Experience39 at Design39Campus

All I can say about this event is WOW.  From the moment we entered the school, we were blown away by the beauty and thought put into each and every element.  After months of anticipation, this was the first time we were allowed on premises at Design39Campus.  Aesthetically, the colored glass, large play areas, and innovative classroom setup is breathtaking.  It reminds me of a college campus, with several buildings that contain long corridors, a large grassy field, a huge playground, and a large parking lot.  Construction is still ongoing, but it is amazing that this space was created in such a short amount of time.  Like other big school functions there were food trucks, a DJ & band playing, and t-shirts being sold.  The staff could not have been more friendly; it was nice to meet our 2nd grade son, Ethan’s homeroom teacher (we already know our kindergartener Jordan’s!), as well as many of the other teachers at the school.

There were about 30 booths set up with different activities for the kids, from making wood creations to weaving to origami to making a wind tunnel.  The amount of volunteers, thought, and supplies this took to coordinate was not overlooked.  Del Norte High School students led tours, as did several teachers.  I was lucky to be on two different tours (both kids wanted to go at separate times) and I learned a lot about why the classrooms are set up the way they are and about the structure of the school.

Now for the actual classrooms: the common area space in the middle of several classrooms that exists at Monterey Ridge has been completely redone – this space, called a “collaboratory” at D39C, has 3-4 colored circular carpets on the ground and a few curved soft sofas.  The idea is for the students to have a space to collaborate with moveable furniture to use the space as they wish during their specific activities.  The classrooms were the biggest change and honestly the one concept that my mind is taking a moment to get used to. There are very long whiteboards on some of the walls, and there are cubbies where the kids will put their backpacks.  Custom made white board tables that swivel up and down sit in the classrooms, allowing kids to draw on them and use them for group projects.  I love this idea.  A few key differences:  rather than seeing all of the traditional school type decorations, the rooms are intentionally bare.  Why?  It was explained to me that, while LED’s (learning experience designers, the new phrase for teachers) will eventually adorn the walls with the kids creations, unlike at a traditional school, the classroom does not belong to the teacher, but rather the students.  The teachers are given one small locker to keep their belongings, but they will not decorate their rooms until the work of the kiddos (the common term for students at D39C) have work to display.  While my mind wanted to see that traditional décor, I am so curious to see what the kids come up with.

The next big different between the classrooms is the layout.  Our tour guide told us that when you enter a room that has furniture situated in a certain manner, one’s brain immediately comes up with a preconceived notion of what is supposed to happen in that space.   Therefore, all of the furniture at this school is easily moveable.  LED’s will move the white board desks to the outer edges of the room when a class is over so that the incoming group of students can use the room as they best see fit.  There are moveable projectors in the classrooms, therefore there will not be one spot where the kids see an image.  There are several “makeries” at the school where children will create prototypes; I see this is as a sophisticated arts and crafts room.  With so little time for creativity to be built into the day at a traditional school, I am thrilled to know that these makeries exist.

In the spirit of redoing education, D39C has renamed everything.  The office is the “welcome center,” the library is the “loft”, and the student center is the “gallery.”  Even teachers are no longer teachers anymore.  They are LED’s .  I love it.

It was really nice to finally see all of the progress made by the school.  Construction is still ongoing and it remains to be seen how this will impact the students.  We are really excited for their first day!!!

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