RSIS Peru 2016: Service Trip a Rewarding Experience

Gift exchange with the local kindergarten children

Over the course of my Senior School years, I have been involved in numerous Round Square related activities. In grade 9, I was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend six weeks in South Africa on exchange. The following year, I attended an eight-day conference in Los Angeles, which turned out to be equally as memorable. I was, therefore, very excited when I decided to go solo on a three-week service project to Peru this summer.

One heavy bag, two stressed parents and a cancelled flight later, I miraculously ended up in Cusco on July 11. There, I spent the first two weeks with 18 other students who had travelled from all the edges of the world. Along with the two adult leaders, Andy and Nina, we formed team “Llama”.

The two first days were planned primarily for us to acclimatize to the high Cusco altitudes (3,400m) as well as get to know one another. This was accomplished by taking part in creative activities. First, we travelled to a place called Apulaya Music where we spent the entire afternoon learning about Andean art and music. I was taught two new ways to draw: Kaninpacha and Ukupacha, which give life to inanimate objects. As well, I added another instrument (along with the French horn!) to my list of skills by mastering the Andean panpipes, something we all played at the end of the day for our final celebration.

Second, my group and I successfully completed a Via Ferrata, a form of intense rock climbing that has become quite popular in South America. This adventure required us to climb up a 400m ladder that was both vertical and horizontal. Once at the top, we took six zip lines back to the bottom, something I had never done before!

After these orientation days, we were eager to get to work and headed to a town called Kaninchimpa to begin our project. During these eight days, we were split into three local families. My host parent’s names were David and Ophelia. They had a daughter named Olga and a niece named Vanessa. They also had (get ready for this!) a dog, two cats, five cows, five chickens, a dozen lambs, three pigs, two oxen and 60 guinea pigs! Everyday, we’d wake up, feed the guinea pigs, and then walk up to the work site where we’d spend the entire day. Our goal was to build a school on top of the site since the school the children are going to now is extremely far away from their village. To build the school, we first made a solid foundation by digging and filling the holes with rocks and mud. To then build the walls, we had to make bricks (which took four to five days to dry!). This was one of the best parts of my trip as we were given welly boots and had to walk around making mud for hours. This may seem like an easy job (I sure thought it would be at first) but I can assure you it is difficult as the mud is thick and hard to pop in and out of. In fact, one day, my boot got stuck and I ended up walking right into the mud with nothing but my sock! By the end of our trip, we had built half of the school, something we were all very proud of.

Kaninchimpa was certainly my favourite part of the trip. The bond I made with my host family was truly special. Although communicating with them was quite difficult, we tried our best to interact and play with them. I would always help them with dinner, ask them for different words in Quecha and even taught them multiple card games like Uno and Spoons, which became our daily activity. As well, I realized during my stay, that this type of experience was something I knew that I wouldn’t have the chance to do again. That being said, I tried to be adventurous and take advantage of every opportunity and new thing that came my way. For example, despite my small stature, I was always offering to do mud mixing, wheel barrowing and brick carrying. Also, I tried lots of new food (even guinea pig!).

After having worked for eight days straight, we all got to reward ourselves by visiting the one and only Machu Picchu! Team Llama was out in the bus line at 4 am, however, we only started our tour at the site at 7 am. Once the tour was over, I was allowed to spend the entire day (a whole 12 hours on the site) doing whatever I wished. Although I really liked the Inca Bridge and the Sun-gate, simply being there was amazing.

So that is what I did for the first part of my trip with team Llama. The group left on the 25th and, on the 27th, my new team, team Condor, arrived in Cusco. I was with this team for half of their journey as a student leader intern. Now, you may be wondering: what exactly is a student leader intern? I, with three other students that had been with me in team Llama, redid the trip with team Condor. This time, however, we were in charge of running it.

Being a leader is scary enough but I was even more nervous to be a leader in PERU! Nonetheless, the student leaders had an entire day to prepare with our new leaders, Andrea and Freddy. Had it not been for their expert advice and confidence in us, we would not have been able to have done such a good job.

Leading team Condor taught me numerous things about myself. First of all, I was rather nervous about the prospect of leading students my age. My experience was limited to being a CIT for a bunch of 3-6 year olds last summer. Having to lead a group of people my age seemed more difficult, as I wanted them to respect me but at the same time, like me! Also, going into the trip, I did not think I’d make the same bonds with team Condor that I did with team Llama. Needless to say, I was so wrong! I connected with everyone on team Condor just as much. As well, they all felt comfortable enough to come to me for advice and questions, which I really liked.

