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.

Getting Dirty

Playing in the mudAs a child, it was playing in the local woods. Now, it’s working in the garden. For some others, it’s part of going to camp or the cottage. For a small number more, it’s volunteer labour abroad or adventure travel.

However you do it, getting dirty doesn’t happen like it used to.

A growing chorus of parents, educators and nature-lovers are concerned about how children today are increasingly removed from nature. Whether the reason is electronics or modern parenting, there is little denying that children don’t linger outside as much as previous generations. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, has labeled the result Nature Deficit Disorder and makes the argument that this is behind some of the major health challenges children face today, including obesity, attention disorders and depression. If that isn’t reason enough, nature packs a powerful learning punch. In addition to all that’s worth learning while outside, research makes clear that learning is stronger if it’s multi-sensory. If it comes with a taste, touch, sound and smell in addition to a look, the memory is embedded in multiple parts of the brain and more secure and readily retrievable as a result.

In the footsteps of Louv, and armed with research, forest schools are gaining media attention as an alternative to more time indoors. A recent article in the Toronto Star featured the Guelph Outdoor Preschool, Ontario’s first licensed outdoor preschool. Children will spend the bulk of the day outside, rain or shine, hot or cold. Under their teachers’ care, these lucky little ones will experience flora and fauna and yes, dirt, all while working on the most foundational skills all preschool programs seek to nurture – language, math, science and social studies, in addition to questioning, curiosity, wonder, imagination, flexibility of thought, and persistence. Evidence suggests these children will be off to a good start with their learning.

Not all children have a forest school to go to, and plenty of great learning can and does happen in typical school environments. That being said, it’s summer. School isn’t keeping children inside. Find ways for you and your child to connect with nature. Get outside. And if you need convincing, take Louv’s book with you. He won’t mind if it gets dirty.

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

Me to We Leadership Centre

Last fall Ms. Field (Director of Athletics) and Ms. Gaudet (Citizenship Coordinator) came to me and suggested we make changes to our outdoor education and leadership program for our grades 7 & 8 students.  Last week saw the culmination of that initial discussion almost twelve months ago when our intermediate students attended the Me to We Leadership Centre in Bethany, Ontario during the first week of school.

Feedback upon their arrival back to school last Friday, as well as the various conversations I’ve had with students and teachers over the past few days, have helped me to realize that all of the work that went on behind the scenes over the past year to make this change happen is already having a positive impact on our students.  It reminded me that too often we see the final product of something and forget about all the thought and efforts that went on behind the scenes to make it happen.  The easiest thing would have been to keep the program the way it had been running for the past three to four years.  But that is not leadership.  If there is one thing I’ve learned as a Head at KCS over the past five years, doing the easy thing in the short term is almost never the right thing to do in the long term.

Over the coming school year, I look forward to seeing firsthand the development of our student leaders and the action they each take to make KCS and our community a better place for everyone.  Going to the Me to We Leadership Centre was a great way to kick start these efforts.

Derek Logan
Head of School