Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School celebrated the opening of a 65,000 square foot expansion Tuesday morning.

Elementary school students paraded into the new facility and enjoyed exploring the bright, open spaces for the first time.

Dr. Bill Jones, STS head of school, says the Kindergarten to Grade 6 facility was designed to support the school's emphasis on active learning and is the result of extensive research and planning.

"It's also based on a lot of things that we've learned through environmental psychology," Jones says. "For example, that natural light is important for learning and for good health and for wellness. Alot of school buildings, unfortunately, were never designed with the notion of bringing in a lot of natural light. They're fluorescent-lit or darker kinds of spaces. So, that's one of the concepts you see in here, a lot of natural light, a lot of open space."

According to the school, the expansion has been designed to reflect the beauty of the school's natural surroundings, with high ceilings, open spaces, and glass walls. Building materials include Rundlestone, wood and charcoal metal.

The $24-million facility was funded entirely by donations from parents, alumni and friends of the school. Groundbreaking for the project took place in June of 2016 and construction was completed in December 2017. In addition to the K-6 learning spaces, the expansion also features a new fine arts facility for the school.

Jones describes the vision for the new facility as "bold and non-traditional."

"Students learn when they're actively engaged in their learning and teachers perform best when they have a variety of different kinds of spaces to use instead of one square box, which was designed to have them standing at the front," he explains. "So you can see in these spaces they're very open, teachers have small break-out rooms, large classroom spaces, big open spaces to really be able to do a wide range of learning activities."

STS Elementary School Principal Sharon Gibson explains that the expansion features the concept of learning communities. That includes learning studios, learning suites and learning commons, as well as da Vinci studios for work on special projects.

It's all designed to connect the school community and encourage collaboration to personalize and optimize learning for the students.

"I'm extremely proud of the fact that we have really worked hard to build a learning community," Gibson says. "A learning community is more than really just the space in which the learning occurs, but it's the space that's allowed us to have the connection between students, teachers, parents and community members to help children learn in different ways, from different people and in spaces that will really allow different opportunities."

And the concept of connecting the school community sounded great to Grade 4 student Elizabeth Jones, who was impressed after seeing the new facility for the first time and says she's looking forward to sharing the new learning space with the other Grade 4 class.

"I think it's really exciting that we get to move into a new facility," she says. "It's so new and light, and I am really looking forward to learning in this space."

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