Students from St. Henry Catholic School along with the CNE mascot with this year’s design for the CNE Kids Pass. Photo courtesy Tran Nguyen, Centric PR

Scarborough class designs CNE pass

  • June 15, 2024

Few iconic summer traditions unite Toronto kids with excitement as much as the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) does each year. 

Through a partnership between the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the CNE, students from a local Catholic school will help create that shared excitement. 

The Grade 6/7 class at St. Henry’s Catholic School in Scarborough has been working on a new and unique design for the annual CNE School Kids Pass, which is distributed to more than 600,000 youth across the GTA with their final report cards each year. 

While the pass grants elementary students 13 and under free CNE admission for the fair running Aug. 16 through Sept. 4, it now also serves as a physical symbol of the class's appreciation for Toronto, adding to both the allure and community sentiment of the pass.

St. Henry was chosen for project as the TCDSB was awarded the rights to design the 2024 CNE School Pass as part of the CNE's initiative to engage local school boards. When Vicki McRae, the board’s Arts Resource Teacher, was contacted by the CNE, she immediately knew which class to recommend. 

“Earlier in January, we had done a special independent pilot project where with the help of an instructor, my students used iPads to learn how to use an app known as Procreate,” said St. Henry's Grade 6/7 teacher Patricia Pingitore. “Because of our success in that project and the student's creativity and artistic talent, Vicki offered us the opportunity to which we happily accepted.”

The students were first tasked with answering a question that although straightforward, holds various individual answers — "What does Toronto mean to you?’"

“That first question posed to us got all of us thinking about how great the cultural diversity is in the city of Toronto and the GTA. I have a class with quite a few newcomers, including three new students from all across the world and although they spoke very little English, by working in groups those students were able to draw on each other and learn more about what Toronto meant to them,” said Pingitore. 

Following in-class research about the history of Toronto and the CNE as Canada's largest annual fair, students sketched out cultural elements of the city. With the help of McCrae's daughter Julia, a professional graphic artist, the 28 students began crafting their distinctive designs. 

“As for the designs that were drawn up by the kids, food came up repeatedly, they recognized the experience of travelling to the CNE through transportation like the GO Transit, the overall greenery of parts of Toronto. They were all really excited throughout the whole project and they put a lot of work into it,” said St. Henry's principal Karen Wagner. 

Beyond the artistic element of the project, staff were thrilled to see real-world practices such as having each team of kids collaborate on revisions, edits and executive decisions. 

Six finalist designs were left in the hands of the class to vote on, with the final design of the school pass featuring artwork of the CN Tower, a Canada goose, a TTC streetcar and CNE’s Sky Ride among other symbols reflecting what Toronto and the CNE mean to the students.

On May 24, the CNE and the TCDSB held a celebratory school assembly to unveil the final design of the pass to the entire student body. 

“When we were sitting there in the gym and waiting for the reveal, the kids were saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening.’ It goes to show that excitement that they had to be connected to a real learning experience,” said Pingitore.

“The Grade 6/7 class didn't expect to be honoured the way they were but we made a big deal about them being our artists-in-residence. They were all just so proud of themselves,” added Wagner. 

“Our school communities look forward every summer to attending the CNE which provides great family-friendly experiences. This year is even more special thanks to the participation of students from St. Henry Catholic School who designed the amazing artwork on the 2024 School Kids Pass, showcasing their talent and creativity,” said Dr. Brendan Browne, TCDSB director of education.

Having afforded upwards of 30 million kids free admission since the program began in 1920, this year’s CNE School Kids Pass is expected to be distributed in more than 1,500 elementary schools across the GTA this month — an event that in and of itself kickstarts the excitement around the CNE.

“Receiving the CNE School Passes in report card envelopes has become just as much a rite of passage for generations of families as the excitement of looking forward to waffle ice cream sandwiches, Midway rides and watching the SuperDogs at the CNE every year,” said Darrell Brown, CEO of the CNE.  “More recently, we started to offer digital school passes that could be downloaded from our website; however, there’s a nostalgic element of bringing home CNE passes at the end of the school year that brings joy to kids and parents alike.”

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