Secondly, I am considered to be extremely organized. This was both my biggest strength and weakness going into the trip. Let me explain: sometimes, I like to plan out my entire day to the minute. This means that I do not like change. Being adaptable was therefore a strength I wanted to develop. On my day to lead, as usual, things did not go as planned. Two teammates had to go back to Cusco and some people did not have proper equipment. Handling these problems and making changes to the schedule without freaking out was a skill I definitely learned that day.

Lastly, since I had already experienced the trip before, I was considered an expert and, because of this, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. I was, once again, wrong. With team Condor, I continued to learn and experience more and more things. I did this by asking lots of questions. For example, I learned that some houses in Cusco have two bull statues on their roofs, which stand for protection. Also, at Kaninchimpa, we organized a soccer game with all the local children. That night, we played for hours with the sunset in the background, an image I will not be forgetting anytime soon.

In conclusion, the RSIS 2016 Peru trip has been, like my other Round Square experiences, absolutely incredible. Even though team Llama was great, I thought that my time as a student leader intern was the most memorable and helpful. As I go into my final year at LCC as Round Square Head, I have lots of new ideas and leadership skills that I will most definitely be using because of what I have learned in Peru. I cannot wait for the year to start! – Abby Shine ’17

Round Square: To Err on the Side of Compassion

HomelessI walked in someone’s shoes the other day. What I mean to say is that for one night, I voluntarily slept outside. For one night, I was like the homeless who more and more frequently sleep on the doorsteps of stores and churches, right here in my prosperous city. But, in truth, not really. Unlike the men and women who cannot find or who refuse to seek shelter, I was in the warmest sleeping bag my neurotic and overly protective mother could find; I slept in a quinzee which served as a perfectly adequate shelter, surrounded by friends, protected by teachers. Unlike the men and women who sleep outdoors, I haven’t been ignored, eyed malevolently or stared at contemptuously. My night spent outdoors has earned me a lot of (frankly not quite deserved) sympathy. Still, a little glitch in the zipper of my ultra warm sleeping bag meant that I shivered during the night. It was not totally pleasant, and perhaps explains why today, a few days after my winter experience, I stopped before the man seated on a threadbare blanket in the snow. He held a cardboard, with the heartbreaking words, ”hungry and cold”. I just couldn’t do otherwise. I couldn’t bear to ignore him. I gave him all the change in my wallet.

I have read enough on the issue of the homelessness to know all the arguments against giving loose change to the cold and hungry men and women in the street. I have been warned that my poor dollar would be used to buy hard drugs; that most of those who appear to be homeless are not homeless at all; that they contribute to the decline of neighborhoods, that it is best to leave their fate in the capable hands of organizations. This may be true. It is undoubtedly true, at any rate that dropping a few quarters in a cup will not solve, not even temporarily, the issue of homelessness. Except that I have no hard evidence at all the man shivering right before my eyes is a drug addict. I have no real evidence that all men and women on the streets have drug problems. I have no evidence at all the man staring at me, a little incredulously, really has a home to go to. I do not know that organizations have tried to help him. I do know that he is outside in unbearable -30 C weather, and that he is cold. I do know that not a single person, not a single one, has stopped to acknowledge him. Sherbrooke is a busy street, and there have been many pedestrians. Their steps, though, did not even falter as they passed him by. They rushed past him, without a glance, as though he did not exist at all.

I wonder when we have all become so jaded that we do not shudder when confronted with human misery. This is a man sitting before me. He deserves to be, if not helped, at least acknowledged. He deserves to be looked in the eyes. He deserves an “excuse me”, a “hello”, a nod or a smile. I wonder at the level of misery and despair, which moves a man to seek refuge in the frozen streets. My loose change might not have done much good, but it at least served to remind me, and him, that he is a human being, and he matters. If there is the least little doubt, I will choose to err on the side of compassion.

