What started as a trip to Pittsburg for the Future Design Competition, where they competed against 700 teams from around the world, has ended with an international buzz behind four Eastview Middle School students.
Grade 7 student Aiden Schafer and Grade 8 students Connor McCallister, Cole Webber and Alison Harman went to Pittsburg with an idea for the future of education and an innovative design that landed them first place in the competition and the Council for Education Facility Planners’ International – Award of Excellence.
They returned with hopes their designs one day may be implemented into schools in Red Deer and Alberta and one day prove to shape the future of education in their home province.
On Monday, the four middle school students had the opportunity to present locally in front of about 60 people in their school’s gymnasium. Those in attendance included Premier Alison Redford, MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, Minister of Education Jeff Johnson and Minister of Infrastructure Wayne Drysdale.
“It’s really exciting and really nerve-racking,” said Harman before meeting with the premier. “We’ve been working on this presentation since January and we are showing the premier the presentation we won with in Pittsburg but we’re elaborating and talking about the conference we will be attending in Indianapolis in September.
“We’re also trying to hold a one-day conference here in Alberta with students, teachers and hopefully the premier in attendance along with different ministers and MLAs to talk about the future of schools in Alberta.”
The innovative K-12 school designed by the students would be located in the heart of downtown Red Deer and integrate the students’ learning directly into a customizable experience with the surrounding community.
The campus setting of the school would mix together science with art and allow members of the community to mentor students through real world learning.
“What if instead of when you took cosmetology in school and you learned in a classroom from your teacher, you actually went to a hair studio in your nearby community and learned from someone in the business,” said Harman during the presentation.
Mamawayawin School, the Cree word for “living in a community,” designed by the four students would focus on sustainability, innovation and incorporate geothermal heating and solar power into the design as well as aim to get students out of their desks and into the real world to learn in a new way that isn’t getting lectured in class rooms.
Based on the Finnish education system of personalized education suited to students’ needs, the school would break away from the traditional one teacher per classroom of 35-40 students and instead focus on small groups of students collaborating to learn together in an active environment.
Premier Redford was ecstatic to hear about the project and called the school “outstanding.”
Red Deer MLA Mary Anne Jablonski reinforced “What a great honour it is for them to have won this award and how proud we are of them and how proud the province and the premier is of them.
“I think that to have the kids win an award like this really puts Red Deer on the on the map among other things,” said Jablonski. “This has to do with schools and infrastructure of the future.
“When you think about it you wonder why someone else didn’t think about it first but it took four kids to put it together and think about for it to become explored. You never know – maybe one day we will see these kids’ plans come together in a future school and it would be nice if it was here in Red Deer.”