All posts by info

Formal Program Evaluation Now Available for Review

Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Beyond Classrooms Kingston was able to conduct a year-long program evaluation in 2016-17.  Queen’s University – Faculty of Education’s Dr. Chris DeLuca and his Classroom Assessment Group were contracted to undertake this major study.  We are delighted to share the Executive Summary here.

The full version of the report may be found here.

Retired Teachers – still supporting students!

Thanks to the generosity of the Retired Teachers of Ontario – DISTRICT 20, Frontenac Lennox & Addington, Beyond Classrooms Kingston has a new digital projector. Funded through the RTO’s Service to Others grant program, the projector represents a useful – and badly needed – presentation tool for Beyond Classrooms programming. Ann Blake, Chair of Beyond Classrooms Kingston, commented that it was encouraging to receive RTO funding support, as it augments the participation of RTO members’ work as program volunteers. “Teachers may be officially retired, but it’s great to see them volunteering and supporting students in their quest for knowledge.”

Civic Engagement Debate: should skateboards be allowed in bike lanes?

See a great video on student engagement at City Hall here! Recently, Simon Pottery’s Grade 5 class from Molly Brant PS researched and debated whether skateboards should be allowed in bike lanes.  With encouragement from Councilors Jim Neill and Mary Rita Holland, the students developed a petition which was presented to Council.  City Staff are now considering their proposal. They may not be old enough to vote, but our students learned that you’re never too young to make a difference.

Program promotes active minds


Kingston Whig Standard; Wednesday, July 6, 2016 3:58:15 EDT PM

Kingston teachers and their students have it good. Beyond Classrooms Kingston is here to help them get their very own “night at the museum” experience — a chance to take over one of the city’s museums and galleries.

Ann Blake, the acting chair of the organization’s board of directors, relaxes into a thoughtful discussion with program co-ordinator Karla Tynski at the Museum of Health Care at Kingston earlier this spring. As they talk, it becomes clear that BCK offers more than a “night at the museum” kind of adventure.

BCK offers a week at the museum adventure. Blake and Tynski facilitate extended field trips for teachers who want to take students for five consecutive days to an area museum. They match teachers with a Kingston museum. They support the teacher in developing the lessons and activities for the week. But, the teacher stays in the “driver’s seat.” He or she chooses the “Big Ideas” to guide the inquiries. The students come day after day, to touch, think, talk, feel, explore and record their observations in journals. They go home “exhausted,” as Blake observes.

Since 2014, Beyond Classrooms has opened the door of five Kingston museums for 21 area teachers and 525 students. The intense immersion experience bonds them to all of the students across Canada who have had a chance to learn according to the principles of the “Open Minds” program pioneered in Calgary in the early 1990s.

Five whole days devoted to one topic — geology, the history of health and medicine, local government — is daunting for teachers and students. The museums, too, can be nervous about hosting a classroom for such an extended period of time, Blake observes. But, Beyond Classrooms Kingston makes sure it works.

The immersion experience is just what they are after, because Beyond Classrooms supports a particular kind of learning: it gives students the chance to slow down and let curiosity be their guide.

Each weeklong visit becomes a much-needed vacation from the daily grind of school. It works sort of like the escapade of fictional Claudia and Jamie Kincaid (a bossy older sister and a financially-savvy younger brother), who run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. In this 1968, Newbery Award winning book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, the kids rebel against the order of their everyday lives.

They hide overnight in the museum, sleeping in a bed alleged to be the scene of a terrible murder once took place. They bath in the fountain. After a week, they succeed in making the museum their home, while unwonted mystery grabs their attention.

Today, the challenge of promoting inquisitive, active minds in our young people has come of age. As Blake explains, the role of the teacher has changed in the 21st century. Their primary role is no longer to dispense information — students are inundated with knowledge. The new role for the teacher is to get students to process all the information around them, and to question it. The goal is to create thinkers and problem solvers.

