Recent renovations improve grade seven wing

A group of grade six students examine items under a microscope

Over the past summer, major renovations took place in the grade seven wing at St. George’s Junior School. These included newly designed classrooms with a variety of modernized furniture. Widely referred to as the “Grade Seven Neighbourhood,” the brand-new corridor consists of a couple classrooms, a science lab, and a fairly open common area, which is very popular among students. Additionally, each classroom is given a name based on different neighbourhoods in Vancouver – Jericho, Granville etc.

Along with St. George’s, an education consultant from Fielding Nair International helped to direct and advise the plans for the project, and will continue to provide insight for how to improve it even further.

This past Tuesday, The Creed (TC) had the chance to interview Mr. Stephen Sturgeon (SS), Junior School Vice Principal, on more specific information regarding the renovations:

TC: Was this done over the summer?

SS: Yes; the plan has been quite a while in the works. Last January, we asked teachers to give proposals to see which area of the school would be renovated. The grade seven proposal [had] a large impact on a large number of boys. So, that proposal was selected, and then we went through a whole series of meetings to figure out what it should look like, what it should not look like; then the boys left [on] the twelfth of June and the construction started [on] the thirteenth of June…it wasn’t really completely finished by the time we (faculty/staff) came back to school, but by Wednesday, when the boys arrived, we had desks in every room; there was a lot of work involved in a short amount of time.

TC: You mentioned there was a survey that went out; what was the motivation to renovate the school?

SS: The motivation was to create more flexibility in the teaching environments, so that there are areas where the teacher can be standing up at the front of the class, giving a lecture-style lesson, but then the boys can go off and find their own niche for working. This also changed the classroom furniture. Last year, we had a whole bunch of new furniture back at the school [and] we put it all in one room, and I did a series of surveys asking the boys which learning environment they worked in best…every week the boys would have to choose another place to sit. So if [a student] was sitting at a desk with a wobbly chair, then [the next week] he would have to sit at a table without a wobbly chair…just to see if different environments affected their learning. What we came up with [was] that there wasn’t one size fits all, that we need to have a variety of learning [styles] in each one of the rooms, and the boys can choose which one [they want].

TC: And so far, you’ve seen positive results?

SS: Yes, very much so. Aesthetically, it’s quite pleasing. We’re just now teaching the boys how to work in a common area.

Shortly before interviewing Mr. Sturgeon, I asked a grade seven class (student by student) on their opinions of the new Neighbourhood. Nearly all of the students responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” Some mentioned how they enjoyed the new furniture – cube seats and bean bag chairs seemed to be some of the favourites. The science lab also appeared to be quite innovative, with drop-down style electrical outlets that easily retract back towards the ceiling where they can remain out of the way yet close to the tables.

However, there is still room for improvement. One main concern that was expressed by the grade sevens was the need for better air-conditioning. According to one student, “It gets really hot in here, and there’s nothing to cool it down [in the classrooms].” As we are getting into the colder months of the year, this may not be a huge concern for the school at the moment, but rather something to think about for the spring.

Another minor concern is the distance from the Neighbourhood to the nearest water fountain. Currently, students must walk down to the other end of the floor, which can get both tiring and inconvenient. This could be a more manageable fix in the near future than air-conditioning, so perhaps we might see a new water fountain coming soon.

Nonetheless, the new class space is definitely an improvement to the school, and many aspects of the “boy-centred learning” vision of St. George’s comes through in the new area. We can expect to see higher levels of learning for years to come in the Junior School, but for now, let’s wish the grade sevens of 2013-2014 all the best in being the first class to reside at the newly developed Neighbourhood.