Full STEAM Ahead: Shaping 21st Century Learners at BVG

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The threads of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) are woven through every grade at Bayview Glen School (BVG), inside and outside the classroom, starting in Junior Kindergarten. 

Focused five-year-olds, hunched over laptops in the Lower School Library is a common sight.  
It’s part of STEM Learning class, foundational to 21st century learning skills development. 
 
“The idea with STEM learning is to create engaged users of technology,” says Jason Meingarten ‘08, STEM and Health and Physical Education Teacher who has been a BVG faculty member since 2015. He teaches 16 classes in the Lower School.  

Jason Meingarten ‘08, STEM teacher at Bayview Glen teaches computer skills starting in Junior Kindergarten.

“We start by building a foundation of computer skills, coding and robotics skills — not so much specific coding languages — but the basic concepts required to be successful in programming,” he says. “From Grade 1 through 5, it’s just building on that year after year. The projects become more complex.”  

At the same time, students learn other critical skills like problem-solving, making predictions, taking risks, using technology responsibly – and how they, as individuals, think.  

“As part of the Visual Art course as early as Grade 1, students use creative thinking, flexibility and grit to create, revise, design and produce artwork and inventions,” says Robin Elliott ‘91, Visual Arts teacher, citing projects including building a water filtration system (Grade 2), an endangered animal project (Grade 4), and bridge design (Grade 7) as current examples of “intentional connections” teachers across grade levels strive to make to integrate STEAM learning. 

Faculty like Robin Elliott ’91 Visual Arts teacher at Bayview Glen, look for ways to integrate STEAM learning across disciplines.

An alumna, Elliott has taught at BVG for more than 25 years. She believes the school has a novel approach to STEAM education. “Students are provided the tools to facilitate innovation through parent volunteers, guest speakers, and professional collaborators,” she says, sharing another current example — Grade 7’s liaising with staff from the Canadian Space Agency.  

Inquiry-based thinking is further nurtured in SK when Problem-Based Learning (PBL), a teaching method where students are given real-world problems to solve, begins. 

Learning to code enters the curriculum in Grade 1 through to 3, setting the stage for 3D design exploration, creating websites, building and programming robots by the end of Grade 5. 

During the first year of Prep School (Grade 6), STEAM instruction dives deeper, in part, via Information and Communication Technology (ICT) class. 

Laura Gleeson, Technology Integration Specialist teacher with her class in the Robotics Lab.

“Before 2014, there was no designated technology class or program for Grades 6 to 8,” says Laura Gleeson, Technology Integration Specialist, ICT and Geography teacher. “I had the pleasure of both designing this by creating cross-curricular connections to other subjects and developing technology-based curriculum such as design thinking, 3D printing, coding and digital citizenship.” 
 
Photography, photoshop, engineering, graphic design and animation elements are taught in ICT in Grade 7, paving the way for even greater discovery. “Students create their own start-up companies and explore entrepreneurialism,” continues Gleeson, who has a Master’s in Education specializing in Educational Technology. “They create and build a product and pitch it to the class with a business model.”

Throughout the Preschool, Lower School and Prep School years, music and visual arts are curriculum mainstays. These, coupled with varied Clubs and Activities opportunities, reinforce and complement classroom learning. 

Robotics clubs are one such example.  

Mehernosh (Nosh) Pestonji is Robotics Co-ordinator in the Upper School. He, along with Noeen Kashif, a First Robotics Competition (FRC) Specialist, co-moderate senior robotics clubs, guiding students through practice and competitions. 

“Essentially, they have to build and design a robot from scratch, fabricate, go through all the engineering processes in about four to six weeks. Then there’s the competition,” he says.

Mehernosh (Nosh) Pestonji and Noeen Kashif, co-moderate the First Robotics Competition club at Bayview Glen School.

Pestonji was hired at BVG in 2017 to offer students in the Upper School specific instruction in FRC robotics. “They have to not only imagine a part, they have to design and manufacture it. And then that part has to fit on the robot, and there are hundreds of parts.”  
 
Prior to joining BVG, Pestonji taught in public and private schools for more than 30 years. 

