As the bright morning sun streams into the atrium at École Dundonald School it illuminates 32 years of memories.
High above the school's lobby, the windows are lined with stained glass panels, each of them sharing a unique memory and story that represents every one of the Grade 8 classes that have been a part of its school during its history.
It began with the first Grade 8 class in 1988. Dundonald parent Jim Sharp, a stained-glass artist, had been approached to create a piece for the school and asked to have the Grade 8 students be part of the project. Since then, a new piece has been created each year until now, three decades later, the atrium is ringed with stained glass.
Over the years artistic guidance has passed from Sharp to Wendy Murr, but each piece remains a true representation of the students' vision.
"Each design has a story, and the story is decided by the Grade 8 class," said Principal Sharon Champ. "They attempt to get as many members of the graduating class to have a hand in it as possible. They work alongside Wendy. They do the glass cutting, they do the foiling, they do the soldering under the tutelage of this artist. It is a students' gift. They own these, and their ownership is why there is no way the community will let it go."
This year marked a significant milestone. With the atrium at capacity a decision had to be made on whether the tradition would continue. The support of the school community — both emotionally and financially — means the school's second atrium will house 32 more years of stained-glass stories.
Champ said the way in which students embrace their role in carrying on the tradition and the reaction of parents in saying "our kids are waiting for their turn" illustrates the impact of the project.
"The community really cares for this. It is a community-driven thing; this matters to them," she said, noting that while administrators and teachers have come and gone over three decades the commitment to creating a stained-glass piece each year has never wavered.
A vandalism incident a number of years ago saw several of the pieces destroyed, but Murr's work recreated each design so the memory created by each class remains part of the overall story.
This year provided the perfect opportunity to recognize Sharp for bringing the project to life and remaining committed to its success through his artistic leadership for more than 25 years. Students interviewed him and wrote the about the history of the project. During the school assembly he was presented with a framed print that depicts all 32 of the window designs.
"He said the reason he loved doing his job was that the fact he got to work with the students and was able to show them what they're capable of doing as a team," the students said in their presentation.
"We want to thank Ms. Murr for carrying on the tradition Mr. Sharp started. We want to thank Mr. Sharp not only for starting this long-held tradition at Dundonald, but also taking the time and effort each year to help keep it going with the Grade 8s, allowing the students an opportunity to do something as special as the stained-glass windows.
"We're grateful that you started the stained-glass windows at Dundonald, leaving us with a tradition distinct to our school."