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 Abilities They Have

“Instead of teaching children to get ‘there,’ why not let them be here? Where is ‘there’ anyway? The world needs more ‘here’ than ‘there’.” – Vince Gowmon

One grade 5 student stopped me in the hall early in the year, explaining she had some things to share. “I’ll walk you to your office,” she began. She explained she wanted to start an environment club for students in grades 1 to 4 (in the works). Oh, and she’s working on two novel series (yes, you read that right.)

You get what you give. What is evident is that we get to learn more about what students can do when we give them space to show us. Here are five inspiring ways we’re learning this lovely lesson at KCS:

  1. Projects have started in many grades and students are coming up with their research questions. Our grade 2 students, after following the Question Formulation Technique, came up with questions that no “grade two” resource can answer. The teachers are now planning to connect with a zoologist so the students’ questions can get the answers they deserve.
  2. Other grades have started their own entirely independent projects. Grade 5 students, for example, have dedicated time to pursue an area of learning chosen by them, with the sole expectation that they share it with their class. One girl recently shared a presentation on a special family celebration, Diwali, with her classmates. Another student is learning how to code. Yet another is organising a food drive.
  3. A boy approached my colleague to say he wanted to lead a project to create a school flag. He has put together his team and already received permission to pursue this from the Head of School (the minute he learned he needed approval, off he went, right to Mr. Logan).
  4. Our grade 7 and 8 students recently learned of their opportunity, through KCS By Design, to join faculty and administrators in making KCS “outstanding,” working side-by-side and following a design thinking process to make a wise and notable difference. There’s no election, no special status and no reward for this work, other than the intrinsic reward of making something better. Twenty-two students opted to join us at our kick-off design thinking workshop next month.
  5. A group of over 30 students from grades 3 to 8 attended our recent Young Authors of KCS (YAKCS) workshop with award-winning author Shane Peacock. This is a unique opportunity for students who so love to write that they’re willing to persist in writing a book. There is no time limit and successful young authors have typically (and understandably) required more than one year. Those who persist to complete a manuscript will have a one-to-one feedback session with Mr. Peacock, where he’ll give them revision tips “author to author.” Students who persist beyond that to create a final product will have it officially published by KCS. To date, KCS students have seven published books sitting in the National Library and Archives Canada.

I was interviewed last week by a grade 3 student for an upcoming Learning Exhibit. Among his questions, he asked what students do that make me proud. How could I explain? They make me proud with every effort they make to do their best, make that best better, share what they know, take risks, and make a difference. You’d be overwhelmed with pride too if you could see the abilities they have. Go ahead, give them space to show you.

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

“Make Something that Does Something” with littleBits

littleBits at Kingsway College SchoolParents at Curriculum Night could probably sense my excitement at bringing the Maker Movement to KCS. Now that the students are back, it’s time to get making.

This will be a marathon, not a sprint, but tinkering with electronics has already started for students visiting the library’s new Imagination Station. Students can borrow the littleBits Workshop set and readily start creating things that “do something”.

What might they want to make? These videos help tell the story of what others are making with littleBits, from the young and novice, to the older, more serious, make-it-yourselfers:

littleBits is an amazing new tool helping to bring electronics to the masses. I’m excited to see how this innovation in turn will inspire our students.

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

Toy Hacking, Tinkering and Other Great Pastimes

GirlBuildsPCSmallRemember the nasty kid next door in the movie, Toy Story? It turns out he was on to something.

There’s something wonderful gaining steam throughout the world. It’s a marriage of the old and new, the practical and whimsical, small-scale pleasure and make-the-world-better possibility. It includes programmable clothing, ‘reconfigured’ toys, books that conduct electricity, and an experience in creation that truly has no bounds. It’s called the Maker Movement, it’s for ordinary folk ages 3 to 103, and it’s an exercise in learning that’s worth learning about.