“The robots are much larger, 125 pounds, made out of aluminum,” he continues, adding most kids who sign up for the club are new to the experience. “We started with a team of 60, now we’ve cut it down to about 40. There are no tryouts per se, they self- select. We teach them everything. They cross-pollinate and learn from each other, so self-mentoring.” 

He says robotics exemplifies the importance of interdisciplinary learning. 

“They are bringing all their theoretical knowledge and learnings to apply them in a practical way,” he says. “The key is it’s not just coding, because physics plays a big part, chemistry too. Then you have kids who are just really good with their hands. There are kids who don’t know the tools — how to use a hammer, a screwdriver, how to use pliers. There is a real learning curve there.” 

Collaboration and building skills, additional by-products of STEAM, are tested rigorously in the upper high school years.  

“Grade 12 Computer Science allows students to obtain real experience they can use on their resume if they wanted to obtain a job in the summer or for Co-op,” says Kevin Deslauriers, Computer Science and Physics teacher in the Upper School. “They learn how to become more independent in their learning as the course focuses on developing web applications along with HTML, CSS, JavaScript as well as other technologies in order to reach their final goal of building a web application that can be hosted in the cloud.”

Kevin Deslauriers, teaches Computer Science and Physics in the Upper School

Deslauriers draws on the example of Jacqueline Fung, a 2022 BVG graduate he previously taught, to illustrate impact. 

Fung secured a summer placement at RBC while still a BVG student. 

“There were 1300+ applicants for 21 spots, and I was lucky enough to be one of the chosen candidates,” Fung shared in a letter about her journey. “My programming experience is primarily all from Bayview Glen’s ICS [Introduction to Computer Science] courses. When applying, I had to submit my GitHub link, which is essentially an online profile with a programmer’s past projects. On my GitHub, I had my past projects from my ICS courses. [These] allowed me to build my portfolio and prepared me to have the skills to be a full-stack developer,” says Fung, who is currently a student in the University of Waterloo in Systems Design Engineering. “I still have much to learn, but it was very valuable to me especially as I am currently in a co-op program at university. These courses allowed me to kick-start my career.” 

Back in the Lower School, faculty across various disciplines like Jason Meingarten, are mindful of continually evolving STEAM instruction, in the younger years, to align with trends and to serve as a strong foundation.  

“With 21st century learners, which is how we classify this cohort of kids, they come in with a lot of technology skills,” says Meingarten. “A lot of them at younger ages really have exposure on tablets, so PC skills, which is something we need them to have heading into the Prep School, aren’t necessarily strong. I have noticed, specifically in the past three years, that the skills that they’re coming in with — having been in front of computers so much more than in the past — they are certainly at a higher level.” 

Full STEAM ahead indeed. 

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Helping Hands Unite: BVG Community Gives for 20th Year 

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Halima Mubaligh, Program Manager of Better Beginnings Now with Leah Kanary, Lower School teacher and BVG lead coordinator of the annual community outreach campaign.

“The impact is great. There is no other word to explain it.” 

Halima Mubaligh sums up Bayview Glen School’s annual effort to support children, parents and families in need in a word — but there is so much more. 

“A huge difference bringing a smile to the faces of these families.” says the Program Manager of Better Beginnings Now. “We had families with tears, receiving these and opening them — that someone is here thinking of them — especially during this time.” 

This past holiday season, Bayview Glen was the only school in Toronto to help the Better Beginnings Now Campaign of Kindness initiative — through a gift card collection and customized hampers filled to the brim.  

“The saying, ‘From our family to yours’ truly becomes more than just words at this time,” says Dina Astrella, Head of the Prep School. 

It marked BVG’s 20th consecutive year of participating in the program.

Prep School Better Beginnings Now student team.

 “We work with the poor, disadvantaged, high risk, new to the country, single parents, families with special needs,” says Mubaligh, who experienced first-hand the hardship of being a newcomer to Canada. 

“The success of our program is because we are there to support them, to listen to their concerns, give them direction and connect them to the resources that help them.”  
 
