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Expansion for Innovation Summer 2014: Thoughtful Design with Learning in Mind

School has begun, and Cohn Campus is once again a whirlwind of activity. You have probably noticed that the campus has been refreshed for the new year, with renovations and updates inside and out, and a playground with more open space to run and play. Thanks to the generous donors to the Expansion for Innovation Capital Campaign, we were able to make improvements throughout the classrooms and grounds.

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Every single renovation was part of a very thoughtful design plan. Each change was made with three goals in mind: optimizing our students’ learning experience, adapting our outdoor space to suit the way our students play, and continuing to lead the way in energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. Facilities Director Nic Guèdenet explains, “educationally and environmentally, the school is leading the way by making these renovations.”
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Classroom design decisions were made in a collaborative process, incorporating the latest research in pedagogical design. For example, the colored accent walls in each classroom serve as “focus walls,” in soft colors that are proven by research to help students remain calm and focused. Each change was made with functionality, durability, and aesthetics in mind.

DSC_0267One of the changes we are most proud of is the construction of our pilot classrooms, with unique designs to facilitate the different learning needs of our lower elementary, upper elementary, and middle school students. In the summer of 2013, we created four upper elementary and one middle school pilot classroom with new flooring, paint, and ergonomic desks and furniture. This summer, we constructed four lower elementary pilot classrooms with new storage and flooring, and a wide variety of innovative furniture designed with the learning needs of 1st and 2nd graders in mind.

By establishing pilot classrooms, we create prototype rooms to test out new furniture, to see how well it meets our teachers’ and students’ needs before purchasing for all classrooms. Assistant Head of School Kate Lussen explains, “our overall main goal is to create an environment conducive to a dynamic classroom that helps students work both independently and collaboratively.”

Below, Lower Elementary School Principal Donna Wood explains the pedagogical functions of the furniture in the 1st and 2nd grade prototype classrooms.

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Four trees were removed from the playground to create more open space for students to run and play. Students can now spread out to play soccer and football or practice gymnastics, all favorite recess activities. The creation of a colorful new lunch space on the side fire lane frees up even more space in the yard. We have also added tables and plantings to the front courtyard, creating a second appealing lunch space.

ISTP’s Cohn Campus has been an Energy Star certified Green Business Leader for two years, and additional changes made during the summer 2014 phase of our Expansion for Innovation made the campus even more sustainable. More efficient lighting was installed, skylights were added to the teachers’ workroom to reduce energy needs by 50 percent, and drought-resistant plants were planted throughout the landscape.

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We are very proud of all the improvements made over the summer, and we can already see them positively impacting our students’ school experience.

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