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Central Public School Unveils Renovated Learning Commons

People stand at podium with certificate

Caption: Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis, Director Brenda Blancher, Principal Joe Atanas, and Chair Greg Anderson

“When I found out this project was going forward, I actually cried,” said Barb Guest, Secretary at Central Public School in Brantford, with a beaming smile during the grand opening of the school’s recently renovated learning commons on May 6. “The difference is like night and day – it’s such an incredible transformation into an inspiring and welcoming space, and everyone just loves coming in here.”

As Central’s secretary for the past 15 years, Guest knows the work that went on behind the scenes and the tireless advocacy for and by the school’s community to make it all happen. Part of a Community Hub project – the first child and youth hub in the city – the learning commons will serve the wider neighbourhood, animating the space before, after, and during schools hours with programming, events, and activities. Among the oldest elementary schools in Grand Erie, Central has seen various renovations and improvements over the decades. None, however, has transformed the physical space in a way that supports 21st century student learning quite like the adaptation of its library into a modern learning commons.

A woman is instructed by a young student using Makey-Makey technology

Caption: Director Blancher gets some help with Makey Makey technology from student Kobe

“Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan includes Environment, and that means ensuring that spaces meet current teaching and learning needs,” said Director of Education Brenda Blancher during the opening ceremony. “This is a very current space that welcomes students to explore and engage, and ultimately to find success.”

Blancher enjoyed a guided tour of the new space thanks to Grade 5 students Kobe, Owen, Keegan, Denise, and Claire, each of whom helped guests get hands-on with the various tech-forward features it has to offer. The inviting space features a Lego wall, a green screen, a whiteboard with a video screen and projector, and different types of seating and tables that can accommodate various instruction as well as group and individual activities. There are spaces to hide out when a student needs some quiet time to read. There are also places to interact and be creative as they work with Ozobots and Makey Makeys, playing with coding to create music or get a robot to whirl around.

“It’s hard not to feel inspired when you come into this room,” said Joe Atanas, Principal at Central. “It represents opportunity: the opportunity to create, to collaborate, to be a critical thinker.”

A community connection helped get the project off the ground when Dr. Leo Vos, a local retired dentist who runs a breakfast program with the Kiwanis Club at Central, learned that school staff and administration were putting the wheels in motion to make the learning commons a reality. To help make it happen sooner, Vos came through with a generous donation.

Two students use a green screen

Caption: Students Denise and Claire demonstrate the new green screen

“My practice was in downtown Brantford for 28 years, and I know how difficult it can be to raise funds to get these projects started,” Vos said. “This is something that will serve the community, and it’s something we can all take pride in.”

The opening ceremony also welcomed Chair Greg Anderson, Trustees Carol Ann Sloat, Rita Collver and Eva Dixon as well as Superintendents Raf Wyszynski, Liana Thompson, Linda De Vos, and Dave Abbey. Mayor Kevin Davis and members of the city’s recreation team were also onsite for the event. The space was designed with the input of students, teaching, library, and information technology staff, Facility Services, and administration.

Another pillar of Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan includes Technology, so it was important that teachers were empowered to use the technological features of the new learning commons to drive student achievement. Grand Erie’s Ed Tech team visited the school to get them using the green screen and Microbits, and allowed them to put themselves in their students’ shoes as learners.

“Technology invites active problem solving and exploration, and mistakes are part of the process,” said Jason Hall, Teacher Consultant, Information Technology. “The teaching staff at Central demonstrated the same resiliency in their own learning that’s evident in their students.”

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