While adult examples can be pretty sophisticated, here’s an example of how it can work with children. Let’s say a 10-year-old has a stuffed dog. It’s a fine toy and much loved. But let’s say that child has had the chance to play with microcontrollers, LED lights, and sensors. Maybe she’s been introduced to electronics and simple programming languages designed for neophytes of all ages. Maybe she’s witnessed others inventing weird and wonderful contraptions using everything from computer programming, 3D printing, sewing, woodworking, electronics and any number of strategically-chosen odds and ends. That 10-year-old might decide to write some code, set up a microcontroller with LEDs and sensors, upload the code, open up the dog, embed the hardware, stitch him up, and enjoy a dog whose eyes now light up when it’s ‘owner’ picks him up. How’s that for learning?

Thanks to the Maker Movement, this is happening. And we’re taking steps to make it happen at KCS. Anyone wanting to see this in action with children and youth is encouraged to check out MakerKids in West Toronto. To see “big kids” in the Maker Movement, you might want to visit the Toronto Mini Maker Faire at the Toronto Reference Library November 22nd and 23rd.

The Mini Maker Faire is in my calendar. And unleashing the Maker Movement at KCS is on my to-do list. Let the tinkering begin.

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

Full Steam Ahead

steam engineThe Learning Plan that captures our areas of focus this year has 17 items on it. Quite a few, yes, but they’re managed carefully, not all addressed at once, and all chosen because they matter. Some apply to all faculty, and some to just a couple. Some are ongoing every year, such as our focus on developing the Habits. Others represent a brand new initiative or a breakthrough step in a long-term project. This year’s list has no shortage of these.

Here’s a teaser of some exciting things in the works:

  1. January 21st is our first Town Hall on the new Senior Campus. Many people have been working hard on this initiative and we’re keen to start sharing updates. Our mission is to be a defining force in developing lifelong learners. Our Senior Campus will build on our track record for living this mission.
  2. Computer programming has been at KCS since the grade 7s first started creating robots a number of years ago. The addition of an extra-curricular First Lego League team and an elective last year gave interested students extra opportunity to learn programming (and their evident abilities helped them qualify for this year’s Provincial First Lego League Robotics Championship). The significance of the field, it’s opportunities for learning, and it’s increasingly accessible nature have made a compelling argument to provide more programming experience in elementary and secondary school. KCS has pursued an arrangement with RP4K, Real Programming 4 Kids, and we look forward to providing exciting new learning in this area as of this March. More details will follow.
  3. Our littlest learners are a big focus all year. Welcoming our new faculty, students and families in PK, JK and SK has been a priority in our Learning Plan this year. Among other initiatives with this special group, our JK and SK teachers, as well as our Learning Strategies teachers, are the recipients of our first fleet of iPads at KCS for use with their students, launched this month. Technology is an ongoing area of focus at KCS for the value it brings to learning. The launch of iPads brings this value to our kindergarten classes and enhances what we can do in our Learning Centre.

Many other learning projects are in the works. Those who know me know that I’m eager to share those too, but I’ll wait until I can provide more details closer to their launch.

I’m reminded daily how many good things our students manage to juggle and make happen. The least we can do for them is the same. That’s doing what’s right at KCS.

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

How the School Has Changed with 3-5 year olds in it

PKWe’ve now completed the first two weeks of the 2013/14 school year, and for the first time in KCS history, we now have classes in PK-SK.  Here are a half dozen observations I’ve made during the our first eight days together.

  1. There’s a lot more singing going on in the PK-SK classrooms than in other classrooms in the school.  I’ve witnessed the singing of instructions, singing goodbye at the end of the day, and singing about various topics the students are learning about.  I like it.  I’m considering mandating more singing by our grade 7 and 8 teachers.
  2. There’s even more energy in the school than before.  So many times over the years, I’ve heard from current and prospective families what a wonderful feeling they have when they enter KCS during a school day (and when you are a prospective family it is important to visit a school during the day; otherwise all you are doing is touring a building).  We’ve just taken that feeling to the next level.
  3. Uniforms look great on children at this age.  Over the past year, we’ve had many discussions about uniforms for our youngest students.  According to most moms that I’ve run into during the first few weeks of school, just for the cute factor alone, this was the right decision.
  4. Things take a lot more time.  I watched a class of 16 JK students come in from outside on the play structure, change their shoes, wash their hands and then line up to go back to their classroom.  It reminded me of the times during the summer when my children were the same age, and I was taking them to the park.  It always seemed to take forever to get Alyssa and Brandon ready and out the front door.  It seems to me that our PK-SK teachers possess a truckload of patience as well as some magical powers in order to do all four things in ten minutes.
  5. Days don’t get much better than when you start it with a handshake, a fist bump, a high five, or the occasional hug around your kneecap, from a three, four or five year old.
  6. Finally, it’s a lot harder to remember the names of 154 new students.  In the past we would have approximately 50 new students a year (the majority in grade 1) and I would try to know all their names in the first week.  This year, I’ve given myself until the end of September.  Let’s see how I do.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Students Speak Through Music

