Someone is watching over you!

Separated by 6,071 km and nearly 73 years, two strangers meet to remember and honour a fallen soldier…..Let me start from the beginning!

Every two years, grade 7 and 8 students have the opportunity to spend part of March Break with teachers and interested parents on a group tour of the Canadian battlefields of Europe. Ms. Biljetina and I are the teachers who lead the trip. What I’m about to share began after my third battlefield trip, when my grandmother told me the story of her first cousin, Leslie, who died while serving in the Second World War.  His body was never recovered and his name is among those of the missing on the memorial at Groesbeek Cemetery in the Netherlands.  With my involvement with the Kingsway College School battlefield trip, it meant a great deal for me to be able to visit this site for my family.

Fast forward to March 8, 2015 when I finally had the opportunity to return to Groesbeek Cemetery, but this time it meant much more to me.  Upon arrival, I immediately looked for Leslie Roherty in the register, and there in black and white was his name, the division he served in, his place of birth, age, family information and the panel number (10) where his name is engraved.  Instantly something came over me. What was I feeling?  It is incredible how emotional I felt considering I never knew him.  While hard to explain, I felt an undeniable connection to him and it gave me a new appreciation for how difficult it must have been for my cousin Hazel and her family, my grandmother, and other family members when the message was delivered explaining that he would not be returning home from the war.  It made me think about all of those families who lost loved ones and how heartbreaking it must have been.  I was quite choked up by this experience and decided I needed to write something in the visitor’s log.  What does one say?  For someone who always has a lot to say, I found myself relatively speechless.  In the end, I wrote, “RIP Leslie Roherty” and signed my name, Jenn MacDonald.  I took many photos of the register, panel 10 and the cemetery to show to my family.  Little did I know that this was just the beginning.

Nearly one year ago, my cousin Mark Roherty received a letter from Alice van Bekkum, president of the Faces to Graves Foundation.  Alice received my aunt’s obituary and it listed Mark as her son. From there, she started her search to find the relatives of Leslie Roherty.  Last year, my cousin passed along this letter to my grandmother and asked if I had visited Groesbeek Cemetery.  Since I had not left my address, Alice was at a loss in her search for information.  Finding my cousin was the break that she needed.  In the months leading up to our recent 2017 battlefield trip, I got in touch with Alice to let her know that Groesbeek Cemetery was on our itinerary.  We were both extremely pleased that we would get to meet each other.  All of my family and I were so touched to see that there are people out there like Alice who make it their mission to put faces and stories to these brave souls.  They want people to know who they were so we can always remember the sacrifice that they made.

To understand Alice’s motivation, here is some background information on her involvement and the connection with my relative.  In 2002, Alice visited her parents’ grave where she discovered one lone Commonwealth war grave in a general cemetery in Gorinchem.  On the headstone was the soldier’s name and a date.  This piqued her interested and Alice decided to look into it.  She found out he was a Canadian soldier who was killed in the battle of Arnhem.  After doing further research and speaking with contacts at Liberation Museum, she had a clearer picture of who he was and where his body was discovered.  Alice was also in contact with this soldier’s family back in Canada.  This story picked up a lot of momentum in the news and this soldier’s family was able to get answers that they waited decades to hear.  The connection to my family you ask….this soldier was in the same storm boat as my cousin.

After many emails and text messages, the time had finally arrived for me to meet the wonderful woman who has taken such an interest in my family.  When the KCS contingent reached the cemetery, Alice was there smiling and greeting us in the parking lot.  She came with poppies for everyone on our tour, a candle to light, and a beautiful homemade heart wreath made of moss from her own garden.  Again, I found myself emotional that a complete stranger took the time to prepare all of this for my cousin.  We spoke for over half an hour while we walked around the cemetery.  As we were leaving, we placed our poppies on the wreath that she made and left it there by Leslie’s name.

