose to provide exciting new offerings to their schoolmates, such as contests and talent shows.

Our students have unparalleled opportunities to practice leadership. We know that the world would be a better place if all children went to a school that unleashed the leadership within, and we hope that one day this will come to be. In that way, KCS is practising leadership too. After all, it’s true what they say, practice does make perfect.

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

A Haunted House that Left Me Scared, and Bursting With Pride

A preschool-aged sibling hid in his room. A writhing trapped rat greeted us at the door. A skeleton sang and swayed while playing the keyboard. A ghost fell on my head. The masterminds? Two boys in grade 4 and their trusty crew of friends, one sister and parents. The mission? To raise money for breast cancer research.

This story goes back to the first day of school. A boy in grade 4 approached me, clipboard in hand. He explained that he had started organizing a Haunted House fundraiser and wanted to meet to discuss it. He knew that’s all it took to launch a leadership project. “Drop by my office and we’ll talk. But remember that you must be willing to persist, and to think flexibly as we plan.” This wasn’t part of a club or program and would test his commitment from the start by making him take responsibility.

He had lots of ideas. He gathered a team. When they learned they couldn’t create a Haunted House at KCS, his friend suggested they could transform his garage. When this boy asked his parents if they could use the garage, his parents replied that they needed a written proposal. The proposal passed, posters were made, a Powerpoint presentation to their classmates was given and a note to their parents posted in the weekly newsletter. Throughout were lots of drafts, changes, challenges, and mistakes. They gave up their recesses, tracked me down a dozen times or more, and devoted two weekends to preparing the garage.

The boys and their siblings raised a significant amount for cancer research. Dozens of visitors experienced an unforgettable Haunted House. This group, through their efforts, made the world better in multiple ways.

And adults of the world are left with a lesson. Don’t ever assume children are too young to lead. Let them lead. We’ll all enjoy a world that’s much richer for it.

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

It Takes a Village

What does it take to make the world a better place? It takes a village of children – children who are empowered to do so, that is. Here’s what happens when you have such a village:

  • Four boys in grade 4 are organizing a Haunted House fundraiser for breast cancer research;
  • Five girls in grade 2 are organizing a food drive, and four others a toy drive;
  • Two girls in grade 4 are ramping up for their third year of their “Fair Food Friday” awareness campaign;
  • Two others in grade 4 spoke at assembly to remind everyone to say thank you when the door is held for them;
  • Two gentlemen in grade 8 are preparing for this year’s “Walk to School Wednesday” campaign (which has led to exponential increases since it began three years ago in the number of students walking to and from school);
  • Two other grade 8s are delivering math enrichment workshops for younger students;
  • A group in grade six is organizing an art contest;
  • A group in grade 7 is organizing our school’s participation in “The Vow of Silence” to promote awareness of and an end to child labour;
  • One new student in grade three took the initiative to pick up garbage on the field beyond what was asked;
  • Another new student in grade three taught his class about his favourite charity “Helping Hands”;
  • All of our grade four students helped organize our Terry Fox Run;
  • Sixteen House Captains stirred up our KCS spirit;
  • “Compliment Friday”;
  • “Free Hug and High Five Friday”;
  • “Talent for Treats”;
  • “Turn Out the Lights Tuesday”;
  • Volleyball for the Food Bank;
  • A winter coat drive;
  • Art for shelters;
  • Club leaders;
  • Recess helpers;
  • Lunch supervisors…

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to visit our homepage for regularly updated student-led leadership initiatives – we’ll be featuring them in the news feed.

The world has a lot of room to be made better. Adults are unable to do it alone. Empower the children in your village to use their talents and desires to make a difference. You’ll be amazed at the difference they make.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics

You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Can we stay in for recess?

Growing up in Nova Scotia, I distinctly remember asking that question. In winter, I would volunteer to clean the boards (blackboards, that is) or laminate, just to avoid the cold nor’ easters. In the warmer weather, we had to be cajoled back in at the end of recess.

Our students ask this question too. But, it happens year round.

This past school year one of my most recess-loving boys asked to stay in to work on his Lego robotics project for science class. He knew that the extra time testing his robot would help his team in the next competition. And, to him, it was worth it.

After visiting an outdoor education centre, a group of grade 7 girls decided to construct Save That Species, a skit, in game show format, which was regularly performed at assembly to inform their peers about endangered species in a fun and informative way. They asked to stay in to practice, arrange costumes, and construct background slides on the computer.

Others worked on presentations for younger students, creating games for their class, or tracking our Lights Out Lunch where classes are reminded to turn off the lights. Clearly, student leadership is pervasive.

During our student voice sessions in 2011/12, we asked students about leadership. We asked: What does it mean to be a leader? How do you feel that you get to be a leader at KCS? What would you add or change about student leadership at KCS?

Here’s what some of our students had to say:

‘To be a leader means that you encourage others to make positive choices, to act with empathy, to do what is right.’ Interestingly, few students thought that being a leader means the one who wins the trophy, or the one who gets to be in charge of others. They’re empowered as leaders to help others, not to overpower others. I think that is an amazing indicator of our school’s culture.

The list of ways that students were involved was extensive! Among the ways that they showed leadership: teaching younger students, peer tutoring, house captain projects, helping teachers lead clubs, coming up with new ideas for the school, picking up garbage in the park, creating new projects, and helping others with their problems.

One of my favourite quotes was from a grade one student: “I feel good whenever you (the teacher) say ‘journal time is over’ and I pick up all the pencil crayons.” It’s the little things that make a difference.

Students voiced their opinion that there should be more time dedicated to leadership. At present, there is a leadership class for grades 6, 7, and 8 students. We’ll be using every opportunity to make sure that students who want to be leaders, can be leaders. We believe that everyone can be a leader.

The teachers at KCS read about leadership this past summer. The Leader in Me, by Stephen R. Covey, talks about how students are empowered and engaged when they can be leaders. Luckily, this is not be a revolutionary idea for our school. It’s already there.

Ms. Gaudet
Citizenship Coordinator, Grade 7 History & Geography