Service to others is a great Round Square ideal, and it takes a dozen different forms. It does not always have to result in accountable service hours. It does, however, every single time, start with humility and humanity. – David Elbaz ’15, Round Square Head


cmu15 0129 A51R9087Last week, Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc was forced to comment on a comprehensive report from the University of Laval that was very critical of a decade of significant educational reform here in Quebec. Quebec is not alone in attempting changes in educational approaches; these have been implemented across most of the western world in recent years. All nations have attempted to shift away from old-world priorities: memorization, drill & kill (interest), and a “one-size fits all” mentality. Today we stress more relevant 21st century skills—the nurturing of creativity, collaboration, problem solving, IT integration and resilience—so students can better navigate a rapidly changing world.

Unfortunately, after 10 years the evidence on Quebec student performance has not been impressive. In fact, in mathematics and mother-tongue French, scores have slipped, while Quebec continues to wrestle with one of the highest high school dropout rates in North America—still entrenched at a rather shocking 25%—and even higher in some regions.

Although there are clearly some serious issues in Quebec, we need not see ourselves in the same light at LCC. Here we enrich and aim higher than base standards, and that approach has actually served us very well over the past decade. Our academic results are very solid, and I continue to be impressed by both faculty innovation and student achievement.

So let me present my LCC Top Ten Joyde List.  What’s Joyde?  Well, it’s my own word. Joyde is the intersection of “joy” and “pride”. Despite the negative media portrayal of student performance, I believe there is still plenty of room for joy in learning—and pride still matters a great deal at LCC. I wander our halls a lot and see activities and initiatives from K-12  that reflect genuine Joyde.

As a testimony to the much-loved Top Ten List that is so popular in our culture, in no particular order, here are 10 examples that  is alive and well at LCC:

1.   Kindergarten

This programme is a serious “cuteathon”. Our class sizes are very small—and by November the flexible and malleable minds of our youngest students allow them to already understand and express themselves in French in a surprisingly competent way.


2.  Faculty Growth

For many years behind the scenes our teachers have worked hard at developing and enhancing specific aspects of their teaching.  This takes time, effort, thoughtful reflection and collaboration. Most recently this has been further enhanced by the introduction of the IB Diploma and IB training seminars, as well as all-faculty PLC mornings for teacher collaboration. Many impressive achievements have emerged from focused teacher reflection and collaboration.


3.  EF  – Executive Functioning & Positive Mindset

Several years ago as a result of some Faculty Growth initiatives, a group of Middle School teachers worked to develop a program in EF skill development that we could reinforce throughout Middle School and beyond. It begins with an understanding of “metacognition” —how to learn best—and development of a positive mindset so students can be resilient and overcome obstacles in learning. Now, twice a year an EF Report Card goes home to Middle School students/parents. This is very helpful in making learning more meaningful.


4.  Committed & Service-oriented Staff

Non-teaching staff are key to student success at LCC.  We try hard to hire for attitude in addition to skills.  From our front reception to our nurses, part-time coaches, to maintenance and security staff, these are positive and committed people who make a positive difference in students’ lives every day. Whether clearing the snow, welcoming students when late, helping to coordinate pizza lunches, mopping up bloody noses, and repairing our facilities, these roles are critical for success in our learning community.


5.  STEM Engagement & IT Integration

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math.  It’s an area where North Americans fear we are falling behind compared to challengers in Asia and parts of Europe. LCC Teachers respond with cool science labs, robotics, real-world math initiatives, Grade 9 CSI day, IB science & math. Our teachers are energetic and creative. From the Junior School Science Exploratorium to the Senior Schools classes, labs, and workrooms, our talented science, math & IT teachers do not tolerate anything less than excellence in STEM.


6.  Internationalism & Global Perspectives

As a Round Square & IB school, we are firmly committed to opening students’ eyes to the world and helping them embrace “the other”, people culturally different from themselves. Whether it’s specific courses, international exchanges, international students, service projects, Duke of Edinburgh leadership activities, or the connectivity of our digitally-connected classrooms, LCC students have more meaningful opportunities to learn about the world than any school in this city.


7.  Co-Curricular integration:  Athletics, Arts, Leadership, Service (Non Nobis Solum)

Athletics, plays, bands, leadership and service opportunities are too numerous to mention. But these activities bind students together, help them gain skills, grow and emerge as young adults. These are often the most engaging and memorable experiences of our students’ high school years.


8.   Bilinguisme

Ici au Québec c’est esséntial de parler francais. Le Français n’est pas seulement une deuxième langue, mais c’est aussi la connaissance d’une culture. Ça peut assister nos étudiants d’etre plus ouvert à la connaissance de plusieurs cultures.


