In February I submitted an application for the Steelcase Active Learning Center Grant. This is a grant that Steelcase does every year. Essentially, they outfit a learning environment with approximately 63,000 dollars worth of Steelcase education furniture with the agreement that this area be a flexible, collaborative, innovative, project/product oriented space. It's a little more involved than that. They want the space to be utilized and pair with their overall mission of innovative furniture solutions. If you've never heard of Steelcase don't feel bad. I haven't heard of them either until I came into this position. I have seen a lot of their furniture, but didn't know who the company was. This is a quick summary of who they are taken from wikipedia (I know...not the best resource).
Steel case is a United States-based furniture company founded in 1912 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company produces office furniture, architectural and technology products for office environments and the education, health care and retail industries. It is the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. It has facilities, offices, and factories in the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. - Wikipedia
Pretty cool huh? I'm sure thousands of people are applying for this grant, so it's a long shot, but worth giving it a go! Steelcase would come in and help renovate an area. Their philosophy is help create functional, innovative, collaborative, flexible spaces for a working environment. There were four different options. Each option had a different purpose. Part of what we are trying to accomplish at ROHS is the blended learning model. This means that students have both in class F2F (face to face) time and also are able to have the freedom to do work outside of the classroom digitally. The premise of F2F and distance learning would be purposeful, rigorous, and engaging. In short, it's the same engaging instruction they are getting in the classroom, but it looks a little different online. One has to now think outside of the box and problem solve how to facilitate these learning experiences in a digital environment where students have 24/7 access. Here are some of the flexible arrangements below. Keep in mind that they are meant to reconfigure for what purpose a teacher may be using them for.
The furniture is generally mobile with a combination of intended uses. There is soft seating, areas for research, areas for lecture, and areas for project building. The option I choose was a multi-purpose area. It seemed like the best choice for the direction the Learning Commons is moving towards - an area where many different types of learning experiences can happen.
The grant comes with some strings attached. Each school will be committing to utilizing the space to facilitate the type of flexible, collaborative, project-oriented work the furniture is intended for. The teachers who participate will be volunteering to be a study participant. They will also be dedicating themselves to changing up their instruction (with innovation in mind) and constant reflective feedback.
Lindsey V. from Acorn interviewed me recently and the question was, "What do these changes mean for the students?" I think this is equally as meaningful for the teachers in the building as well.
"The changes will allow student areas where they can have different learning experiences. The idea is to give them/you a flexible, comfortable learning environment with up-to-date resources. We realize that learning happens in different forms and we want to accommodate for the different types of learning to happen. So for example, think of your house. There’s a kitchen with hard counter space, hard floors, an area that can be easily cleaned. There’s a living room with comfortable furniture, a television for entertainment, sometimes you have guests hang out in there. There’s a garage. In this space you have concrete floors, it’s a bit messy, you store lawn care equipment, cars, etc. It’s generally a place that is dirtier than the inside of the house. All of these different spaces have a different function/purpose. Now, you could cook your dinner in your living room or your garage, but is that optimal for what the task is? No, you ideally want to cook your dinner in a kitchen because you have the necessary equipment and the area is designed for that purpose. It’s the same idea for The Learning Commons (and learning spaces in general). We are trying to develop these different spaces for learning: collaborative spaces, classroom spaces, project/maker spaces, independent work areas for students to read or study. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say I am pretty excited to see the transformation. It’s slow, but it’s happening."
We will know if ROHS was selected as a grant recipient by the end of the month. Whichever way it works out, it was a good experience to articulate the reasons as to why a space like this is needed and necessary for ROHS. I'm looking forward to seeing the changes. With or without this grant we will still be moving forward working toward the vision and purpose.