With September here, one group of Toronto residents is ready to kick off the school year at the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) latest school addition. The Grove Community School is Canada’s first public elementary school oriented to future activists.
Co-founded by York alumna Kim Fry (BES Spec. Hons. ’99), the Grove Community School is an alternative school focused on social justice, environmentalism, community activism, diversity and equity, peacemaking and cooperative learning, as well as local community building. The public school, which opened its doors this month to anyone residing in the City of Toronto, will offer junior kindergarten to Grade 3 in its first year, adding a grade each year until Grade 6.
Right: Kim Fry
As with all new ventures, this one started with a good idea and persevered with the hard work and dedication of an organizing committee of progressive west-end parents. Among that group of parents was Fry. Now, she says, her undergraduate thesis supervisor, York Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Leesa Fawcett will be sitting on the advisory committee for the school.
Fry is no stranger to the ecological sustainability and the socially just community activism that distinguishes the Grove Community School among other elementary schools in Toronto. As a student in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, Fry developed her leadership skills as a student representative of the Faculty council and by helping to organize the Maloca Community Garden and Counter Culture student clubs. Upon graduation, she leveraged these skills to land a position as a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, while continuing to remain in contact with her professors and colleagues from environmental studies.
"These contacts have proven invaluable both as a source of knowledge and support throughout the whole process of working as a committee and developing the mission, vision and curriculum for this school," says Fry. No other TDSB school, alternative or mainstream, seeks "to fuse robust environmentalism and action-oriented equity education." Indeed, there is currently no school in Canada with this stated mission – a mission that has proven to be extraordinarily appealing to progressive parents and educators.
Similar to the learning environment Fry experienced in environmental studies, the Grove Community School will strive to be an engaging place for children, where they will benefit from many opportunities to help direct their learning and shape their learning environments. The Grove Community School will help students grow as active, ethical and responsible community members while they develop through extensive experiential learning opportunities based in the local community.