By Daria Maystruk
At Connaught Public School in Hintonburg, new furniture and technology represents a new chapter in student learning.
The school unveiled a new learning commons on Sept. 28 that updates their library from a darker and cramped space into an open-concept learning centre. Some of the new additions include modular chairs and tables, white boards, digital book options and a future plan for greenscreens.
Principal Kimberly Simpson said the commons aims to foster collaborative learning in students to suit their educational needs.
“It goes hand in hand with the way that we want kids to be engaged in a makerspace,” she said. “[We are] using a space that’s traditionally been used just to house books in a more creative way. Students can use it to create and use it to collaborate with one another.”
The Connaught Learning Commons Project is a result of $40,000 in fundraising, thanks to community partners, parents and staff.
Karen Owen-Whitred, a parent of one of the Connaught students, said it was nice to see the final result come to life after years of fundraising.
“Hopefully it makes them just really love coming to the library and hanging out here and reading,” she said.
Allison Maclachlan, who has two kids who attend the school, said she felt “almost more excited than they are.”
Teachers Vanessa Maxwell and Lisa Cesario, alongside educational assistants Catherine Mullin and Renee O’Donnell, said they are excited to use the space to its fullest potential in the coming years. They work with students with a variety of different needs.
“Some have mobility needs, some have needs within their learning where they have to move in order to self-regulate, and so I think this space is conducive to having that flexibility and those options for all the different learning styles,” Maxwell said.
O’Donnell said libraries such as these are especially effective as open and welcoming spaces for students where they can feel included and be excited to learn.
“I think particularly for our students and for our population of students with disabilities and autism, libraries in our community are great places for parents to go,” Cesario said. “They’re also practicing their social skills in the community so having a library like this where they can go and practice the skills here to then generalize out in the community, it’s a great opportunity.”
The teachers and educational assistants said they encourage other schools to update their libraries if possible.
Simpson said she recommends schools to take staffing into consideration in addition to students’ needs before installing new updates.
“We want to make sure we have teacher champions to go with each of the things that we’re thinking of,” Simpson said. “If you’ve got something like a 3D printer, but you didn’t have the staff to support that, then that’s not a good choice. It always has to go hand in hand with the students and the staff that you have in the building.”
Zoe Lomer, vice-chair of the Connaught student council, said she hopes the learning centre will have a lifetime effect on the students.
“We hadn’t updated that space for a few decades, and it really needed it,” she said. “If you have that curiosity, if you have that ongoing interest in life to be a lifelong learner, that’s something that’s going to benefit you forever. I think that the new space with this fresh look and its new technology is going to help inspire that lifetime love of learning.”