The need for services provided by Better Beginnings Now “tripled” in 2022 over the previous year, says Mubaligh. 

“Families are really going through so much stress. The rent went so high, cost of living is really high, and that’s why definitely there’s an impact on their mental health.” 

Better Beginnings Now is among several programs offered through Lumenus Community Services, an agency providing multiple services for free, including treatment programs, counselling and walk-in clinics. Funded by Toronto Public Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the organization serves more than 6,000 families across Toronto. 

The process of organizing, filling and delivering hampers to Better Beginnings Now families takes months of detailed planning by several groups. It all kicks off when school starts in September. 

“We coordinate from this end, in terms of preparing [family] profiles and looking into the needs of the clients that we provide services to,” says Mubaligh. “We have so many clients, over 1,000 — but we can only do 70 — the most high-needs, the ones that are regularly using food banks, clothing banks and have a lot of financial stressors.” 

Subsequent meetings between BVG school leads and program staff help assign family profiles to specific classrooms in the Lower School, Prep School and Upper School, identify which items need to be purchased, quantities, sizes, etc., coordinate collection, pick-up, and delivery. 

Along the way, multiple members of the whole school community become directly involved — from students and school staff — who are also assigned family profiles — to parent volunteers and the Parent Association.

Ping DiMenna has been involved in multiple Better Beginnings campaigns during her 17 years as a parent at Bayview Glen. 

“I am a parent volunteer helping to sort and pack gift donations to the families,” says DiMenna, who has four children, including three who have graduated from BVG, and one currently in the Upper School. “Better Beginnings involves the whole student population, so it becomes a tradition of giving each year as they progress through the grades. The students can see the donated gift items which makes their contributions more meaningful and personal,” she says.

Current BVG parent, Ping DiMenna, was among several parent volunteers who helped organize and fill hampers based on family profiles. 

In past years and led by members of the Better Beginnings Prep School team, students and staff would deliver hampers directly to the home of the family it was collected for, enabling students to witness the impact. 

The global pandemic halted that practice.  

In December 2022, a group of Prep School students — including student Community Outreach leads — along with staff helped collect all 27 hampers, load them into vehicles, and deliver them to a Lumenus locations in North York.  

“The thing that surprised me the most was the honest joy and tears the families had when we delivered the care packages,” says Amy Tsaur, Grade 8 student and Community Outreach Co-lead. “It was crazy how such small acts of kindness seem like they can change someone’s life.” 

It was the first time in her three years at BVG that Tsaur was able to participate in delivering the hampers. 

“I gained a greater understanding of the idea of philanthropy and how it can help others on a scale beyond measurement,” she says. “Going to deliver the packages and to the foodbank helped me develop a deeper connection and understanding with my community.” 

Fellow Grade 8 student, Nikan Nikkhajoei was struck by the process. 
 
“I was surprised about the manner in which we were able to collect every single item that we required for each family,” he says. “This is because it took an abundance of time, effort, and cooperation between the Heads and each Homeroom.”

The service initiative and experiential learning opportunity proved eye-opening for staff too. 

“The act of giving without expecting something in return is one of the greatest lessons we can provide our young people,” adds Dina Astrella, who was among three staff to accompany students to drop off the collected items. 

During their visit, BVG students and staff were given an overview of Lumenus, taken on a tour of the facility — which was previously a school — and even met some of the families who arrived at scheduled times to pick up their hampers. 

“We get a lot of families that are called refugees that come to Canada,” Denise Palermo, who has been with the organization for 30 years, told BVG students.

“For some perspective, if you woke up tomorrow morning and your family said we’re leaving, it’s not safe for us here now, put everything in a bag about this big that you can carry and we’ll go to the airport where it’s very chaotic, hopefully get on a plane and go to a new country. When you get here, you won’t have a home, you won’t have any money, you won’t have any access to services and you won’t understand the language, the culture and you won’t understand the systems,” Palermo continued, painting a picture of the bitter reality many of their clientele endure. 

“Often, they have to make very, very hard decisions — if I pay my rent, I will not have enough money to feed my children,” Palermo added. “All those things that you put together in those hampers are going to support those families in meeting their needs,” she says.

