Symbolic Monarch Migration

Symbolic Monarch Butterflies Have Arrived From Mexico

My first sighting of the season for a monarch butterfly happened just last week as it was fluttering through our outdoor classroom. Only the butterflies born in August make it to Mexico to winter in the cool oyamel forests. It takes several generations by the time we see the great grandchildren of those August butterflies return to Canada.

Every October, my Science is Fun club for grades 1-3, become involved with an intriguing educational website called Journey North. Our young club members take up the challenge to become ambassadors for the monarch butterfly, which is now a threatened species. This project is made possible through a program called Symbolic Monarch Migration. This year, 17 students from Term 1 worked together to make a beautiful, folder-size butterfly as well as individual life-size butterflies. A package was mailed in October containing the class butterfly, 17 little butterflies, a photo of our school and outdoor classroom, and a loot bag containing mostly stickers for a Mexican student showing appreciation for taking care of our paper butterflies over the winter. The timing of the mailing was crucial as it needed to coincide with the real migration of monarchs to Mexico.

Butterfly

Throughout the year, progress reports from Journey North were available about the location of migrating monarchs heading south in the enabling winds, how they fared in the oyamel forests, and then tracking of the new generations as they headed northward again in the spring. We discovered that a Mexican school near the sanctuary called Lazaro Cardenas Elementary received our class butterfly to take care of it for the winter. There were several posted pictures of the Mexican students including one in particular of a girl proudly holding our beautiful KCS butterfly. She was delighted to have received a Canadian butterfly to care for over the winter months.

Butterfly Mexico

In April, we received further notice that the migration northward had begun, both real and symbolic. All the paper butterflies that were sent to Mexico were leaving the surrounding schools and would find a new destination. Our beautiful club butterfly was reported to have migrated to a school in Chattanooga, Tennessee and in late May, we received a class butterfly from a Grade four class from Candler Elementary, North Carolina, along with a letter in Spanish from a Mexican student.

Butterfly 1

The children of Mexico promise to take care of the oyamel forests and hope that we continue to provide the nectar from flowers and milkweed plants that the monarchs need for survival. It is indeed an international effort to protect the monarchs, and our students are very proud to be “citizen scientists” as they engage in our KCS Habits to take an active role in taking care of our environment.

Each of our Science Club students received a life-size, decorated butterfly that also “migrated” from Mexico. These originated from a variety of places: Mexico, Germany, Hawaii and assorted States. A couple of our KCS individual butterflies have been reported to the website having landed in Rhode Island and North Carolina. We are hopeful that more butterflies will be reported.

The Symbolic Monarch Migration is a very rewarding project for both myself and the students in so many ways. I get just as excited as they do in the spring, if not more, when those butterflies make their way northward again. It is on my personal bucket list to try tagging monarchs in August. Meanwhile, the Science Club asks that you let the milkweed thrive in your gardens or plant some if you don’t have any. We are grateful to know that SKs will be supporting the efforts by creating a pollinator-themed planter in our new KCS Garden Project with zinnias, wildflowers and a butterfly bush; a wonderful collaboration to help our struggling, delicate monarchs.

Sharon Freeman RECE, SK teacher

Three Habits for Aspiring Olympians

At KCS, we spend a lot of time talking about the Habits of Mind, Body and Action. So when Olympic bronze medalist Kylie Masse visited us, we were thrilled to discover that her advice for future Olympians lined up perfectly with three of our own Habits!

  1. “Never Give Up.”

We all face challenges. But you can’t let them stop you. That’s why we think one of the most important Habits for success in life is to learn to “Persist”. And Kylie clearly agrees. She spoke to us at length about the challenges she has faced, which ranged from losing international competitions to getting cut from teams. However, she always came back to the same mantra – “Never give up.” It was that drive and persistence that took her all the way to the Olympic podium.

  1. “Worry Only About What You Can Control.”

