Six Simple Ways to Keep the “Reason for the Season” Spirit Alive at Home

Christmas is supposed to be about “giving.” But in a world full of Black Fridays and consumerism, it often ends up being a season about “getting.”

That’s one of the many reasons why the KCS Parent Network believes so strongly in our annual Reason for the Season campaign. Yes, we want to help out local families by sharing our good fortune with those in need. We also want to teach our kids that empathy, compassion and citizenship are far more important than a new phone or more Lego.

With that in mind, here are six simple things you can do as a family to help keep the Reason for the Season alive at home.

#1. Have a Family Meeting
Giving back should not be just another item on a parent’s to-do list. If you really want the experience to mean something to your child, you must involve them in the conversation. Sit down and talk about how your family wants to help. Finding out what matters in life to you and your kids is the first step to motivating and inspiring the whole family to make a difference.

#2.  Walk (or Drive) Around the Neighbourhood
Our local community is full of shelters, food banks, missions and churches, all of which are home to dozens of programs that help our neighbours each and every day. Take a short road trip and visit a few local charities to see which ones align with your family’s interests and giving goals. If nothing else, showing your child the work that is going on in their own backyard will open their eyes and hearts.

#3. Grab a Second Cart at the Grocery Store
The next time you go grocery shopping, give your kid their own cart and have them choose a selection of healthy and non-perishable food items to donate to a local food bank. Many stores have drop-off bins, but taking the time to deliver your donation in person will make the experience that much more meaningful for your child.

#4. Clean Up the Clutter
Our homes are filled with things we don’t need. You know those hotel soaps and shampoos you brought home and never opened? Put your kids to work by having them pack them up and bring them to Haven on the Queensway. Or get them to gather up those old Eric Carle and Magic Tree House books they never read anymore and take them to the George Hull Centre. You get a cleaner house while they get an exercise in empathy. Win-win!

#5. Pay It Forward
The next time your kids go to the movies, the zoo or the aquarium, have a talk about all those other kids who never get experiences like that. Then buy an extra pass or two and drop them off at a local shelter or charity. If you can encourage your child to pay for the passes themselves out of their own piggy bank fund, so much the better!

#6. Whatever You Do, Do It Together
Making the world a better place isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also a great way to bond as a family. Spending time together serving meals at the Scott Mission. Debating whether to give a goat or a chicken to a family in a developing nation. Playing a board game with seniors at a local retirement home. These are memories that are both deeply meaningful and long-lasting. So take a break from the stress of shopping and help your family re-discover the real Reason for the Season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

– The Parent Network Reason for the Season Team

Visible Learning at KCS

How can we go one step further? And one step further again?

Educating almost 400 students is a job that’s never done. It starts, of course, with the people involved – the students, their parents, our faculty and staff – and an ongoing awareness of their needs. Then the Ministry curriculum is added to provide provincial context and expectations. Our Four Doors to Learning in academics, arts, athletics and citizenship then take us well beyond what the Ministry expects. As the foundation and guiding framework of our entire effort, our Habits of Mind, Body and Action ensure we develop our students to be lifelong learners, equipped to embrace any challenges they face. And so on.

Recent visitors to KCS have seen our most current effort to go one step further in promoting learning at KCS. Our “Visible Learning” exhibit showcases the wide array of learning underway at KCS from PK to grade 8. It includes both finished products and artifacts in process (where the important learning happens). It includes evidence of our Four Doors and all of our Habits. Uniquely, it also includes the Learning Stories of our students and faculty – stories of remarkable moments, challenges overcome, most thought-provoking experiences, and personal expressions of pride. These are the kinds of stories that are normally kept private. Now shared, our whole community is learning more than ever from the experiences of others in our midst.

What is some of the “further learning” stemming from this exhibit?

  1. KCS students learn lots of cool things in cool ways. For young students, there’s much to look forward to. For older students, there is hard-won pride in how far they’ve come.
  2. KCS students also do the hard work of learning the fundamentals (see how proud many are of their efforts and growth!).
  3. Challenges are normal. If you’re feeling alone in yours, know that others have faced and overcome them, just like you will.
  4. Process matters. The work that is imperfect, that needs revision, that has feedback on it, is worthy of display. Embrace the work and imperfection inherent in process.
  5. Teachers are proud of their students when they persist. There is no shame in struggle.
  6. Sharing is inspiring. By sharing your private learning story, and by having your work on display, you are inspiring others to think about it, find affirmation or challenge in it, and consider possibly following your lead. Maybe more students will choose to 3D print for a project? Maybe they’ll give book-writing a try with YAKCS? Maybe song composition for the KCS Sound Library? There are so many possibilities.

Thank you to all the students and faculty for helping make learning more visible at KCS. Your efforts are already inspiring. This exhibit takes that inspiration one step further.

The “Visible Learning at KCS” exhibit continues until Friday, November 24.

The Hero That Could

Every September, KCS students raise money for cancer research by participating in The Terry Fox Run. As I was previewing a Terry Fox video to show my SK students, goosebumps ran down my arm as I had a flashback from the past. I pictured myself sitting at my desk in school, watching Terry Fox arrive in Toronto on television. I knew that it was a big deal because the school’s TV was only brought into the class when something very important was happening!

