Louisville Middle School's Innovation project converted two existing underutilized spaces into purposeful, engaging and collaborative new learning environments that promote creativity, inquiry, and oracy.  An outdoor learning space was created in an unused alcove and a teacher workspace was converted into a student learning commons. Although all of BVSD's innovation guiding principles apply, the project strongly aligns with "Learning is a Social Process" and "Learning is Founded in Inquiry."

Results - Impact on Learning

During the first school year the new space was used, educators were asked to monitor and track growth towards the outcomes identified in their project plan and present the findings in a digital story.  The story was framed by the question, "How is innovation shifting the story of learning at our school?" 

Project Photos

Project Description

To develop the school's project, staff worked together to develop responses to the following guiding questions. 

1. Briefly describe the project that you plan to implement with your Innovation Funds.

The focus of our innovation funds is to convert existing unutilized or underutilized space into purposeful, engaging and collaborative new spaces that promote creativity, inquiry and oracy. Although all five innovation guiding principles apply, each space will have a focus principle. The most comprehensively remodeled space will be the addition of an outdoor classroom in an existing large alcove. This space is adjacent to the main hallway and three high usage classrooms where team-teaching and co-teaching occur daily. The outdoor space will be accessible through one of the existing classrooms or from the outside, just adjacent the main gym doors. This space will serve as an outdoor science lab, a presentation space with stadium seating and as a lab for farm-to-table growing.  The second area to be modified will be an underutilized teacher workroom “The Bat Cave” that now exists between two science classrooms. We will create a new collaborative space that can be used as a breakout classroom or a small group inquiry station. Soft seating and stand up height desktops (over half lockers) will give the space flexible use. A projector and interactive board will be integrated into the back wall to assist with idea development, collaborative inquiry, and presentations. Finally, all new lockers will be stand-up desk height with shiny laminate tops that students can use for collaboration and problem solving, turning hallway space into learning space.

2. How will you involve stakeholders in the decision-making process concerning the use of the innovation funds for your site?  

We put out a call to staff, students and our community to join the design process. As Principal, I invited our parents during Back to School Night and through our weekly Parent and Student bulletin. We also presented the opportunity and latest progress to our SAC (School Accountability Committee). Our Design Advisory Team is comprised of students, teachers administrators, parents and a community member as well as architects, our project manager. All staff and parents were invited to join and or contribute via google doc feedback. Our initial ideas and ultimate design came from Sketch-Up designs created by LMS students in their TIDE classes the prior spring. One of the students joined the Design Team, so he will get to see his idea come to fruition! 

3. How does your project support The Success Effect? (BVSD's Strategic Plan-Mission/Vision/Goals)

All three of these spaces will promote “challenging, meaningful and engaging learning opportunities”. As the Boulder Valley School District vision states, LMS will provide a more “comprehensive and innovative approach to education,” opening up the use of space beyond the classroom and beyond typical desks to learn and inspire curiosity. Additionally, our plan promotes the value of intellectual growth, health and physical development and social-emotional well-being of students.

4. Review the Innovation Guiding Principles and discuss with your stakeholders. How will your project align to one or more of the guiding principles?

Our project aligns most with two guiding principles for innovation: “learning is a social process” and “learning is founded in inquiry.”  All three spaces encourage collaboration, hence promoting learning as a social process. “The Bat Cave,” in particular, is flexible enough to provide “nest” and “cave” space for pairs and small groups up to a small class. Both innovation spaces (Bat Cave and outdoor classroom) provide opportunities to use technology to apply teambuilding and network skills and to communicate effectively, as well as seek a variety of perspectives, work respectfully, collaboratively and effectively to meet instructional objectives.  The “locker tops” work equally well as small group collaboration/ problem-solving space. “Learning is found in inquiry” is particularly evident in the outdoor classroom where there will be connections between classrooms, transparency between classroom and breakout spaces, zones to accommodate project design, collaboration, resources from multiple disciplines presentation space, maker space and technology-enhanced zones.

5. Determine what your learning outcomes are for your innovation. What will happen as a result of this innovation?

  • Students will learn through collaboration- reading, writing, speaking, listening and presenting to create learning.

  • Staff will collaborate to build interdisciplinary components to instruction.

  • The curriculum will be connected to real-world problems and will often be interdisciplinary in nature.

6. Determine how you will measure the progress towards and achievement of your learning outcome. What is your plan for gathering data to show that the change is positively impacting learning at your site?

Anecdotal survey data from teachers will reflect the perceived impact of the spaces on collaboration, inspiration for personal learning, and cross-curricular connections. Educator Effectiveness data may reflect improved practice related to Teacher Standards 1e, 3d, 3f, 4b, and 5a. Student survey data measuring outcomes of collaborative learning, innovative use of space, welcoming and safe environment will be collected. Additionally, use of spaces for social and instructional purposes will be monitored.

7. What professional learning and support might your staff might need in order to reach the desired learning outcomes for the space?

LMS teachers are currently studying Dylan Wiliam’s Embedding Formative Assessment, with a purpose of increasing student engagement, oracy, and ownership of their own learning through effective formative practice. This professional learning will support the use of the space. