I’m a big believer in the importance of space. Remember how sacred your bedroom felt as a child? I still think about when I finally got my own room and no longer had to share with my brother. It was heaven and it was mine. Teachers are known for the thought they put into classroom design because it matters. Arrangement of furniture, lighting, color, and what adorns the walls goes a long way to making a space conducive to learning. But, as education changes to a less teacher-centered model, we’ll need to rethink our spaces and design for student-centered collaboration.
You’ve no doubt noticed the explosion of makerspaces popping up around the country and world. These community spaces are specifically designed to foster hands-on, self-directed learning that incorporates technology, design, and engineering. But the most important aspect of a makerspace is that it is a shared, collaborative space. A good introduction to the maker movement, and a resource to which I often return, is the Makerspace Playbook.
At my school, we are now about four months into life with our new and improved Innovation Center, created by combining the existing space with the former computer lab. I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that designed the space and now coordinate its use. After a year of planning, gathering input from students and teachers, and visiting other schools, the space was finished this past August. I’m happy to say we now have an awesome community space where students can imagine and create.
In planning and designing the space, we wanted to keep things as flexible as possible so the Innovation Center is not only a makerspace, but an idea space. The open plan, moveable furniture, and plentiful whiteboard surfaces make it a perfect setting for brainstorming sessions. Multiple projectors allow for quick and easy presentations and sharing.
Our students do a lot of video work with green screen. The last iteration of the Innovation Center was often used for video projects and we knew this was an important feature to keep. Instead of painting walls green with chromakey paint we opted for a retractable green screen and LED studio lights. As shown in the photos, the studio side of the space is perfect for video work but maintains flexibility for other activities.
Lastly, the space also serves as a prototype classroom. The Innovation Center gives us an experimental setting to try new features that might become part of regular classrooms. Flexible furniture, interactive wall projectors, folding walls, and hidden whiteboards are just some things we’re trying out.
The Innovation Center has opened up so many possibilities for our students and we will continue to iterate how it is used. I look forward to all that will stem from this amazing space in the years to come.