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Bishop Strachan School
The Bishop Strachan School
298 Lonsdale Road, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1X2
Contact name:
Emma Hendrie

Phone number:
(416) 483-4325×
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Bishop Strachan School

The Bishop Strachan School

298 Lonsdale Road, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1X2

Traditional,  Reggio Emilia
Grades (Gender):
JK to 12 (Girls)
$31,190 to 59,100/year
Main Language:
Avg. Class Size:
18 to 20
Day: 825 (Gr. JK - 12), Boarding: 80 (Gr. 7 - 12)

Get more information

Contact Name:
Emma Hendrie

Phone Number:

School Address
298 Lonsdale Road, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1X2

About this school:

The Bishop Strachan School (BSS) is Canada’s oldest day and boarding school for girls. Renowned for its powerful academic program and its focus on emotional, social and creative development, BSS offers girls from JK to Grade 12 a world-class curriculum in a lively, challenging environment with state-of-the-art facilities, delivered by an expert faculty that prizes constant learning and renewal. In 2016-17 BSS is celebrating 150 years inspiring girls to be fearless and educating them to be leaders. Visit bss.on.ca.

The Our Kids review of The Bishop Strachan School

our takeBishop Strachan has a long and impressive history of excellence, and has consistently provided leadership in education and beyond. The ideal BSS student is one who has demonstrated an ability to direct their learning, and who will make demands of faculty even before the faculty makes demands of them. While there is a strong arts program, the school emphasizes STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—in part because women remain underrepresented in those professions. It's true that not all students will go on to a career in science or leadership, though the school environment at Bishop Strachan reflects the skills and the personality of the kind of girl who will. For students who tend to hang back a bit—or who don't thrive on the kind of competition that a brisk academic culture can engender—the BSS environment can risk feeling overwhelming.

Principal's Message


Ms. Deryn Lavell, Head of School

Since our founding as an all girls school in 1867, a time when there were very few options for women in education, BSS has developed a profound level of expertise in the particular learning needs of girls. That expertise has evolved over time through our own living laboratory of educating more than 50,000 girls over 145 years, as well as the continuing evidence emerging from science and brain research, advances in pedagogy, and our constant collaboration with peer educators. It is fascinating to see now that the natural learning styles of girls such as collaboration, real-world associations, creativity and curiosity, coincide perfectly with the 21st century learning skills all schools are currently pursuing. We’re ahead of the curve by at least a decade and pushing the boundaries of those frontiers that will set a new standard in program excellence. That’s our goal. Deryn Lavell Head of School


Curriculum Traditional, Reggio Emilia

Primary Curriculum: Traditional

Secondary Curriculum: Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia emphasizes the role of the child in directing their own learning. Heavily intertwined with progressive ideals in education, the program espouses ideas such as child-centred classrooms, discovery learning, and 21st century education.
If you want to learn more about Reggio Emilia education, check out our comprehensive guide.

What Bishop Strachan School says: We believe strongly in the power of the girls within these walls and their ability to change the world for the better. It’s not just a philosophy; it’s the basis of our curriculum and our approach. Our vision is this: we want BSS to be an inspirational force for women to reach their full potential as transformative leaders. That’s what we’re about. Powerful learning and inspirational leaders in the world – whatever that looks like for each girl.

  • Approach:
    Focus Religious-based
    Academic Christian (Anglican)

    If you want to learn more about faith-based education, check out our comprehensive guide.
    If you want to learn more about Christian education, check out our comprehensive guide.

  • Pedagogies and subject courses:

  • Mathematics
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Textbooks and supplementary materials: This information is not currently available.

    • Calculator policy: This information is not currently available.

    Early Reading
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • DIBELS Testing: This school does not use DIBELS testing to assess reading progress.

    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Teaching approach: This information is not currently available.

    • Topics covered in curriculum:

      Subject = offered
    • Treatment of evolution:

      Evolution as consensus theory
      Evolution as one of many equally viable theories
      Evolution is not taught

    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    Social Studies
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    Humanities and Social Sciences
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    Foreign Languages
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Languages Offered: • Chinese-Mandarin • French • Italian • Latin • Spanish

    Fine Arts
    • Program offers:

      Subject = offered
      Graphic Design
      Visual Arts
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    Computers and Technology
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Program covers:

      Subject = offered
      Computer science
      Web design

    Physical Education
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Bishop Strachan School's approach to sex-ed: This information is not currently available.

    Religious Education
    • Approach to teaching religious and secular curricula

      Completely segregated
      Mostly segregated
      Completely integrated
      Mostly integrated
      Not applicable
    • Approach to teaching religion

      Scripture as literal
      Scripture as interpretive
    • What Bishop Strachan School says: This information is not currently available.

    Preschool/K Curriculum Reggio Emilia

    • Play-based
    • Montessori
    • Waldorf
    • Reggio Emilia
    • Academic

    Reggio Emilia programs aim to develop curiosity and problem-solving skills through the liberal use of “projects”, (as opposed to “activities” or “lessons”). Teachers design projects for children around their demonstrated interests. Projects can be geared to an individual student, a small group of students, or the class as a whole. Projects can last from a few days to the whole year. Art is strongly emphasized and is typically incorporated into every project. Teachers actively participate in projects alongside students, rather than sitting back and observing. A high degree of parent involvement is also encouraged, particularly when forming curriculums and project plans (which happens throughout the academic year).
    If you want to learn more about Reggio Emilia education, check out our comprehensive guide.

    What Bishop Strachan School says: A strong start means a better finish. It’s precisely what happens within the dynamic, inquiry-based learning approach you’ll find in our Junior School (JK to Grade 6). Children are treated as the intellectually powerful beings they are, and encouraged to express themselves as they learn, grow, collaborate and create. All the while having an awful lot of fun. Learn more at bss.on.ca/powerfullearning/junior-school/

    Curriculum Pace Student-paced

    • Standard-enriched
    • Accelerated
    • Student-paced

    The main curriculum pace is non-standardized and is HIGHLY responsive to the pacing of individual students, (via differentiated instruction, differentiated assessment, etc). In theory, some students outpace the default/normalized curriculum, while others spend periods "behind schedule" if they need the extra time.

    Flexible pacing:

    Flexible pacing style = offered
    Subject-streaming (tracking)
    Multi-age classrooms as standard
    Ability-grouping (in-class) as common
    Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)
    Regular guided independent study opportunities
    Differentiated assessment

    What Bishop Strachan School says about flexible pacing: This information is not currently available.

    Academic Culture

    • Rigorous
    • Supportive

    What Bishop Strachan School says: We believe strongly in the power of the girls within these walls and their ability to change the world for the better. It’s not just a philosophy; it’s the basis of our curriculum and our approach. Our vision is this: we want BSS to be an inspirational force for women to reach their full potential as transformative leaders. That’s what we’re about. Powerful learning and inspirational leaders in the world – whatever that looks like for each girl.

    Developmental Priorities Balanced, Intellectual

    Primary Developmental Priority: Balanced
    Equal attention is paid to a balance of priorities: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical.

    Secondary Developmental Priority: Intellectual
    Academically strong, creative, and critical thinkers, capable of exercising rationality, apprehending truth, and making aesthetic distinctions.

    What Bishop Strachan School says: BSS strives inspire girls to be fearless and to educate them to be leaders. For a full understanding of the set of personal attributes that are encouraged, nurtured and taught at BSS, please read our Signature of a BSS Girl at http://www.bss.on.ca/powerfullearning/

    Special Needs Support Mild difficulties

    Mild difficulties

    Bishop Strachan School can provide support for mild disablities. Bishop Strachan School does NOT provide specialized support for moderate-to-severe learning disabilities, developmental disabililties, behavioural/emotional disorders, or physical disabilities.