Letting go of control is a hard lesson for everyone. The first step is to “Think Flexibly” – a Habit that helps us to work effectively no matter what the circumstances. In Kylie’s case, this meant learning to accept that she couldn’t control the temperature of the pool or the noise of the crowd or the speed of the swimmer in the next lane. So she adjusted her attitude, changed her thinking, and focused only on the things she could control.

  1. “Have Fun!”

Kids today live in a fast-paced world, so it’s no wonder the levels of stress and anxiety amongst children is skyrocketing. That’s one of the reasons why we encourage our students to make it a Habit to “Find Humour.” As Kylie pointed out, she could have easily burned out after only a few years of intense dedication and training. But because she held on to her sense of fun and humour, she arrived in Rio with a smile on her face and a calm heart.

Many thanks to Kylie for sharing her story, to the Parent Network for supporting the Talk That Matters Speaker Series, and to Henry and Charlie for inviting their cousin to visit KCS. We may not all make it to the Olympics, but we can all take some guidance from her words of wisdom!

Collage

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

Everything a School Should Be – Part 2

Teachers join the profession to do their best for students. Doing one’s best includes a vast array of efforts, a sample of which were shared in Part 1 of this post.

Doing one’s best also means a determined, responsible commitment to constant improvement, wherever merited and as manageable.

At KCS, we’re constantly looking at what we do, identifying where we wish to grow, and taking measured steps forward from year-to-year. Many steps are identified by individual teachers, or grade partners, or divisions of teachers. Some steps are school-wide. Some are new initiatives; while others are ongoing efforts that began in previous years and continue to be an area of focus.

Here is some of what we’re focusing on this year:

  1. Living the Mission – Always our #1 focus, our mission is to be the defining force in developing lifelong learners. Currently, this effort includes Project-Based Learning; direct efforts to teach questioning skills; the growth of KCS as a Makerspace, with our new Innovation Lab and increased “making” throughout the school; the use of design thinking for deeper thinking, learning and problem-solving; and the launch of a new program called “High Resolves” in our senior grades as part of our global education efforts.
  2. Assessment – This is a multi-year area of focus. We launched a new report card last year and some adjustments will be made this year. We also launched our new secure electronic portfolio, Sesame, and we continue our roll-out to include all students from PK to grade 3. A blog will soon follow to explain why this is an exciting addition to KCS!
  3. Movement Project – This is also an ongoing area of focus under the leadership of our Director of Student Life, Tamara Drummond. Standing desks, chairs that allow for movement, fidget toys, and new practices that invite more frequent movement in the school day are becoming increasingly widespread throughout the school.
  4. Reading Evolution – A number of years ago we introduced a reading program that helped many of our students better consolidate the fundamentals of reading. The cumulative effect of this program is now a very noticeable increase in the reading skills of all of our students. Driven by internal data, reading instruction is evolving to meet the growing readiness for greater challenge.
  5. ELP and Reggio-inspired programming – Following widespread professional development, visits to other schools, and engagement of a consultant, the PK, JK and SK faculty have enthusiastically embraced Reggio-inspired programming as a strong complement to the Ministry of Education curriculum. While direct instruction on core skills will continue, students will also be given more time to practise being deep thinkers and learners through self-directed inquiry.
  6. Professional Development – PD has always been a regular feature of employment at KCS. All teachers have a generous budget for PD and they pursue various opportunities of relevance to their role. This year we launched a new means of sharing PD that allows all staff to see what others have done, and get a glimpse into what they learned. This is an efficient and effective new way to share professional learning and encourage greater awareness of the various PD offerings available to all.
  7. Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS preparation) – This merits a blog of its own, and one will follow later in the year. CAIS oversees a comprehensive accreditation process for independent schools that aspire to excellence. KCS is CAIS-accredited, and all staff will be working this year on an internal review in preparation for our upcoming accreditation review in November of 2017.

At KCS we’re constantly learning so that we can keep improving in all ways that matter, each and every year. Creative thinking is inspired when multiple challenges synergize into innovative solutions. Progressing thoughtfully and responsibly, changes aren’t always immediate. They’re discussed, and if considered worthy they’re piloted. If successful, they spread. When imperfect, they’re tweaked. And they’re not limited by the notion that we can only focus on a few areas. Collectively, there are positive changes happening throughout the school, based on what teachers feel needs improvement, and what they can manage well. Being everything a school should be includes constantly trying to do better. Doing our best means we won’t accept anything less.

