The Giving Season

In the past 2 weeks, we have held our annual Christmas Concerts. It was the first time we have been able to gather for this tradition since 2019. It was wonderful to see all our families in the audience as they watched their children perform. When you see the smiles, you cannot help but feel a warmth and joy that comes out at this time of year. I ended the evening by reading a letter about the difference that the KCS community donations had recently made to 11 families identified by The George Hull Centre. Each family had their own story and needs ranging from resettling to a new country due to war in their home country, a single mom who recently lost her four-year-old child to cancer, families affected by mental health issues, to families torn apart by domestic violence. The KCS community has been providing financial support through the Reason for the Season for 17 years. This is a Parent Network driven event and our volunteers do a fantastic job collecting for those who are in need.

It got me thinking about some of the other things that have been happening at KCS and I wanted to share more about our students’ initiatives at KCS that also make me proud to be part of such a giving community. In the Junior School, students organized and collected gently used books to donate to the Children’s Book Bank in Toronto. They collected 22 boxes full of books for children who might not be able to afford to buy their own books. The organizing committee of students for this project were overwhelmed by the generosity they saw.

The Junior School also organized and held a food drive to support the Mississauga Food Bank. The Grade 5 class delivered the donations to the Food Bank and spent some time volunteering and sorting the donations on-site. Food insecurity is a huge issue, and sadly with the price of food escalating, the needs are increasing. Watching our students bring in their donations and seeing that they understand that others in the city are struggling and hungry, shows me that KCS’s Citizenship Door to Learning does make a difference. Students are learning to have empathy and to care for others.

Our Senior School students were also incredibly active. The Grade 9s learned about food insecurity as part of the curriculum in math and geography. In both courses they learned about the factors that influence food insecurity in Toronto and throughout Canada. As part of their learning, they visited the Four Villages Community Health Centre at Jane and Dundas to take action to mitigate food insecurity in the city. The Senior School also initiated a toy drive and delivered toys to the local Fire Department. As well, our students headed out into the city and donated food directly to those in need.

It has always been important at KCS to ensure that Citizenship is part of what we teach. At school, we know that academics are important. Sports and arts as well. At KCS, we also believe that becoming an empathetic, honest, good person is also integral to our students’ education. As I think about the last month and the activities led by students, parents, faculty, and staff to support and help others, I feel that warmth and joy. As the Head of School, I feel proud knowing that KCS and its team of educators, support staff, and volunteers have helped to instill a sense of citizenship in all our students.

It is the season of giving and I wish to thank everyone in the KCS community for their generosity towards others. I wish you all a great holiday season.

KCS Head of School

Derek Logan

KCS Student Leadership in the Classroom

KCS students in Grade 7 have been working on their leadership projects. They were inspired by Autumn Peltier, a clean water activist. Students designed projects of their choice. Here is a sample of just some of the projects that they have been working on at school. 

Our group decided to make a presentation to tell the Grade 3 classes more about water pollution. We presented a slideshow, played a game of Kahoot, and did a little demonstration to show how much water we actually have to drink. We also told them about the ways we are polluting our water as well as helping it. We gave them a coloring sheet at the end of our presentation that had some messages about what is happening to fish in the ocean. Some of the messages were: “Less waste, more fish, better life” and “One ocean, one future.” We feel that it went pretty well and the Grade 3 students learned a lot about water pollution.

By: Zoe, Olivia, Abigail, Lauren

Our group decided to present what we learned to the Grade 2 students and teach them about water pollution. We started with a warm-up game because they just got back from their outdoor time, so they could be a little more active. After a few minutes, we started the presentation. We told them about plastic pollution and asked them if they knew about it. We also asked them if they could guess what else was in the water. After teaching them some ways to keep the water clean, we played a game. The purpose of this game was to simulate picking up garbage from the ocean. Each of the students got plastic bags, except for three of them. The three students were “it” and could tag those with bags. The students with the bags would collect dodgeballs, and put them in their bags. The winner was given a special sticker at the end of the game. Our presentation ended up going very well, and all of the students and presenters had fun. 