Beyond Classrooms helps teachers help students reach down further and further, to ask deeper and deeper questions.

The length of the experience promoted by Beyond Classroom Kingston, Blake explains, holds the key to helping the students reach these depths of thinking. Coming back day after day to the museum allows the teacher and the students, to “really see what is there.”

They get more comfortable in the museum. It starts to feel familiar, and students take ownership of their new classroom. Blake observers, “Wednesday” is our “tuneup day,” when we remind the students that they are in a public place.

As comfort and familiarity increase, the students start to think independently. Karla explains that one of the program’s goals is to “empower” the students and the teachers. The students are encouraged to question the experts.

After a week in April 2016 at the Miller Museum of Geology with curator Mark Badham, the Grade 4/5 students of Archbishop O’Sullivan Catholic School and their teacher, Susan Byrne-Ottenhoff, Tynski observed that the “more we learned, the more we wondered.”

The questions just proliferated. Which is what Beyond Classroom likes to see. It means the students are slowing down, to look under the surface of things. First, the students saw the campus, then the stone from which it is built, then the fossils within the stone, a record of the earth’s ages.

Down, down, down, closer and closer, the students train their attention. You can see a video record of this trip posted at BCK’s website.

At the Museum of Health Care in May 2016, the students of Selby Public School and their teacher, Andrea Putnam, also looked deeper and closer and longer. Their teacher gave them a tool with which to think, Tynski says: a metaphor.

Begin with a “rake” or surface-level question. What is that? What is a gas mask? Why do the gas masks from different counties look different? They exchanged the rake, for “shovel” questions. “Is that why the war turned out the way it did, because one country had better gas masks?” the students ask. Blake laughs: “There was some discussion about whether the country with the better gas mask won the war.”

The teacher and the museum curators, Blake and Tynski, do not always have the answer. Answers are not that important here. Posing the question matters most, and bolstering curiosity.

The Kincaid children discovered that, too, when they solved their New York mystery. The answer turns out not to be as important as the adventure.

Keeping the students’ focus on “inquiry” rather than “facts” is key. Blake says “it keeps curiosity open. It will help us build the knowledge workers that our community wants.”

The Kincaid siblings grow up a little when they realize that solving the mystery — rather than the solution — gave them a sense of their distinctive, special Claudianess and Jamieness of their selves. They gained an independent place in the world, which will help them take good care of it as they grow older.

At Kingston’s Museum of Health Care, the members of the visiting class do not climb into the nurse’s bed that is on display, as do fictional Claudia and Jamie Kincaid.

But they climb into the 19th-century nurse’s world view, curious about what life was like for her. They let their curiosity guide them to a deep, empathetic appreciation of the human condition. A sense of difference between themselves and the nurse who once “lived” in this room develops. Thinking about her life lets them put their finger on the distinctiveness of their lives. They find their own place in the world. And the bridge of their empathy for the rigours of her life create the bonds of the community.

Sarah Gibson lives in Kingston.


Out-of-school experience

By Michael Lea, Kingston Whig-Standard

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:54:01 EDT PM

Ann Blake, at her home in Kingston, Ont. on Monday, March 28, 2016, brought the Beyond Classrooms program to Kingston. It takes children out of school and lets them study in a museum, historic site or other community location for a week. Michael Lea The Whig-Standard Postmedia Network

Two years since it debuted in Kingston, a nationwide educational program that takes schoolchildren out of their classrooms and lets them study for a week in museums and in other historic and community sites is continuing to expand.

Beyond Classrooms, which started in Calgary in 1993, will add more locations in Kingston this coming school year where children can be immersed in a brand-new learning environment.

It was brought to the city by Ann Blake, the former director of the Kingston Association of Museums, Galleries and Historic Sites.

Beyond Classrooms was founded by Calgary teacher Gillian Kydd, who convinced the Calgary Zoo to set up a classroom on site for some Grade 3 students for a week.

She initially called it Open Minds and saw the program as a way of turning field trips into a more efficient way of helping children learn.

