• Contemporary campus with modern facilities and decor
• Stunning location and views
• Very Canadian ‘feel’
From the Douglas firs to the totem poles, CDNIS certainly gives you a warm Canadian welcome. Located on the top of a hill in Aberdeen, and with stunning views across Aberdeen Country Park and the marina, this all-through school is in a quiet, scenic location. Easily accessible from Wong Chuk Hang MTR station, this well-established campus – it opened in 1999 – looks modern and well-maintained.
Read our review of CDNIS here.
There’s a drop off area for cars at the front the campus, although around 80% of students travel to CDNIS by school bus and get safely and securely dropped off/collected in a designated area that leads directly into the seventh floor of the school. All guests are required to sign in with security at the main entrance.
En route to the school, we passed Victoria Shanghai Academy and Singapore International School.
• Large campus with plenty of outdoor space
• A variety of hands-on learning spaces
• Well-equipped for innovation and technology
• A stunning and functional Green Roof
• A new Chinese cultural centre
CDNIS is a large purpose-built campus that’s contained within two main buildings. While we felt slightly overwhelmed as a first-time visitor, we saw students moving confidently and quickly between classes. Although the school has around 1,800 students, it never felt overcrowded either during lesson or break times. Also, the kindergarten, primary and secondary schools each have their own space within the campus, which helps to make it feel smaller through a student’s eyes.
The campus may be over 15 years old, but the campus still looks and feels a little bit like one of the newer kids on the block when compared to some other international schools in Hong Kong. There’s an undeniable Canadian spirit here, from the smell of the cedar timber in the beautifully exposed eaves to the maple leaves on display, the annual pyjama and pancake day, and Maple Cafe. That said, although more than 50% of the student body is Canadian, this is very much an international school with 43 nationalities. And the flags representing different countries that hang from the ceiling in the main atrium proudly celebrate that. There’s a strong community vibe here, and a friendly welcome in every corridor.
CDNIS says: “About 50% of the students who start with us in reception, graduate with us. In this year’s graduating class it is about 56%. We’re happy that so many families decide to stay with us.”
As a purpose-built school CDNIS is tailor-made to deliver the IB programme and Ontario curriculum, and it has been designed for specialist teaching; the school has also invested in new facilities including the OneDoor centre to meet the needs of its focus on innovation and future-ready learning. This is an all-through IB school – one of only six in Hong Kong – and the learning environment lends itself to all stages of this inquiry-led programme.
The school is divided between the original nine-storey main building for Grades 5-12; the lower school for pre-reception to Grade 3, with a cafeteria and an indoor playground; a performing arts centre; and the most recently opened Chinese cultural centre.
As a non-profit school, there’s plenty of investment in CDNIS’ facilities. This has included renovating the large outdoor playground for the lower school to “give it a more natural feel” with small grassy hills to climb and roll down, play equipment and an outdoor workshop. We saw plenty of very happy pre-schoolers during break time, running around in the fresh air and exploring every corner of this playground. All pre-reception to prep classrooms open out onto the playground; these rooms are due to be renovated as one large early years space with moveable walls.
In the upper school building, there’s an outdoor playground on the sixth floor of the upper school with football pitches, which is also used as the school’s main playing field for matches etc. The school has a large library, including a separate primary library, with a large collection of Chinese and French books.
There’s also the Alan Dick forum, in memory of CDNIS’ former principal, which is used for year assemblies and small performances. During our visit, we heard some lower school students singing the Chinese and Canadian national anthems on the tiered seats here; it feels like the heart of the school.
Throughout the upper school there are large shared pod areas designed for IB-style learning, and flexible spaces that use different layouts of chairs and tables, stools and benches. A highlight here is the science corridor.
“About two years ago, our students redesigned this space and created higher and lower learning spaces, added in whiteboards, plenty of plugs for laptops etc. The varied and multiple sit-to-stand workstations allow students to work collaboratively or to study quietly.”
In terms of sporting facilities, the school has a smaller gymnasium, dance studio, weights room and a large sports hall with spring-loaded floor, where we watched a badminton lesson in action. There’s also an indoor swimming pool which is used for swim lessons from the second half of prep through to Grade 12, as well as after-school.
Canadian schools have a reputation for their strong delivery of STEAM programmes, and CDNIS is no different. A highlight of the campus is definitely the OneDoor centre, a well-equipped makerspace where we saw Grade 6 students building and coding robots to move around a track. There’s also virtual reality equipment here in what we felt was a really creative, innovative learning environment. The school has a design studio with laser-cutters, 3D printers and workbenches, and a dedicated innovation centre for the lower school. There is certainly no shortage of hands-on learning spaces here for all students to learn, tinker, create, engineer and invent.
CDNIS says: “A big thing for us is Project Innovate. In Grades 5 and 6, we have a 1:1 robot programme and every student gets their own robot, which they build and then code for different projects throughout the year.”
“We encourage all our students from pre-reception to Grade 12 to come in and use this space and the VR.”
There’s an impressive, contemporary Leo Lee Arts Centre with a 600-seat theatre equipped with a movie projector and orchestra pit, along with numerous music rooms, a recording studio, art studios, a drama studio, black box theatre and other spaces. During our visit the school photographer was taking student photos on the large stage, which is frequently used for assemblies, lower and upper school musicals, cultural events, graduation ceremonies etc.
CDNIS has made fantastic use of its vertical space, most effectively on the Green Roof. This outdoor space, which has some wonderful views of the harbour and surrounding national park, is used by the gardening club, yoga team, science classes to name but a few. Facilities here include re-planted vegetables and herbs, a gardening area, a small pond connected to a terraced rice paddy system, and seating.
The newest addition to CDNIS is the Chinese cultural centre, where all Chinese classes are held. With its traditional Chinese architecture, low tables with floor seating, and close attention to detail, this centre offers students an inspiring place to learn a second language.
“When the kids come in, they feel so immersed in the language and culture.”
We felt there was a great sense of space across the campus; examples of this are the large exhibition area that’s often used for parent meetings and events; the high ceilings throughout the school really help with this too. Far from being confined to one classroom or even floor all day, every student has full use of campus, and there is plenty of movement between classes. There’s also a very lived-in, close-knit community feel here.
CDNIS says: “We’ve got 1,800 students and over 300 staff but it still has the small school feel. However, everyone uses the gym, the swimming pool, the Alan Dick Forum, the theatre and so on – so they are getting their steps in!
“There are lots of opportunities for students from the lower and upper schools to come together, from reading buddies to the Blueprint Club; Grade 12 students spend a day with the lower school; there’s a house system…”
The school has two cafes – one on the lower school, one in the upper school – and lunch is staggered over a three-hour period to ensure the cafes do not get overcrowded.
The walls are decorated with student artwork, project work and plenty of positive learning messages. There are also some beautifully decorated walls that were painted during artist in residence weeks. We were impressed by a very collaborative work of art – a mural made of tiles painted by students to celebrate Chinese New Year.
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