    • Academic Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Learning strategy and study counselling; habit formation
      Extra support and minor accommodations for children experiencing subclinical difficulties
    • Mild but clinically diagnosed ADHD
      Support Type = offered
      Extra support

    Gifted Learner Support No Support

    No Support

    Bishop Strachan School does not offer any specialized programming for gifted learners.

    Gifted education: If you want to learn more about gifted education, check out our comprehensive guide. It’s the first of its kind: it covers different kinds of gifted schools and programs, and a whole host of issues parents face in finding the right option for their gifted child.


    What Bishop Strachan School says:

    This information is not currently available.

    • Sports OfferedCompetitiveRecreational
      Cross-country skiing
      Downhill skiing
      Field Hockey
      Ice Hockey
      Track & Field
    • Clubs Offered
      Art Club
      Community Service
      Computer Club
      Debate Club
      Drama Club
      Environmental Club
      Math Club
      Online Magazine
      Outdoor Club
      Outdoor Education
      Robotics club
      School newspaper
      Science Club
      Student Council

    Tuition & Financial Aid


    Day Boarding (Domestic) Boarding (International)
    Boarding (Domestic)$56,510
    Boarding (International)$59,100
    What Bishop Strachan School says: Every year we send young women into the world who have come to know their own boundless potential. As a non-profit independent school, tuition fees cover the bulk of what your daughter can expect at BSS: outstanding teachers, opportunities and resources, and the most effective education possible. For more information on tuition and financial aid, visit our website: bss.on.ca/apply/tuition-fees/

    Need-based financial aid

    Grade range that need-based aid is offered: 7 to 12
    Percentage of grade-eligible students receiving financial aid0%
    Average aid package size$0
    Percentage of total enrollment on financial aid0%
    Total aid available$1,000,000

    Application Deadline:
    Rolling deadline

    More information:

    Application Details:

    This school works with Apple Financial Inc. for processing financial applications
    Our scholarships and tuition assistance programs are designed to encourage and reward students who demonstrate exceptional achievements in specific areas, and to support families who need extra help with costs. Every year The Bishop Strachan School provides over $1 million to families in support of their education goals. To learn more and for details about how to apply for our financial assistance programs, please visit the webpage listed above.

    Merit based Scholarships

    The Bishop Strachan School
    Amount: $5,000
    Deadline: 01/19/2015
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 9—The Edward S. Rogers Family Scholarship, at $5000.00, is awarded to a new or returning student. This is applied against School fees each year until the student graduates, provided the student continues to achieve proficiency standing (80% and above) and actively participates in School life. Preference is given to the children of families who are involved in service to their local communities or religious institutions, or who are either elected public officials or active in a political party which has representation in the House of Commons. Student leadership and co-curricular involvement are also important. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS: 1. Applicants must submit a proposal letter, clearly outlining why they are applying, the opportunities the scholarship will provide, and the goals and ideas they have about how to be actively involved in the life of BSS. 2. Submission of additional information about the candidate based on the criteria of the scholarship must accompany the proposal letter (ie. service actions/involvement, leadership) 3. Applicants will be required to complete the academic assessment administered during the admissions process as part of the evaluation of the eligibility for the scholarship. Current BSS students may be invited to write a special academic assessment in January 2012. Please note that the results of the assessments are the property of The Bishop Strachan School and will not be released to participating students or parents. Please mail, courier or walk-in submission by January 20, 2013 to: Student Recruiting, Senior School The Bishop Strachan School 298 Lonsdale Road Toronto, ON M4V 1X2 CANADA The recipient will be notified with the offer of admission in February, 2013. Sincerely, Karen Powell Director, Student Recruiting
    For more details, visit: bss.on.ca/apply/scholarships
    Grade 3 Scholarship
    Amount: $3,000
    Deadline: 01/19/2015
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 3—

    This scholarship is awarded to the top academic student entering Grade 3 as demonstrated by current reports and entrance/admissions interview criteria. The recipient is awarded a one-time $3,000 scholarship that is applied against school fees. All Grade 3 applicants are considered; no additional application is required.

    For more details, visit: bss.on.ca/apply/scholarships
    Grade 7 Merit Entrance Scholarship
    Amount: $4,250
    Deadline: 01/19/2015
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 7—

    This scholarship is awarded annually to the top new student who is entering Grade 7. This is awarded based on current reports and letters of intent. The value of the scholarship is $4,250 and will be applied against school fees. Learn more on our website.

    For more details, visit: bss.on.ca/apply/scholarships
    Grade 7 or 9 Foundation Entrance Arts Scholarship
    Amount: $4,250
    Deadline: 01/19/2015
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 7 to 9—

    This scholarship is awarded to a new student each year who is entering either Grade 7 or 9 who excels in any area of the Arts, including Fine Arts, Drama and/or Music. The value of this scholarship is $4,520 and will be applied against school fees. Visit our website for more information.

    For more details, visit: bss.on.ca/apply/scholarships
    Grade 9 Entrance Merit Scholarship
    Amount: $4,250
    Deadline: 01/18/2016
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 9—

    There are two entrance scholarships available. One for new and/or returning students and one for new students only. The John C. Rykert Memorial Scholarship is valued at $2,500 and gives preference to the daughter or granddaughter of a BSS Old Girl. The BSS Foundation Entrance Scholarship $4,250 is awarded to the top new student entering Grade 9. Visit our website for more details.

    For more details, visit: bss.on.ca/apply/scholarships
    Grade 9 Entry 21st Century Scholarship
    Amount: $20,000
    Deadline: 01/18/2016
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 9—

    The 21st Century Scholarship will be awarded to a student applying to Grade 9 at The Bishop Strachan School. The applicant should be a strong academic student with a special talent or interest in Academics, the Arts or Athletics, and who requires financial assistance. The scholarship, with a value up to $20,000.00, will be awarded to the student each year she attends the school, provided she continues to achieve proficiency standing (80% and above) and actively participates in School life. If the student requires additional funding, bursary money will be awarded, based on need. The awarding of this scholarship will be based on the results of the entrance assessments, documented excellence in her area of expertise, and a proposal letter, written by the student. The proposal letter should include what the student has done, what the scholarship would mean to her, and what she can contribute to the life of the School.

    For more details, visit: bss.on.ca/apply/scholarships


    Total enrollment 905
    Average enrollment per grade60
    Gender (grades)JK to 12 (Girls)
    Boarding offered Gr. 7 - 12
    % in boarding (total enrollment)9%

    If you want to learn more about boarding schools, check out our comprehensive guide.

    Student distribution: This information is not currently available.



    Admissions Assessments:

    Assessment = requiredGrades
    InterviewJK - 11
    SSAT (out of province)7 - 11
    Entrance Exam(s)
    Entrance Essay
    Application Fee 

    Application Deadlines:

    Day students:
    December 04, 2016

    Boarding students:

    What Bishop Strachan School says:

    We welcome Day students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 and Boarding students from Grades 7 to 12 into our creative and challenging environment. The path to BSS is an exciting one! Take the first step now.

    Come for a visit and experience BSS! Connect with our Student Recruiting team for answers to any and all questions. We’re here to help!

    Fill out our online application. It doesn’t take long and you don’t need a lot of documentation. It’s just one step in the admissions process, but an important one.