On a normal day-long field trip, she had explained, kids are so wired for the first few hours there is little chance of them settling down enough to learn anything. But if you take them to the same place over an entire week, that initial excitement wears off and they can actually start to take in whatever the teacher is telling them.

The program also took the instructional portion away from the sites’ staff and left it in the hands of the students’ own teachers, who could tailor what their students are learning to their existing studies.

It soon spread to other museums in Calgary before being picked up by schools in Edmonton. Twelve sites in each city, including museums, nature centres, recreation centres and city hall, were soon hosting classes.

Now, more than 50 cities in Canada have adopted the program and more than 200,000 schoolchildren are involved each year.

In Kingston, it started out at the Miller Museum of Geology on the Queen’s University campus back in March 2014 with a Grade 3-4 class from Central Public School spending the week.

Ann Blake, working with then-volunteer co-ordinator Linda Lamoureux, added the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes and City Hall as classroom sites.

Even more sites are being added for next year.

Nine classes went to four sites this year while 13 will go to eight sites next year.

The Museum of Health Care has signed up to host Beyond Classrooms for two weeks.

Potential sites are Bellevue House and the Communications and Electronics Museum at Canadian Forces Base Kingston.

“It’s looking very positive. They are certainly interested in going forward with it,” Blake said.

The Frontenac County School Museum in Barriefield is also on board.

“The sky’s the limit when you start looking at where can kids learn.”

Blake had first learned about Open Minds (now Beyond Classrooms) when she was working at a museum in London, Ont., and introduced it as a pilot program there. She had worked in a classroom earlier in her career and immediately saw the benefit of the program.

“It was the most enriching, the most remarkable experience I had as a museum programmer,” she recalled. “You saw those two worlds really come together.”

That memory stayed with Blake when she came here.

“When I moved to Kingston back in 2006, I thought Kingston would be perfect for this program.”

As a museum staffer, she was looking at it from a museum perspective, figuring out if it could be of benefit to the city’s cultural sites.

“I knew, as a museum manager, that the benefit that was there to the museum is that it helps create that audience that they are losing. The kids aren’t coming, the students aren’t coming to the same degree any more as they used to be. And it’s a real shame because we have got this enormous amount of content. Unless you have got a really aggressive museum staff that understands they have got to move with the times, what happens is museums are getting less and less relevant.”

Blake said there is little point building up a great collection in a museum if no one is coming in and looking at it.

It is important to look for opportunities to better promote local museums and help them interact with the public, she said.

“From my perspective, it was the school population [where] I wanted to try and restore some of that contact that was being lost.”

The program allows teachers to take a brand-new approach when it comes to studying at each site.

The focus is on asking questions.

Two teachers going to the same location can approach it in completely different ways, Blake explained.

For example, a teacher at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre last year explored what makes Canadian art unique from other countries’ art, while another teacher who will be going to the centre later this spring will have his students look at the how each artist expressed himself or herself in their work.

A key component of the program is its hands-on aspect, weaning the kids off the ubiquitous computer.

“One of the real strengths of the program is that everybody journals,” Blake explained.

The students are given paper and pens and asked to write what they are seeing, thinking and doing in a journal each day.

“That act of writing, we know, has such strong links for learning,” she said. “That physical act of writing is different than using a keyboard.”

Blake, who is now retired and is the board chair of Beyond Classrooms Kingston, which is now registered as a charity, took over as acting co-ordinator when Linda Lamoureux left for a new job.

A Trillium grant allowed them to hire a co-ordinator to replace Lamoureux.

Karla Tynski, a former teacher in Barrie, started in February.