There are moments and people in your life that will stick with you forever. Meeting Alice will be one of them for me.  Her compassion and dedication are remarkable and very much appreciated by my entire family and me.  The work that she and her organization do is significant.  We will never be able to thank the thousands of young men and women who gave their lives for our freedom, but with Alice’s help, we will never forget them!

– Jenn MacDonald
Grade 5 Teacher

Resolving to be better global citizens

Imagine a generation of young people working to create a better world. This is the invitation from High Resolves, a program that originated in Australia for grade 7-12 students about how to act as global citizens. This year, KCS became the first school outside of Australia to participate in this program! We were anticipating an affirmation of what we are doing at KCS in the area of active citizenship. We were not disappointed!

With funding from the KCS Pickard/Bulger Family Citizenship Fund, all grade 7 students participated in three workshops: Collective Identity, Independent Thinking, and Social Justice. In each of the sessions, our wonderful instructor and Canadian Program Director, Chantelle Kohn, captured our attention and expertly delivered the vital messages in a respectful, open-minded fashion. Students were initially curious, and even apprehensive about these new workshops, but very quickly they became engaged in these timely, interactive activities. Students were able to move around and engage in collaborative group challenges. This made the 2 hours workshops fly by! They learned about: attributes of global citizens, how to think critically about messages in the media, and how to work towards social justice. At the end of each session, students were encouraged to reflect on their learning and write “I Resolve” statements. These statements demonstrate how students plan to incorporate their learning into daily life as global citizens.

In addition, we welcomed over 25 teachers, administrators, parents, board members and social justice champions from across the GTA to KCS so that they could learn more about High Resolves. We shared our positive experiences with colleagues from other schools so that they too may participate in this program. It was an excellent time for all of the adults to discuss: social justice, student leadership, and how to inspire students to make a difference. Here are some of their insights from the students via an anonymous survey conducted after one of the sessions:

  • “I think that the workshop was an amazing learning opportunity for everyone in grade 7. I learned a ton and will keep putting that learning forward to help the earth and the people that live there. I have a feeling that I can make a change in the world.”
  • “The workshop was fun. The whole concept of the learning process really engaged me in the activities. The presentation was great and overall I learned a lot. Everything was also explained very thoroughly in a way that we could easily understand.”
  • “It was stimulating, and made you think. I enjoyed it!”
  • “The workshop was a life-changing and opinion-switching experience. The instructor/presenter was amazing and taught me and many of my peers about the world and how we can make it better.”

We took a responsible risk when we invited High Resolves to KCS, but we’re thrilled that we did! We are already looking forward to continuing our learning next year in grade 7 and expanding the program to grade 8! Thank you to Chantelle for the wonderful learning experiences and thank you to the Pickard/Bulger family for their continued support of citizenship education at KCS.

Shelley Gaudet
Citizenship Education Coordinator

My Blue is Happy

My sister says that blue is sad, like a lonely song, but my blue is happy like my favourite jeans and a splash in the pool on a hot day.

This is the opening line in the book My Blue is Happy by Jessica Young. A lyrical ode to colours and the unique way we as individuals perceive them.

We have been working hard with the JKs this year to help them recognize the many different emotions they experience throughout the day. We want to teach them to recognize when they are feeling happy, sad, frustrated, worried, calm or silly. We want to teach them that it is okay to have these feelings, and give them the resources and strategies to help regulate them.

It was on a day like any other that we decided to read, My Blue is Happy. As I sat there reading, I didn’t know how much it would mean to the JKs sitting, listening so quietly on the carpet, or to be honest how much it would affect me.

We live in a world that is so rich with colour I think sometimes we forget to appreciate it. Eventually each colour seems to bleed into the next, and before you know it when you think of colour you think of them as society has inadvertently taught you to: “I’m green with envy”, “I feel blue”, “I’m so angry I see red!” and so on. When you really think about it, it is actually quite sad.

So, when the story was finished we asked our students to close their eyes and think of a colour and how it makes them feel. The next day we read the story again and afterwards put on quiet music, and put out white paper and watercolour paints. We asked them to explore with the colours, and to think about how they felt with each colour they used.

