Learning Environment Sessions Seek to Facilitate Facilities Planning

Learning Environment Sessions Seek to Facilitate Facilities Planning

By Michael McAllister

More people in the world have access to a mobile phone than to a clean toilet.

Twitter broadcasts 100 million tweets per day.

Eighty-seven percent of teenagers text, each teen sending an average of 3,339 texts per month.

The amount of digital information in the world will increase 44 times by 2020.

These are 2011 statistics, by the way, and six years can be the equivalent of six centuries when dealing with technology.

Nonetheless, statistics such as these and their extrapolations represent the realities with which school administrators, educators, parents, and students must cope today and far into the future.

What does the community desire for our children’s education?  This is the basic question that Dr. Janet Stutz, Superintendent of the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District, hopes to answer as fully as possible by the end of this summer.

The statistics come from a YouTube video entitled “Iowa, Did You Know,” compiled by Dr. Scott McLeod of Iowa State University and produced by the XPLANE corporation.  The presentation served as an introduction to the first of three community outreach events staged by the Grinnell-Newburg district.  The goal is to seek community ideas as to how learning environments—classrooms and buildings—can best serve the students of the district and prepare them for the future.

The session began at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 15, in the Community Room at the Drake Community Library.  Identical events follow on August 30 and September 6, same time, same place.

Dr. Janet Stutz (right), Superintendent of Grinnell-Newburg CSD, explained the purpose of the initiative—essentially to receive “a lot of input from the community” and to “really bring the community together.”

“This is the first stage of our exploration,” she reported.

On hand to support the event were (below, from left) Pete Perez, Project Executive with Estes Construction; Matthew Erion and Courtney Koch, partners and architects representing CMBA Architects.

Following Dr. Stutz’s introduction, Mr. Erion conducted discussion as Ms. Koch recorded results.

There Are No Wrong Answers:

Which of the four images displayed best represents collaboration to you?

This was one of the questions posed to participants to prompt opinions.  Most of the attendees at this first session were involved with the school system in some way, so many of the comments related knowingly to personal experience.

Collaboration is one of the Four C’s, the aspects of education stressed today as essential for twenty-first-century jobs.  Collaboration combines with communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

The underlying question that results from this particular display becomes, What kind of space—What kind of learning environment—can best promote collaboration?

And the other three of the Four C’s each took a turn with similar displays.

In another segment of the presentation, audience members were encouraged to expand upon the theme of #wearegrinnell—a Twitter feed that Dr. Stutz established shortly after her arrival here one year ago.

In other words, “We are—what?”

“What would you suggest as a battle cry?” Mr. Erion challenged.

Sharpies at the ready, participants wrote responses on large sticky notes that facilitators posted to the wall and subsequently organized.  Various themes emerged—all attesting to the qualities that give Grinnell its character and that the school district seeks to maintain and reflect.

Eventually, Dr. Stutz, the Grinnell CSD board, architecture and construction officials, and other stakeholders will be able to incorporate comments and concepts from sessions such as the first into a facilities master plan.

The June 15 event was the first of three.  Anyone interested in the future of education in Grinnell should plan to attend either the August 30 or the September 6 session—6:00 p.m. in the Community Room at the Drake Library.

Attendees at the first session offered numerous insightful and significant comments, but one of the most striking came from the YouTube video produced by XPLANE and Iowa State’s Dr. McLeod:

“We must prepare our students for their future, not our past.”

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