Inspired. That’s how we (FMD Architects) would describe the staff and administration of Streetsboro City Schools after an intensive 3-day 21st Century Design Seminar hosted by Educational, Frank Locker. As a design team, we knew we needed to build on that initial inspiration to help the District create new learning opportunities for its students. One of the ways we tackled this was with innovative media center designs in their new High School and a Middle School conversion from the existing High School. The goal was to meet current needs but also foster new interactions and incidental learning by creating a true “hub” of the schools.
We recently checked in with Media Specialist, Lori Thomson, to see if the centers are functioning as we all intended after their first couple years in use. The opportunities the District has realized proved to be even more than we had imagined.
Our 21st century design for the high school media center focused on an open, centralized space that is located near the main entry, an exterior courtyard space, and connection to the student dining area. We surrounded the open media center with a dedicated conference room, small group rooms, an art room, and broadcast rooms to extend the reach and use of the media center area. From the early concepts, we continued to work closely with the school district to refine the plans and programming connections. Lori noted that the location works well for a variety of reasons. The staff can utilize the conference room with direct connection to the media center. They can also coordinate with students in the small group rooms, while the remainder of the group can remain in the open area. Students in the dining area often come over to the media center space to read, work on tasks, or lounge. When the weather is nice, students can also enjoy the adjacent courtyard, which provides natural light directly into the media center. With its proximity to the main entry, the media center is also used as a gathering space for special events.
With no permanent walls confining the media center, it creates easy access to the space from adjacent rooms and has a much more engaging feel than a traditional, enclosed room. Lori noted that the space feels more like a lounge than a library space, and the students enjoy hanging out there. Movable partial-height partitions are an added benefit. They provide surfaces for display and also define spaces within the open area. The mid-height bookshelves allow privacy when seated and the ability to see over while standing. The furniture is a mixture of comfortable lounge and task focused furniture, which responds to various scenarios that can occur in the space.
For the younger students at the middle school, the 21st century hub concept was applied to an enclosed media center in an existing, centralized space located between two major corridors. Lori noted that the media center receives a great amount of traffic from students, teachers bringing in classes, and also individuals passing through to reach the opposite corridor. The connection between the two corridors is seen as a positive because it brings through individuals that might not typically visit the media center. Having the media specialist desk located so that the attending individual can see the entry doors was also an important feature. The space has the proper area for book shelves, seating, an open office, and even a tinker space in the corner to allow for future STEM use by the district.
The use of color within the room is also seen as a positive for the middle school students. The vibrant colors are accentuated by the addition of natural light from Solatubes, which have been a welcome surprise to users for a centralized space that does not have windows directly to the exterior. The inclusion of elevated storefront glass provides a connection to the adjacent art room and exterior windows without a distraction to students.
Thank you, Lori, for this opportunity to obtain user insight of these two innovative spaces. Hearing the successes of daily use and the attraction these spaces provide for the students is a great confirmation to us as designers that 21st century education is not only being embraced, but is an effective tool to engage students.