Waterford District High School Unveils New Learning Commons

From left to right, Eliza Thomas (WDHS student), Rob Malcolm (Principal, WDHS), Director of Education Brenda Blancher, Superintendent Dave Abbey, Trustee Rita Collver, Chair Greg Anderson, Trustee Carol Ann Sloat, Trustee John Harris, Superintendent Denise Martins

“Dark” and “dingy” seemed to be the most popular adjectives to describe Waterford District High School’s old library. But not anymore. At an event last Friday (October 12), staff, students, and Trustees unveiled the transformed Learning Commons, a modern, innovative space to handle current teaching and learning needs.

“It was cramped, lacked natural light, and had old shag carpets,” recalled Rob Malcolm, Principal of Waterford District High School, who was part of the team that evolved the space. “We had former students visit the school for Commencement last week, and they remarked that the new Learning Commons looks like the facilities at the universities and colleges they now attend.”

Indeed, the new Learning Commons is meant to help students prepare for further education and the workplace by fostering collaboration, presentation, and digital learning.

Need a quiet place to work? It can accommodate that, too.

The design thinking that went into the Commons was four years in the works, and included consultation with students to determine what they wanted and needed in a learning space.

“I’m taking online courses in Indigenous Studies and International Law, so the Learning Commons is a perfect spot to meet up with other students studying the same thing,” said Eliza Thomas, who’s in Grade 12, and spoke at the unveiling. “The booths are definitely my favourite feature; they’re hard-wired so you can charge your phone while you work with other people.”

The booths are reminiscent of a diner, and provide perfect capabilities for face-to-face discussion and group work. The modern feature of being able to charge your devices simultaneously is one of many tech-forward elements.

The Commons is made up of differentiated spaces demarcated by low shelving which keeps an open-concept feeling while allowing for privacy. The addition of large windows facing the school’s courtyard allows stimulating natural light to pour into the space. There’s a green room for shooting photo and video content, presentation spaces, quiet-study areas, and comfortable furniture that encourages students to make use of the Commons any time of day. If students need help with research, are looking for a book recommendation, or working on tech project, a teacher or library technician is standing by to assist.

Having fun and learning about the green room's capabilities

Transforming learning environments to ensure they are making the best use of space within schools is a key element of Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan. Projects such as Waterford’s Learning Commons’ renovation improve environmental conservation and energy, while creating a safe, welcoming space that allows the traditional library model to evolve to meet 21-century competencies.

“It took forward thinking to make the Learning Commons what it is,” remarked Brenda Blancher, Director of Education, addressing the group that gathered for the unveiling. “This is where innovation, teamwork, and inquiry-based learning – the transferrable skills needed for today’s workplaces – can happen.”

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