When you have the opportunity to design a purpose-built space to match students style of learning you jump at the chance.
That was the thought process for the founders of the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning when they first saw the open floor plan at Cedar House on Cedar Avenue, Hamilton.
The former office site was a blank canvas and the BCCL team brought community members together to transform it into a specialised learning space.
Over a two-year period, the school’s founders, Cindy Corday, Lindsey Sirju and Lisa Smart, along with the help from Vanessa Bean of OBMI Limited, and BCCL parents Tina Sjoberg of Linberg and Simmons and Lauren Grayston of CTX Design Group, worked together to design a space that would complement and enhance personalised learning that BCCL provides its students.
BCCL is a school designed for students with language-based learning differences, so the space needed to reflect their curriculum and holistic approach, which focuses on the link between social-emotional wellbeing and academic success.
A typical day at the school begins with morning meeting (MM), which is a part of the responsive classroom model.
MM engages students in activities that work to build a strong sense of community, and set children up for success socially and academically. While teachers guide students in MM, other staff meet with students individually, checking in with them to gauge how they’re feeling. Daily check-ins engage students in meaningful conversation and as a result, positive relationships are formed.
Mrs Corday said: “The social and emotional wellbeing of each student is incredibly important.
“Checking-in is a way for us to take the pulse of how their day is starting. If a student seems anxious about something, it’s good for them to get it off their chest.
“Some students may be reluctant to check-in with a teacher at first, feeling that they may have done something wrong. Once they’ve become accustomed to the routine, students appear more relaxed and comfortable talking about how they are feeling, or things that are happening outside of school that are important to them.
“These teacher-led conversations help to develop positive relationships with students.”
Along with morning meetings, the curriculum allows the students to be up and moving, talking and creating during classes.
Mrs Corday said: “They are jumping on computers, doing a bit of research, creating power point presentations or video clips and podcasts. Being able to move around, they can be more creative that way.”
The school also integrates therapist-led interventions into the school day such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and tutoring from the Reading Clinic.
This wraparound approach means that students are being supported academically, socially and emotionally during the school day.
“English and math homework is completed during independent work periods under the guidance of a teacher, so that at the end of the day other homework such as reading and a project-based learning assignment is completed. This takes the pressure off parents needing to teach their children concepts they may not have grasped in school.”
Because of the dynamic learning style, the space needed to reflect the school’s needs.
Mrs Corday said: “We needed to design a space that would have large classrooms for homeroom and larger group lessons like readers’ and writers’ workshop.
“But we also wanted to continue to provide space for interventions, and so we had to plan for small group rooms that the specialists could use.”
The smaller spaces have also allowed for students to have access to clubs such as STEAM, photography, salsa dancing and baking. The themes change every six weeks.
The location of the school close to Victoria Park combines nature with art lessons, reading with a peer and science experiments. PE is held daily at Bernard’s Park and running and tennis club are also provided. The space was not only designed exactly for the current needs of the school, but allows for the space to be reconfigured as their needs change.
While BCCL’s charitable arm, the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning Foundation, is raising funds for additional resources including laptops for the students, additional touch screen TVs and bursaries for families who require tuition assistance, a fair amount of materials were sourced and upcycled from other renovation projects, which the team were grateful for in helping them towards the vision for the school.
The next step is for the school to utilise its new space to expand its current roster of workshops for teachers, school administrators and parents. BCCL currently hosts the Learning Disabilities Association of Bermuda, which provides monthly workshops at the school.
BCCL enrols students from ages 7 to 15 and follows the UK National Curriculum, as well as the project-based International Primary and Middle Years Curriculum.
Students work at their own academic level in a personalised learning plan. Their next open house is scheduled for March 16, from 9am to 11am. To register e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Robyn Bardgett is a media communications consultant working with the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning