For Kingsway College School (KCS), September marks the culmination of a longstanding dream, and the beginning of an exciting new journey. This fall, the Toronto independent school will welcome the first students in its Senior School — a unique high school program focused on place-based learning and providing personalized support to students as they explore their individual passions.
The vision for a secondary program has been in the works at KCS for most of its 32-year history, explains Head of Senior School Andrea Fanjoy, and the model is a profound reflection of the school’s focus on authentic student leadership and its “Four Doors to Learning”: academics, arts, athletics, and citizenship. The centrepiece is the new KCS Path Program — a sustained personal inquiry initiative, and designed to build transferable skills as students explore an interest or topic of their choice. Future Design School has been a champion of the KCS High School development journey since the early days of its inception.
“When students begin in Grade 9, they will be asked what their passion is,” Fanjoy says. “It can literally be any topic under the sun — and it can change, because life is like that. But they will be supported in learning about their topic from an academic, artistic, athletic, and citizenship perspective — which is an interesting creative thinking exercise.” Every Wednesday afternoon, KCS Senior School students will engage in their Path topic through inquiry-based exploration, experiential opportunities, and collaborative investigations that come together in a learning portfolio and culminate in a creative impact project that each student will complete by the end of Grade 11.
The KCS Path Program is an exciting way to help students build future ready skills like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, stewardship, and entrepreneurialism. “We see this model connecting the dots between what students are capable of, what they want, and what will help them have more agency and control in their school experience,” Fanjoy says. “All of the evidence suggests this will help them be successful. This is all about building attributes that help them in whatever they do.”
One seed that grew into the Senior School learning model was planted back in 2015, when Fanjoy engaged with Future Design School to launch KCS by Design — a working group of students and teachers who came together to use human centered design principles to generate new ideas on how to deepen differentiated instruction at Kingsway College School. The results led to programs in the Junior School that support and mirror the principles of Path, and provide engaging opportunities to extend student learning beyond required courses. “There's no question we have a curriculum that needs to be taught — that needs the time and the expertise that teachers bring,” Fanjoy says. “But we need to do more. We need to carve out time and opportunities where students can start learning how to be independent, intrinsically motivated learners. They'll learn more about themselves, and they will absolutely develop the attributes that they will need when they go to university, and in whatever they do — quite literally — for the rest of their lives.”
It’s a deeply authentic approach, made even more so by the fact that KCS embraces a place-based, experiential approach to learning, in which the city of Toronto is adopted as a giant classroom and a strong focus is placed on connecting with people and places outside the school’s walls. This means field trips large and small — the Senior School’s new campus, which opens in September 2022, will be located next to Lake Ontario and a city-spanning shoreline recreation trail — and connecting students with networks of experts and supporters, including school partners and members of the KCS parent community. For Fanjoy, the benefits are self-evident. “It's easy to see that if a student spends the bulk of their early life in the confines of the school, that is much more limited than what they would get out of getting out of the school,” she says. “It is about looking outside of the textbooks and typical resources, observing what's around you, engaging with the people in that place — which is a big part of our model — and learning about what is happening. Everything about our place can connect to a course, there's no question. It's up to the school culture, and making sure the supports and the processes to facilitate that connection are in place
Future Design School brings a vision and a perspective that our profession needs and benefits from right now. Their tools and practices are straightforward — all the elements that they have brought to KCS are things that we’re going to keep using on our own. They made a transformative exercise into something that is really practical. There’s no question they are committed. They are there for us, and that’s what we need; there’s just no question that this is a big effort we’re involved in, and we’re extremely grateful that Future Design School is involved.
— Andrea Fanjoy, Head of Senior School, Kingsway College School
The innovative mindset that Fanjoy and the KCS team are bringing to the new Senior School project is refreshing and inspiring, but it’s no accident. It was consciously cultivated over time, through a dedication to experimentation and bringing many voices to the table — and the entire community is now reaping its rewards. “This is a great time to be an educator,” Fanjoy says. “It's a demanding time, no question, but there is a growing, global community that is working to move education forward. Future Design School is playing a huge role on a global scale to support that activity, and KCS has been a big beneficiary. We need people like the people at Future Design School, and others, to help us achieve what we all got into the profession to achieve. We got into it to do our best for kids. We care a lot, and want to do what's right. But we need help, and this is a classic example of what happens when you take the educators, and the people who want to make a difference, and you add a relationship with someone who brings an external expertise to the table. Really special things can happen, and that's what's happening.”
Future Design School provides vital support to expansion projects at schools across North America. Learn more about how we can uncover new opportunities and help engage all members of your learning community — email us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.