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. 

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

“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

Wonderful Wondering

WonderingAre you wondering enough?

It’s widely regarded that we all start out as wonderers, asking endless questions as soon as we have the words to do so. As we get older, and more concerned with appearing all-knowing, wondering winds down.

That’s a loss for us all. The world is made a better place thanks to wondering. The global challenges we face need exponentially more wondering, not less.

That’s why I’m so excited about how our grade 6 students are practicing their wondering skills. Their teachers have led them in creating ‘I Wonder Wikis’. The students will add to them throughout the year, documenting what they wonder about, and including the multimedia fruits of their efforts to pursue this question of interest. The wikis will be shared with their classmates and all will have the opportunity to comment and contribute (such is the wonder of wikis). Wondering turns into learning about an unlimited array of topics.

What do they wonder about? Here’s a sample of what they’ve started with:

  • How was bubble gum invented?
  • How do you help stray dogs?
  • What are the origins of Halloween?
  • How do robots work?
  • How does a computer work?
  • How was the baseball formed?
  • How does a stereo read a CD?
  • What would happen if I swam to the bottom of the ocean?
  • Why are pitbulls discriminated against in Canada?
  • How do birds fly?
  • How do clouds float?
  • Why is a cloud white?
  • What is the atmosphere in Mercury like?
  • Why do you need to cook raw meat?
  • How does wireless work?

Have no fear. Most of their day is still spent learning within the regular curriculum. However, question and be curious is a habit we’re working to establish at KCS. It’s a habit that leads to lifelong learning. And it’s a habit that may lead to questions that will transform the world for the better.

Wonderful.

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

Summer Learning

SummerCubbies are cleaned. Lockers lay bare. Papers have been sifted through with favourites kept and the rest thrown out.

Summer holidays have arrived, and the weight of the academic world has been lifted for another year.

I’ve been guilty of thinking that children have it relatively easy. I can remember once pointing out to a group of teens how hard their teachers are working, leading extra-curriculars, teaching all day, marking and planning every evening. I deserved their immediate challenge. They reminded me that, in fact, students also have a lot of demands on them. They’re involved in those school extra-curriculars and more, they’re in those classes throughout the day, and they’re doing homework every evening. They have endless expectations on them for managing themselves and their work. Many regularly face misunderstanding, mistakes and reprimand in both academics and social relations. They navigate this world with the vulnerable self-esteem, self-confidence and skill set inherent in being young. Even in the best schools, the days are not easy.

Many parents and teachers bemoan the long gap between June and September. It’s true that some academic learning can take a hit. Having said that, other learning should be savoured in the summer. Because the school year doesn’t always make enough time for it, here is some of the summer learning I hope all children work hard at this holiday:

  1. Learning through play
  2. Learning through mistakes
  3. Learning within one’s strengths and passions
  4. Learning and relaxation in a healthy balance
  5. Learning what and how you want, just for the love of it

Lots of important things are learned at school. And lots of important things are learned outside of school. Like students, teachers also learn a lot over the summer. Maybe, as a result of all their learning, more of this summer learning will work its way into the school year.

Have a wonderful, learning-filled summer.

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

This article will be published in the July 2013 edition of SNAP Etobicoke.

A Notion Worth Knocking

Working the brainI remember the indignation. I was a grade 8 student studying for a science test. I announced with all the wisdom and conviction of a 13-year-old that it was ridiculous studying all this science. “It’s not like I’m going to be a scientist!”

No doubt I would have joined the chorus today that also argues against learning and memorizing facts. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read or hear the argument that students don’t need to know things like they used to. Anything one needs to know can be found on the internet.

A number of reasons why this notion is incorrect quickly come to mind: students need information as fodder for critical and creative thinking; people don’t always have the internet when they need it; you can’t simultaneously Google everything you need to know to think about a complex issue; much information we learn contributes to our sense of community and identity.

Reading Kathie Nunley’s book A Student’s Brain: The Parent/Teacher Manual, I can now add another definitive reason for why this notion needs knocking. Pure and simple, having to learn anything, anything, makes your brain stronger. The more the brain takes in, the more neural pathways become established. The more those pathways are repeatedly used, the more permanent those pathways become. The more numerous, varied and permanent those pathways are, the more ways in which the brain is ready to learn everything else it’s subsequently exposed to. Much like a muscle that grows whether you’re lifting barbells or babies, the brain is a use-it-or-lose-it organ. If you want to be good at anything in life, learn everything you can.

Along the way, you might even learn what I learned when applying to university. My undergraduate, as it turned out, was in science.

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

This article was first published in SNAP Etobicoke, June 2013.