Afterwards one student told me “blue makes me feel like an ocean; calm and relaxed”. Another told me that green makes them feel brave. Each student saw these colours in a way completely unique to them.

My hope for my students is that they never stop appreciating the beauty that is around them, and that they never stop seeing these colours in the way that is meaningful to them.

It was later that day as I sat in the hall waiting for one of my students to wash their hands that I found myself staring out the window, watching the snow falling and thought:

My white is peaceful, like slowly falling snow and clouds floating across the sky.

I encourage you to close your eyes now and think of a colour. Do you have one? Good! Now tell me, how does it make you feel?

U13 Boys Great Performance at the CAIS National Basketball Tournament

It was an action-packed three days of basketball as the KCS U13 boys participated in the CAIS National Tournament at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton.  Playing a grueling seven game schedule, the boys worked very hard throughout the tournament.  Thanks to excellent teamwork and resilient play, the U13 Boys made it to the Division 2 semi-final match where they lost to Holy Trinity.

The prestigious CAIS National Tournament invites basketball teams from across Canada to participate. For the past five years, the U13 boys have represented our school both locally, and as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia.

Each year at the tournament, a single team is awarded the coveted Statham Award for Team Sportsmanship. The recipient of this award is chosen by the sixteen coaches, and given to the team that best exemplifies the true athletic spirit and character of the game of basketball. This year we are pleased to announce that KCS was chosen to receive this notable award!

Additionally, a student from each team is awarded the Jeff Trickett Award for his sportsmanship, heart, and hard work. Congratulations to Rocky for receiving this honour!

Special thanks to the Tevlin family for their continued generous support of KCS through the Tevlin Family Fund for Sport and Outdoor Education. A grant from the Tevlin Family Fund paid for the tournament entrance fee and coaches’ travel expenses allowing our boys to hone their competitive edge and showcase the exemplary sportsmanship skills present at KCS.

Congratulations U13 boys!

The KCS Spirit

Once a month, the halls of KCS are filled with students dressed in the colours of their favourite sports teams, looking cozy in their pyjamas or perhaps looking a little wild for crazy hair day. In January, excitement was in the air as the students celebrated their teams and enjoyed a wonderful Pizza Lunch courtesy of our Parent Network and today’s spirit day is no different.

Always high energy, KCS Spirit Days also represent KCS’s commitment to citizenship and the key habit of making the world a better place. January’s Sports Day was organized by our Grade 3 classes. Under the leadership of our Citizenship Co-ordinator, Ms. Shelley Gaudet, the Grade 3 classes worked collaboratively to select, plan and promote the theme of Sports for their Spirit Day. From Pajamas and House colours, to “Dress Up” and Opposites Day, classes from Grades 1 to 8 will have an opportunity to be the driving force behind one of our fantastic Spirit Days.

Perhaps the greatest message delivered on Spirit Day is working collectively to make the world a better place.  In addition to dressing up, the students donate $2 to support the Get Ahead Project or GAP through The Leacock Foundation.  Where do all of those Toonies go, you may ask?  Ms. Gaudet sums it up wonderfully: “As the world becomes a more global community, students learn how this affects their lives and those around them. KCS continues to support the Get Ahead Project School (GAP), serving children from underprivileged communities in Queenstown, South Africa. They are invited to donate $2 to the school during each Spirit Day…and as a result… KCS has helped GAP’s technology budget annually in an effort to provide sustainable funding for the school. In addition, many classes have written letters, sent sports equipment, and made scrapbooks for the students in South Africa.”

Well done KCS!

The five-minute challenge

What can five minutes do? It can help change the world. This is the main message that went home with 160 members of the KCS community after the Encouraging Dialogue Speaker Series presented by Kingsway College School in partnership with the KCS Parent Network.

