Cozy. Inviting. Enjoyable. Words many wouldn’t expect to describe a child’s stay in hospital. But some Grade 8 students think those are just the words that should.

“We tried to think of what children would like to do while in hospital, and stuff they would want to have,” says David Thompson, a grade 8 student from Brownell School in Saskatoon. Over eight weeks, his class designed learning and social spaces for the new pediatric floor in Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.

HDH Architects is helping design the new maternal and children’s hospital. They are also a part of a Saskatchewan Association of Architects program called “Architecture Goes to School”. As part of the progam, architect Keith Henry thought students would enjoy working on a real project, and focused the group on one element within the new hospital. The class experienced the entire design process, coming up with a basic floor layout for social and learning spaces in the pediatric floor, creating models of the final floor plan, and finally diving into the details of each space. It’s the same process currently underway with Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.

“It really inspires and invigorates us,” says Henry. “The enthusiasm we see here, the openness, sharing of ideas and teamwork are fundamental lessons we can carry on through the process.”
Students presented their final recommendations to the hospital’s project team and architects, suggesting the learning and social spaces could be used for an indoor/outdoor play area, a teen room, a parent/family lounge, and a classroom/library.

“I was trying to capture something that would make kids want to get out of bed and play with their friends” says Jessica Quon, one of the indoor/outdoor play area designers. Her group chose a jungle theme. “Because themes are fun,” she adds.

“Sometimes people focus on the age that they are, but they were considering all ages here,” says Tamara Lucas, manager of Saskatoon Health Region’s acute care pediatrics. “It gives me renewed energy to always remember why we are doing this.”

Ideas covered everything from a ‘caterpillar’ couch to gaming equipment. They incorporated an aboriginal medicine wheel into one of the designs, and thought to display art created by Saskatchewan artists. But more than anything, technology dominated design with access to laptops, smart boards and the internet.

“We are the technology generation,” explains Samantha Keler. “One thing about children is they are going to be open and tell you what they think,” says Craig Ayers, Project Director for Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Health Region. “It gives us a peek into the next phase of work as we get into design development and what our larger children’s design team can influence. It will be exciting to get the involvement of more kids as we move forward.”

The ideas, creativity, and passion from the students was overwhelming for project team members, who committed to sharing their ideas with the design team.

“That is where the real engagement is – the connection,” explains their teacher Marla Fruson. “This project will follow these kids into adulthood once this building is completed and into the future. I know these kids will be advocates now that they have invested their heart and soul.”
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