In all 27 bins filled, 70 families supported and more than $30,000 in gift cards collected from preschool to Grade 12. 

Leah Kanary, Lower School teacher and lead BVG staff coordinator of the initiative shared this note with colleagues following the campaign, “At a time of year where making personal, meaningful connections is so important, please know you have made a lifelong connection with the family that you helped fill a basket of love and care.”  

Community impact that will likely remain in the minds of all involved. 

“Even after all these years,” says Dina Astrella, “the Better Beginnings Campaign continues to unite our community in ways that very few other occasions do.” 

A Window on the World: Model United Nations Club Travels to New York

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The opportunity was unique on multiple fronts for members of the Model United Nations (UN) Club at Bayview Glen School (BVG).

“The club has traditionally gone on one big trip per year (usually Montreal) while attending smaller events in Toronto,” says Tom Osborne, one of two staff advisors to the club. “This year, we wanted to try something different.”

And they did just that. 

Eleven BVG students from Grade 11 accompanied by two teachers embarked on a four-day trip to New York City — home to UN headquarters, in mid-January.  

 
Their focus? Attending a Model UN Conference at Columbia University that immersed students in a simulation of the United Nations, where delegates are encouraged to develop solutions to problems via committees.  
 
The trip also included a visit to the Slovenian mission, where they had they met and interacted in-person with staff who work for the United Nations for their home country. 

“This was a unique and interesting experience that you do not get to partake in every day,” says Leela Bhide, Grade 11 student and Head of Model UN at BVG. “It taught us a lot about governance and diplomacy, which were relevant to our conference.” 

The BVG contingent also met with Slovenian ambassadors. 

“They taught us about why the United Nations is beneficial to our society and discussed Slovenia’s ideals and goals inside the General Assembly,” adds Arman Momeni, fellow Grade 11 student and Model UN club member. “Contrastingly, the representatives also educated us on some of the inequalities that plague the UN and showed us that the United Nations still has a long way to go in terms of creating an equal voice for all countries,” he says. 

Model UN is among more than 30 clubs students in the Upper School can take part in. 

“Students learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations while working on their researching, public speaking, debating and writing skills,” says Mr. Osborne, who teaches Business Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities in the Upper School. “It’s also great with critical thinking and leadership,” he says. 

“I did not know much about the club when I joined, but from hearing older peers positively reinforce it and tell me about their experiences, I thought it was something I might be interested in,” says Bhide, who is now in her second year as a club member. 
 
“The variety of topics that you get to research and learn more about [are interesting], as some of these topics are not things you would typically think about,” she says. “On this trip, I enhanced my collaboration skills and got to apply them in conference sessions — whether it was forming alliances and friendships with fellow delegates or having to help choose where to go for dinner that night with my classmates! We learned to collaborate with people from all around the world, who each have their own perspectives and experiences.” 

Interactions with fellow students was also a key highlight for Arman Momeni who described the trip as “surreal.” 

“The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet many like-minded individuals and to build powerful and lasting connections,” he says. “During committee sessions, all the students at the conference were very well-spoken, which allowed for intriguing and fruitful debates, taking the conference to another level. The most beautiful thing about meeting individuals from all over the world was that each student offered a new and insightful outlook on global issues, which opened up my perspective on the world both culturally and politically.” 

Apart from the mission, students also had a chance to explore the most populous city in the United States. 

“Our various adventures in New York City also acted as great learning opportunities,” continues Momeni. “During our visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET), our group was immersed in ancient art that went back several millennia. I used my time at The MET to explore the Iran section of the museum and learn about my country’s deep and rich culture,” he says. 

There were also walking adventures through Times Square, and a jaunt or two to Shake Shack! 

“The trip would not have been possible without our amazing teacher supervisors, Mr. Osborne and Ms. Alison Rowland,” says Momeni. “Their hard work allowed for an organized trip that was balanced with educational and recreational activities, and their support allowed us to excel during the conference.” 

