An architect’s rendering of the interior of the new Winton Woods City Schools non-traditional North Campus building, shows how classrooms are arranged to accommodate the district’s new project-based learning program. Provided

An architect’s rendering of the interior of the new Winton Woods City Schools non-traditional North Campus building, shows how classrooms are arranged to accommodate the district’s new project-based learning program. Provided

By Coria Denny

Winton Woods City Schools

FOREST PARK/GREENHILLS/SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP –– Winton Woods City Schools held its first ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 7-12 North Campus building in March. Students, parents, alumni, community, state and local leaders and staff were all present to celebrate this historic occasion. The event kicked off with a parade by the “best band in the land” –– Winton Woods High School’s marching band, led by Dani Ashbrook. 

Before entering the socially distanced decorated high school gymnasium, guests were greeted with a specially designed mask that read, “Love our children, schools and community.”     

Throughout the event, the Warrior community was acknowledged for the imperative role it played in bringing these buildings to life through its continuous support over the years and for passing the bond in 2016 that funded the new facilities.

Behind the scenes, there is always an amazing hard-working team. These buildings were a collaborative effort built by people with perseverance, and dedication said, Steve Denny, executive director of business affairs.

In 2017, student representatives from grades 5 to 12 began the design process for the North and South campuses. Student voices were necessary.  “Who better to help in the design process then the people these buildings will be serving,” said Denny at the groundbreaking ceremony in 2018.

“The world is different than the one most of us were educated in. The question is, how do we design school facilities for careers that don’t even exist yet? We believe that these buildings can prepare students for the future. We are committed to educating differently and providing the tools needed to help all of our children succeed.” 

Following these meetings, staff, community members and leaders joined the students for face-to-face conversations to help with the design process. 

Steve Denny, Winton Woods executive director of business affairs, speaks at the 7-12 North Campus grand opening ceremony. Photo by Drew Jackson.

For something this great, much time and devotion was needed. The district partnered with the building firms Skanska Megen Construction Co. Inc. and architecture group SHP leading design  build these new innovative project-based learning, student-inspired buildings that will make future global leaders and change the lives of future Warriors to come.      

“One of the things I was charged with as a high school principal was to make sure we reimagined teaching and learning,” said Winton Woods High School Principal Eric Martin. “We had to identify a learning process that would engage students and give them the tools to be future ready. We made that happen in the building that is a couple feet away from our original site. The beautiful thing about today is we have a building that matches our instructional platform. We are a project-based learning district and now have the facility to match. Our building was designed to amplify how we teach our students. This community has done something special.”

According to information provided by the district, project-based learning (PBL) is at the heart of New Tech Network’s (NTN) instructional approach. In PBL, students start each new unit of study with a complex and authentic task to complete. Learning often occurs in integrated subject-area courses, such as English and Social Studies, where students collaborate with their peers to investigate a real-world problem.

This demands mastery of subject matter content, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, oral and written communication skills and individual agency (work ethic). The student inquiry process is supported along the way by NTN practices such as entry events, the need-to-know (NTK) process, engaging with content area experts, skill building workshops and authentic assessment.  Projects culminate with the development and presentation of a real-world product that is evaluated by community experts, educators and peers.

The superintendent gave his state of the schools address at the end of the ceremony. “These buildings were an act of love from our community to our students,” said Anthony Smith. He spoke about the possibilities of a year-round educational system as well as a robust summer program.

The superintendent also discussed the importance of passing the operational levy that will be on the May 4 ballot.  “The operational levy funds will be directed to enhance the 5-star Preschool Village, increase safety measures with additional resource officers, provide quality staff to right size the increasing enrollment, as well as restore busing for high school students.”

The K-6 South Campus building is scheduled to open on time in August.

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