Tracking Change Tracking ChangeIn the elective, Tracking Change, students are in the midst of composing a music track that connects to a social justice movement for change. Students have composed music tracks that connect to issues of education, equality, anti-bullying, and animal rights. The complexity of these issues is further highlighted by the multiple layers and texture of the compositions themselves.

Seeing these tracks on the computer screen and seeing the students working collaboratively and creatively is inspiring. The issues, while different, are linked. Students somehow find ways to connect to one another throughout the process. Using Apple’s GarageBand, it’s amazing to see and hear how students have managed to create a track that speaks to us through music.

A visit to Humber College Studios introduced students to the exciting world of sound engineering. It was interesting to learn that our work with loops, controlling dynamics, balance, and instrument recording were similar to what was being done in a professional studio.

Since our visit to Humber, students have begun editing their final tracks. Instrument levels are being adjusted, voices are being recorded, loops are being softened. The tracks are growing and changing just like the issues they represent.

Now in our eighth week, some students have decided to take their tracks another step further. In order to really drive home their messages, some are incorporating the music tracks into an iMovie project.

It is incredible to observe this creative process and to see how passionate the students are when it comes to creating a track for change.

Who knows where the next couple of weeks will lead us? Stay tuned!

Matina Mosun
Music teacher

Student Leadership, Gone Viral

The following was first written for our community two years ago. Leadership projects are as viral as ever at KCS. Students clearly have great potential to make the world a better place. Please pass this on so more schools can help unleash that potential.

A small selection of photos from student leadership initiatives.

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Student Leadership, Gone Viral

My day began by walking past a multicultural food drive organized by five boys in grade 6. Not much later, a student in grade 1 announced to me that he is saving his allowance to buy food for charity. Shortly after, a girl in grade 5 emailed to let me know she is helping a group of grade 3 students organize a talent show. I popped into a grade 5 class and witnessed a group starting to organize a poster contest. That afternoon, a different student in grade 5 came by to ask if he can start a student newspaper, similar to the one the grade 8s established a couple years ago. On my way out at the end of the day, I learned from a grade 4 student that he made a colouring and activity book for the grade 3 classes as a supplement to their unit on the rainforest. This, in addition to the dozens of leadership, community service and service learning projects I know our older students are working on. All in one day.

That is when it became clear student leadership was going viral.

The 21st century is for people who can make success happen. It is a century where leadership skills aren’t just helpful for the few, but required by all. At Kingsway College School, student leadership is a major pillar in our effort to prepare students for the 21st century. While not every day is punctuated by this number and breadth of student-initiated leadership projects, it happens often enough. If you long for a day like I had, the following are some steps that helped get us here:

1. Make time for it. Leadership is a timetabled subject in grades 6 to 8. Students learn about the important aspects of leadership, such as initiative, persistence, active listening, participation and flexible thinking. They use these periods to come up with their own leadership projects. They research, prepare their proposal, work out the logistics and deliver on their project. Awareness campaigns, charity drives, fundraisers and school and community events are some of the more popular projects, though the possibilities are endless. Reflection on the project and self-assessment of their growth is also a valuable part of the experience, and set the students up to be self-aware leaders throughout life.

2. Make leadership for all. Leadership is an egalitarian, unelected pursuit at KCS. It is open to anyone who wishes to initiate it and follow through. In fact, in the older grades, all students are required to learn about and experiment with leadership in their leadership classes. We don’t give students the choice of learning to read, and we believe we shouldn’t give them the choice of learning to be leaders. If it matters, everyone needs to start the journey.