By: Kate, Sara, Maggie, Amelia

Our group came up with the idea to send a letter to the Legislative Office of Ontario, more specifically Premier Ford. We decided to send this letter to raise awareness about the lack of clean water in Indigenous communities. We believe that it is poisoning the youth, and these marginalized people are at a loss for necessities. In the letter we explained why the government should divert funds towards clean water in Indigenous communities. From oil spills to diseases in the water, the Indigenous communities have been through enough. We recognized this is not right. We believe that the need for clean water, which is key toward our well-being, should be recognized and be a priority. Overall, the Canadian government has not been vigilant enough towards protecting the original inhabitants of this land.

By: Henry, Oscar, and Murad

Inaugural KCS Invitational Basketball Tournament Success!

From October 12-14, the U14 girls’ basketball team went to a tournament at Olympia Sports camp for three days and two nights! We had such an amazing time competing in a four team tournament with Havergal College and two Holy Trinity School teams. KCS was the host of the tournament, and it was the very first year!

We all participated in a very educational basketball workshop with Melanie Gerin Lajoie who taught us proper shooting technique, dribbling drills, and helped us prepare for the games which started the next day. We also had a great time participating in exciting team building activities that helped us meet all of the amazing girls on the other teams! 

The first night that we were there, we got to play an extremely exciting game of Minute to Win It, where we participated in activities like ping pong cups, Oreo stack, and creating our own team cheer and name – which we decided was “Live, Laugh, Love, Cougars”! Our team ended up victorious winning this very competitive Minute to Win It game.

The next day, the round robin games started and it was time to put all of the skills that we had been taught to the test. The first game we played was against the second Holy Trinity School team. After a hard fight and lots of teamwork we came out with a big victory. The score of the game was 20-10 for KCS! We had won our first game. We were thrilled that we won but knew our next game was just around the corner and we had to fight as hard as we did in the last game that we had just played. 

Barely 10 minutes after, the next game started where we faced the first Holy Trinity School team. This game was an incredibly hard battle against a team that had lots of very competitive and aggressive players. After lots of 50/50 balls and fouls we ended up losing by 1 point with a finishing score of 8-9. We were upset, but knew if we continued to try our best, we could come out successful. Our final game of the day was against the current undefeated team, and also the tallest- Havergal. We were all nervous for this game as we knew it would be a hard fight. 

Throughout the game, we tried lots of new things and had lots of successful baskets and plays. In the third quarter, we had a tremendous come back of 10 points and were so close to tying up the game. Unfortunately, we lost the game by 1 point, with a final score of 18-19. Even though we were very disappointed, we persevered and did not give up. 

After the games on the first day, our team and the Havergal team got to go on the Giant Swing. The Giant Swing is a double person swing that’s lifted up 60 feet in the air by a rope by the rest of the team. You drop yourselves and go free falling- flying backwards over the lake as you swing uncontrollably in the air! It was very scary but so much fun and a great chance to make friends with the other teams! 

The next day was game day. It was our final chance to prove ourselves and to snag the win. In the round robin games, we finished in 3rd place which means we would play the 2nd place team. During the game, we played our hearts out. And even though this team beat us by one point before, we beat them by 14 points! That means that we moved on to the finals! 

The final was the last game of the whole tournament, and it was all up to this. We played our hearts out, tried our best, took every shot we could get, and worked together to the best of our abilities. The U14 girls’ basketball team is happy to announce that we have won the tournament at Camp Olympia!! Thank you Ms. Field for organizing the entire tournament! 

Written by the players on the U14 Girls’ Basketball Team

Truth & Reconciliation Week at the Junior School

The last week in September was National Truth & Reconciliation Week. KCS recognized Orange Shirt Day as a school on September 30. Our Junior School students were invited by student leaders, Liesl & Vivian, to contribute to a mural in our front lobby after we read the book ‘You Hold Me Up’ by Monique Gray Smith. Students also read fiction and non-fiction age-appropriate material in their library classes related to this topic. 

