Extreme Classroom Makeover: Collingwood edition

What do marshmallows, string and spaghetti have in common? They are tools to encourage creativity, collaboration and innovation. Mrs. Thomson’s business studies class at Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) embodied this philosophy as a new, state-of-the-art classroom was unveiled on June 2.

Students were the lucky recipient of a brand new classroom, thanks to the Extreme Classroom Makeover Contest by Staples Business Advantage. The business studies class entered the contest, describing their school’s need to fill a bare bones classroom with furniture and accessories with the hopes of having it made into a collaborative learning environment to inspire creativity for continuous learning.

Staples Business Advantage, along with their vendor partners, made this vision a reality. They filled the classroom with everything from new desks and chairs, to school supplies and the latest learning accessories, amounting to $20,000 in new equipment and furniture.

“This room will be well used by thousands of students over the years to come,” said CCI Principal Charlene Scime in her welcome speech to students. “We intend this space to belong to all classes here at our school to facilitate student curiosity, dialogue, exploration of ideas and deep learning.”

“Physical spaces inspire how we learn and this room embodies 21st century learning,” said Donna Thomson, CCI Teacher. “Students had a vision for this room, and Staples Business Advantage made this happen. This room will facilitate inspiration and passion while developing cooperation, interaction and problem-solving skills in our students.”

It was truly magical to see the students’ reactions as they saw their new classroom for the first time. They were eagerly checking out the dry erase writing surfaces, adjustable furniture, emoji Post-It notepads, homemade ‘goop’ and more.

The students have dubbed this room “The Think Tank.” It will be used by various classes at CCI and also local Grade 8 elementary school classes for years to come as a place for students to create, think, innovate and collaborate.

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A big thank you the following people involved in the project:

  • Staples Business Advantage: Amanda Wedgewood, Marketing Specialist; Margaret Blake, Vice President of Merchandising and Purchasing; Scott D’Cunha, Vice President of Marketing, eCommerce & Communications; Mike Morris, Account Manager; and the entire Staples Business Advantage Team who selected CCI among the contest entries
  • Staples Business Advantage vendors, including Post-it, Scotch Brand, Safco, Ergotron, and Newell Office Products and their representatives for providing products and supplies
  • Chad Gilchrist and Garry Pattenden of Missed a Spot Painting, who donated the materials, time and expertise to put a fresh coat of paint on the classroom walls
  • Mr. Will Vancise, Art Teacher at CCI, who worked with Donna’s students to prepare the artwork for the new classroom
  • CCI Custodian Caron Giles, who helped prepare the room, and to Regional Operations Supervisor Jason Clatsoff who helped install the student art
  • Tim Newton of the Small Business Enterprise Centre and Brandon Houston, CEO of Switch Video, for sharing their time and entrepreneurial talent to mentor Thomson’s students throughout the semester
  • Mrs. Thomson and her students, who put in the heart and hard work to enter their school in the contest

Why I love my job

buttonI recently attended a workshops in our board entitled ‘You had me at Hello’. It was a wonderful session led by Alison LaMantia, Manager of Communications at the board.

One of the key aspects of the presentation was the importance of storytelling. Learners remember significantly more of what they hear when it is framed within a context from a story.

As I sat down, I noticed that on our tables, were buttons. One set of buttons stated: Ask Me Why I Love My Job

I was inspired to answer this question by considering some of the stories of my own practice in education.

As the workshop continued, I was able to think about how the 6 Cs play a role in my practice. The 6 Cs from Michael Fullan are:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Citizenship
  • Character

Each of the 6 Cs play significant roles in our classrooms and learning environments. They contribute to the success of all learners, and connect quite well to the concept of our ‘Sphere of Influence’. 

Sphere of influenceEducators make key decisions based on the factors that we have influence over as well as factors that are out of our realm of control.

If we can clearly identify realistic variables that have a positive influence within our realm of control, we can harness greater outcomes for our students. When I thought about this, I couldn’t help but feel the significance of our ability to influence the lives of our students. What we do on a daily basis DOES matter! I realized that when we can identify the ways we can positively influence our students, we can harness a great deal of power to help everyone learn and grow together in so many positive ways.

It inspired me to think about the importance of creating shared visions and understandings. If we can come to a shared understanding within our learning environments about what the 6 Cs mean to our situations, then we will be more likely to identify realistic goals and take steps to meet those goals based on our own learning needs.

This works to set the framework for success, but with enough flexibility for the kind of creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship and character that we need to inspire and innovate with learners and educators alike.

And this is why I love my job!  Why do you love your job?