3. Make it personal. Leadership can manifest itself in infinite ways, with the most powerful leadership being rooted in personal interests. Helping children find and leverage their passions to make a difference is an appropriate, though overlooked, role for education. At our school, one boy who loves to read committed himself to writing book reviews for the library. A group of girls who love to dance came up with a “Get Out of your Comfort Zone” Challenge, encouraging students and teachers to perform in assembly. Another boy and his friend prepared and delivered an unforgettable presentation on Down’s Syndrome, breaking myths surrounding that condition. There are dozens of different projects underway, each adding dimensions to everyone’s school experience that the faculty alone could never provide.

4. Let them lead, with guidance only. Many students are naturals at leadership. If invited, they will organize a group to deliver on a significant community project, regardless of age. Some students don’t find it quite as easy. They will need guidance. Give it to them. Also, give the students lots of freedom to change or drop their ideas, and even to follow through with unsuccessful projects, without penalty. Let this be a realm where they can learn to lead the way they learned to walk, being allowed to fall, and then cheered when they get back up and try again.

5. Let them be small. Very rarely are students solely responsible for huge leadership projects. Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children, is an inspiration but most children and youths, if really in charge, will come up with smaller ideas. Adults should resist the temptation to jump in and take the lead. It may end up big and polished, and it may even make a truly significant difference to the community or charity of choice, but it isn’t developing the students into leaders. When we step in, it’s the adults’ leadership skills that get honed, not the students. In fact, when faced with the large quantity of projects that need to be coordinated, small is generally the wiser choice for all.

6. Have a variety of opportunities. Leadership experiences at KCS take many forms: earning a brick on our Wall of Service in return for initiating an act of service; lunch supervision roles, where students assist supervising teachers; assisting with clubs and teams; House Captains; peer tutoring; leading assemblies; as well as all the opportunities to come up with one’s own project. We also point out to students the many unplanned opportunities for leadership during class, at recess and outside of school through setting a positive example, resolving conflicts or initiating an activity. The variety ensures there are many opportunities for everyone, at every stage of their leadership journey.

7. Have them share what they know. The presentation of leadership projects is at the heart of making them go viral. The school-wide presentations of our older students inspired the younger students to follow their lead. The result is an ever-increasing number of projects. Let the presentations keep happening. Visibility and quantity matter when creating a culture of leadership.

A word of warning. If you embark on establishing student leadership throughout the school, be prepared for an onslaught of students stepping up. Leadership potential is lying dormant, but will potentially overwhelm you if awoken. Larry Rosenstock, founder of San Diego’s High Tech High, has said a critical attribute for success in the 21st century is a tolerance for ambiguity. For a profession that is more comfortable with prudent adult planning, unleashing school-wide student leadership will rock your world.

Relax. It’s worth the ride.

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

Learning from Paddle Tennis

Starting in April, twenty lucky grade 7 and 8 students joined a Paddle Tennis elective at Kingsway Platform Tennis Club. We’ve enjoyed the elective and have learned many new skills. We wanted to share some of the Habits of Mind, Body and Action we’ve learned during our time playing Paddle Tennis.


Persist

During Paddle Tennis, all of the students had to persist. Whether we were new to the sport, or had played many times before, we all had to persist to play Paddle Tennis. If you were new to the sport you had to persist during drills and rallies to keep up to more advanced players. If you already knew the sport you had to persist by being patient and encouraging to new players.

Share what you know

During Paddle Tennis, we also had to share what we knew about the sport. All of the students had different things they were great at and things they could improve. Drills helped improve things we didn’t know and when we had already mastered something, we would help students who were still having trouble. Rallying with players at all levels taught us different techniques and strategies. More advanced students were a great help during games.

Overall, Paddle Tennis has been a great experience for everybody and wouldn’t be the same without our amazing teachers and instructors: Ms. Marcynuk, Ms. Silverberg, Ms. Gibson, and Mr. Rogers. We hope to continue Paddle Tennis in the future at KCS. We have made memories and learned things we will never forget. We can’t wait to return to Kingsway Platform Tennis Club to grow on our knowledge of the sport. See you on the courts!