Wall of Service: Making the World Better

I was on my way to Mr. Logan’s office to chat about the Blue Jays, when something wonderful caught my eye.  Our Wall of Service, tucked neatly beside the KCS School Store, was nearly full!  I highly recommend stopping by the board and reading some of the bricks on display.

It does not take long to realize the incredibly positive impact that our students are making in their community.  There were several cards describing donation drives in lieu of birthday presents.  Other students held fundraisers or participated in events that raised thousands of dollars for many worthwhile causes including the devastating forest fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta.  I learned that one of our Grade 2 students was recycling batteries specially designed for hearing aids.  Another student shared how he and his family stepped in and collected clothing and other necessities when someone they knew needed assistance with family oversees.

Two of our Habits of Mind, Body and Action ask our students to do what is right and strive to make the world a better place.  A few minutes at the Wall of Service allowed me to conclude that not only are we on track, but that we are also in good hands.

servuce

Everything a School Should Be (Part 1)

Let’s take a moment and think about everything a great school should be doing for students. There’s the curriculum – collectively many hundreds of pages of content and skills, wrapped up in subjects, that schools need to make sure all students learn. Then there’s tailoring the curriculum, because ensuring all students learn requires adjustments for each and every one. On top of that there’s enrichment programming, character education, learning skills, collaboration skills, critical and creative thinking, leadership and citizenship, appreciation of nature and the arts, and so much more. Schools need to engage minds, inspire physical health and activity, develop resilience, and nurture the artistic spirit. Direct instruction matters. Project-based learning matters. Clubs, teams, field trips, inspiring speakers, cross-grade integration activities, and spirit-raising events matter. Throughout the delivery of all of the above, a school needs to help students with the inevitable bumps – social, emotional, mental, academic, physical – that happen and directly interfere with everything else if not well addressed. And all of this, and more, needs to happen in an aligned, whole-system manner so it’s optimal both in how it’s experienced and in the difference it makes. Without a doubt, a great school must do many things exceptionally well.

Yet to follow the dialogue, one might think it’s otherwise.

We hear boasts of schools that are outstanding on singular measures, but left wondering how these feats are achieved without sacrifice in other areas of the school. We read that schools should focus improvement efforts on only a small number of areas at once, as if all other important things can wait, for years. We learn of exciting new programs that have great appeal, but represent just a tiny fraction of what’s needed for deep, longstanding impact. This is fine reading, but none are the story that students most need. None are the story we should want for our children.

At KCS, we’re transparent in our unrelenting commitment to being everything a school should be. Our Four Doors to Learning program in academics, arts, athletics and citizenship reflects years’ worth of creative, collaborative effort so that our story is the full story students need. Our faculty are constantly adding new professional learning so that this effort reflects the wisest judgment we can muster. And we’re constantly striving to improve in as many ways we can, and in all ways that matter.

KCS is committed to being everything a school should be. If there’s anything singular about where we strive to be outstanding, that’s it. We know that other schools strive for this as well, but it’s a story we don’t hear often enough. It makes for a long story, with many lengthy chapters. In a busy world and crowded social media space, it’s a story that takes time to tell and time to hear.

That’s okay. Children love long stories. So should we.

Part 2 of this post, to be published shortly, will share the story of how KCS is constantly striving to improve in its effort to be everything a school should be.

Four Doors Collage.jpg

The KCS Terry Fox Run and the Grade 5 Classes

In the late summer of 1980, in an era long before instant messaging, Canadians across the country were glued to national news outlets as a sombre story unfolded. Terry Fox, who had covered over 5000 km on his Marathon of Hope, had abruptly ended his run near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Only a few short weeks before, a triumphant Terry was greeted by thousands of cheering well-wishers in Toronto’s Nathan Philips Square. Maple Leafs Captain Darryl Sittler presented Terry with an NHL All-Star Jersey and then joined him on his run surrounded by cheering supporters.

