Greenwood College School’s big makeover

Several additions, some currently underway, will double school's size


Greenwood College School is planning something big — really big.

In September 2016 the Davisville private school will more than double in size by officially opening a new expansion — the culmination of a strategic plan stretching back to 2011.

A three-storey facility that will be connected to the school’s original building, which was constructed in 2002, the new addition will boast a new performing arts theatre, three science labs, a new gymnasium with retractable seating, a digital media area, and new music and visual arts studios, among other features.

“As a school, a big part of our mission is the development of the whole person,” Greenwood principal Allan Hardy explains. “And so a big attractive feature has been the fact that kids come here and participate in pretty well anything that they want.”

To that end, Hardy says the school took a piercing look at how it could support students from multiple angles before designing the expansion, careful to avoid narrowing its focus to any one approach. Giving students the opportunity to socialize and challenge themselves became as integral to the expansion as providing top-notch educational facilities.

And so necessary upgrades such as a new gymnasium to accommodate the school’s growing physical education program were augmented with support facilities including a new fitness centre. The new building’s green roof will include an outdoor classroom and terrace.

“[The second gymnasium and fitness centre] will enable us to not only run more phys ed and health classes, but also to have more practices for teams and more opportunities for kids to be physically active,” Hardy says. “The social spaces will offer different kinds of socializing.

“I think it will allow them to make a seamless transition from the postsecondary into the workplace environment, which is becoming increasingly more collaborative and self-directed,” he adds.

Another key element of Greenwood’s new facilities will be the multiple “breakout rooms” that students will be encouraged to use for a range of classes, including science, math, visual arts, music, and film.

The music classrooms, for instance, will not only include a soundproofed studio, but soundproofed breakout rooms, where students can divide themselves into smaller ensembles and practice in groups, says Greenwood arts coordinator Lisa West.

“You won’t have the same kind of noise bleed that you’d get in a classroom where everybody’s trying to rehearse at once,” she says. “The kids can actually hear themselves when rehearsing their smaller ensembles, then come together again in the main studio to perform as a group.”

For budding filmmakers, the new digital media lab will include a set of Macintosh computers with industry-standard software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Photoshop — plus separate breakout rooms for the editing process.

The new visual art facilities will include two studios — one dry, one wet — plus a separate “fabrication” room for fashion classes, all with ample storage space.

“Right now the kids are working on top of each other as we make the transition in,” West says. “I think these new spaces will really support our ability to provide a much more personalized program for the students.”

Finally, the new theatre was specially designed for easy access, so that loading and unloading materials will become much more convenient, West says. Aspiring technicians will be able to adjust the new lighting system using a professional lighting board, and during productions, it will seat an audience of around 140.

“It will be nice for the kids to be able to stand on the stage when presenting a monologue,” West says. “Standing on a stage presenting to your classmates, who are sitting in an audience, has a much different feel compared to a classroom.”

As for more traditionally academic classes such as math, Greenwood’s new addition will emphasize the idea of “flexible space,” its rooms often incorporating cutting-edge technology in a subtle way, says Jonathan Tepper, Greenwood’s executive director of information and learning technology.

“In the past, if space was being used, you noticed it being used, and if it wasn’t being used, you’d see technology not being used.”

Flexible spaces, by contrast, “can be configured for different needs and different types of learning,” he says.

For example, many lessons will simply require students to quietly work on tablet computers, and the addition’s new classrooms and breakout rooms will simply serve as a quiet, collaborative study space for students and teachers alike.

But many rooms will also include projectors that students will be able to connect wirelessly to their tablet computers, projecting their work onto just about any wall in the building with a swipe of their finger, Tepper says.

“A student can say, ‘I’m here, and I need you to look at this work,’ and wherever the teacher’s located and wherever the students are located, there’s this fluid ability to pull what a student’s working on from one screen to another,” Tepper says. “At the same time the teacher can, with a press of a button, pull that work up to the front and share it with everyone else.”

At least, they’ll be able to in 2016.

It would seem that for the staff and students at Greenwood College School, next September cannot arrive soon enough.

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Posted: Oct 28 2015 1:30 pm
Filed in: Education  NEWS
Edition: Toronto