Page 12 - FIS World December 2020
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 New Spaces Make the Grade
Fostering innovation and collaboration
Students have made good use of all the new creative spaces in the redesigned ES Commons
During the COVID-19 lockdown last spring, I looked for some cross-generational books I could read- aloud to my eight year old daughter that portrayed
families bonding together while going through a difficult time. Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic story Little House in the Big Woods, which chronicles the difficulties of log-cabin American life in 1871, seemed to help put things into perspective. One aspect of pioneer life that fascinated my daughter was the one-room schoolhouse the Ingalls sisters attended.
In a one-room schoolhouse, there are just two pieces of design: the room and the seating for students. Moving forward through history, these two elements
– the space and the seat – became the focus of re- peated reinvention and modification. The long stiff wooden benches of Ingalls Wilder’s schoolhouse morphed into individual metal desks with chairs. The desks then transformed into lightweight and mov- able workspaces. Later, the desks disappeared alto- gether in favor of conference-style tables. Today, in recent twists, tables have become chairs, chairs have become ottomans, rooms have no front or back, and lightweight wheeled tables easily transform into smart work stations to suit the varied needs of stu- dents. Educational design has evolved to accommo- date the students and, like the students, the learn- ing spaces are flexible and dynamic.
When the topic arose in fall 2019 to redesign the FIS Elementary School common area, also known as the Rose Carpet, Elementary School Principal, Grace McCallum gathered a team together to reimagine and reinvent the social hub of the school. “We wanted a space that made our students feel that this was their space,” said Ms. McCallum. So naturally, since they are the primary users of the space, Elementary students were engaged early in the process to work in concert with the design team led by FIS Assistant Director Finance and Operations, Jana Schlichtenberg. Ms. McCallum noted, “It was important for us to listen to the students’ voices and how they wanted to in- teract with the space and take their needs into con- sideration.” Ms. McCallum was especially proud of the student designers and noted, “they did an ex- cellent job gathering the opinions of their peers and curating ideas.” For example, then Grade 3 student designer Lyla G. contributed the important plea to have “no itchy fabrics!”
The team, which included teachers, students and administration, created archipelagos of furniture in bright colors such as yellow and teal that subtly di- vide the space into little pods that come together to create a greater, cohesive community. A truly flexible space, it meets the variety of needs students have throughout the day: a carpeted area with a coffee table and flexible furnishings invite peer-to-peer dis- cussions, while tent-like structures act like quiet, kid-
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