It was September 1st 1980, and I can vividly remember the imposing voice of broadcaster Lloyd Robertson announcing that the cancer that had taken Terry’s leg, had spread to his lungs and the future of the Marathon of Hope was uncertain. I will never forget seeing Terry, with his parents looking on, as he lay propped up on an ambulance gurney proclaiming, “If there is any way I can get out there again and finish it—I will…”

Fast forward to September 30th, 2016. Thirty-six years later, Terry Fox’s brave pledge echoes deeply throughout the KCS community. Supported by a team of dedicated parent volunteers and the entire KCS school Faculty, the students celebrated the legacy of a great Canadian by completing an amazing Terry Fox Run. Since its inception, the KCS community has raised over $250, 000 for Cancer Research and we have been recognized by the Terry Fox Foundation as one of its top ten schools. The annual Run also allows our Grade 5 classes to embrace an important leadership role.

Under the guidance of Mr. Sawyer and Ms. MacDonald, the Grade 5 classes educate our school community about Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Combining art, research and public speaking, each class prepares posters and presentations that share Terry’s amazing story and promote our September Run. This year’s theme was enriched through Terry’s own words as the students shared his memorable quotes. “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.”

The impact of this leadership opportunity is undeniable. Here are some insightful observations from the fifth grade leaders:

“I feel it’s very important to [stand up] and speak to the audience. Although my hands were shaking, I was hoping the younger kids would understand just what kind of a hero Terry really was!” I knew about Terry Fox before, but I was waiting for this exciting opportunity to help present the Run in grade 5. I was very impressed by the impact that Terry Fox had on all Canadians—I am surprised how so many years ago, word spread so quickly about him and his amazing acts.”

“I was nervous at first, but when I finished my message I was happy that I did it. I was really happy about how much the KCS community has raised for such an important cause. I was happy that grade 5 had this role because it helped younger students learn about Terry. Terry Fox was just a kid in many ways, he decided not to think of himself but others. He helped others realize that they can [make a difference].”

Thank you for a memorable day. Thank you to the Grade 5s for their outstanding job. We look forward to continuing this wonderful KCS tradition and celebrating the inspirational legacy of a true Canadian hero.

Grade 2 Students Learning to Build Our Wall of Service

“I wanted to play the piano for a nursing home. But they never answered my call. So I went around my block giving Christmas cookies out. I did this because I wanted to spread Christmas spirit.”

KCS Student Donation to Bloorview Children's HospitalOther grade 2 students cleaned up local parks, read to kindergarten students and collected donations of various worthy items. Some did chores to donate money. Unlike the young man who didn’t hear back from the nursing home, one student was lucky enough to spend time volunteering and singing Christmas carols at a seniors’ residence. For every grade 2 student, there is a heartwarming story of service.

In late fall, the grade 2 students at KCS are officially introduced to the expectation that they, as individuals, are expected to make a difference. Though this message is shared with all students from PK, and we have many younger students earning bricks for the Wall of Service, the grade 2 unit on service is the first time they’re all expected, on their own, to think of how to make the world a bit better and then make it happen. With much gratitude from us, parents are asked to help make their child’s plan possible. Hearty discussions, problem-solving, and persisting no doubt went into much of this activity, just like it does in any important work. At the end of the effort, the students shared in a writing assignment what they did and how they felt for all their efforts. Emphatic expressions of happiness were the widespread reply. One further explained, “It made me feel good to give instead of take.”

KCS Student Spends Time at a Seniors’ ResidenceEach grade 2 student received a ‘brick’ for their act of service, and each has now been called up at assembly to share what they did, for which they received loud applause. By telling the school about their collective efforts, the whole KCS community continues to grow in its knowledge of how each one of us can follow their lead (there’s no end to the ways we can each make the world a bit better!).

