NEW SCHOOL WILL CELEBRATE INDIVIDUALITY
Calgary Changemaker School,
Outside-of-the-box thinking, abundant outdoor time, celebration of individuality and generous leeway to be creative aren’t things normally associated with traditional educational institutions. These are some of the things that will mark the educational experience at the new Calgary Changemaker School, which will open its doors to the first students from kindergarten to Grade 6 in August. Kristina Kraychy, founder and head of school, says that she developed the school’s alternative philosophy by combining her own school experiences with knowledge derived from a social changemakers series she took as part of her masters of education program at the University of San Diego. “At the core of the Changemaker School is empathy. It’s respect for children, for who they are, and respect for everyone in the building. It’s a way of approaching education with the belief children can be powerful at their own age. They can make change,” Kraychy says. “We would like to differentiate changemaking from activism, which is making a change with one view. It’s about problem solving, and all the people involved in that issue.” The model prioritizes health and wellness of students and staff, and aims to empower students to “be the change” they want to see in the world. “My goal is to provide an alternative for kids who just aren’t thriving at any other school in Calgary,” Kraychy says. The school defines itself as “high energy,” and will focus on project-based, interestbased learning to foster a sense of self, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. Students will spend at least half to 80 per cent of each day outdoors, which is part and parcel of the health and wellness framework. “There is so much research in health and educational fields showing overall that it helps with students that struggle with anxiety and have higher stress levels, it reduces the mental health issues we see in students today. “When your mental health is supported, research shows your academics improve,” Kraychy says, adding winter weather won’t be a deterrent. “When dressed appropriately, the children are usually very happy to be outside even in the winter,” she says. “However, we do have wonderful indoor classrooms and a large indoor gym where we can ‘work without mittens’ and warm up as needed on the cold or rainy days.” Kraychy brings 15 years teaching experience to the table, including positions at private and charter schools in the city, along with a background in music and nutrition. The 20,000-square-foot school is located in Springbank on 2.8 hectares (seven acres) of land adjacent to Calaway Park. It most recently housed a dance studio, and is a unique space already built with creativity in mind, Kraychy says. Work will get underway in summer to transform the grounds into different outdoor learning areas that appeal to a variety of styles of learning. The areas will include a gazebo, mud kitchen, play spaces and outdoor tables where students can study the curriculum outside. The learning environment, which will feature multi-age student groupings, will allow students to go at their own pace. Classes will have a maximum of 16 students, and the founders plan to add grades 7 and 8 in 2021. Leadership skills development, having a choice and voice in their own learning experiences, and engaging in creative, collaborative projects are also part of the school’s experience. Once a week, students will head off campus to have forest school, where the day’s learning will be child-led. The Calgary Changemaker School is a not-for-profit school, with tuition ranging from about $10,000 for kindergarteners to nearly $14,000 for other grades, with a few additional fees. Students are required to wear uniforms, which include logoed polo shirts and fleece jackets. The school will have a maximum enrolment of 112 students in its first year.
Kristina Kraychy, founder and head of school, says students will spend half to 80 per cent of their school days outdoors.