Outdoor classroom, community space to honour memory of slain Hamilton student

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Published October 5, 2021 at 12:55 pm

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board shared this rendering of the outdoor classroom planned for Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in east Hamilton. — Handout

The Hamilton high school that just two years ago was the scene of a devastating tragedy will now house a new outdoor learning space that will help pave the way to a hopeful future.

According to a news release from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), the grounds of Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in east Hamilton have been chosen as the location for a dedicated outdoor classroom and community space.

The space and its design is inspired by Indigenous approaches to health and wellness and has been developed in collaboration with the board’s Indigenous Education team and the broader Indigenous communities across Hamilton, Mississaugas of the Credit and Six Nations.

“The goal is to use the space to teach students the skills they need to form healthy relationships,” the release said.

“The construction of this space is to support the learning around how we create safer, more inclusive learning environments and communities.”

The site will feature a permanent structure that may include garden beds, natural/sustainable construction and a pathway to the sidewalk along Dunsmure Road that will provide access to the community.

The new outdoor space is located near the place where two years ago 13-year-old Devan Selvey was fatally stabbed.

An Eastern Red Bud tree has since been planted in memory of Selvey in the area where the future outdoor space is planned. A bench made of Oak with the words ‘Compassion, Empathy, Respect’ carved into it, designed in consultation with Selvey’s mother, Shari-Ann, will also be featured in the design of the new outdoor classroom.

Upon completion of the project, the HWDSB plans to incorporate a curriculum that will be developed for students to learn the traditional teachings led by the board’s Indigenous Education Team, the Indigenous Education Circle, and the local Indigenous community members.

“In peace, friendship and mutual respect, we will weave Indigenous conceptions of health and wellness with social/emotional development areas,” the release said.

“Together, we will provide an incredible opportunity to support safer environments.”

This project and the emphasis on relationship development and supporting safer environments in Hamilton schools is part of the HWDSB’s Safe Schools Action plan which was developed in response to recommendations laid out in the final report from the Safe Schools Review Panel.

The Panel, launched in October 2019 in the wake of Selvey’s murder, emphasized in its final report that bullying prevention is best promoted when students are taught personal skills that develop healthy relationships.

Community consultation processes, which are expected to involve staff and students at Churchill as well as the broader community is scheduled to begin the week of October 18.

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