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.

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