Tough Stuff

“At first we argued consistently about what had to be done. Now we don’t argue and we compromise.”
–        A student in the Lego Robotics elective

TeamworkBeing Active is how some people relax. Acting with empathy is second nature for others. We universally enjoy those adept at finding humour. And we all know people for whom share what you know is a lopsided strength…

The KCS Habits are everywhere. Even a cursory read of the daily paper is an immersion in the Habits, whether by their presence or oh-so-unfortunate absence in world events. The challenge we’ve undertaken at KCS is for every person to have all of the Habits. Every one. At once. While it may be asking too much to say that all of our young graduates will have every Habit firmly and forever established, we do believe they’re old enough to be aware of the Habits that matter in life, and to reflect on where they’re strong and where growth is needed.

A recent assignment asked our electives students to reflect on their growth in some key Habits. Our songwriting, Renaissance Art and theatre students are clearly growing in their ability to create. Our Lego robotics students are doing an impressive job persisting in building and programming their robots. And the baseball students will all be sharing what they know when they instruct and coach the grade three students in the upcoming Baseball Classic.

What Habit do the students find toughest? According to the reflections, the one most students seem to struggle with is seeking collaboration.

What’s one of the most important attributes for success in one’s career? The ability to collaborate.

Good thing our students are working on it, and realizing the need to do so.

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

Kind Gesture Leads to Unexpected Encounter

Vimy PinLast Monday I was sitting in my office when one of our grade 8 students knocked on my door and asked to speak to me. He had been on our European Battlefield trip with his Dad in March and they had written a thank you letter to me (as well as the five other faculty and staff who were on the trip). In addition he gave me a Vimy Pin. April 9th was the 96th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and he asked me to wear the pin the next day to commemorate the battle and honour those Canadians who had fought in 1917.

The next morning, I put the pin on and went outside during drop off. A parent rode up with her son on her bike. She noticed the Vimy Pin and said that she saw an article in that day’s National Post about Vimy. This led me to stop into our Business Manager’s Office later in the morning as I knew she had the Post delivered to her house. I asked her if she would save the article for me as I was interested in reading it. While standing in the doorway of her office, the Church receptionist overheard us talking. She asks me if she heard correctly that I was speaking about Vimy. I said yes, and then she asked me whether I knew the name of the designer of the Memorial.  Of course, I couldn’t remember on the spot!  That’s when she told me she was related to Walter Seymour Allward, the designer. She told me some stories, including that she has visited the Memorial twice, the last time in 2007 after it was refurbished; that she’s been in the catacombs beneath the Memorial; that Walter has other pieces of work at Queen’s Park, in Brantford, etc., and that he’s buried locally in Toronto. Her and her sister have researched Walter over the years. Of course this led me to a further conversation with one of our history teachers and one of the main organizers of our biannual battlefield trip. She said she would arrange for some of our students to interview the Church receptionist for their end-of-the-year history project.

The above story started with a thank you. A very kind gesture indeed, but one that had the added bonus of leading to an unexpected encounter at KCS. You just never know where good deeds will lead and where this story may go next.

Derek Logan
Head of School

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.

Learning What We Don’t Want to Learn

Habits of Mind, Body and ActionThe first Habit on our poster is ‘Embrace Learning’. Don’t let the soothing tone of the word ‘embrace’ deceive you. We could have just as easily described it as ‘Learn whether you like it or not’.

Learning can be like that. Thankfully, most of the time, and certainly at KCS, learning does feel like a warm embrace. It’s delivered by teachers who evidently care about their students and about making learning as positive as possible. And so it should be.

I’ve been reminded recently, however, about the underbelly of ‘embrace learning’, a side that was always intentionally part of that Habit, but that may have gone unnoticed, hidden in the shadows of the ever-more pleasant type of learning that is more the norm here. I’m talking about those important lessons in life that we resist, the lessons we’d prefer not to learn, but learn we should. They may challenge our character, or reveal a sandy foundation upon which we had built mighty assumptions. These lessons may arise when exams yield lower marks than expected; sometimes they arise when we’ve done something we’re later ashamed of; sometimes they will trip up students who otherwise find learning very easy, but then are faced with a topic that is annoyingly difficult to understand. Though these examples focus on the young, we’re never too old for these lessons. And while these examples focus on others, I don’t pretend to be immune.

Humans are generally a comfort-seeking lot. Daniel Willingham, cognitive scientist and author of Why Students Don’t Like School, argues that the brain strives to be as efficient as possible, lazy even, preferring to do as it wishes and not as it is forced to do. Add a dash of limited understanding, bias, immaturity, emotion, or over-confidence, and you have someone ready for one of these most humbling lessons. If they embrace it.

Most learning should feel like a warm embrace. But growing up and being our best self will include these more challenging lessons too. While decidedly uncomfortable, the reward for their steep price is broader understanding, growing maturity, more rational thought and healthy humility. Resilience, thinking flexibly and the ability to persist, three other noteworthy habits, also grow as a result.

That’s learning worth embracing.

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