BAR HARBOR — A large classroom in the technology wing at Mount Desert Island High School will be transformed into an “active learning center” for collaborative problem solving, thanks to a grant valued at $65,000.
The high school is one of only 15 schools, colleges and universities in the United States and Canada to be granted learning center furniture and accessories by Steelcase Education, a company that boasts of creating “effective, rewarding and inspiring active learning environments.”
The company received 961 applications for learning center grants this year. The 15 recipients range from a middle school in Claremont, Calif., to the University of Notre Dame.
Julie Keblinsky, the high school’s dean of curriculum, led a team that prepared the grant application. She said the school’s transition to performance-based education and its focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – call for a different type of learning environment.
“One of the things we have learned in implementing this new type of education is that we really needed to rethink our classroom spaces,” Keblinsky said. “Sitting in rows and just taking [in information] is not how we learn best.”
The learning center will be set up to allow students to move around, share ideas and work on different projects in small groups.
“It will serve as the hub of the technology wing,” Keblinsky said. “It’s where kids will begin the design process. They will do research and interviews, design prototypes and then, once they come up with something they want to create, they can go into the adjacent spaces to make it.”
Those spaces include the metal fabrication lab, wood/materials fabrication lab and prototype testing lab.
Keblinsky said the goal is not just to encourage and facilitate product development.
“It’s about innovation; it’s about problem solving,” she said.
Principal Matt Haney said he thinks one reason the high school’s learning center grant application was successful is that “it matched what we were already doing.”
“We didn’t try to design something for the school to fit the grant,” he said. “We were already moving toward this active learning center concept: keeping people moving and engaged and working on their own things and designing projects. The grant is just supporting our ability to kick it off top notch.”
The learning center is expected to be installed this summer.
“We’re envisioning it as a place that’s used beyond the school day,” Haney said.
The high school said in its grant application that the active learning center would promote “highly engaged learning for many more of our students, potentially with life-inspiring results. It also will permit many other community partners to engage with our students, tapping the extensive talent on our island.”