I would have never thought back then that decades later Terry Fox’s legacy would live on. But here I am talking to my students about Terry’s bravery, kindness and determination. The same conversation I started with my own teacher, Mrs. Shaeffer, thirty-seven years ago.

Terry’s Marathon of Hope sparked a conversation and raised awareness for a nation about a devastating disease. More than $700 million has been raised in Terry’s name for cancer research since that day he ran into Nathan Phillips Square in 1980. Today, KCS has raised over $250,000 since we started participating in the run 13 years ago. My son aspires to be a teacher one day. It is my hope that he can have the same conversation with his students about Terry Fox, but in his story, he can say that they have found a cure for cancer. All because of the hero that could.

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!

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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!

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 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.

Best Ever Teaching and Learning

“During my Driver’s Ed, I was so nervous the instructor had me drive to Tim’s. I learned how to go through the drive-through and ordered a jelly donut.”

“My grade 9 history teacher claimed he had many past lives and would tell the stories of those lives for the period we were studying. It ignited my passion for history.”

August may seem like a long time ago for many. As for me, one memory from August continues to warm my soul.

The last week of August, all faculty returned to school, joining the non-teaching staff who remained busy over the summer preparing for September. It’s a huge week of learning, meeting, and planning. This year, it was also the week that all faculty and non-teaching staff engaged in an exercise to define excellence in teaching and learning. It started with a partner activity to share our personal answers to the following:

  1. What is the best learning experience you’ve ever had at school?
  2. What is the best learning experience you’ve ever had outside of school?

Take a moment. What would your answers be? We all have them, and would do well to remember.

With these personal stories captured on post-it notes, larger groups assembled and identified the features of these experiences that made the cut. All features were then shared with all staff. Of the 39 different features, all staff then identified their top six. Collectively, here are some of the features that were most chosen by all staff:

  • “Out of our comfort zone”
  • Hands-on
  • Inspiring
  • Meaningful
  • Challenging
  • Involved responsible risks
  • Real-life experience
  • Collaborative
  • Fun, Humourous
  • Passion-driven
  • Creative
  • Empowering

There are many ways to learn, and while not all are exciting enough to be remembered as “best learning ever,” they all add up to making a difference. However, learning that is so special that it remains a powerful memory years later is learning that clearly matters. This exercise was a great kick-off to a new year meant to inspire unforgettable learning.

May the learning in your lives be full of what we aim to bring to your children.

Recess Duty

Batman and RobynsEarlier this week, I happened to be reading my email around 12:15 p.m. when one of our teachers sent a message to the staff asking for someone to take her outdoor lunch duty as she was not feeling well.  I read the email, checked my calendar to see if I was free, and given that the majority of our teachers would not have a chance to read this in time to help out, I replied that I would do it.  My day, up to this point, consisted of back-to-back meetings so this was definitely an incentive to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and talk with the students.  I was surprised by the reception.

Since I was “officially” on duty, and not just wandering around the field as I do a couple of times a week (especially when the weather has been as great as it has been this week!), I felt it was important that I put on one of our orange vests – or as I call it, my “orange cape”. Our teachers wear these at recess so that they are easily identifiable to the students.  I want to point out, it clashed with my red tie and candy cane striped socks (gift from the in-laws), but I did it anyway.  I now have a better understanding of the fashion faux pas each of our teachers are required to make while on duty.

My assignment was near the play structure, so for most of the time, I was surrounded by grades 1-3 students.  I had the following interactions:

  • One girl in grade 2 asked me if I was on duty.  When I said yes she responded, “Do you know what to do?” A short time later this was followed by yet another girl asking if I knew what to do on duty. I said yes and explained that I was once a grade 7/8 teacher at KCS.  Her response, after a pause and a really puzzled look, was “Really?”
  • Two girls ran over to me giggling and asked, “Mr. Logan, can you keep a secret?”  I told them no.  Of course this didn’t matter as one of them told me that she really likes one of our grade 8 boys and is lucky enough to have him as her lunch time supervisor.  I had no response, except to let her parents know so that we could share a laugh.
  • Another student looked at me from the monkey bar platform, and told me, in a tiny voice, that she couldn’t climb across all the bars but she was going to try.  By the end of recess she had managed to hang from the bar and swing herself back to the platform.  She was quite proud and told me so as we were walking up the hill to go back into the school.
  • I watched a girl in grade 3 spend her entire recess swinging across the bars, the rings and everywhere else she could find so that she was not touching the ground.  This was the same student who took a tumble last week, which produced a goose egg on her forehead that she would sport in a wedding party on the weekend.  The goose egg is almost gone, the wedding went well, and this little girl was not afraid to get “back up on the horse” after her misadventure.  A lesson adults would do well to remember.
  • I also observed a boy who ended up with some sand in his eye as well as a grade 2 girl who showed me the scab on her hands at least four times.
  • I found a Batman umbrella owned by a grade 2 boy and decided we could get a great photo when we returned inside.  The photo that accompanies this blog should be captioned, Batman and Robyns.  You can probably guess why.

The surprises continued when I arrived back inside the school, this time from the teachers.  “How was your duty?” (at least eight or nine times) …  “When I read your response to the email, I thought it was a mistake.”…  “I thought it was joke.”…   “Are you going to do this again?”

I look forward to dawning the “orange cape” again at a future recess.  It sort of made me feel like Superman.

Derek Logan
Head of School