Thanks to the grade 2s and others who earned bricks recently, KCS is looking forward to a dress-down day on April 17th. More importantly, thanks to the grade 2s and all others taking the initiative to make a difference, the world really is a bit better for many. Most importantly, with this unit behind them, the world now has 40 more individuals who are ready and able to keep making a difference.

According to one write-up, one woman at a park, upon seeing two students cleaning it up, said “That’s amazing. Way to go!” We agree.

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

Getting Out

I love this wonderful corner of Toronto. Living and working here, and spending my days with those who do the same, is one of my greatest good fortunes in life.

A recent field trip reminded me of the blessings of getting out.

This past Friday, the grade 8s, Ms Gaudet and I went to Variety Village, where 240 special athletes arrived to participate in the Four Corners provincial-qualifying track and field meet organized by Special Olympics Ontario. James Noronha, Youth Group Leader at St. Georges-on-the-Hill Church as well as Manager of Program Services at Special Olympics Ontario, gave our grade 8s the opportunity to be marshalls, timers and ambassadors at the event.

Whether demonstrating shotput, enticing reluctant long jumpers, announcing race starts, timing runners, or cheering on their adopted school teams, our students demonstrated exuberance, patience, kindness, adaptability, clarity in communication, focus on task and unlimited appreciation for these exceptional athletes. In return, we were all inspired by many athletes’ undeniable skill, and all athletes’ determination to try their best, pride in participation, and willingness to take the leap, throw the shotput, and run the race, especially when for some it was new and unsettling. When I asked some of our students what stood out most for them, they shared it was the athletes’ smiles. They noticed that regardless of how an athlete did, each ended their event with a smile so immense it felt they grabbed our hearts as they raised their fists in victory.

My words can’t quite describe how beautiful a day it was, and how different a day it was. It’s good for everyone to get out of their usual stomping grounds for many reasons, of course. How fortunate we were that we got out, and that our reason was to be at Variety Village, spending the day with special athletes and Special Olympics. May we all get out more often.

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

How a Tradition Was Born

It’s funny how things come to be.

KCS has quite a few traditions. Many are from before my time so the story of how they began will have to be told by someone else. There’s one young tradition, however, that some of us have had the good fortune of watching from birth. It’s unique to KCS and both the result of and engine for much of what’s special here. It’s called Compliment Friday.

As the name suggests, this tradition takes place every Friday and is the community service project of a group of five to six students every year.  At assembly, these students come forward and announce to the school that it’s Compliment Friday, to which the school responds with a resounding cheer. Yes, it always starts the same way, predictability being a hallmark of tradition. Other students are then invited to come to the front and publicly share a compliment, or thank you, to one or more people. Each week, the theme changes. Last week, compliments were for teachers and classmates. The week before, pets. Over the years, there have been all manner of public outpourings of appreciation.

Contrary to what you might expect, Compliment Friday didn’t emerge from Shangri-La. Though there’s much that’s wonderful here, KCS remains part of a real world that sometimes includes conflict, missteps, insecurity and poor judgment. Despite our many proactive efforts, social bumps continue to be part of growing up.

This tradition began with a group of students who had been struggling with getting along. Friendships started, ended abruptly, then started up again. Feelings were hurt, sometimes healed, then, sadly, hurt again. When it came to our attention at the end of their grade 7 year, many steps were taken. One was the introduction of class meetings.

Now taking place in all grades throughout the school, class meetings have three parts. Students and their teacher usually sit in a circle, and the meeting begins with an “around-the-room” sharing of compliments. After this affirming start, the students collaboratively discuss and problem-solve an issue that needs attention. The final part of a class meeting is another “around-the-room” where students and teacher share something going on in their lives that others might not know about. It’s a powerful way to build connections and encourage empathy. The class meeting proved very effective in turning around relationships in this group of grade 8s. They were so pleased with the exercise that these same students came up with Compliment Friday as their community service project for the school. It has taken place practically every Friday since then.

An environment of regular, public gratitude is as wonderful as it is rare. These students turned a negative situation into a unique legacy of positivity.

And for that, this is a heartfelt public thank you.

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