Take my word for it. Our new school addition will never get old. Until you have a chance to see for yourselves, you will just have to trust me on this one! When the shovel broke ground in the summer of 2019, it was hard to imagine how our campus could begin to evolve in ways that would permanently impact the classroom experience of our students and teachers. And yet here we are. During even the busiest times of the day (arrival and dismissal), the impact of dozens of students going about their business is quieter, calmer, smoother, and more efficient. Our early days back at school are showing that the newest “member of our faculty” – the third teacher – is a wonderful addition to “the team”.
The connection between classroom design and learning outcomes is more than simple conjecture. Recent scientific research backs this up. A 2015 study published in the journal Building and Environment found that changing some core elements of classroom design can increase student learning outcomes by 16 percent. According to the study, factors such as air quality, lighting and students’ sense of ownership of their classroom all affected the students’ ability to learn.
We have big dreams for your child in our school’s new learning environment. The concept of architectural environment as a participant in the educational experience is not novel. Thoughtful educators have always known that properly-designed spaces open up possibilities for students: possibilities to engage the environment with their peers and to respond to thoughtful decisions made by their teachers. The right kind of design enables the teachers to render the environment a living space that actively participates in the learning process with their students. When I survey how our teachers are already experimenting, I am very encouraged.
In addition, our new facility is simply a pleasant place to be – for kids and grown-ups. This will make a huge difference as we navigate the school year. Gone are the low-slung ceilings, boxy rooms, and harsh lighting of outdated double-barreled portables with sagging floorboards. Instead, our students have the benefits of natural daylight and a feeling of lofty freshness all around them (to say nothing of the air circulation and mechanical systems that are just, well, a huge relief!).
Our “third teacher” is also showing promise in other ways – overall student comportment. When school spaces are adequate, thoughtfully-designed, beautiful, and inspiring, it is reflected in the conduct and bearing of the people within. Our students are appreciating this long-overdue upgrade to their learning environment and it shows.
What’s the caveat in all of this? Is our “third teacher” curtailed in any way? Of course our commitment to public health requirements mean that we are not currently able to organize everything and structure our classrooms exactly as we want. Physical distancing and daily interactions require us to find other paths until such time as we can fully utilize all of the flexible-use furniture and classroom seating we’d envisioned, but that day will surely come. And when it does, our vision will be fully realized!
In the meantime, our creativity and cooperation inspires us to capitalize on our greatest asset – the students themselves.
I have been in a lot of new school facilities during my career, but our Matthews Hall “third teacher” is truly my favourite and the most unique!
We are very fortunate indeed.