9.  LEAD  –  Learning Enrichment And Development

Our unique LEAD Team and LEAD programmes are designed to help all students be empowered as learners, and develop the skills and confidence to allow their true potential to emerge. We have learned more about learning and the brain in the past decade than in all prior history. Today we are applying the research and LEAD teachers are proactively changing lives.


10.   Volunteerism  (Parents, Alumni, Community)

Much of what we do well at LCC is well supported by parent and alumni volunteers who help with special events, staff our Board and Board committees. They also offer generous philanthropic support that has helped to build our outstanding campus and finance bursaries and scholarships that provide for so many unique opportunities.


So I am genuinely sorry Mr. Bolduc has problems on his hands with the broad state of education in Quebec.  But here at LCC we take nothing for granted and “joyde”—both joy and pride combined —are alive and well.  All things considered, we should be very proud. —Chris Shannon, Headmaster



Middle School Pride: Concert at Grace Dart

2014_15_MS_CommServ_Grace_Dart_018Samedi 24 janvier des étudiants du Middle School sont allés donner un concert dans une maison pour personnes agées. Un grand merci à Andrew Fata et M. Cox pour avoir supervisé le contenu du spectacle.


It was wonderful to see the expression on the elders faces. This experience reminded me of how wonderful it is to work with senior citizens. – Andrew Vandenbussche ’19

Samedi dernier, nous avons eu la chance de participer à un petit concert au Centre de soins prolongés pour personnes âgés de la résidence Grace Dart. Nous étions septs étudiants du Middle School, et nous pensons que nous avons bien joué. C’était une bonne expérience car nous avons vu comment les personnes très agées vivent. J’espère que notre concert a été bien apprécié par les résidents et que nous leur avons donné un peu de joie avec notre musique. – Anthony Fata ’18 et Andrew Fata ’19.


Grateful to be a Round Square Student

I am often asked, with just a hint of suspicion, “What is Round Square?” Quite simply, it is the sum of six ideals, internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service, which, added one to another, equal a philosophy of learning. Those six goals, each important in and by themselves, are bound together to form an integral whole that we call Round Square.

It is a great source of pride to me that these six ideals are so intricately woven in the LCC fabric, so much a part of the LCC student’s daily vocabulary that the six ideals are not so much applied as lived. Community service, the daily exposure to environmental or international issues, or participation in leadership activities are the common lot of all LCC students – much like homework, part and parcel of student life.

This no doubt explains why I am so often asked, “What is Round Square?” Round Square activities are not notable for the LCC student, exposed right from the start to the Round Square philosophy of learning. Round Square activities are quite simply and naturally part of life.

The most spectacular of Round Square activities are perhaps the international exchanges which give LCC students the chance to live for a couple of extraordinary months, the ordinary life of the Peruvian, South African, Australian, Indian or French student. These exchanges often begin with a burst of, until then unsuspected, patriotic pride. There are friendly patriotic tug of wars, where differences are highlighted. By the end of these exchanges, differences between cultures are dismissed as trivial, and there is the profound realization that for all the geographic differences, which, to all appearances, cause abysses between cultures and nations, we are all one humanity. This is a Round Square lesson.

Twice a year, there are Round Square or CAIS conferences for Middle School and Senior School students. LCC students travel, sometimes to far and exotic places, other times to more familiar destinations, to exchange, with other Round Square students, ideas about international or environmental issues. Open dialogue and finding ways of integrating leadership into everyday life is another Round Square lesson.

And then, there are all the other activities, no less important and very much a huge part of Round Square life. These include, but are not limited to, all the community service activities and the environment-oriented activities. The environment committee’s tireless efforts to educate on environmental issues proved effective: all six LCC students sent to Jordan had the urge to turn off the water sprinklers irrigating, all day and all night, the beautiful school campus. That we are all locally responsible for the global good of the earth is a third Round Square lesson.

The Coat Drive to benefit the Share The Warmth organization is a great example of the way LCC students live Round Square ideals. The drive, undertaken enthusiastically, if quietly, was a great success.

A Round Square student is a Round Square person for life. I am a Round Square student, and I, for one, couldn’t be more grateful. – David Elbaz ’15, Round Square Head