Volunteerism: Choices That Make a Difference featured a panel of non-profit leaders sharing their experiences and engaging in lively discussion with the audience. Alex Robertson, CEO of Camp Oochigeas, Kristine Gaston, Executive Director of The Leacock Foundation, Martha McClew, Provincial Director for The Terry Fox Foundation, James Noronha, Program Director for Special Olympics Ontario and Gohulan Rajalingham, Special Olympian were joined by keynote speaker and host of the evening, Canadian football legend Michael “Pinball” Clemons.

With a focus on instilling the habits of volunteerism in our children early to follow them through life, panelists encouraged the audience to help children find their passion and to teach by example. Feel uncomfortable and feel nervous. Show your children that is how you are feeling and show them that volunteering can be hard. And show them that it’s all worth it.

Pinball and our panelists issued a challenge: start with five minutes a day. Just five minutes to make someone’s day better. Soon, those five minutes turns to twenty, then an hour. Before you know it, a habit has formed that will help our children become volunteer leaders of tomorrow.

What is truly remarkable about our passionate KCS community is the level of volunteerism we see at the school every day. This event, for example, was made possible by the generosity of two volunteers from the KCS Parent Network. Parent volunteers who devoted hours of their time to ensuring that this annual event was the best one yet and provided our community with an unforgettable experience.

It just takes five minutes to help change the world. What will you do with your five minutes today?

A Dialogue on Volunteerism

Electric. Motivating. Inspiring.

These are just a few of the words that could be used to describe Tuesday’s fantastic assembly in Canada Hall. Thanks to the generous support of the Kingsway College School Parent Network for the Talk That Matters Speaker series, KCS proudly welcomed an impressive panel of guest speakers whose message of volunteerism electrified our students, staff and faculty. Canadian Football legend, Michael “Pinball” Clemons, Program Director for Special Olympics Ontario, James Noronha, and Special Olympian Gohulan Rajlingam shared uplifting stories of how they came to embrace volunteerism.

With his energetic and engaging style, Pinball Clemons asked the students to pause and reflect on what it means to be in the service of others. Like The Good Samaritan or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pinball reminded the audience of people who believed in the goodness that comes from standing up for others. He spoke eloquently of his own mother, who worked very hard to raise him by herself and instill in him a deep understanding of giving back to the community.

James Noronha and Gohulan Rajlingam each shared personal stories of how the Special Olympics presented them with many opportunities to build community spirit, celebrate exceptional athletes in multiple sports and cultivate a tightly knit network of friends and families whose generous spirit connected them forever. James also explained how he was drawn to volunteerism as a thirteen-year-old student. By typing and mailing a simple letter to the Trillium Hospital, James began his lifelong journey of helping others.  After listening to these wonderful stories, what may be holding you back from reaching out and making a difference?

What makes a community great?  Without a doubt, it’s when we stand up and help others with the gift of time. Whether it is investing 5 minutes a day to make someone’s morning brighter, or five hours filling the Wall of Service, these simple gestures have the power to make a big difference. We all win when volunteerism becomes a part of who we are.

A very special thank you to our Parent Network volunteers, Mrs. Alison Bell and Dr. Christina Semler for their tremendous support of this unforgettable event. Now that deserves a Pinball Clemons high five!

Grade 4 Students Enjoy Very Dramatic Literacy Workshops!

What happens when you combine classic literature with a touch of creativity, dramatic arts and technology?  Kingsway College School’s Grade 4 classes answered this question with an exciting activity that brought our reading program to life.  Building on the elements of literacy in action, learning by doing and taking responsible risks, the Grade 4 students participated in one of two fantastic workshops facilitated by The Directors Cut and the Stratford Student Player’s Festival.

The Directors Cut and The Wizard of Oz

The Directors Cut is a teacher-designed, full day workshop that engages students in collaborative, hands-on, digital/media literacy.  Technology-based, the key goal of this workshop is to promote 21st century communication skills in a fun and interactive way. Under the guidance of Ms. Dulmage and Ms. Holyck, the first group of Grade 4s researched, planned and created a graphic novel style presentation using scenes from The Wizard of Oz.

