Students at Connellsville Area Middle School dubbed it “Innovation Station.”
After the completion of a 3½-month transformation that was finalized this fall, the school’s media center is no longer a traditional library but an interactive, project-based learning space that puts collaborative learning at the forefront.
District interim Superintendent David McDonald said the renovation was the final project in a district-wide initiative to update school media centers.
“What we’re trying to provide are engaging learning spaces that are also rooted in literacy,” said McDonald. “It attracts kids. They want to go there. They want to collaborate.”
Inside the center are seven different learning stations that can be used for a variety of purposes. The spaces enhance student collaboration and communication across various learning levels, said McDonald.
There are areas for small group instruction and collaborative group work, flexible seating for lounging and reading. A green room with recording equipment and a separate editing station will allow students to create their own audio and videos. An adjacent SMALLab promotes embodied learning.
Teachers can take classes outside into a revamped courtyard that is accessible via a retractable glass garage door on the media center’s north wall.
“We want to provide spaces within our media centers that have multiple learning environments,” McDonald said. “We want students to be engaged in different ways but get those core reading skills to enhance their imaginations.”
School media specialist Gina Irwin calls the new media center an expansion of the traditional classroom, a resource where teachers can bring their classes to work collaboratively on projects, and where students can focus on creativity.
“Not every student learns from reading from books. Here they get to do things differently and express their learning in different ways,” said Irwin, who runs the space on a daily basis. “They get to be more at the center of their learning. It gets to put them in the driver’s seat.”
The district has followed a nationwide maker movement that provides students with unique learning spaces and environments.
Over the past two years, the district has revamped or installed several learning spaces in its schools, including media centers, fabrication labs and SMALLabs.
A fab lab was installed at the middle school last year.
“There’s a transformation taking place across the country to provide students with great engagement in their learning,” said McDonald.
“The spaces really enhance student collaboration and communication for students across different learning levels.”
Work began in the media center over the summer before the finishing touches were added in October.
The center, equipped with new furniture, carpeting, color schemes and devices, received an official opening and dedication last month.