    Submit the required documents. We will make sure to follow up with you regarding any outstanding documents needed so you don’t need to worry – we’ll keep on top of things!

    We will arrange for an interview (1.5 hrs) so girls and parents applying can meet a member of our Student Recruiting Team or a teacher and experience a personalized tour of the school with one of our Student Ambassadors.

    The common offer date for Day Applicants – shared by independent schools in the Toronto area – is February 23, 2016. You will hear from BSS on this day to let you know that you have been offered a spot at BSS, or that you are on the waiting list. The day we need to hear back from you is February 29, 2016

    For more details on each of these steps and the application process as a whole, please visit bss.on.ca/apply/


    Acceptance Rate:


    Type of student The Bishop Strachan School is looking for: This information is not currently available.

    Day Boarding

    Student Entry Points

    Student TypeJKSK123456789101112
    Day Acceptance
    (Acceptance rate)
    Boarding Acceptance
    (Acceptance rate)

    University Placement

    Services = offered
    Career planning
    Mentorship Program
    University counseling
    Key Numbers
    Average graduating class sizeN/A
    *Canadian "Big 6" placementsN/A
    **Ivy+ placementsN/A

    *Number of students in 2015 who attended one of McGill, U of T, UBC, Queen's University, University of Alberta, or Dalhousie University.

    **Number of students since 2005 that attended one of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge (UK)

    Notable Alumni

    Alumnus Graduation Year Accomplishment
    Beatrice Helen Worsley 1939 First female computer scientist in Canada. MIT and Cambridge grad.
    Margaret Wente 1968 Popular columnist for The Globe and Mail. National Newspaper Award winner for column-writing.
    Ann Southam 1955 Canadian composer and philanthropist. Member of the Order of Canada.
    Valerie Pringle 1971 Canadian television host and journalist
    Marjorie Pickthall 1901 Celebrated Canadian writer and poet
    Emily Murphy 1886 Famous Canadian women's rights activist: member of "The Famous Five". The first female judge in the British Empire.
    Lin Chi-ling 1992 Taiwanese model and actress. Official spokesperson for China Airlines and Longines.
    Kai (Alessia De Gasperis Brigante) 2008 Singer and songwriter signed to Warner Music Canada, with her first EP expected to be released in 2015.
    Laurie Holden 1987 Actress, producer, and human rights activist. Best known for her roles in "The X-Files", "Silent Hill", and "The Walking Dead", amongst others.
    Marina Endicott 1976 Award winning novelist and short story writer. Won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award.
    Margaret Campbell 1930 Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament (Ontario) for the St. George riding, (Toronto).
    Thea Andrews 1991 Journalist and TV personality. Has been correspondent and host for ESPN, TSN, Entertainment Tonight, and other programs.

    Stories & Testimonials


    Bringing the Signature of a BSS Girl to Life

    In the initial stages of creating the Signature of a BSS Girl, several members of the BSS Senior Leadership Team returned from a professional learning session and could hardly contain their enthusiasm. The core idea of the presentation gave language to what they were trying to accomplish and the overlap was electrifying.

    The speaker was Simon Sinek, author of the bestselling book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. At the heart of his work is this idea: “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

    That’s the goal of the Signature of a BSS Girl.

    “If we are going to effect change in the world, we have to express how our values come to life in our students,” says Head of School, Deryn Lavell. “Working backward from the vision, we ask ourselves what attributes our graduates need to have.”

    True to the aspirations of the school’s vision – to inspire women to become transformative leaders – the Signature of a BSS Girl has ambitious goals. As Middle and Senior School Principal, Dr. Angela Terpstra, explains, “We need to offer more than a visionary academic program. We have to have a larger purpose. To achieve that, we have to explain what the whole girl is.”

    The Signature of a BSS Girl describes the attributes of a BSS student – Curiosity, Self-Awareness, Grit, Voice and Leadership – and poses questions about those attributes in the student’s voice. It also highlights two broad contexts within which the attributes are brought to life: the Self, who has a growth mindset, and the Self in Relation to Others, who is committed to being an ethical citizen.

    Grounded in extensive research about best practices in education and learning, the Signature is intended to inspire excellence and growth. The individual questions – such as “do I show a willingness to adapt?” – are provocations, not instructions. “This is not a checkmark document. It is an expression of our values for the community as we assess and implement our vision for a whole girl education,” says Junior School Principal, Patti MacDonald.

    Aligning the entire community around the ideas expressed in the Signature of a BSS Girl requires a genuinely collaborative process. “From the start, we were firm in our intention without being attached to a particular outcome. That made the school’s direction clear, while allowing the flexibility needed for everyone to participate,” explains Assistant Head, Human Resources and Professional Growth, Barb McLean.

    In creating a truly collaborative document, the school has been through extensive consultation with the parent community, students, teachers and alumnae. In particular, there has been a strong emphasis on ensuring that the girls have a voice in the process so that they are empowered to direct their own experiences.

    Ms. Lavell explains, “If we are a community and we believe in these values, we all need to commit to them. We need shared understanding that will embrace the multiplicity of viewpoints of our girls and their families. There will always be points of tension, but the Signature of a BSS Girl is a framework for learning and growing together.”

    The process has also taken into account the need to be flexible. “The Signature has a different meaning for a girl in Grade 4 than it does for a girl in Grade 12,” Ms. MacDonald explains. “It also takes into account shifting priorities in society that will alter the skills and qualities our graduates require.”

    Working together to express how the school’s values come to life has been a transformative experience. “From the academic program teams to senior leadership to the entire community, everyone is feeling the power of collaboration and different perspectives,” explains Ms. McLean.

    The process has also drawn attention from others in the independent school system. Ms. McLean recently heard from the Dean of Studies at a well-known New England prep school who called to find out how BSS had managed to create such an impressive process. “She was blown away by what we have been able to accomplish!”

    Implementing the Signature of a BSS Girl is an ongoing process as the teachers work to integrate it into their practices. “The teachers are assessing the enduring understandings of the Signature so that they can work backward to design a curriculum that will develop the attributes,” explains Ms. MacDonald.

    In the Junior School, a different attribute from the Signature is being explored at each grade level, and there will be parent focus groups to illustrate how particular qualities, such as a growth mindset, show themselves in the students. In the Middle and Senior Schools, the staff is engaged in a gap analysis on the curriculum and is providing workshops for Grade 9 students to help them understand and embrace the Signature of a BSS Girl.

    The school is also integrating the Signature into the ongoing professional learning of teachers. That includes applying the attributes to the evolving faculty growth processes that guide professional development and learning, which makes the Signature of a BSS Girl as much an adult document as a student document.

    Ms. Lavell knows from experience that BSS teachers are serious about continual improvement. “They are amazing. Whenever there is a need for a new way of looking at a teaching practice, they get together and form a committee or a working group and make things happen.”

    The final iteration of the Signature is due out in the spring, following some “tweaking” during which the leadership team will integrate feedback collected from the teachers. But, in some ways, the published document is less important than the shared process of establishing it. As one long-standing teacher said after a working session with faculty and staff from all over the school, “I feel like we shrunk the building today.”

    In simple terms, the Signature articulates qualities that BSS strives to develop in its students. But it is far more than that. It is an effort to respect and recognize the multiplicity of voices and perspectives of the entire community. And in that way, it is as much an expression of the attributes of the school as of the girls it exists to serve.


    Where Confidence meets Curiosity

    London Fashion Week is fast approaching, and Emma COX ’03 is hustling to get Grabble, a fashion app, ready in time. Grabble lets a user swipe through photos of clothes, grab ones she likes, and discard those she doesn’t.

