A rendering of the flexible outdoor learning space that will be a part of the new GW Graham addition. (

Outdoor learning space included in G.W. Graham expansion

Expansion project adding 19 classrooms, increasing learning options for students

G.W. Graham will soon be growing, with an expansion that will include an open-air learning space.

The space is being created between two additions on the west side of the existing school. One addition will be added to the trades learning area, and another will be added to the main part of the school.

Overall, the $23.9 million project will add about 19 classroom spaces over the two, two-storey buildings. It will add 450 seats, increasing student capacity to 1,400.

Sarah Bjornson, an architect and partner at StudioHuB architects Ltd. presented schematics and artistic renderings to the Chilliwack school board on Nov. 24 during a zoom board meeting. She walked them through the physical and pedagogical priorities for the expansion, while addressing both immediate and future needs.

First of, she said the goal is to relocate all the students who are in portables. There are currently eight portables on site. The amount of space being added should accomodate that, and there is a plan for future growth if needed well down the road, too.

Their second goal or aspiration was to create flexible learning spaces. She outlined how the new classrooms will feature sliding doors between them, allowing teachers to co-teach in a larger space as needed.

READ MORE: Additions at Chilliwack schools may eventually replace portables

The third goal was to integrate wood as much as possible, which is made easier by a new government initiative called the Wood First Act. Wood is being used in high ceiling spaces, in the outdoor learning space, and the exterior as much as possible.

Bjornson noted that there are many studies that show the connection to nature, or biophilia, helps with memory retention and even helps reducing stress.

Finally, the fourth aspiration was the creation of that coveted outdoor space. The floor

“We envision it will be the glue, the hub that joins the buildings,” she said. It will be outfitted with running water, outdoor plugs, a basketball court, wifi connectivity, and even a teaching wall with televisions embedded into it. It can be used as an art studio, a place for the foods class to grow a garden, or even a place to host a concert.

“It really is a win,” she said, calling it a “DaVinci pod.”

Teachers have already offered many suggestions on how they plan to use the space when it’s built.

The expansion isn’t just physical, though. The class spaces are being purposely designed to increase offerings to students. That includes a kinesiology classroom, a full foods lab with accessible countertops, a fashion design and textiles lab, fine arts rooms, and studio space where students can learn how to mix music.

It also will include a gender neutral washroom, with stalls that provide floor to ceiling privacy.

They’ve received positive feedback from the Ministry of Education to push ahead with plans. The goal is to have the construction finished for use in September 2022.

READ MORE: Expansion announced for Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham secondary


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