Here are some examples of the thoughtful learning that took place over the course of the week. 

In Kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2 Phys. Ed. classes, students have learned about different games played by Indigenous children and why they are culturally important. They have also been learning about the medicine wheel as a way of viewing the world.

In the Grade 1 Be Creative Club, students designed their own orange shirts with messages surrounding the theme ‘Every Child Matters’. In their Art class, they read the story ‘You Hold Me Up’ by Monique Gray Smith. Students each chose a person in their lives who holds them up and drew their portraits, which are on display in our Grade 1 hallway. Students also made animals masked, which were inspired by the story ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox.’

Here is what some Grade 2 students shared with us in assembly about their learning: “In Grade 2, we listened to many different stories about the children at residential schools. We designed our own orange shirts, colorful dresses and made feathers. We learned that they took Phyllis’ orange shirt away from her at her residential school. We learned that children should never be treated like they were and that we need to make sure that it never happens again.”

The Grade 3 students shared their learning in assembly too! Here is their message about what they are learning: “In Grade 3, we learn all about communities in Canada, starting from when the Indigenous people were first here. In class, we’ve been learning about Indigenous people and how they were treated a long time ago. Indigenous people were forced to go to residential schools. They had to eat and sleep there, and they weren’t allowed to see their families. This was so sad. People cut their hair off, changed their names, and made everyone wear the same clothes. One girl wore an orange shirt, and it was taken away from her. These are a few of the reasons why we now have Orange Shirt Day. We want to remember the awful times that Indigenous people had and make sure this doesn’t happen again. The Grade 3s are thinking hard about how we can help make a difference and help make things right for Indigenous people today. We hope you will help!”

In Grade 7 History class, students learned about different perspectives about land in North America. There were very clear differences between how Europeans and Indigenous communities used the land. The Grade 7 students also completed a self-directed project about how education is a key part of reconciliation. For example, they explored how students in Sudbury brought a Pow-Wow to their school so that they could share the experience with their classmates.

Both Grade 7 and 8 attended a session online with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. We heard from artist Carey Newman about his project called the Witness Blanket. He gathered artifacts from people and places about the residential school experience and created a blanket from those artifacts. The blanket is an amazing 12 metres long and each of the artifacts tells a story. The blanket has been on tour across Canada and now is also an online exhibit that everyone can visit. The Grade 8 students also began their inquiry projects in History class. Their driving question is: How might we address and participate in the process of reconciliation? It will be interesting to see what they come up with in their research.

We are grateful and encouraged by the many different activities that were associated with Truth & Reconciliation Week at KCS. What we also know is that the learning continues throughout the year here. Our faculty has taken on this important responsibility and we are grateful for their thoughtful, respectful planning and engagement. 

Ms. Gaudet

Citizenship Education Coordinator & Grade 7 Teacher

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. 

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.

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.

“Can We Start Reading Now?”

It’s a Friday afternoon in the KCS Library, shortly after the Silver Birch program has begun.  There are swarms of children racing to the library after school to sign out books…..Silver Birch books!  Some of these students already have a book checked out for the weekend, but are worried that they may finish it early and not have anything else to read the rest of the weekend.  “Could I borrow a second book, just in case?”  How can I say no to such enthusiasm for reading?

The OLA’s Forest of Reading® Programs have been a tradition at KCS for over ten years.  Passports and reflection sheets, sharing thoughts and opinions through blogging, author visits, house competitions, and impromptu discussions in the hallway and classrooms are all part of the Blue Spruce, Silver Birch and Red Maple programs.  And like all traditions, enthusiasm for the program is passed from sibling to sibling.  I am often asked, the first week of school, when will it start this year?

