Regina Public Schools
Structural innovation initiative and 10-year renewal plan
What 21st century learning looks like.
Described as some of the most structural and pedagogically innovative learning facilities in Canada, Douglas Park School, Arcola Community School, and Seven Stones Community School within Regina Public Schools (RPS) are paving the way for educational excellence nationwide.
The three new schools are designed to nurture and engage Creative Age learners and support RPS's Stuctural Innovation Initiative.
"We hadn't built a school in Regina for more than 12 years," explains Ron Christie, General Manager, Educational Facilities, RPS. "A lot had changed. Nobody was really familiar with what the best practices were. We knew our student achievement rates had not been moving. We knew that students were not engaged with their learning and that our dropouts were not improving. So we knew that we had to do things differently."
Best practices and design partners in learning
To kick off the project, Fielding Nair International (FNI), planner and design architect for the new schools, held an interactive presentation on "Design for the Creative Age" to share global best practices in learning and design principles for the 21st century educational environments. This laid the foundation for visioning workshops in which students, teachers, parents, and RPS leaders shared their thoughts through discussions and a "carousel" activity where attendees moved around the room, posting their ideas and discussing other people's ideas.
Another key benchmark for each community included Design Pattern workshops. Tables of eight students, teachers, and parents then developed their own key patterns from two perpectives.
"The first approach was from the inside out, relating to the individual learner's perspective," says Randall Fielding, Founding Partner and Principal-in-Charge, FNI. "The second part involved design patterns from the outside in, relating to the neighborhoods, climate, and individual site opportunities and constraints."
A more student-focused environment
During all of these best practice and design pattern workshops, it came through loud and clear that everyone was ready to move away from a lot of isolated classrooms and corridors to a more flexible and varied model. "The schools incorporated seven design principles that everyone agreed are essential for successful student engagement and outcomes," says Christie. These principles are: flexible teaching arrangements and instructional grouping; teacher collaboration; interdisciplinary project-based, and inquiry-based teaching and learning; inclusive practices, safe and secure personal learning communities; a stimulus- and technology-rich environment; and integrated environmental design and curriculum.
Because Personal Learning Communities support diverse learning activities simultaneously student presentations, teacher lectures, project-based learning, small group learning, individual research, and a technology-based learning the Furniture Selection Committee opted for a versatile assortment of VS furniture.
"What VS offered us was the ultimate in flexibility," explains Christie. "The classroom is just a box, and the most important thing you put into it is the furniture. If we didn't have the right furniture, we were never going to achieve any of our seven principles, especially the primary one of flexible teaching arrangements."
"VS furniture," says Fielding, "perfectly matches the architecture by providing a broad variety of ergonomic products to support all the multiple learning modalities. They are built to last with thoughtful detailing. As designers we feel confident that VS furnishings will still function well many years into the future."
Recognizing that if teachers couldn't easily change the furniture around to suit different learning activities, they wouldn't, the Furniture Selection Committee chose an array of VS moble tables.
FlipTables have roomy and easy-to-clean six-foot tops. When extra room is needed, the tops tilt up via a quick-release mechanism for compact, nested storage.
"Everybody in our school division wants the FlipTables. They love them because they make achieving flexible arrangements effortless," says Christie.
The LiteTables are also popular. Extraordinarily strong and durable, they are light enough that students can quickly move them together for small group learning activities or stack them up and out of the way for large group events.
RondoLift sit-stand tables let students choose between sitting and standing throughout the school day, which encourages healthy movement. They're easy and safe for even younger students to use, lifting and lowering effortlessly via a built-in gas spring with release lever.
Additionally, the commitee selected height-adjustable Uno-M Step and Ergo-III tables for student desks.
Teacher's use MyCaddy stand-at modules that they can roll from learning activity to learning activity throughout the day.
Value in Movement
When it comes to seating, PantoSwing-LuPo and PantoMove-LuPo chairs are used everywhere. Both promote movement and changes in posture which research shows has a positive effect on student learning.
"Growing bodies have a natural need to move," explains Dr. Dieter Breithecker, Europe's formeost expert on the relationship between ergonomic design in educational furniture and the physical development of school children. "Increased opportunities to move while seated improve blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thereby increasing attention and concentration levels."
"Dr. Breithecker came in several times to talk to us about ergonomics and the value in movement and how it balances mind, body, and soul," says Christie.
Additionally, primary grade teachers have PantoMove-VF KiGa swivel chairs with special height-range adjustment. The KiGa model is designed specifically for use in pre-K through 2 learning environments and has an exceptionally wide range of stepless height adjustment from adult seat height all the way down to children's height level.
"The teachers can't get enough of the Hokki stools. They are far superior to anything that's out there. Every teacher who sees them wants them," enthused Christie. "And the kids just love sitting on them."