    At her spacious East End office on London’s trendy Old Street, Emma’s team shares a workspace with a ski company, a t-shirt printing group and a handful of tech startups working on mobile apps. The vibe is youthful and relaxed — employees often head to the ping pong table when they need a break — but it’s also an intensely creative and collaborative space. The Grabble group meets to brainstorm ideas on a whiteboard. As Grabble’s Head of Mobile Product, Emma’s job is to turn the team’s vision into a to-do list that will make Grabble the best app possible.

    Emma’s fast-paced life in the UK is worlds away from her school days on Lonsdale Road, but she brought many of her BSS values with her when she leapt across the pond. Emma’s confidence and curiosity were two major characteristics ingrained in her at BSS.

    She arrived at BSS in Grade 9 from a co-ed French school. “As a girl, you didn’t speak up as much because you thought the boys would tease you,” she says. “At BSS, it was just easier to speak up in class. I was really nervous as a public speaker. I still don’t enjoy it, but at least now I know how to do a good job. BSS helped me master things like that.”

    Emma’s stepdad was an engineer, which ignited her interest in science. However, she also wanted to maintain her language skills. BSS fostered many facets of her curiosity, rather than shuttling her into any one particular stream.

    “I remember always feeling like I had so much choice,” she says. “I could pick my schedule and my classes. I’m the sort of person who enjoys knowing a little about a lot of things. I think BSS gave me that curiosity and that chance to explore.”

    After graduating in 2003, Emma headed to the University of Oxford for engineering. She won an award for her final-year project in which she researched a new cancer treatment using high-focused intensity ultrasound.

    After Oxford, a backpacking trip through California led Emma to Silicon Valley at a time when the region was flooded with fledgling startup companies desperate to get their experimental tech products off the ground. Mochi Media was one such company. They were developing a gaming app for Android phones. Eager to grow, and hungry for talent and expertise, they hired Emma on the spot.

    “It wasn’t as mainstream as it is now to join a startup,” Emma explains. “They were hiring anyone who was smart and willing to take a leap of faith. Whereas now you have to have a Harvard MBA to be an intern at Twitter.”

    After several years, Emma left San Francisco and returned to England to fulfill a longtime dream of living in London. She worked for two different startups, helping to build an iPhone app called LoveThis, which lets users share recommendations from books to TV shows to hotels. She also worked on an events marketing app called Evently.

    Compared to more traditional careers, tech startups are still very exploratory workplaces with few established blueprints for success. The industry demands a willingness to take risks, fail, and begin again. Thanks to BSS, Emma feels well-positioned to approach her work this way.

    “If you don’t have that confidence and curiosity, it’s difficult to be in an environment where there’s no direction, and no one telling you what to do,” she says. “BSS made me confident in my ability to explore ideas and know that it’s okay to fail.”

    Emma fondly remembers the culture of acceptance and integration at BSS, which gave her another skill she finds crucial in her work today.

    “BSS was pretty international,” she says. “There were girls from different backgrounds and countries because of Boarding and the scholarship program. It gave me an appreciation for different types of people.”

    Because startups tend to attract creative, visionary thinkers with competing passions and eccentricities, Emma has honed her ability to navigate a range of big personalities. Achieving an alchemy of different ideas is what drives Emma in her work, but it’s not without its challenges.

    “For me, it’s about interacting with a group of people to create something. Sometimes that’s really fun, and sometimes there’s tension, but I enjoy those ups and downs. You don’t get to choose who you’re in the workplace with. Sometimes you have different opinions and you have to fight for your opinion. Had I not been at BSS, that would be a lot more difficult.”


    Rethinking Girl Talk

    Moral courage initiative gives voice to what matters.

    Chantelle Lee  was a self-described shy girl who never rocked the boat until she helped found the Moral Courage Task Force at BSS. That was over two years ago, and since then she’s probed racial and socioeconomic diversity at the school, confronted the perils of perfectionism among teenage girls – including herself – and tackled the disturbing reality of sex trafficking in Canada. That’s quite a transformation.

    “The task force has allowed me to come out of my shell. It’s pushed me to be fearless, and by fearless I don’t mean afraid of nothing,” says Chantelle, now in Grade 12. “It’s recognizing the fear of negative responses, but still being willing to do the things, and say the things, that scare you because you want to change something.”

    In November 2012, a dozen BSS Senior School students attended a class on moral courage given by renowned activist and writer Irshad Manji at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Inspired by Ms. Manji’s message – stand up and speak up about controversial issues, even if people want you to sit down – the participants launched the Moral Courage Task Force.

    “The goal was to start some meaningful conversations at the school,” says Chantelle, who is also editor-in-chief of Spectrum (the school’s student-produced newspaper) and a peer tutor at the Learning Resource Centre. With the BSS Leadership Team behind them, task force members have raised awareness about subjects such as gender equity, academic integrity and mental health. They use small group discussions, workshops and in-class presentations, and there have been several school-wide symposia led by Ms. Manji, who remains an active mentor to the girls. “The school encourages us to pursue topics that we feel are morally necessary to discuss, and staff members provide us with the support we need to do so,” says Chantelle.

    When Grade 11 student Katrina Marsden joined the task force in its second year, she believed she could help spark those difficult conversations while also accomplishing a personal goal. “I wanted to be able to leave a legacy and a mark on BSS, and know that I created some change before I left the school,” says Katrina, House Head for Walsh and a member of the Speakers Union. By following through on a big idea and exercising her own moral courage, she has already done just that.

    Early in 2014, Katrina walked into the BSS Communications Department and proposed a campus poster series that would call attention to some of the task force’s hot topics and get even more students talking. In the end, her collaboration with the department’s creative team transformed the poster project into the school’s latest multimedia outreach campaign, “Girl Talk.”

    Launched this past fall, the campaign turns the stale notion of frivolous girl talk on its head. “Girl talk: it’s anything but idle,” says Katrina in the ads she voiced for local radio stations. “It’s conversations that matter, digging deep into issues, unearthing big ideas and inspiring the kind of action that changes things for the better. The Bishop Strachan School is a place where girls can talk about everything, and do anything.”

    The bold, sophisticated print campaign challenges perceptions by taking apart words. The word ‘over’ is highlighted in ‘poverty’, suggesting it can be. The word ‘equal‘ is highlighted in ‘inequality’, suggesting we all are. And the word ‘me‘ is highlighted in ‘environment‘, suggesting we each have a role in protecting it. Building on the BSS tradition of thought-provoking ad campaigns that advocate for girls, Girl Talk has stimulated passionate discussion inside and outside the campus community.

    “When I first saw the posters, I instantly knew that this was going to be something incredible and something big,” says Katrina. “But I didn’t realize the impact would be on such a large scale. I’ve had students come up to me to say they were inspired by the posters and are now joining the Moral Courage Task Force.”

    The fact that not all of the feedback has been positive is exactly the point of the campaign and of the task force, says Chantelle. “These posters are supposed to make you uncomfortable. If we’re always comfortable, we would never be compelled to instigate change, and without change, we can never progress as a society.” The “poverty” poster has elicited the most debate, but Chantelle has a simple response for the detractors (see tweets on this page): You don’t have to be directly affected by poverty to contribute to the solution.

    Katrina is proud of what she started, especially the fact that it all began with girls using their strong, confident, intelligent voices, an integral part of the Signature of a BSS Girl. But she is not resting on this success.  “It’s great that I helped create these posters, but now I have to take the actions that they promote on issues of discrimination and activism.” She has organized Chapel discussions to build on the momentum of the Girl Talk campaign, and continues to work with Ms. Manji and her task force colleagues on issues related to moral courage.

