Different ways of learning common at Groveland in Minnetonka

As the oldest active school in the state, Groveland Elementary School in Minnetonka is no stranger to offering new methods of learning to its students.

Completed this school year, the Groveland Learning Commons is an interactive collaborative working space that replaced the old library and media center. With a nautical and Lake Minnetonka theme derived from students, the Learning Commons incorporates a space conducive for collaboration.

With a plethora of natural light, three reading port windows that represent ship’s portholes, stone accents and wood floors to characterize docks, the center’s design makes for a natural leaning environment. The décor and artwork on the walls are kept minimal yet timeless – artwork solely created by the students.

“I wanted to bring the color in with the kid’s artwork,” said Media Specialist at Groveland Colleen Small. “Everything about it is very natural for the kids.”

Décor matters

Most everything in the center is moveable, such as bookshelves on wheels and chairs that can be easily moved from one station to another so students aren’t limited to a single space, Small says. Another reason for the mobility is so the center can change with the fast-paced technology that will outdate the center eventually.

“Flexibility is key so it can move with the times,” she said. “It has to move with the times or you’re lost.”

Small also says this is making sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely to make the space as universal as possible.

“If the technology changed, it would still fit the room,” Small said.

The technology in the commons is completely wireless, and forget the old cedar drawers with 3×5-inch cards to find books. Students now use an iPad ap that shows them what the book they seek looks like and exactly where to find it. This idea, Small says, was generated from a group of students who brainstormed the idea of having a robot retrieve the book and bring it to them. That may be a ways into the future.

Digital self-check out systems allow students easier access to books and materials. A group instruction area with Smartboard technology and a room to work as a group with a television equipped with Apple TV is also available for instruction.

Meant for multi-tasking

By incorporating what worked in the past and making sure it still fit the use of the students, Small says the goal was finding a tender balance with the old and new.

Teachers too are learning how to use a space that before was designed for only one activity at a time. Now, because it was designed for multi-use, the learning space has to adapt with more activity.

“The intent was for this room to have more than one thing going on at a time,” Small said. “The collaborative work area is new for us so we’re learning to adjust to that … it’s a good thing though.”

Groveland Elementary School Principal Dave Parker says the design was generated in part by the students themselves.

“We asked the fourth- and fifth-graders what their vision was and brainstormed what thoughts they had,” Parker said.

Helping brainstorm and give input on the design of the Learning Commons, the students stressed technology and comfort. The fluid learning spaces allows collaboration, Parkers reiterates.

“This is a space designed to meet that fluency,” Parker said. “If you look around you hope to see collaboration.”