Large donation makes Learning Circle a reality!

Large donation makes Learning Circle a reality!

A $30,000 donation from Co-op Community Spaces means Salmon Arm West can break ground on June 22 to build the Shannon Sharp Learning Circle, which will act as an outdoor classroom and shelter to share knowledge and come together.

With Mount Ida behind them, students and some staff show where the new Learning Circle will be located at Salmon Arm West Elementary School

Although notified several weeks ago, Salmon Arm West Principal Val Edgell, and teachers Sharon Langlois and Jessa Clark, weren’t allowed to share the great news as the information was embargoed until June 13th. “It was so hard to keep the secret,” commented Edgell.

Langlois, with tears in her eyes and a catch in her throat, added she can’t believe they are already able to build the Learning Circle, the tribute to their friend and teaching colleague, Shannon Sharp.

An overview of where the learning circle will be located (courtesy of Troy Sharp)
Shannon Sharp seen in front of spot where
outdoor learning circle will soon be built
(courtesy of Dianne Levesque)

She explained Shannon, who taught in SD83 for 32 years, dreamed of creating a covered outdoor Learning Circle at Salmon Arm West that could be used year-round. She pointed to a corner of the school where, before Shannon became ill, they had been planning to bring in straw bales, hang a tarp and create the beginning of the outdoor learning space.

When she died in January, and her fellow staff members at Salmon Arm West decided to build the outdoor learning space in her honour, they knew it could take some time to get enough funds together to build the tribute they wanted.

They started a Go Fund Me page, held a dance, garage sale, had individual donations, sold chocolate bunnies and received contributions from Shuswap Total Fitness who held an event for them. Sharp’s family, the local Metis Association, SASCU and Shuswap Rotary Club also donated. At the same time teacher/librarian Jessa Clark put together a grant application to the Co-op Community Spaces (of which Armstrong Regional Co-op is part of), which over the past five years has funded 100 community projects.

They were thrilled when they found out the project would receive funding from Co-op. “It felt like her spirit was with us to push the project along . . . helping to make things happen. It is all falling together and it is really healing for the family and us,” said Langlois.

The outdoor learning centre, which is estimated to cost about $45,000, will be built on concrete, have wood beams, a roof, and have benches for seating. It will be built over the summer by local companies and the hope is to have a grand opening in September or early October. If any funds are left over they hope to add seating, solar lighting and landscaping.

In the grant application they describe it as a place for children and adults to gather to share knowledge, stories, dancing and meals. It will be a space to create art and poetry. It will provide shade and shelter at outdoor sporting events and a place to watch children play. It will have a view of beautiful Mount Ida and will be available for community use as well.

They noted a circle structure was chosen to support Indigenous teachings as it symbolizes the ongoing energy found in nature. Four posts will honour the Four Directions and the mountains that surround them: Larch Hills to the east, Mount Ida to the south, Fly Hills to the west and Bastion Mountain to the north.

They also noted the circular structure ties into so many learning concepts (life cycles of plants and animals, storytelling, astronomy to name a few). Clark is planning to create an augmented reality program that students can use on iPads to see various landforms and important areas around them as they stand and rotate within the circle.