    As for Chantelle, she is graduating from BSS this spring with the moral courage to continue the conversations she began here. “I’ve developed a stronger voice, and I’ve become more confident as a result. I know the things I’m passionate about, and I know that I have the strength to speak out about them.”


    The Exploration of Me

    My passion for technology began in my toddler years; my role in the house was to resuscitate every television, remote, computer or mp3 player that malfunctioned utilizing my most prized technique: push as many buttons as possible until the machine worked again! Alongside this passion for tech came a completely different hobby- creating artwork in my basement with my father. I came to love the acts of fixing, making and getting my hands dirty.

    Going into the Senior School at BSS, I felt no pressure to choose one passion over another because of the diverse selection of BSS electives and co-curricula. In Grades 9, 10 and 11, I hopped on board the Communications Council and joined myriad clubs, including the film festivals, fashion show, robotics and marketing and design for the theatre productions. BSS is where I truly began the "exploration of me".

    When prefect applications rolled along, I applied solely for the Communications Prefect position. I keenly delved into the job with a lengthy list of ideas that I hoped to bring to life over the school year. It has been around five months and I am proud to say that I am about one third of the way through my list after having accomplished Communications Day, a Back-Up Awareness Video and Guide, Junior School Cyber-Bullying and Social Media Safety Sessions, an Hour of Code event and more.

    The greatest perquisite of this job is my team: an amazing group of council members and collection of teacher advisors from various areas of the school. Each Thursday our council unites to discuss ways in which communication and technology use can be improved at BSS. Throughout December we led the Grade 4 to 6 classes in discussions and activities relating to cyber-bullying and the safe use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and iMessage - I know, we were equally as shocked as you probably are right now that eight-year-olds are using all of these.

    There is no doubt that we are living in a digital age and, for this reason, my main goal has been to improve communication at BSS through technology, while spreading awareness of technology’s dangerous and destructive side. This year I have aimed to bring the BSS community together virtually through the promotion and utilization of our main social platform, BSS Epic, a Google+ community where students post announcements, upcoming events, and photos of student life. On top of this community, BSS students, teachers and parents communicate via Gmail, The Thread, the BSS website, Naviance and more.

    To sum it up, there is no lack of communication at BSS - it could even be argued that there is excess. While my intention was originally to create more ways in which students can communicate, I actually should have been doing the opposite. I’ve seen through the limitation of most student information distribution to just BSS Epic and Gmail, it’s been working. I’ve come to see that student-to-student communication is achieved with attention to the way we choose to communicate rather than the amount.

    I will never forget my position and all of the valuable skills that I will take away from it and into future endeavours. With guidance from the BSS community, I have finally decided on what I plan to study in university – instead of settling for one interest, I will find programs that combine Digital Arts with Technology and Innovation. Thank you BSS for helping me find a happy ending to the “exploration of me”.


    Students without Boarders

    What happens when girls come from all over the world to live at BSS?

    Ask Grade 10 student Mariana Brizuela to share her experience arriving as a boarder to BSS in September and her face lights up, even when discussing the challenges. Until just four days before classes started, she and her younger sister, Veronica (a Grade 8 Boarder) had never before visited Canada, never mind Toronto, never mind the school itself. Growing up in Mexico City, she didn’t even have winter clothing. And then, of course, she felt insecure about her English fluency.

    “My first thought was, ‘This is going to be my home for the year so I should learn as much as I can,” she says, admitting that when classes began, she lacked the confidence to engage. “It was a little bit hard at first; I thought if I said something weird or wrong, everyone would laugh. But I came here to learn English so I realized, it doesn’t matter if I make a mistake and I ask my friends to always [correct] me.”

    Three weeks into classes, she had overcome her initial shyness, “I thought it was going to take a long time to get along with the girls and staff; but it happened really quickly,” she says, equal parts candid and confident.

    Mariana’s story would likely ring true for other BSS Boarders, past and present. Of the 79 girls currently enrolled, 80 per cent hail from outside Canada. Some, like Mariana, have previously attended all-girls schools, or even other boarding schools. But the newness can be overwhelming – that is, until they discover the support that flows throughout the Boarding community and the encouragement to seek opportunities through all aspects of BSS life. Together, they are as representative of the school’s diversity as its unity; and yet, they’re also just like all other BSS girls who head to “the Ville” after class and take the TTC (once they’re old enough) to wherever they’re going in the city.

    Two years ago, Hana Zhauken travelled from Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Toronto to visit her aunt for the summer. When they noticed her visa allowed her an extended stay, she found herself applying to BSS on a whim and beginning class shortly thereafter. Now in Grade 12 and nearing graduation, she says she feels far more well-rounded than she would be, had she returned home that summer.

    “I was always involved in school life – I took theatre [in Almaty] – but when I came to BSS, I evolved more. BSS life is all about leadership. We have a lot of guest speakers and teachers who encourage you to take on leadership roles,” says Hana, who also notes that it is a recurring theme in the Chapel homilies. “They give you as many opportunities as possible to take on a leadership role.”

    Accordingly, Hana applied to be a head mentor among the Boarders this year and as one of six on the Mentor Council, she advises some of the younger Boarders in addition to regularly planning activities. During her spares, she volunteers as an ambassador, giving tours to prospective and incoming day school students. She sits on the Chapel Council, as well.

    “BSS is a wonderful school because you feel like you want to be involved,” says Hana, who aspires to be a financial analyst on Wall Street.  

    Boarding advisors, too, notice how the girls are profoundly shaped by the months and years when 298 Lonsdale Road serves as their home away from home.

    According to a survey of 2,700 American and Canadian students commissioned by the Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), boarding students log 17 hours per week of homework time, nearly double the nine hours spent by private day students.

    “Girls from Grades 7-12 have shown so much strength and the willingness to prove themselves as substantial leaders in the future,” says Zhorrah Grant, who is new to BSS as a Boarding Advisor this year, but previously held a similar position at a school in New Brunswick. “Our Boarding Council in the Boarding community demonstrates tremendous effort in advocating for themselves.”

    She singles out the younger students for their remarkable curiosity and personal growth. “They learn about new cultures and new aspects of life,” she maintains. “They are so intrigued by wanting to know more and more about everything.”

    And it helps that they have myriad ways to quench their curiosity in an already impressive array of teams and clubs. Boarders are divided into two "Houses" (St. Hilda’s and St. Monica’s) which include girls from all grades.  These Houses are each subdivided into three smaller "Family" groups and assigned a specific Boarding Advisor. These groupings support age-specific growth and development and are led by dedicated Boarding Program Coordinators for Grades 7-9 (St. Bridget’s) and Grades 10-12 (St. Joan’s). The groups, which consist of Boarders of all ages, dine together on Monday nights, take a cooking class together, participate in inter-family debates, and go on city excursions. On other occasions, the entire group will assemble for Karaoke night and, as Ms. Grant describes it, “sing their hearts out.”

    The hope is that these extended families nurture meaningful bonds that, while not replacing true familial ones, offer similar fulfillment – particularly when dealing with homesickness. “I think friendship is at the heart of Boarding,” says Boarding Advisor, Caileigh Trethewey, who explains that girls stay in the same family through their time in Boarding. “New girls see that other girls have been through this. They’re not alone, and that feeling of not being alone is really important.”