For Tom Osborne, who has been involved as an advisor for three years, the interest shown by current club members has been a highlight. 
 
“I’ve been really impressed with their maturity and overall engagement in the club,” he says. “It really is a lot of work (they have to write position papers, research, etc.). It is not a passive club but is super fun. There are tons of different committees students can participate in. Some are historical, some fictional. They are all simulations. It’s really pretty cool and there is always something for everyone,” he says. 

And the impact for students continues to be felt.

“Being in Model UN has inspired me to pursue a career that pushes me to be diplomatic, collaborative, communicative, and resourceful,” says Leela Bhide. “All skills that were attained/enhanced throughout being a member of Model UN.” 

Arman Momeni agrees. 

“I encourage all Bayview Glen students to join the Model UN club if they are able to,” he says. “It is an excellent opportunity to build public speaking skills that will be beneficial to all students no matter the career path they choose.” 

Related links: 
Learn more: Clubs and Activities  


 

Political Perspectives: Federal MP Visits Lower School Students 

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Their Unit on government has already included field trip visits to City Hall and Queen’s Park, prior to the holidays. In mid-January, Grade 5 students at Bayview Glen School (BVG) had their learning further deepened by a guest speaker. 

“I always find it interesting because you always get a new question, something that you haven’t thought of before,” says Michael Coteau, Member of Parliament for Don Valley East, referring to his audience of 10- and 11-year-old students. “The ability for young people to ask questions that make you think in a different way, I always find that amazing.” 

The 40-minute presentation was focused on better understanding Canada’s parliamentary system and the value of politics.   

“His style made the content very accessible for our grade 5 students,” says Gareth Jones, Grade 5 teacher. “In return our students asked some very impressive deeper thinking questions that stretched our learning further.” 
A former school board trustee and provincial politician for more than a decade, Coteau made the leap to the federal level in 2021.

He spoke about his journey growing up in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in the Flemingdon Park area of Toronto, as part of a family of five, what made him decide to pursue politics, the impact of his job, and some of the sacrifices he has had to make over the course of his 20-year political career. 

Coteau says he speaks at more than a dozen schools every year in his riding and beyond. During his address, he also highlighted the importance of teamwork, collaboration and community. 

“The favorite part about my job is speaking to young people who still have the ability to decide which direction they want to go in in life, what jobs they want to pursue, their dreams, their hopes and being able to just share my experience hopefully taps into that larger process of intake of information and deciding where they want to go,” he says. To me, being part of that is a privilege.

A father of two daughters, Coteau has spoken to Bayview Glen students over the years on at least six occasions. 
 
“His knowledge of the history of our parliamentary system and his passion on promoting democracy tied in with our current Inquiry unit on Government,” adds Jones. “We are asking students to consider why we have people who represent us and to consider the role that we as citizens play in the formation of a democratic government,” he says. 

For his part, Coteau described being only a young boy when he started to understand the impact that being in politics could make. It planted a seed for him that has grown in different ways.

“Thousands of decisions every day that have been made [by government] impact your life, as we speak,” Coteau told students. “For example, the temperature in a school, the books you are reading, the type of carpet that can be put into a room like this, the curriculum that you’re learning, the roads you took to get here — every single thing you do, every step you take is impacted by politics.” 

He also left students with some important food for thought. 

“Don’t let politicians just make decisions for you blindly,” he says. “Pay attention to the decisions that are being made that impact your lives, every single day. If you don’t like the decision, you’ve got to use your voice.” 

Hitting all the Right Notes

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The sounds of music — holiday-style — filled the J.T.M Guest Theatre at Bayview Glen School (BVG) once again this month, for a trio of memorable shows. 

Performances by musicians and singers in the Lower School, Prep School and Upper School made a triumphant return — after a three-year forced absence. 

“For myself, concerts and performances are a place where we as a community can come together for a moment in time when everything stops as we share and celebrate with each other,” says Angela Mantie, Music Teacher at BVG and one of the music directors of the Lower School Winter Concert.

“It seems these moments are far and few between in our every busy lives. Music and the arts are a powerful vehicle for this to happen,” she says.

