Learning Space Design Proposal

This proposal has been prepared for the School Leadership Team, including the Principal, Deputy Principals, Primary Learning Leader and the Executive Committee of the P&F. These stakeholders are responsible for the directions and priorities of the School, and its financial decisions.

The STA Library was built in 1990, before the introduction of the internet, and has had no renovations or upgrades since. It is old and tired, and has little relevance to the learning needs of today’s students. If we are to meet the School’s mission of providing a “quality education based on an all-embracing curriculum that is engaging and empowering” then we need to build an environment that will nurture this goal. Renovating and rejuvenating the STARR Space will inspire and facilitate quality teaching and learning throughout the school.

Reimagining the space has involved considering and researching a number of possibilities and solutions. The proposed solution involves reassigning learning spaces, purchasing attractive furniture that can provide flexible options, and introducing a clean, bright and stimulating colour palette. This proposal has been designed to inform the School Leadership Team of the processes which have gone into the development of this proposal, to outline the possibilities considered, to justify the recommendations and to provide a possible timeline for implementation.

Research Process and Design Charrette.

The major drivers of this proposal are the School Community. Students recognise that the space does not meet their needs, and staff members agree; however, their ideas as to what constitutes a “great library” are very different. Gathering together a wide cross section of the community to participate in a design charrette was the first task. This was important in order to meet the needs of all members of the community.  Students from all year groups, teaching and support staff, members of the leadership team and parents were asked to participate in a design charrette to develop a new design solution.

Participants were conscious of providing design solutions that were likely to be achievable given the school’s economic realities. They brainstormed and synthesised a number of priorities based on their answers to essential questions. These priorities included providing:

  • flexible learning places for active collaborative learning
  • cosy nooks to read or regather or socialise.
  • opportunities to work collaboratively to problem solve, to design and to make, both digitally and using construction materials
  • a vibrant and welcoming space
  • an environment where reading is actively nurtured and encouraged.

Based on these priorities, and in the interests of time management, I gathered resources illustrating possibilities for participants. These resources included ideas from local schools; award winning, creative and inspirational libraries; and catalogues from local distributors.

Design Solution

Please note: as there is already viable red and blue shelving and a deep grey carpet it has been decided to use a palette of red, blue, green and grey to meet the need for both vibrancy and longevity. The map attempts to use those colours to illustrate the palette.

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Image author’s own

  1. Focused Teaching Space

This area is a perfect place and size for both storytelling and focused teaching. Students’ attention is turned away from the rest of the library and they are therefore less likely to be distracted. The children’s favourite story telling chair will be rehomed in this space. There is a large screen, interactive TV connected to an AppleTV to access digital content. The existing glass walls are perfect for students or teachers to write on when brainstorming as a group. Having the bright and colourful Lego wall in this space will make it a focal point for those entering the building, providing the message that this is a creative space where children and their ideas are valued. Using the Lego in this area also keeps it “contained”.  Rehoming the red couches and cushions allows for a quiet reading nook when required, a safe space for students to regather, and a pleasant place for adult community members to meet.

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Lego wall in a library Image courtesy of Diana Rendina /// RenovatedLearning.com
  1. Soft Space

This area is bordered by the already existing red and blue Junior Picture books shelving. Most of the shelving is fixed to the wall; however, there are two bays that have been used to divide the space. These bays are on wheels which allow for them to be moved if a larger open or collaborative space is required. The quiet reading space contains a variety of soft seating options, while the games area contains low tables and chairs, all of which are easily moved by students. The Cookie Mobile Tote provides an easily accessed, neat and organised place for games storage as well as a soft place to sit and play on top.

  Images from catalogue found http://www.bfx.com.au

  1. Shelving

Images author’s own and from catalogue found http://frylibrary.com.au/product/childrens-browser-boxes-2/

New mobile shelving options allow for more enticing and accessible display. The non-fiction collections will be heavily weeded due to the advanced age of the collection, and the library’s purchase of a license for an online encyclopaedia. This will allow purchases to target student interests. The shelves have been moved back to the wall, freeing up space in the centre of the room, cutting out the “corner of dread” and ensuring that visual duty of care is facilitated. Arranging the shelving to create nooks meets student needs. The largest nook contains a large table and chairs for more formal meetings or direct teaching. Above this table is specially designed soundproofing lighting (see image below).

Images author’s own

 Break Out Space

The Break Out Space will be one of the most flexible and utilised spaces in the library.  It contains a number of adjustable height tables with whiteboard finish. Students may stand to work, or may wish to lower the tables and utilise seating from other areas of the library. There is another comfy lounge in the area as well as plenty of open carpet space for students to choose how they would like to use the area.

  1. Makerspace Area

The Makerspace area is designed to ensure that students can easily access all possible requirements when using either digital or design technologies. It features a green glass wall which can be used as a green screen or as a collaborative writing board. The computer/tablet charging block ensures easy access to charging for any of the digital technologies required, with plenty of spare points for other pieces of equipment. There is a large flat workbench in the middle which can be used for robotics or construction. Smaller tables allow for smaller groups to work collaboratively. A 1.5m high screen keeps the space contained, and there are several soundproofing light fixtures.

PROPOSED TIMELINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION

2018 – Semester 1

  • Home reading collection to be housed in Library
  • Book Boxes arrive – collection moved into boxes
  • Organise Focused Teaching Space
  • Begin weeding of non-fiction collection
  • Acquire soft furnishings for Soft Space
  • Remove tables and chairs from Soft Space
  • Organise Soft Space
  • Evaluation of process so far, any required changes considered

 2018 – Semester 2

  • New Shelving arrives
  • Books rehomed
  • Evaluation of process so far, any required changes considered

 2019 – Semester 1

  • Makerspace area formed
  • Evaluation of process so far, any required changes considered

 2019 – Semester 2

  • Breakout Space area formed
  • Evaluation of process so far, any required changes considered

2020 – Semester 1

  • Ongoing evaluation and fine tuning.

Justification of Proposal

This proposal has been formulated as it has been recognised that the current library design does not meet the need for the flexible, collaborative learning spaces required to create innovative and creative 21st Century learners (Australian Curriculum General Capabilities, 2010). The ASLA/ALIA Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians recognise the importance of developing a physical environment which supports the collaborative, inquiry based learning as the pedagogical style best suited to nurture these capabilities in today’s students (Bland, Hughes, Willis, 2013, Australian Curriculum General Capabilities, 2010,Melbourne Declaration, 2008). Interestingly, research has also shown that simply making the physical environment more attractive has a positive impact on student behaviour, learning and attendance (Sullivan & Sullivan, 2014). We want to empower our learners to be motivated, to take control of their learning – applying these proposals will have a positive impact on student learning.

These proposals have been developed with a consideration of Universal Design Principles, on the understanding that, “If it is designed well, it will work for everybody” (Banks, in Spina, 2017). It is important to recognise that needs can be physical and social-emotional, as well as intellectual (Lemmons, 2017, p62). The design is sustainable and flexible, it is functional and adaptable to guarantee that all stakeholders are ensured equitable access. The distance between shelving is greater to allow for ease of physical access, and furnishings in “cosy nooks” can be repositioned if in the future we have students who use wheelchairs. Shelf height and display options have also improved access for all.  The principle of Flexibility in Use (Spina, 2017) is apparent in the choice of various designs and heights of seating and surfaces. Flexibility of space can also involve flexibility of activity type, light and noise level. Using noise controlling light fittings, and quarantining soft quiet areas from more active areas, is intended to meet the needs of students who require quiet spaces for peace or respite, while still ensuring that a large space can be cleared easily if required (Care, 2015).

The challenge of providing for the learning needs of students of the Information Age is a challenge for teachers who grew up in the Industrial Age. Physical environments designed to meet the needs of previous generations are part of the culture that works as a barrier for change (Papert, 1997). This new design is designed to encourage teachers to take the opportunity to engage in inspirational pedagogy. It is imperative that we give students agency over their learning, allow them to participate in guided inquiry, construct new understandings and ways of communicating their learning. A library with floor space and creative tools will inspire both student and teacher development. Students would begin their inquiry in the Focused Teaching Space, with teacher provocation and initial brainstorming. They would then move to engage in collaborative, explorative work, accessing learning stations, utilising provided books, tablets or laptops. Some may wish to use the glass walls or whiteboard tables to visually explore their developing understandings. As the inquiry develops students are able to communicate their learning in a variety of creative ways, possibly accessing the MakerSpace or green screen. Finally, students might return to the Focused Teaching Area to present their learning verbally (or share on the bigger screen), or could develop other gallery spaces within the library to share their work (Grazotis, 2014, Sullivan et al, 2015).

Conclusion

This design proposal has been developed to bring the physical space of the STA Library into the 21st century. However, a likely outcome will be much more valuable. The learning experiences of our students, staff and school community will all be greatly enriched.