    Fortunately, today’s Boarders live in the age of Skype and FaceTime, so they can readily communicate with friends and family. Advisors also include a progress report with the student’s report cards, and will send parents email updates, often with photos, following a girl’s athletic competition or theatre performance.

    But for Mariana, who messages with her parents daily and joins her sister for a family Skype chat on Sunday nights, the Boarder family can be just as supportive when challenges arise. “It’s hard when you don’t have your mother to go home to and say someone at school wasn’t nice,” she admits. “So now I tell my roommate.”

    “Originally, I thought the main objective was to speak well and have a nice accent,” she says. “But actually, I believe the main objective now is to be independent and take care of things instead of having your parents do it all. And to share perspectives with people who think differently – that’s what has been really helpful.”


    Space – The Final Frontier: High program standards drive need for a new Senior School

    Dropping by BSS teacher Tim Somerville’s Grade 8 Science class might be a little confusing. What’s with all the art dangling from the ceiling?  Brightly coloured sculptural objects crowd the ceiling tiles drawing your eye up to see the numbers hanging below each one.  Intriguing.  But what’s this got to do with science?

    The genesis of this project provides a perfect illustration of what BSS has accomplished by creating what Head of School Deryn Lavell calls, ‘a Culture of Powerful Learning’. Last year, Mr. Somerville was approaching the subject of cancer cells with his students, an uncomfortable but important topic to learn. With computer imagery, we now have an unprecedented look at the dimensions of cells and after happening upon some batik art, it occurred to Mr. Somerville that there is a natural intersection between that art form and the look of cells. He thought that perhaps using art to learn about the cells would be a way of making the topic more approachable for the girls.

     A collaboration with art teacher Ellen Wright brought the idea to life and in a continuation of the project this year, the girls used what they were learning in Art and Design to create three dimensional interpretations of cells. Hence the brightly coloured sculptures dangling from the ceiling. The numbers on each correspond to a poster where we can learn more detail about each cell that the girls researched. The project incorporated the scientific method of exploration and research, writing essays and detailed descriptions of the cells and their role in our bodies, and of course the sculptures. Teachers collaborating with each other, diverse subject areas being brought to bear on learning, girls using all parts of their minds to explore and create….that’s powerful learning, BSS-style.

    “My goal is to have my students leave Grade 8 Science and really like science,” says Mr. Somerville. “By having the girls help define outcomes, the outside world comes into the School and it drives their passion.”

    In a mid-year course evaluation designed to assess what, if anything, had an impact on their enthusiasm for science, approximately 70 per cent of the comments the girls made were about the cell project.  Some girls claimed that they had never been excited about science before but now their eyes were opened to the variety of career possibilities.

    “When planning their curriculum, our teachers often choose contexts, topics, and big ideas that connect subjects and disciplines,” says Brendan Lea, BSS Vice Principal of Curriculum.  “This interdisciplinary approach allows for real-world experiences and problems to be explored. It is often open-ended with critical thinking at its heart, so - though they need to know the foundation of the subject - there's no one response expected from the students. These experiences are crucial for our students because they learn to see connections across subjects, to think critically and apply their knowledge to unfamiliar situations, in school and beyond.”

    In this sense, the girls are being prepared for a complex world that increasingly relies as much on creativity as it does on knowledge.   As Mr. Lea points out, “Rarely is there one simple solution to the challenges of life.” 

    One of the key elements to making this approach to learning possible is space.  Not the kind with stars and planets, but the kind you work and learn in.  At BSS, space can be a challenge and the lack of it can reduce the opportunity for this kind of collaboration.

    Mr. Somerville observes, “You have so much space and so many hours. It sounds basic but that is the fact of it.”  And that’s why Art teacher Ms. Wright could only perform a ‘consulting’ role this year and the artwork for the cell sculptures had to take place in the Science room.  Their schedules could not be co-ordinated to enable a seamless workflow.

    Basic yes, but in a school environment, space makes all the difference. On a recent visit to San Diego’s High Tech High (HTH), learning through real-world problem-solving and making connections among ideas, is being applied to a student body of over 5,000. BSS has been working with HTH for many years. It is a unique and highly effective charter school co-founded by two visionaries, Larry Rosenstock and Rob Riordan. All students are admitted through a blind lottery, meaning that every learning level and style, and every socio-economic and cultural background are represented. Making a program work for that kind of diversity is the real test of its effectiveness and, with 98% of its students heading off to college, many the first in their families to do so, no one could argue with its success.

    According to Mr. Rosenstock, who presides over twelve schools across two campuses, with plans for acquiring yet another significant property, space is an essential partner in their program. One look around the original HTH building, a re-imagined naval base the size of an airplane hangar, one is struck by the thoughtful attention to design as a manifestation of the program philosophy. While not chic, it’s a building that seems to live and breathe - its décor the work of the students’ artistic expression, its soul the students themselves.  

    BSS has made enormous strides in the evolution of its program over the past few years and the momentum is strong.  But an essential piece of the puzzle is still missing. Space in the Senior School, built in 1910, was designed for putting students into rows, facing blackboards and enclosed within walls – the very antithesis of our current program, if not its enemy.  BSS has been doing creative work-arounds thanks to the ingenuity of teachers and administrative staff who perform miracles with scheduling and space configurations to ensure high-quality learning.  But the limits have been reached.

    That’s why Ms Lavell and the BSS Board of Governors are addressing this key piece of the puzzle with an exciting campus renewal plan that will blow open the walls, raise the roof and give girls the kind of environment that will support, and dramatically enhance, their learning. 

    “We have this beautiful heritage building that houses our beloved Chapel and stands as an architectural gem in Toronto,” says Ms. Lavell.  “No one would or even could alter that in any significant way and we will always take great care to maintain the building and use it well. But learning and teaching have undergone a veritable revolution since that building was designed and we have to address that. Our plan calls for the addition of a new structure facing Warren Road that will enable us to design, from the ground up, the ideal learning environment for the 21st century.”

    The new building will quite literally be able to make walls appear and disappear as best suits the activities; the ceilings will soar and light, transparency, and visible learning will be the focus. The environment will be respected for both aesthetics and sustainability. Most crucially, the girls using art to learn about science, or who are building projection devices in Design and Technology, can work together using centrally located tools and materials, with teachers who can be more readily available across subject areas. And the projects themselves can be seen by all, inspiring new ideas and areas of inquiry.

    “If we can move out of the traditional classroom and get our students doing more authentic projects, the ideas will snowball from there,” says Mr. Somerville. With the plans in place for the new learning spaces, BSS is preparing for a storm of creativity, innovation and learning that will set our current and future students up for outstanding success.


    Planning for Learning and Living: Cities and Schools as Integrated Spaces

    At BSS, we talk a lot about the intersection of arts and science, of knowledge and imagination. And it got us thinking. What does Chief Planner for the City of Toronto and BSS parent Jennifer Keesmaat think about the concept of intersections? “It’s an extremely powerful word! The future of urban planning embraces complexity by recognizing a whole variety of intersections between health, mobility, environment, food and social justice. We create more resilient communities when we mix and join people, uses and values.”

    The same is true for education: a robust learning environment is one that joins together several disciplines, lenses and interests within its community. “Oversimplified planning,” says Ms. Keesmaat, “isolates and separates space into single uses. This approach belongs to the past, not the future.” Like cities, schools today need to find ways to create connected and generative spaces.

    Grade 8 BSS students know what it’s like to explore rich connections. During a recent School project that united issues of social justice with urban planning, the girls headed out onto the streets of Toronto with two intents. The first was to learn about organizations that offer supports for social issues such as hunger, LGBT rights, mental health, youth homelessness, new immigrants and environmental sustainability. The second was to study the urban setting to assess whether it was serving the needs of the organization.

