Situated in an economically disadvantaged area of Regina, Saskatchewan, Seven Stones Community School proudly stands as a statement of cultural diversity and sustainable design for 21st Century learning environments. Designed with extensive input solicited from staff, students, school officials, community residents, and other important stakeholders, Seven Stones is a reflection of the vision and hopes of an entire community. Earlier this month, just one year after its grand opening, the school earned the People’s Choice Award - Best Overall project from the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, Pacific Northwest Region – an internationally recognized organization dedicated to improving the places where children learn.
Upon entering the colourful, curved lines of the facility, it becomes quickly apparent that this is not your typical K-8 school. The state-of-the-art facility, which opened in time for the 2014-2015 school year, implements a wealth of innovative design strategies that serve to maximize student achievement, flexibility of space and inquiry-based learning while celebrating the unique cultural makeup of the community.
Client Goals, Program and Design Solution
The unique learning environment at Seven Stones is the product of an extensive integrated design process (IDP) involving school officials, teachers, students and community members who worked closely together to ensure the design solution addressed the goals, concerns and hopes of all project stakeholders.
The design objectives evolving from the IDP workshops included:
• Flexible teaching arrangements and instructional groupings
• An emphasis on both student and teacher collaboration, inclusiveness and community integration
• Implementation of interdisciplinary and inquiry based teaching and learning
• Improved student engagement and performance.
Number TEN`s design solution fully responds to each of these goals, resulting in a facility the community is truly proud of.
The school is organized around three student clusters, separated by grade level, which converge into a central student commons. Each cluster contains its own welcoming cubby area, universal washrooms, teacher workroom, and a variety of flexible learning spaces. Da Vinci studios, open wet and messy zones, and an outdoor project terrace provide a variety of opportunities for inquiry based learning.
The commons space is used for a variety of purposes, from general assemblies and school performances to serving as flexible library and instructional space. The flexibility of the spaces promote active student collaboration and group work, with a seemingly endless variety of learning configurations to choose from to suit any type of individual or group task.
Contribution and Response to the Unique Nature of the Surrounding Community
Seven Stones is situated on the same site as the former school that preceded it. Understandably, many community members and students were attached to the pre-existing school. The new school is responsive to this, creatively re-using recognizable features of the original school, including some of the original stone façade elements and original oak doors to help tell the story of the school that stood before it.
Seven Stones is situated in an economically disadvantaged area where many of the students are classified as being at-risk. The community comprises a sizable Aboriginal population, as well as a large contingent of new immigrants and other under-represented groups. The school celebrates the unique and culturally diverse make-up of the community through its central design theme: a mosaic of colour and harmony.
The three school clusters, each colour-coded by grade level, converge to meet in the central commons area. Here, the colours blend together to form a beautiful artistic statement of ethnic diversity and social unity.
Seven Stones also offers:
• A central community kitchen and student meal plan to ensure proper nutrition for its economically disadvantaged students.
• A dedicated First Nations space, called the Hawks Nest serves as a home base for community elders, where cultural traditions are practiced and celebrated.
• Access to the school’s public spaces after school hours, where various community groups converge to use the facility much like a traditional community centre.
Central to Regina Public School’s Structural Innovation Framework – a bold effort to improve school designs for the 21st century student – is a dedication to sustainable design strategies that mitigate impacts on the environment while improving the student experience. Designed to a LEED ® Silver target, Seven Stones implements a variety of ecologically sensitive design strategies including:
• In-slab radiant floor heating and cooling
• Displacement HVAC system
• High-efficiency boilers
• Extensive use of recycled materials
• Daylighting strategies
• High-performance building envelope
• Distinctive south facing exterior sunshade panels.
But the story of environmental preservation extends far beyond the typical energy performance and cost-saving design strategies. Seven Stones takes the concept of sustainable design an important step further by highlighting its green features to educate the next generation about environmental stewardship.
Much like a ‘3-D textbook’, the school’s green features, such as its tubular skylights, in-floor heating and ventilation systems are intentionally exposed to educate students about the importance of environmental preservation. At the main entry, an educational green kiosk displays real-time energy savings to encourage green thinking while inspiring and reminding students and other building users of the value of environmental sustainability.
Adaptability to Changing Educational Delivery
Seven Stones’ innovative design features set out to redefine educational delivery for the 21st century student. The ‘cells and bells’ approach to design, the norm throughout the past century, has been set aside in favour of more flexible, varied, and technologically rich spaces to better support and celebrate a wide variety of learning styles.
Seven Stones represents a new approach to school design in Canada; one that is sustainable, forward-thinking, culturally sensitive, and enhances the student and community experience.
Client: Regina Public Schools, Saskatchewan Ministry of Education
Architects: Number TEN Architectural Group in collaboration with Fielding Nair International
Structural: Browlee Beaton Kreke
Mechanical: MacPherson Engineering Ltd
Electrical: Ritenburg & Associates
Civil: Associated Engineering
Landscape: Crosby Hanna & Associates
LEED: MMM Group
Construction: Clark Builders
Furniture: VS Furnishings
Carpeting: Shaw Contract Group
Resilient Flooring: Johnsonite, Mondo
Ceiling Tile Systems: Armstrong
Masonry: Sioux City Brick, Gillis Quarries
Curtainwall, Windows & Sunshade Panels: Alumicor