As our students head back to school this fall, many of the kids in our Phase 1 Schools are noticing significant changes to their learning environments. In addition to much needed operational and maintenance work, we are excited to kick off our Innovation Projects in these buildings.
In my previous blog post, I provided some of the details about our Innovation Projects and how our schools are engaging in deep thinking about both Innovative Learning Environments and Innovative Teaching and Learning as outlined in BVSD’s Innovation Guiding Principles. We are thrilled to see these previously two dimensional designs on paper come to life this fall! This blog is the first of a series to run this year that will provide opportunities for us to take a look at these amazing spaces in our buildings.
Broomfield Heights Middle School
As we began planning for their innovation space at BHMS last year, the two words that continually came up in discussions were “collaboration” and “flexibility.” The proposed project aspired to take a large space just outside of the library and turn it into a variety of spaces that could be used to support many different kinds of learning. Previously, the space was not used in any way academically, but rather as a extra wide hallway used to get students in and out of the library. The changes include:
- Creating an open learning commons just outside of the library. This commons would have a variety of zones (collaboration, presentation, individual and small group areas) for students. Equipment included in the space to support a variety of learning will be:
- LED TVs for presentations and student collaboration
- A small area with tiered style seating for audience members
- Flexible, mobile furniture solutions to easily rearrange as needed by students and teachers
- Whiteboard surfaces to be used for brainstorming and planning
- Technology bar with electrical outlets to support student use of devices
- Large garage door opening between the library and the new learning commons space
- Transforming a classroom into a Maker Lab
- Adjacent small group room for student collaboration
- Convert flooring to support “wet and messy” project work
- Student display case to showcase student work from the area
- Add sinks to allow for easy clean up
- Add new cabinetry for storage
- Teacher Collaboration Room
- Install glass windows facing the new learning commons to support active supervision and site lines of the space
- Provide a comfortable, welcoming environment for staff to collaborate
The transformation of the space is striking. Although it is not 100% finished (the tiered seating is not quite finished, the tech bar still needs to be installed and some furniture for the project lab will be forthcoming), the dramatic changes are incredibly exciting and inspiring. Chris Meyer, the principal of Broomfield Heights Middle School, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts and plans for the space in the upcoming school year:
Question: The main focus of both of your learning objectives for your Innovation Project have a focus on collaboration. What is your best hope for these spaces in terms of increasing collaboration?
Chris Meyer: These spaces will provide students with an environment where they can learn and discover together. There is flexibility to brings students together as full class and break out to any size grouping from there. We know that the kids will engage with each other as they dialogue, create, explore and construct learning in a comfortable and engaging space.
Question: What are you most excited about in terms of how this space might impact teaching and learning in your building?
Chris Meyer: The space is accessible to every teacher and class in the building. It was important to us that all could benefit from the investment we have made. In the first three days of school, I have witnessed our Publications class engage in a progressive brainstorming session, science classes group and regroup in a guided reading lesson, and a math class debrief a day’s learning in this space. The versatility is limitless and the flexibility is energizing to all teachers and students.
Question: What reactions have you heard so far from students? From teachers? From parents and community members?
Chris Meyer: This space is now the center/heart of the building – an aspect of the building we were lacking before this project. Students love the environment; they are attracted to the layout, the inviting nature and the furniture. This space honors them and their unique needs and styles. It breaks the mold of seven hours a day moving between traditional four-walled classrooms with hard, immobile furniture and opens up an environment more conducive to comfort and working together.
Teachers are energized and have been raving about the space. Our teachers push the box on instruction and learning. The environment has caught up to their innovative practice and allows them to use the space to their advantage rather than being limited solely to the traditional set-up.
Parents and community members continue to express pride and excitement. I overheard one mother describing to her daughter the pride in “seeing our tax dollars at work.” Our school is a point of pride for the community and we now have a heart of the building for the community to use and access for years to come.
Question: What advice would you have for schools that will go through the Innovation Project process in the coming years?
Chris Meyer: We have been given a gift by our community to literally go beyond and open up doors, break down walls, trash (recycle!!) the old and bring in the new. Everything makes a difference; spend the dollars wisely, listen to the teachers, students, designers, and innovators, and invest in creating settings which engage our kids beyond the typical.
We look forward to checking back in with Broomfield Heights Middle school to see how the space impacts student learning and will also continue to share other Innovation Projects with you throughout the school year. The Boulder Valley School District is incredibly grateful to our taxpayers and community for their support in helping us to create learning environments that support a “comprehensive and innovative approach to education” as we strive to “graduate successful, curious, lifelong learners who confidently confront the greatest challenges of their time.” (BVSD Vision Statement)
Before and After Pictures:
By Kiffany Lychock, Director of Educational Innovations
Member, Successful, Curious, Lifelong Learners Priority Action Team