    This authentic, real-world learning experience drew on Science, Social Studies, Math, Media and English. “The girls were interested in the social issues presented in the novel The Hunger Games,” explains Grade 8 teacher Vanessa Vanclief. “As their teachers, we asked them, what organizations can you visit in the city to explore these issues in greater detail? And what creative solutions can you offer to address them?”

    Armed with both their growing insight into social problems and aerial maps of the neighbourhoods they visited, the girls made notes on transportation, housing, parks, safety, resources and land use. The next day, six city planners visited BSS and offered the girls a challenge: how would you redesign the city to meet the needs of those served by the organization you visited?

    Ms. Keesmaat spoke to the girls directly and emphasized a holistic approach to their task. “I talked to them about the importance of creating complete communities and encouraged them to view areas of the city as habitats. Are they habitats that flourish? Are they inclusive? Are they diverse? Do they offer choice? We need to ask these questions to understand the health and viability of our city.”

    In attempting to answer those questions, “we were asking the girls to collect data and use it to change the world,” says Grade 8 Math teacher Ruth McArthur. “We want them to know that they have a voice. They easily recognize their roles as students and friends and sisters and daughters, but do they also know that they can be taken seriously as members of the community?”

    They do now. The girls reflected on their experiences, analyzed their data and made some recommendations for improvement to city planners. Four of their ideas received a personal and positive response from the City of Toronto for being both creative and feasible. “In a few years,” laughs Ms. Keesmaat, “I think BSS might be graduating a cohort of city planners!”

    Ms. Keesmaat’s appreciation of intersections doesn’t begin and end in the city planning office. As the parent of a Grade 8 student, she recognizes Middle School as an important transitional moment in a girl’s life. “It is a special time of its own, valid in and of itself. It’s not just being ‘on the way’ to somewhere else. It’s a creative and emergent time. And the School values this life stage deeply. BSS is amazing that way.”

    To support the creativity and development of all students, exceptional schools offer inspired teachers, innovative curriculum and integrated physical spaces. “Great planning breaks down traditional boundaries. It helps us to live in new ways and make better choices,” says Ms. Keesmaat.  So, too, great learning environments.


    The Connections Within

    We are all creatures of habit. My mornings at BSS start more or less the same way: I park my car, fumble for my swipe card, shuffle past the Phys Ed office and then debate the merits of taking the stairs rather than the elevator to the English Office. I hang up my coat and head down the hallway, greeting the same students who are at their lockers at the same time every morning. The path between my office and my classroom is lined with lockers belonging to the Middle School girls. Other than the few students I have coached in Cross-Country, I don’t know many of them by name, but we greet each other each morning as if I did. And that is one of the things that amazes me about this place -- the kinds of connections that happen within these walls seem improbable, given its size and the breakneck pace at which we tend to operate. But they happen, and they happen often, and in a meaningful way. Strong bonds between students and teachers help build a sense of community and, perhaps even more significantly, they fulfill a need within the students that is fundamental to their success here: when the girls feel they have an adult “on their side,” they thrive.

    My own experience as a student was at York House School –- a small, all-girls’ school in Vancouver. From Grade 7  to 12 we numbered only three hundred. We were a tightly knit crew and we were very close with the faculty. My French teacher would bring us up to her cabin each summer (how times have changed) and my Chemistry teacher held his famous Saturday Chemistry classes to help us cram for the dreaded Provincial Exams, which were worth a whopping forty per cent of our year’s final mark. We really felt like the adults in the building knew us and cared about us. We were a relatively small and stable student population, making this type of relationship with the staff easy and natural.

    So when I began working at BSS, a school more than twice the size of my alma matter, it struck me as remarkable that the students would make these same kinds of bonds with their teachers. Yet again and again, I see students keeping in touch with teachers long after graduation, some even inviting staff to their weddings. Each December Old Girls crawl the hallway, seeking out their favourite teachers, attending Chapel, and watching the Nativity. They come to the musical and Harvest Games, all in an effort to reconnect with their friends and the teachers who helped make their experience at BSS a positive one. Last spring, I attended a production of Cats and was browsing through the program. One of the cast members, an Old Girl, mentioned the BSS Dance Program in her notes. She graduated years ago. That speaks volumes.

    This culture of connection moves from being a nice perk about our School, to being an absolutely crucial element to the girls’ education –- they cannot grow without it.

    When I navigate my way through the halls, it is wonderful to start the day knowing that I am in the company of faculty and students who will become allies during their years at BSS and remain so long after graduation day.

    Monica Hodgson is an English teacher at BSS. The View From Here is an essay series of personal insights on girls’ learning from members of the BSS community


    Experience BSS Summer Academy

    BSS Summer Academy is Toronto’s finest academic summer program. During July and August, students from all over Ontario and beyond come on campus for a wide range of Grade 9 to 12 Credit Courses and Skills and Enrichment Programs. As BSS transforms into a co-educational environment, students enjoy an engaging, fun and rich learning experience at one of Canada’s oldest and most respected independent schools. To learn more visit: bss.on.ca/summeracademy ...

    Middle School Diaries: Grade Expectations

    We wanted to see what Middle School is like – from the students’ perspectives – so we caught up with three girls to help paint a picture of life in the middle of BSS – and what comes next.

    GRADE 7: Starting out strong

     Kitty Yin may be new to BSS – this is her first year at the school – but she’s got a lot to compare it to. In fact, you’d have to call Kitty something of a school expert: her family has traveled around a lot and BSS is her ninth school. Actually, it’s more than just a school, it’s her home: the studious 12-year-old is one of BSS’s boarders, alongside about 80 other students from around the world.

    So what about the middle school program stands out to the seasoned student? “I really like how at BSS there is a lot of opportunity to try new things.” (So far, the highlights have included cross-country skiing and swimming.) And it’s not just that she has the chance to try something once: Kitty feels that her diverse interests are encouraged and nurtured. “I love to draw – I’m quite involved in art, but I also love to read and do math. And I like that I don’t have to choose between all the things I enjoy.” She’s also grateful that middle school gives the students an opportunity to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. “It’s nice to have the time to adjust before starting high school. Before, I wasn’t ready, but now I have the chance to learn.” 

    Grade 7 has been keeping her busy, but she’s quite clearly engaged by it too. She talks gleefully about the books she’s reading for English (“I find them very deep and inspiring,” she says), her projects about 3D design technology and the nature of structures, and learning about international migration and settlement in social studies.

    One project that Kitty found especially meaningful was her research on the Filles du Roi for social studies. “These girls were sent over from France to New France to marry the early settlers,” she explains. “Many of these women were orphans, and some were only 14 years old.” Kitty chose this topic because she connected to it: 14 is close to her age, and she’s also moved a great distance at a young age.

    Born in China, Kitty moved with her family to PEI when she was 8 and now boards with other worldly girls at BSS. Studying the Filles du Roi, Kitty realized not only how far she’s moved, but also how far women – and society – has come.

    Kitty boards with many girls whose journeys have taken them just as far from where they started; girls from Japan, Jamaica, Hong Kong and Russia, Mexico and elsewhere. She loves boarding. “Every minute, you’re surrounded by people from around the world,” she says. She’s also fond of another boarder: a friendly cat called Pebbles.

    And even though she’s only been at the school for a couple of months, Kitty is already putting down roots and making plans. And, appropriate for a girl named Kitty who’s a little in love with a cat: she’s planning on becoming a vet.