Lower School Winter Concert 2022

And there was plenty of evidence of just that on these special evenings. 

Mantie, along with fellow Lower School music teacher Ea-Ling Seun directed three different choirs (Grade 2, Primary and Junior) guiding the singing performances of more than 240 young voices. 

“We have the pure luxury of working with students pre-K through grade 5, supporting them as they develop and grow through music in a safe, caring environment,” says Mantie, who is in here fifth year at BVG and 26th as an educator. 

“Our shows embrace and embody our mission of Whole Child. Whole Life. Whole World. Because of this, students find their place in music making, be it acting/dancing/singing, reflecting who they are, and who they might eventually become,” she says. 

During the concert, Seun shared a teachable moment she encountered with her students — while preparing them for the performance. The goal was to help them understand the significance of their time and effort to deliver these live, in-person performances. 

“We spend more time at school than our own homes,” Seun said she explained to her students. “And this — BVG — might as well be called our home. This became a lightbulb moment for many of the students and the significance of this night became clear,” she shared. 

“Our last winter concert was in 2019,” Seun continued. “While we managed to have virtual performances during COVID to fill the time, they just weren’t the same.” 

The Lower School Winter Concert featured 11 songs, including festive-themed pieces, interspersed with performances by the Prep Jazz Band, under the direction Chris Hunsburger, Music Teacher, Arts Curriculum lead in the Prep School and Upper School. 

The finale, ‘Coming Home’ by Old Sheppard featured all three choirs on stage. 

Interest to attend the Winter Concert from Lower School families was high. To accommodate ticket requests, the Prep School gym was used as an overflow space, where parents, grandparents and extended family members of the performers were able to enjoy the show via livestream. 

BVG’s trio of Holiday Concerts kicked off in mid-December with the Upper School performance on December 8. That show featured firsts on a few fronts. Among them, it was the first time many of the students in Grades 9 to 12 had performed in a band on-stage, in front of an audience.

Upper School Holiday Concert 2022

“Their enthusiasm and willingness to try something that they, for the most part, had never experienced,” was particularly striking for Michael Bellissimo, Music Teacher, who is in his 20th year at Bayview Glen.  
 
“The way they jumped back in and performed so beautifully after two and a half years of no concerts,” was a proud moment for Bellissimo, who is currently teaching a full slate of five music classes.

The Upper School Holiday Concert featured more than 10 songs, including O’ Canada, conducted by a student-musician, a vocalist, soloists and ensemble performances. 

“It is not only re-teaching students how to perform in a concert, but also bringing a culture of music and concerts back to the school that is important,” he continues. This is the success of the entire Upper school faculty and their support for our program.” 

Preparation of the evening’s diverse musical offerings and classic holiday favourites required plenty of preparation and commitment from all involved says the seasoned educator, now in his 32nd year of teaching. 

Upper School Holiday Concert

During the Prep School Holiday Concert, which took place on December 15th, the joy of being back on-stage was palpable. 

“Ms. [Diane] Drysdale and I have had such a fantastic time in our Prep School, both in the classroom and on-stage [preparing],” Chris Hunsberger, Music teacher told the packed house.  

Upper School Holiday Concert 2022

Playing a blend of holiday-themed numbers and classics, most notably from the 1980’s the Prep School Holiday Concert featured music performed by the brass ensemble, Grade 7, Grade 8 and Concert bands. 

Added Hunsberger, “Getting ready for a show like this is an incredible experience to get back to!”  

Prep School Holiday Concert 2022

Related links: 

See Photo Galleries:  
 
Lower School Winter Concert  

Prep School Holiday Concert 

Upper School Holiday Concert 

 
Watch Video Recordings: 
 
Upper School Holiday Concert 2022 

Prep School Holiday Concert 2022 

Lower School Winter Concert 2022 

Year-Round Giving: A Family and School Community Inspired to Impact 

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Grace and her sister Madelyn, Grade 8 student at BVG display the school supplies collected from various sources.

Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. 

When it makes a meaningful, lasting difference, it can become a gift that keeps giving. 

