Learning for the Love of It

Paddle Tennis KCS Elective 2013

Paddle Tennis Elective
photo credit: Mary Gaudet/Etobicoke Guardian

I can remember the day I found my passion. To the extent that we can help spark it, we want our students to find theirs.

Third term clubs and teams have started – twenty-nine opportunities in the areas of academics, arts, athletics and citizenship. Scheduled so students can do as much as their hearts desire, our keenest students pursue up to ten offerings each term in each of our Four Doors to Learning.

Many dozens of ‘Brainiacs’ (independent student-initiated projects) plus leadership and service projects are in full swing. Feel like creating a whole new language, or creating a comic that spoofs James Bond? That’s what a group of boys in grade 4 have shown they’re inclined to do. How about organizing a food drive, like a group of girls in grade 2? A boy in grade 5 is creating a video game that the class can use in its upcoming unit on the human body. And compelled by the desire to make a difference, a group of grade 7 students is organising KCS’ participation in a global Vow of Silence, an awareness-raising effort that allows children to ‘speak’ on behalf of those silenced by unacceptable circumstance. Giving time, encouragement and guidance so students can pursue what moves them has created a virtual deluge of learning

Third term also marks the start of our much-anticipated electives program for students in grades 6 to 8. Every Wednesday these students break out of the routine, learning just for the love of it. Joining an elective of their choosing, here is what these disparate delighted groups are up to:

  1. Receiving instruction in and cooking meals for a local youth shelter
  2. Creating a dramatic presentation from beginning to end
  3. Learning, playing and spreading the word about paddle tennis
  4. Geocaching (www.geocaching.com) and putting KCS on the international geocaching map
  5. Composing a school song
  6. Composing songs to promote social justice
  7. Receiving expert coaching in baseball, then providing that instruction to young KCS students
  8. Creating Renaissance art
  9. Building and programming robots to face challenges

And because we’re pretty tireless, a brand new opportunity for students in grades 4 to 8 with a special kind of passion is being revealed this Friday…

The day I found my passion was the day my life became defined by commitment to lifelong learning. This is our wish for our students. Let the sparks fly.

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

More than Spring has Sprung at KCS

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.
~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

The warm sunshine, return of the robins, dancing daffodils and burgeoning tree buds weren’t the only new arrivals to recently grace our community. Though the emphatic entrance of spring was deeply appreciated, something else has awoken that even topped the weather for its sheer delight.

After years in our thoughts, dormant but developing, KCS is now proud to offer electives, electives with some significant twists, twists that had many of the grade 6 students, who get first crack at this opportunity, beside themselves with excitement.

A general introduction to electives was in last week’s parent e-newsletter Stay Connected. They’re designed for students to just learn for the love of it, learn by choice, not for marks, nor because the Ministry of Education says you must. It’s a time to develop the Habits of Mind, Body and Action that indisputably set us up to be successful. And it’s a time to offer an unlimited array of meaningful learning. If teachers and students can dream it, they now have time to do it. Directly connected to our school mission of developing lifelong learners, it’s designed to stoke the flames that fuel lifelong learning.

Judging from my small group of third-language learners, it’s working.

Students in grade 6 were given eight electives to choose from. Based on their choices, the forty-two students are now in one of six electives for 100 minutes each week of third term. One group is learning to cook from Chef Cirillo of Cirillo’s Culinary Academy. The result of their labours this past week was a mouth-watering chicken cacciatore dish that went directly to a youth shelter. Another group is engaged in geocaching. Enriched technology, art and drama are also taking place. And my group has each student learning the foreign language of their choice. Concurrently, (and thanks the significant help of Rosetta Stone language learning software), the students are learning the following languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Filipino. Just because they want to.

Some of you may have read Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How finding your passion changes everything. He’s right, of course. The bulk of his book exposes the far too common disconnect between the regular school day and finding one’s passion, as if passion only has relevance in extra-curricular pursuits. Not here.

One of my students announced he was going to try to learn enough Mandarin to use it exclusively with the flight attendant on an upcoming family trip (hmm, not sure how that will go but keen to know!) To achieve his goal he has asked if he can use the software at home and if there are apps he can download on his iPad.

Lifelong learner, check.