    Even now, not even though Grade 7, Kitty already feels that she has grown during her time in middle school. “I’m a lot more independent because I’ve been living without my parents. I’ve learned a lot of time management and how to deal with life by myself.”


    GRADE 8:

    Lauren Adolphe started at BSS in junior kindergarten a decade ago. Now in Grade 8,

    Lauren is a girl of many passions. She loves math, plays a mean game of badminton and is an internationally competitive Irish Dancer.

    She has an uncommon ability to articulate the exact nature of her interests. Math, which she’s quite passionate about, appeals to her not only for its practicality, but also because she enjoys the class discussions about different ways of finding solutions to problems. She really enjoys how the middle and senior schools work together on house events because she finds it very rewarding to interact with girls in different age groups.  She’s looking forward to Senior School because she’s eager for more leadership opportunities and a greater course selection.

    She’s actually already decided which courses she wants to take next year. Among them: Latin, because it will help her move toward becoming either a doctor or lawyer. She’s having difficulty deciding, she tells me. Medicine appeals to her because she finds science fascinating; her inspiration for the law is an aunt, who she looks up to as a role model. 

    Her future plans may be big, but her middle school memories are no less meaningful. Middle school is a time when many ideas started to jump out of the textbook. Lauren describes, fascinated, how one 8th Grade math class brought geometry into three dimensions. “We went on a walk in downtown Toronto for Math Trail, observing how geometric shapes and other mathematical concepts were a part of the shapes of buildings all around us. The teachers led us, but it was up to us to recognize the different concepts in action. This made math come alive for me. It demonstrated to me the practical side of math and how it is an integral part of our everyday life. It was amazing to see it in reality, and not just in the workbook.”

     Lauren also sees the middle school as an important transitional period. “The middle school provides all students with a small school feel within a large school because it has its own teachers, advisors and curriculum.  I now feel confident that I am well prepared to transition into the senior school.”

    And she’s not afraid of balancing her dance training with the demands of senior school next year. “I have developed really good time management skills,” she says, sounding much older than her 13 years. With 10 local competitions and international events that have taken her to Nashville, Ottawa and Disneyworld, Irish dance certainly keeps her feet busy, but she’s not letting that slow down her school plans.


    GRADE 9: The next step

     Simone Marsden started BSS in Grade 7, and she hit the ground running, getting active in academics, volunteering and athletics. Despite the fact that many of her new classmates had known each other for years, Simone says she felt at home at BSS right away. Part of the reason? Middle school teachers are really connected to the students, she says. “They really care about what you’re thinking, and we got a lot of one-on-one time with them.” So even though she found the coursework challenging – “BSS operates at a much higher level academically than other schools,” she says – it wasn’t long before she felt completely absorbed in her classes.

    Another reason why the transition was easy: “We have a lot of fun,” she says. “The athletic program is amazing. We have a rock-climbing wall at school. You go to birthday parties for that, and we do it in school!”

    But to hear Simone talk about her experience in both middle school and senior school, it’s clear that the environment at BSS has really allowed her to thrive. She’s curious, confident and has an incredible range of interest, which she’s been able to cultivate.  So instead of starting Senior School by feeling intimidated or afraid, she’s excited. Here’s a shortlist of what Simone is excited about: making it to the OSSA swimming competition, getting further into biology and chemistry, and participating in interdisciplinary performance arts, because she really loves to dance.

     She can already see how the threads of her interests are coming together. In Grade 8, she was encouraged to choose a topic for investigative research class that she really connected with. She chose to combine her interest in environmentalism, science, animals and social issues and did a presentation about whale hunting. She examined the issue in different cultures, looked at how governments reacted to it, and researched the ecological effects. “I’ve always been an environmental person,” she says, “But it really opened my eyes.” She hopes to pursue her love for animals and interest in science as a veterinarian.

    For Simone, her biggest middle school epiphany came in a Grade 7 geography class. “We were learning about how the earth was formed, and Miss Rogers was teaching us about Pangaea and plate tectonics. A lot of us had never heard of that before. To demonstrate it, we all peeled oranges in class, and tried to put the peels back together again. It really brought it to life, we could all picture how the countries, all the provinces, all came together as one big island,” she says. “It really made me think of things differently, and see the world in a whole new way. You can learn about ideas every day in school, and I realized that it was possible to learn things that were completely new and different than what I usually think about the world.“

    To Simone, middle school was a place where she could enjoy these moments while getting ready to take the leap into senior school. “It gives you an in between place, so you don’t feel overwhelmed,” she says.

    She says that the middle school really helped her grow as a person. “I know that I have the study habits to take on anything, and I’m not scared of challenges.”

    And while she’s busy looking forward, she’s also spending a lot of time helping the girls behind her. She’s reading to girls in the junior school twice a week, and really enjoys tutoring and mentoring the younger girls. It’s all part of giving back to the community that she feels so connected to.




    Ms. Simand was recognized among Canada's teachers for outstanding teaching achievements on October 3, 2012 when the Prime Minister'™s Office awarded her with the National Award of Teaching Excellence.

    The Bishop Strachan School is proud to announce that Grade 6 teacher Harriet Simand was selected as a recipient of the 2011-2012 Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. The award honours Ms. Simand as one of the top 15 teachers across Canada for her outstanding efforts in helping students excel and build a successful future. In 2010/11 she was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence on a regional level.

    A teacher at BSS for four years with a background as a human rights litigator, Ms. Simand teaches her students to look for passion and to make things happen. Her students don't just complete projects, but think critically and get invested in them. As students are encouraged to develop their own plans to make a difference, they discover as they learn and impart their knowledge to each other.

    "We couldn't be more pleased to have Harriet receive this award," says Head of School Deryn Lavell. "She exemplifies our culture of powerful learning and it's gratifying to see excellence in education valued and acknowledged in this country."

    Ms. Simand's outstanding achievements in the classroom include:

    • Inspiring her students to advocate for a ban on plastic bags throughout the City of Toronto. The Ban the Bag Brigade made it to a presentation in front of the city council and received a congratulatory letter from Mayor David Miller. More information on the project can be found at: www.Banthebagbrigade.wikispaces.com
    • Ms. Simand and her Grade 6 class spearheaded a Robotics initiative, where BSS girls applied their learnings in programming robots to invent the iSnoopy, a mechanical "œsensing"nose that can help predict the onset of an epileptic seizure. In a discipline that is typically dominated by boys, BSS made it to the provincial finals and won an award for the most innovative solution at the Lego League Robotics Championships, won two major awards and advanced to the provincial finals.
    • Ms. Simand initiated a mathematics program with her Grade 6 class that involves the use of both reality and technology-based lessons. Ms. Simard produces "Mia the Math Mutt" videos which provide her students their own personal web-based video tutorial reinforcing the in-class lessons.

    "I am thrilled to receive the Prime Minister's Award of Teaching Excellence," says Ms. Simand. "The credit should really go to the enthusiastic and creative children I get to work with every day, who make teaching so much fun."


    In the News


    May 22, 2015 - Youth and Philanthropy Initiative - awareness, impact and change

    The students learned about raising awareness, addressing social issues and the value of creating change in our communities. ...

    May 12, 2015 - Middle School Exhibition of Learning

    The exhibition of learning allows students to proudly display their achievements and share their findings and hard work with each other. ...

    April 28, 2015 - Arts Night: A BSS Visual Art and Dance Show Night

    The exhibition will showcase the artistic and creative work of Senior School students that takes place at BSS. ...


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