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Guelph Catholic schools partner to help build community

Students at St. Ignatius of Loyola school are enjoying their newly-renovated newsroom, completed by interior design students at Bishop Macdonell

Students from the interior Design program at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School are helping St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Elementary School carry on with what’s become a welcomed school tradition.

St. Ignatius students are now reaping the benefits of their very own remodelled newsroom, something that teachers say, has helped to promote creativity and engagement, especially during COVID-19.

“The newsroom was originally designed to be something useful during the pandemic, but now it’s become something St. Ignatius wants to continue on with,” says Amberlea Daigneau, a teacher and department head at Bishop Macdonell.

And as teacher of the interior design class, Daigneau was contacted to help facilitate the newsroom renovation.

“We were asked to come in right before COVID-19 happened, to design a maker space at the school. Then, of course, the pandemic shut everything down and kids were online. So, we were asked to go back. But instead of a Makers Space, St. Ignatius wanted a broadcast room,” Daigneau said.

“We sent a team over. They designed a mural for the wall, cleaned up the space, and made it a bit more user friendly for the students.”

Daigneau says the interior design program is for students who might not be all that into just science and math.

"Some of them just don’t fit into that mould, they need more 'hands on' creativity. This is the main purpose of the program," she said.

“It is an amazing program. And these kids are amazing, every year. All of these hands-on programs like construction, technology, or robotics, we've come so far in terms of education.”

Daigneau says projects such as the remodelled newsroom also demonstrate to elementary students, what future opportunities will be available to them and the capabilities of students in high school.

“So, it's this beautiful thing of giving back to the community, and from students who are sharing their gifts and talents,” she said.

The interior design program at Bishop Macdonell started six years ago.

“It is a hands-on course that allows students to try everything from textile design, making their own light fixtures, upcycling furniture, exterior landscaping, complete makeovers, and working with clients to solve real design dilemmas,” Daigneau said.

In the past, interior design students have designed wellness rooms for students in need of mental health supports, bathrooms, football change rooms, a staff room at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, a library hub at Mary Phalen Catholic School, as well as an interactive backyard space.

“Students have gone on to pursue careers in landscape architecture, real estate, sustainable design, architecture, interior design, and decorating,” Daigneau said.

“What it teaches students is how to problem solve, use their creativity, listen to the needs of others, how to communicate, and how to work together as a team. These are all skills that lend themselves well to other areas in post-secondary education and employment.”

The broadcast room at St. Ignatius has been very well received by the school community.

Originally, to help create community while 'cohorting' was in effect, the school began videoing and projecting morning announcements to each classroom.

“This helped us stay connected by seeing faces from each of our classrooms,” said Michelle Nagy, principal at St. Ignatius. “We felt like this was one of the things that we learned from COVID-19 that we decided to carry on.”

While the announcements are shared with all classes, intermediate students now take on the task of delivering morning announcements, including prayers and birthday wishes.

“It been a lot of fun coordinating with Bishop Macdonell and now we have a dedicated space for the announcements every morning, said Michelle Nagy, principal at St. Ignatius.

"During COVID, we wanted to stay connected, so we started our announcements over Teams every morning. And with that, it was kind of nice, because we were able to see faces and say hello to people,” Nagy said.

“And then we just thought, how cool was that, to see the faces doing the announcements every morning? We usually have prayers assigned to different classes. Two different students from a class come down in the mornings, so they get a chance to be seen on camera as well. The newsroom gives students a sense of pride and ownership that’s special and unique to the school."

At the end of the day, Daigneau says, interior design students feel that they have something positive to contribute.

"At first, they don’t even know that they can paint walls, patch holes, hang curtains and just basic skills that are so useful. It gives them a foundation. And they also learn problem solving and working together,” Daigneau said.

“They feel heard and they are celebrated. We are always fighting for that voice in the arts. So, students come out of this, overjoyed. They are very proud of themselves and all of their hard work."