Balmoral Hall School, a private boarding school for girls in Winnipeg, has broken ground on a $6-million initiative it hopes will land more young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
Construction began Thursday on an 18,000-square-foot building, which will serve as a centre for arts and design.
"It’s a journey we started about five years ago, and after a winding journey, here we are today, breaking ground," Joanne Kamins, head of Balmoral Hall, said on Thursday.
"In looking at our school and looking at girls education, we saw the need to really dedicate space to arts facilities and for technology. There will be a lot going on to make sure our girls have the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century."
The three-storey building is set to go up on the campus at 630 Westminster Ave. School officials hope construction will be finished as early as spring 2019. The project has received no public money. Instead, it is being funded by the school and donations from families, former students and other members of the "Balmoral family."
Kamins pointed out the so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — have long been male-dominated, with women being under-represented in those fields for various reasons. Statistics gathered by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools show girl school graduates are six times more likely to consider majoring in STEM fields while pursuing a post-secondary education as compared to their co-ed peers.
Kamins said she thinks the new building will be a game-changer for the school and continue to help propel more young women to break into the male-dominated fields.
"I think that coming from a girls learning environment, they feel capable and confident enough in those traditional STEM areas to continue to pursue STEM fields in post-secondary. Because they are the leaders in the class, they are the ones answering the questions," she said.
"Plus, within the Balmoral Hall environment, our girls are really not afraid to fail. We work with them to understand that when they fail, it’s a learning opportunity and to try again. And in those STEM areas, that’s certainly a skill you need to be successful."
The facility will allow the school to use a STEAM approach, using the arts to help foster the creativity required in those fields, she said.
"We believe in starting from a very early age. We infuse the importance of STEM through a STEAM program, because research also shows the importance of the arts in developing that creativity that is so essential," Kamins said.
The first floor of the arts and design centre will be dedicated to fine arts, with a designated gallery space.
The second floor will be a space for music and will feature a recording studio.
The third floor will primarily be a dance studio, but will also have a space Kamins referred to as an "innovators laboratory."
The benefits of the new facility won’t be limited to the girls at Balmoral Hall School either, Kamins said, as the school plans to reach out to various community groups to establish partnerships. That will allow the benefits of the space to permeate out into the wider community, she said.
"While it’s housed at Balmoral Hall, we really do want this to be a building the West Broadway community can be proud of and utilize. We do intend, once the building is open, to find ways to be inclusive and include our West Broadway neighbourhood," Kamins said.
The new facility was designed, and is being built, in partnership with Verne Reimer Architecture and Manshield Construction.
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Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Monday, June 11, 2018 at 9:56 AM CDT: corrects name of STEAM
12:17 PM: corrects name of STEM