City Hall of Learning

City Hall of learning

By Michael Lea, Kingston Whig-Standard

Thursday, October 20, 2016 8:14:59 EDT PM


Centennial Public School teacher Skot Caldwell works with students, from left, Eh K’lu, Haadi Jalaud, Trinity Fairman, Addison Rawcliffe and Peyton Vanalstyne in the royalty hall in the basement of city hall in Kingston on Thursday. They were in the building for a week as part of the Beyond Classrooms program. (Michael Lea/The Whig-Standard)

A week spent immersed in the history and culture of a city museum, art gallery or historic site can energize students with an invigorated desire to soak up as much knowledge as they can.

They wander through the building and find something new in every corner, letting their curiosity lead them to new discoveries and new questions they want answered. It is a unique way of learning that causes more conventional teaching methods to pale before it.

But what happens at the end of the week when they return to their classrooms and must revert to their usual way of learning?

Since 2014, students in Kingston have been taking part in the Beyond Classrooms initiative, where entire classes spend a full week at places such as the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the Miller Museum of Geology or the former Marine Museum of the Great Lakes.

Teachers have raved about the initiative and how their students thrived in the out-of-class environment. But all have to figure out how to keep that experience going when they get back to school.

Skot Caldwell will be faced with that challenge on Monday after taking the 24 students in his Grade 5 class from Centennial Public School to City Hall this week as part of the Beyond Classrooms program.

“It’s a good question,” Caldwell said. “I think in some ways we all will be glad to be back. This has been hard work for all of us, to sustain this big focus for a long time.”

But he felt the week at City Hall “raises the bar” in a way that is going to challenge him to maintain that level of inspiration, to create opportunities back in school that generate a similar level of enthusiasm.

Caldwell already does as much as he can in class to keep things interesting, such as recently holding a mock parliament.

“I bring lots of people into my class if I can. We will go on lots more field trips this year. I think it is really important,” he said.

He believes the Beyond Classrooms week will prompt a move into more independent projects for the kids.

They will be asked what issues in society they feel should be changed and, thanks to their time at City Hall, now have some insights into how to make it happen, who they should contact to get things done.

“It’s about, hopefully, them feeling empowered that they can use their voice and make something happen,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell first heard about Beyond Classrooms when a fellow teacher, who had taken his own class to a museum, “raved about it.”

“He really encouraged me to have a go.”

Caldwell applied to have his class take part and was accepted.

“I had some idea of what it would be like because we had some training in the summer,” he said.

But it isn’t a program where you show up with your students and promptly turn them over to the host facility’s staff, he explained.

The teachers work closely with Beyond Classrooms to develop the week’s curriculum. Regular meetings are held to decide what the goal of the experience should be and how it could be achieved.

In the case of his students’ time in City Hall, he wants them to learn about the role of local government in the lives of the citizens.

“For me, it then stretches into how can we be involved, how do we have a voice?” Caldwell said.

Government is already in the curriculum of the Grade 5 students, but he wants them to come away from the week with a sense that they can actually participate in the process without waiting until they are old enough to vote.

“Voting is really not the only way to participate,” he said. “I want them to see they have a voice now in their world. I think it is really important.”

Bringing them right to City Hall, the seat of that government locally, provides a chance to experience it first-hand.

“I think experiential learning is always deeper,” he said. “And this is an interesting experiment into really digging into something for a long time. The longer we stay, the deeper they go in their questions.”

You can learn about government in the classroom, but that can be “a bit surface-level” or abstract, Caldwell said.

But to actually meet the people involved is invaluable.

On Monday, they had a detailed tour of the building, digging into the history of it. They asked why it is so important and how it came to be.

On Tuesday, they met with city councillors Liz Schell and Jim Neill in council chambers and got to sit in the horseshoe and ask questions.

“It was just fabulous. They were really welcoming and just great with the kids. It is just really motivating for them,” Caldwell said.

He said the students “are just so interested in how things work and how are laws made and what it’s like” in government.

“At this age, they are starting to see the world. They are starting to come out of childhood a little bit and they want to participate. They are really curious about what adults are up to,” Caldwell said.

On Wednesday, they heard a presentation from Utilities Kingston about water conservation and how a municipal government takes care of its resources.