The students teamed up to define each character’s traits, then captured the plot’s twists and turns using a professional style storyboard. Their collaboration and problem solving also included organizing costumes and carefully plotting out camera angles using the drama style of tableaux.  The critical challenge that defined each group’s task was to communicate the mood of a particular scene using only still images and no dialogue.  Some excellent scenes were captured as the tableaus were exported using iMovie and then transformed into rich graphic presentations complete with transitions, sounds, voice overs and awesome special effects.  As the students shared their artistic creations, it was great to watch Dorothy, Toto and her three companions come to life travelling along the Yellow Brick Road.

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The Stratford Student Player’s Festival and Midsummer Night’s Dream

Meanwhile, a second group of students travelled to Stratford, Ontario to participate in the Stratford Student Player’s Festival Teaching Shakespeare. Based on an inspiring professional development summer workshop, Ms. Pollett-Boyle and Madame Barchuk looked forward to having the Grade 4 students learn about Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream via an interactive stage performance. In addition to reading the play together, the group investigated the life and times of William Shakespeare and discussed key literary devices, vocabulary and a student-friendly version of iambic pentameter.  The Grade 4s were very excited when professional actor Lara Jean Chorostecki (X Company, Hannibal) took time from her busy schedule to work with the eager KCS performers.

The Stratford workshop included stage combat choreography from West Side Story, followed by an analysis of characters, mood and themes from the Stratford classic Hamlet.  The most exciting part of the day was yet to come as the Grade 4s were called down to the theater to act out their scenes with a professional stage crew. Complete with one of the Grade 4s in the “booth” directing cues for lighting and sound, the KCS players took a responsible risk and performed their dramatic scenes in front of a live audience.  “I was nervous, yet very excited at the same time” commented one Grade 4 student as the entire KCS crew were congratulated for their stage presence, clarity and skillful interpretation of each scene.  The Stratford facilitators were doubly impressed when they discovered that the group from KCS was one of the youngest at the Festival.

As a fitting conclusion to the workshop, the students followed up by sharing their experiences with their classmates.  More importantly, when it was announced that funding for the Student Festival was expiring, the students rallied to the cause by writing persuasive letters to Stratford’s Educational Committee urging them to continue with the program!  After such a fun and enriching experience, the Grade 4 team looks forward to continuing with this wonderful celebration of literature and drama in action.

The Sesame E-Portfolio: An Exciting Addition, Nine Times Over

Last year we launched Sesame, a secure e-portfolio (or electronic portfolio) that captured the detailed learning journey of our PK, JK and SK students through photo, video and captions. This year, Sesame is capturing the journey of all students from PK to grade 3. As we continue to roll out this new tool, Sesame will follow our students from their first day at KCS until the day of their graduation.

This is an exciting step forward for many reasons. Here are nine of the more obvious ones:

