Marymount’s learning environment imparts a set of 21st century skills where students learn to utilize technology effectively, express themselves with clarity and eloquence, and collaborate in pursuit of common goals. To stimulate this environment, Marymount educators set out to create an 'Innovation Lab' learning space for both the lower and middle school campuses.
Marymount of Santa Barbara is a JK-8 independent school located in Santa Barbara, California. Building on a 75-year tradition of excellence, the educators at Marymount have crafted a unique learning experience that blends mastery of core subjects with acquisition of the essential skills students need to navigate and be successful in a rapidly evolving world.
"Marymount education is student-centered," explained Molly Seguel, director of admission for Marymount Santa Barbara. "Our students learn and grow in respectful, encouraging and safe surroundings that instill both confidence, positive risk-taking, and creativity in students. With a student-to-teacher ratio of 8:1, individualized attention, careful monitoring of progress and consistent communication with parents, each student's talents are encouraged, and needs and aptitudes are recognized and addressed."
In the classroom, Marymount teachers utilize a well-thought-out, inquiry-based approach that compels students to participate in their own learning process. They become adept at converting information into knowledge, and knowledge into understanding – the foundation for high levels of achievement in high school, college and careers. Marymount’s learning environment imparts a set of 21st century skills where students learn to utilize technology effectively, express themselves with clarity and eloquence, and collaborate in pursuit of common goals.
To further stimulate this type of environment, Marymount educators set out to create an 'Innovation Lab' learning space for both the lower and middle school campuses. According to Jannine Tuttle, middle school science teacher at Marymount of Santa Barbara, "In class we are always creating things. It seemed logical that the first step in improving our learning environment was to design a space that fosters creativity and innovation."
Tuttle noted that teachers felt that a flexible teaching environment that was agile and adaptable to the various needs that the space would accommodate was important. "We wanted a room that could be used for a multitude of activities and that could be changed from one class to the next quickly and easily. Students naturally move around to activate their brain and we needed a space that channeled that movement."
"When designing the Innovation Lab, there was initially a desire to have the largest space possible to allow for flow, but we quickly realized that the space didn’t have to be as large as we envisioned," continued Tuttle. "Instead, it would be about the furniture. The right kind of moveable, adaptable furniture would allow us to be as flexible as we wanted to be in the desired configuration for a particular lesson or day." Tuttle also recalled that the furniture had to be able to be easily and safely moved by the students.
In addition, the flexible furniture had to allow students the opportunity to make the room their own and bolster their specific learning style. "We really wanted the space to inspire innovative teaching and learning. As we evolved our teaching to be more open to student choice and reflect student creativity, we required furniture in a space that reflected this learning style."
Seguel noted that after learning about other "lab style" learning spaces that Bretford® had helped design, Marymount Santa Barbara turned to the furniture manufacturer to help outfit and customize the Innovation Labs.
Marymount Santa Barbara selected powered, mobile furniture from Bretford's EDU 2.0 line because it encourages interaction, manipulation and movement. Chris Petrick, CEO of Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. explained, "EDU 2.0 furniture was designed to evolve a traditional classroom into a more agile, connected place to teach and learn. It’s adaptive to different styles of teaching and learning and can be easily reconfigured to meet the needs of the class, which is exactly what Marymount of Santa Barbara was looking to do."
Marymount's new Innovation Labs include EXPLORE® 60x60 Flip and Nest Collaborative Tables, which serve as hardworking, multi-purpose work surfaces that can be easily moved based on classroom needs, then stacked together for effortless and efficient storage. The tables used in the Innovation Labs also include Bretford's Fluid Up Power System so that iPad devices and other electronics can be used and stay charged during class.
The tables are surrounded by EXPLORE® Armless Chairs with Casters. The comfortable back support keeps students relaxed and engaged, while the casters allow for easy mobility. Up to five chairs can be stacked and nested together for simple movement and storage.
The lower school technology director for Marymount Santa Barbara remarked, "We have enjoyed watching how the kids move the furniture to make the space that they need. Each child has a favorite type of chair and learning space in the room. It really customizes the learning space for each individual student."
Along with the tables and chairs, each of the Innovation Labs contain an EXPLORE® Mobile Interactive Whiteboard, which offers a canvas for interactive learning, brainstorming and connection. To elevate Marymount's hands-on learning environment in its Innovation Labs, each whiteboard has a top-mounted ultra short-throw projector, which is connected to the instructor's laptop.
Additionally, Bretford's EXPLORE® Presentation Shuttle with Side Table provides an ideal platform to house classroom electronics and for students and instructors to lead interactive discussions. Because it is on wheels, this system can be moved to different parts of the room depending on how the Innovation Lab is set up on a particular day.
A Pulse™ 24M cart, which is used to store and charge Chromebook and Ultrabook computers helps to complete the learning environment available in Marymount's Innovation Labs. This cart features a sophisticated charging system that constantly re-evaluates the demand for power and concentrates on the devices that need to be charged the most, a technique that extends computer battery life and ensures the students in the Innovation Labs have working electronic devices during class time.
The Innovation Labs at Marymount of Santa Barbara opened at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year and are used on a daily basis several times a day in multiple core subject areas - English, History, Math and Science - as well as for hands-on electives.
The labs were debuted to the parent community during an Open House a couple of months after the school year began. Andrew Wooden, Head of School at Marymount said, "Seeing the furniture in the new Innovation Labs in action at our annual Open House really helped parents understand the kind of unique and innovative teaching offered at Marymount. There is nothing like seeing something to understand it. Students come alive in the Innovation Labs. They seem especially engaged, collaborative and creative in these new learning environments."
According to Tuttle, "The space is still evolving and we have a vision for what it will become. We feel like we are at year one on a five-year journey to making an ideal Innovation Lab space. We also have ideas for how all of our teaching classrooms can change to be more flexible."
"The flexibility of the furniture facilitates our teaching. It is helping us spend more time responding to student project problems," said Seguel. A lower school teacher added, "The result is an environment that is louder, the way a productive newsroom can be during the development of an important news story. Students who have been somewhat more reluctant in the past are stepping forward and becoming important contributors in the class."
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