“They were astonished to discover where their sewage goes,” Caldwell said. “They clearly had no idea.”

The students also broke into groups during the week to check out the different departments in the building, including the licensing and parking offices as well as the city clerk.

As they went, they kept journals of what they saw, one of the key components of Beyond Classrooms.

“They write lots. They are really motivated by the experience,” Caldwell said.

On Thursday, they learned more about how government works, and they were scheduled on Friday to be back in council chambers to play the role of councillors. They were to debate a proposal that the city ban the sale of bottled water.

It’s not just the students who learn during the week, Caldwell said.

He has learned a lot about the building itself as well as the different roles the people inside it play in government.

“But I am really learning lots about teaching. It has given me lots to think about each day.”

He has a teacher candidate from Queen’s University working with him.

“We are reflecting about this process, about how we might do things differently if I was to do it again, and what other opportunities there are,” Caldwell said.

Mike Lacey’s intrepid art sleuths from Rideau Heights PS, move their classroom to the Agnes for a week.

(For Immediate Release)
31 March 2016 – How do we make art which expresses our thoughts and feelings? What tools does the artist use to communicate with his audience? Does art influence us? Mike Lacey’s Grade 5 class from Rideau Heights Public School will spend a week in pursuit of answers to these questions with Beyond Classrooms Kingston, at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, April 4th to 8th.
Queen’s Professor of Drama Greg Wanless will help the students make their own physical connection to artist’s models captured in oils almost four hundred years ago. What do their poses and postures tell us about them? What do they tell us about the artist and his relationship with his subject?
So many questions! And they continue: can an artist create a work of art that tells a story, describes a condition, or explains a culture? Can a painting convince us of injustice? Make us laugh or weep? Thanks to their five days of concentrated study, and input from content experts such as Greg Wanless and Agnes’ staff, Mr. Lacey’s Grade 5’s will not only learn to ‘read’ the art works, they’ll also learn how to think critically about the messages, points of view and ideas, that artists
express in their work.
They’ll record their observations and thoughts in their journals throughout the week, and, they’ll probably generate a few more questions during their stay.
Funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Beyond Classrooms Kingston moves classes of elementary students and their teachers into community spaces. Beyond Classrooms programming for 2015-16 will be drawing to a close soon, but we’re already planning for September. Teachers can find applications for next year’s programming weeks at The deadline for applications is April 22nd.
In the meantime, follow the adventures of Mr. Lacey and his student detectives on Facebook and Twitter – both accessible through the Beyond Classrooms Kingston website.
For further information, or to book interview and video/photo opportunities please contact Ann Blake at

Beyond Classrooms Kingston Program Coordinator Appointed

For Immediate Release
The Kingston Association of Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Sites, and Beyond Classrooms Kingston, are pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Karla Tynski as Program Coordinator for Beyond Classrooms, effective 3rd of February, 2016.
Ms Tynski is a certified K-8 teacher, who most recently worked for the Simcoe County District School Board. She is a graduate of the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, and St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB.

In addition to her teaching experience in Canada, Ms Tynski also taught in South Korea and China. She gained additional experience in a non-traditional teaching environment through developing educational content and software, for a technology firm specializing in experiential learning.
Beyond Classrooms Kingston Board President Ann Blake, welcomed Ms Tynski as the program’s first paid employee. “We are delighted to have Karla join us, and look forward to the opportunity to solidify and expand our program. We are grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for Grow grant funding which makes this position possible.”
Ms Tynski will be based at the Kingston Association of Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Sites’ office, Sydenham Street United Church Hall. In addition to assuming responsibility for delivering the four remaining weeks of programming in April and May, Karla will begin planning for the 2016-17 school year. Teacher applications are
expected to be available in mid April.
For further information, please contact Ann Blake at, or at 613 483-1924. Ms Tynski may be reached at, and at 613 484-1874. Information about the Beyond Classrooms Kingston program is available on their website: