Ask any group of parents with school aged children to compare their own school experience to that of their children, and there’s no doubt you will quickly hear stories about life before cell phones and the Internet. You’ll surely hear about encyclopedias. But what you probably won’t hear from those parents is that their classrooms actually looked different from those that their kids still sit in today, a generation later. Desks in rows, teacher at the front, door closed to the rest of the school - this is the way classrooms have looked for as long as any of us can remember.
But that model, which stemmed from how factories were set up, is not necessarily in line with how our students learn today, or what will be expected of them as they pursue careers in the future. As Superintendent Victoria Kniewel explains, “We don’t know for which careers or which educational pathways beyond high school we educate our Edgemont students. We don’t know what their post-high school education will look like, nor where or how they will work to earn a living. What we do know is, if our students are capable communicators, collaborators, critical and creative thinkers, they will be well positioned for almost any future.”
The Edgemont School Foundation, in its unwavering commitment to working with our district to enrich and ensure the value of an Edgemont education through collaboration with teachers and administrators, agreed that redesigned, renovated learning spaces at EHS were one of the next essential steps in moving forward within the framework of our strategic goals. The ESF engaged Fielding Nair International, an architectural firm focused on innovative education design, and began the design process last year by meeting with students, teachers and administrators to discuss how spaces around the school could be upgraded to reflect and support an evolving model of teaching and learning.
On the EHS campus, the result is the E-Lab. Located in the E-building, the new collaborative space is being used by students and teachers at Edgemont Jr./Sr. High School. This is in addition to some collaborative spaces funded by the PTA in both elementary schools. The new spaces are not enough in and of themselves to transform instruction and learning. ESF and the school district have funded professional development opportunities led by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs on the opening day of school and continuing with Dr. Jacobs and Jill Ackers-Clayton from the Fielding Nair International Learning Design Services team. The E-Lab features increased instructional space, flexible seating, a training center for teachers, a full set of Chromebooks, and interactive Promethean flat panel TVs.
The E-Lab’s true impact will come as this initial excitement translates into meaningful student engagement. Engagement through authentic learning and teacher development are at the heart of the Focus Forward/Strategic Goals created by the Edgemont community. The E-Lab is a wonderful addition to the Edgemont High School campus, and our teachers and students are ready to put it to use in meaningful, creative ways. As Jay Litman, a partner at Fielding Nair and an architect of the new innovative learning space at the high school, explains, “This is not redecorating. This is meaningful, purposeful architectural redesign in consonance with educational research and with student-learning as its focus.”