I just love the BookBuzz around the whole school! Some things I’ve overheard:

  • “Did you like Space Raiders?”
  • “I liked The Swallow: A Ghost Story better than I thought I would!”
  • “Are there any more books by David Skuy?”
  • “My goal was 10 books last year, but this year I’m going to try to finish all 20!”
  • Clover’s Luck is here!  I can’t wait to read it!”
  •  “I’ve read all the books!  What else can I read?”

Not surprisingly, this tradition is my favourite time of the year.  There is an increased enthusiasm for reading, and even the most reluctant of readers can be found sitting on a beanbag chair in the library with a book in their hands.  At KCS, we are continuing to grow our culture of students who read for the love of it.  And there are many additional benefits. As People for Education published in a report, “Students with a more positive attitude towards reading tend to be more successful in all subjects”. (Reading for Joy, 2011.)

The Forest of Reading Program – It’s the Super Bowl of Reading!

Judy Dunn-Hoggarth
Teacher Librarian

Where Was This Thirty Years Ago?

KCS_Where-Was-This-30-Years-AgoLast week, staff and students were asked to fill in a thought bubble about what mental health meant to them. After reading many of them, a flood of emotions and memories came to me as I have a brother who lives with a mental illness. Words like “brave” and “hero” put a smile on my face because that’s how I would describe my brother. These were not words I heard when I was a young girl dealing with this issue in my family.

People did not understand that my brother was sick. Maybe if he were in a wheelchair, people would have been more supportive. It is hard to understand something that you cannot see.

We have come so far with raising awareness and decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illness, but we still need to continue with these conversations, not just on Bell Let’s Talk Day. Here, at KCS, teachers encourage these dialogues with their students to promote good mental health. As uncomfortable as it may be for some, we embrace it.

KCS instills in our students key habits such as Act with empathy, Do what is right, and Make the world better. These children will carry kindness and empathy towards others for the rest of their lives. It makes me hopeful that this next generation of students will do their part to end the stigma towards mental illness. This makes my heart happy and it made my brother’s heart also very happy when I told him about what our students were saying!

Lucy Rizzuto
Senior Kindergarten Teacher

Practising the Hard Part of Listening

soundOne of our Habits at KCS is Listen to Understand. Hearing comes easily for most of us. Listening requires a bit more effort but we usually try our best with that. It’s the ‘understand’ part that is trickiest. Some cool things are happening here with that Habit and they’re a reminder of why it matters.

Understanding means stepping out of our old opinions, assumptions, and even otherwise-justified practices to fully understand those of others. It requires another one of our Habits, Flexible Thinking. Cognitive science Daniel T. Willingham helps explain why that makes it so tricky. In his book Why Don’t Students Like School:  A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, Willingham explains that the brain, surprisingly, is not designed for thinking. That’s right. For all its smarts, it’s actually designed to avoid thinking. When listening, the unmotivated and undisciplined brain will work to hear what it wants to hear, or rapidly defeat what it finds contradictory and therefore too much trouble. Hmm. Does that sound like some conversations you’ve heard (or even had) before?

The KCS Habits are not just for students. Listening to our senior students recently, we introduced a modified timetable during the week of exams so grade 7 and 8 students had choice in how they spent their mornings: either in subject-specific extra help or an open-study session. Earlier this year, when our senior students asked for more independence, numerous other new practices based on student suggestions were introduced (some examples include: freedom to eat lunch with friends from the other class; grade 8s being allowed to eat lunch in the Student Lounge; Special Lunches for 7s and 8s in their corridor instead of Canada Hall; more choices for students who want to stay in to work during recess). Readers of “Stay Connected” are learning direct from the students about some of the changes they helped make happen. We listened and understood. The result has been a breath of fresh air for us all.

“Respect, manners and try your best” are school rules that we all strive to follow. Figuring out what’s best is tricky. Listen to Understand is the first big step. Students and faculty are showing they can take it from there.

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