Just ask the Cunha family. 

“Our journey started with one single, broken pencil,” says Melissa DeCaria Cunha, mother of two Bayview Glen students.

DeCaria Cunha is a Special Education and ESL teacher for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, working in what she describes as, “a very underprivileged and underserviced area of Toronto.” 

When a student asked her for an eraser “because his broken pencil didn’t have one,” DeCaria Cunha was moved to write a new story. 

That very night in September of 2020, DeCaria Cunha filled up “an entire pencil case full of gently used school supplies — ones that had been shoved in various drawers around our home,” she says. “That single broken pencil set off a lightbulb – if I could fill an entire pencil case with gently used school supplies, how many other households could do the same?” 

That act of kindness grew and so did her vision to inspire greater giving within her own home and beyond. 

“I was shocked because I thought that having something as simple as an eraser was something every student would have,” says Madelyn Cunha, Melissa’s eldest child and a Grade 8 student at BVG. “When I found out that not every student has one, it showed just how privileged we are to never have to think of these things.” 

The branches of their giving tree grew quickly after Melissa started an Instagram account and outreached to her family and friends for school supply donations. 
 
“Word spread to people I didn’t even know wanting to help,” says DeCaria Cunha. “Small businesses donated office supplies. I drove anywhere in Toronto to do a pickup!” 

The response to that original ask gave birth to Mosaic School Supplies.

And the need has only grown since that student-teacher encounter more than two years ago. 

“Many Toronto communities have been greatly affected by the pandemic,” says DeCaria Cunha. “Some families barely have enough to feed their children. On average, per student, basic school supplies (including a geometry set, scientific calculator, and binder) can cost each student $64. Having daily access to school supplies is one less purchase they have to make,” she says. 

Inspired by her mother’s efforts, Grace Cunha, a Grade 4 student, helped her family’s giving tree sprout new branches at Bayview Glen. 

“I am often surprised by the retention of knowledge and the lessons my girls learn from their weekly BVG assemblies,” says DeCaria Cunha. “It was here where Grace was inspired to do a Mosaic School Supplies drive at BVG.  She wrote a proposal to Mr. [Jesse] Denison, who immediately said yes, and had Madelyn and Grace showcase Mosaic at assembly,” she says. 

Grace Cunha is a Grade 4 student at Bayview Glen. She helped spearhead a school supply collection drive at BVG in June 2022.

“This is an initiative by students for students which I always like,” says Mr. Denison, Head of the Lower School. “It aligned nicely with the end-of-the-year purge when students clean their desks.” 

During a three-day campaign at the end of June 2022, DeCaria Cunha says BVG “students were given the opportunity to donate their supplies. Sorting supplies is a tedious process, yet every classroom teacher did the hard work for us!  When the drive was complete, BVG donated almost an entire trunk full!” 

Fiona Fenili, Head of the Upper School says, “what struck me most was the demonstration of empathy in action. Seeing an inequity and acting on it, then passing this level of personal accountability on to her two young daughters truly reflects the values of BVG.” 

The giving continues and so does the impact.  

“This past June, a family with five children was given backpacks full of school supplies, which came directly from the BVG collection,” says DeCaria Cunha. “Historically, the family puts aside money monthly to purchase supplies every August. Because of our giving, Mom was able to redirect the funds and take a three-day camping trip with her family — something she has not done since arriving in Canada 12 years ago,” she says. 

DeCaria Cunha says she regularly takes her daughters to work to witness the impact of their efforts and that of the Bayview Glen community. 

“I see how truly happy my mother gets when she tells us stories of those students who she has donated to and how they are not afraid to ask any more for the supplies they need,” says Madelyn Cunha. “I knew it was personally important to my mom, so I jumped on board and started helping out and haven’t stopped since!” 

Deeply inspired by the experience, Madelyn decided to expand her own giving roots this year at BVG, signing up as the co-head of community outreach for the Prep School student council. 
 
“I have been able to have the satisfaction and happiness of seeing someone get excited over something as simple as a pencil,” she says. Knowing that you’ve helped them even if it was a small amount.”