  1. Sesame opens up the classroom to parents, colleagues and students. Through photos and videos, we’re able to share exponentially more about the world of learning happening at school. Homework doesn’t tell that story. Nor do tests, projects, assignments or report cards, at least not directly. The process matters. Sesame captures and shares it.
  2. By opening up the classroom to parents, they have a means to see the play presentations, the Show and Tell, the showcases and multiple other events that busy parents can’t always attend. On top of that, these banner days are captured to share with grandparents, friends and extended family – all who would love to see it in person, but often can’t.
  3. We now have a tool to measure and honour the attributes that matter most in life. Yes, the standard curriculum matters, and practices are in place to make sure this curriculum (and more) is effectively learned. What most of the profession still struggles with, however, is how to teach and measure growth of the equally critical soft skills, what we know as our Habits of Mind, Body and Action at KCS. Our students are taught about the Habits, and we see evidence of the Habits being practised daily. But how to measure this? By capturing evidence of the Habits in action. Sesame is our tool for the job.
  4. As an electronic portfolio, Sesame is unsurpassed in its clean, minimalist look. Suitable for all ages, it’s devoid of the distracting extra features that bog down too many tech products and take away from the pleasure of a tool that simply does its job well.
  5. It couldn’t be easier to use. With a tablet, sign-in via a personal QR code requires just one tap. One more tap and you’re adding content. It’s easy enough for our youngest students and busiest teachers. We’ve resisted adopting other e-portfolios because ease of use and efficiency matter. Sesame offers it like no other product we’ve seen.
  6. With Sesame, our students will increasingly assume ownership of the Habits they’re developing. Our students, as they become able, will take on the role of populating their portfolios with what they see as evidence of the Habits in their personal learning journey. Seeking, capturing, and commenting on these moments will reinforce their understanding and awareness of these vital attributes.
  7. Teachers have a powerful new tool to promote self-awareness and provoke behaviour-changing reflection. Having a great class? Teachers can take video to show the students later, and get their thoughts on the evidence for why it worked well. Having a class that didn’t work as well? Teachers can have the students watch that one too, and ask them to identify what the problems were. Video evidence is a powerful medium for personal growth.
  8. With photos and videos regularly updated and easily accessible at home, parents and children can have richer conversations about what their child is doing at school. These conversations both reinforce and extend the learning that’s happening in the classroom. That’s parent involvement which directly makes a difference in their child’s learning. As such, that’s an exercise we’re directly asking families to engage in.
  9. Last but not least, we now have a tool to easily capture, store, and share memories. From the Teddy Bear picnic to raucous House challenges in assembly, and all the showcases, French plays, concerts, student-led projects, and infinite other experiences that make up their days at KCS, the Sesame portfolio will follow our students from PK to graduation. Upon leaving KCS, the content will be given to students to enjoy, and even use, in their lives after KCS. As universities and employers increasingly express interest in seeing portfolios, Sesame will be ready with students’ stories of leadership, responsible risks, creativity, persistence and more.

Portfolios aren’t new at KCS, and e-portfolios aren’t new in the profession. Sesame, all it offers, and how we’re using it, however, is quite new. We’re always striving to do better. Nine times over, Sesame is one exciting example of how.

What Happens on those Early Dismissal Days?

Have you ever wondered what KCS teachers are doing during those early dismissal days when school wraps up at 12:20 and students head out to start their weekend? For starters, these afternoons always begin with a great tradition- a delicious potluck lunch.  Many KCS teachers work across numerous grades throughout the building. This special lunch is a wonderful opportunity to break bread together and reconnect with colleagues from a different grade or division. A quick glance across the room reveals tables that are full of lively conversations, laughter and an unmistakable atmosphere of positive energy.  It is this energy that fuels the professional development activities that make up the balance of the afternoon.

Staff activities during Early Dismissal Days, or EDDs, exemplify the collaborative spirit of the KCS Faculty.  Early Dismissal days complement the numerous meetings that KCS teachers attend on a weekly basis.  These formal and informal meetings allow our teachers to better understand and meet the needs of our students.  Earlier this year, the KCS faculty completed professional development activities that reflected on Project Based Learning, Differentiated Instruction and Health and Wellness. These afternoons are sometimes used to formulate action plans for students who may need extra support, guidance, challenge or a friendly pat on the back.  EDDs also offer a wonderful opportunity for both teachers and administrators to invest time into discussing curriculum, school wide projects, enrichment opportunities and upcoming events. Building on these important discussions, the teachers also take time to review current best practices whose key purpose is to make KCS a better school. Topics cover the range of our Four Doors to Learning including classroom innovation, student generated ideas, the status of clubs and teams as well as improvements to assessment and reporting.  Most importantly, teachers focus on how best to apply our Habits of Mind, Body and Action.

Time is always a precious commodity during the school year.  With this in mind, the KCS team recognizes the value of taking time to pause, reflect and then planning out a solid path forward. EDDs often have a busy agenda, but enjoying your grade partner’s homemade brownies while planning for the next Science or Language Arts units is a nice way to spend an afternoon.

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