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Road trip to other OACS schools a valuable PD experience

Written on January 10th, 2012

Huron Christian School principal Nick Geleynse and three teachers took a road trip to four fellow Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) member schools to discover how the schools are effectively using building space.

The trip was an “incredible” professional development opportunity, says Geleynse, noting other schools may want to consider trying something similar.

Huron Christian School is looking at how to use its space more effectively given some possibilities in the future, such as full-time kindergarten and the removal of a portable currently used for the band program.

Geleynse struck an ad-hoc committee with staff members at the Clinton school to provide information to a property committee mandated to review current facilities.

The question popped to his mind about what other schools are doing with their space, and the idea to visit several other schools during a school day to find out was formed.

He knew a couple schools within driving distance — Halton Hills Christian School in Georgetown and Guelph Community Christian School — are in the process of either renovating or moving completely.

Cambridge Christian School is in the middle of a building project and Laurentian Hills Christian School in Kitchener completed a project a couple years ago.

Visits to the four schools were arranged, and the principals were all “extremely accommodating” says Geleynse, noting the support the schools had for their visit was encouraging.

Prior to the Nov. 23 trip, Geleynse sent each school a list of 10 areas they wanted to focus on including the administrative areas, kindergarten areas, library space and the use of technology.

“Any teacher would love to be poking around another school during the school day and we were able to do that in four different schools and walk into classrooms and wander around the building and ask questions,” he says.

“It was fascinating to see how schools plan their building.”

Geleynse says it was clear the schools had considered what the program is they want to deliver, what the school will look like down the road and how to build or renovate to accommodate that.

Schools are recognizing that education is moving into a collaborative learning and project-based learning approach and creating spaces for that to happen, he says. For example, there may be special rooms created for that type of learning or classrooms that have both desks and tables. Schools are creating flexible learning spaces, multi-purpose spaces that have moveable walls for different size classrooms.

In building projects, schools are recognizing their role as learning communities, he says. Lobby areas, for example, are intentionally created so people can walk into the school and visit with one another.

Geleynse says they were surprised to find the schools are intentional about keeping their libraries as a quiet place to read books and for a learning space.

He says it is obvious people are planning for technology to play a large role in teaching and learning. Many are working with mobile labs, which frees up the space of a designated computer lab.

Coming out of the day, Geleynse says the ad-hoc team plans to pass their observations and thoughts onto the property committee who will be putting together a plan.

Geleynse says there is a lot happening in OACS schools, and while events provide a way to share ideas, visiting in person allows you to see the ideas and passion in action.

“When you actually are experiencing (something) in somebody else’s building then you realize that you are not alone doing this thing called Christian education, and it’s alive and well,” he says.

“If more schools could just wander around and visit each other it’s a great professional development activity and a great way to share ideas.”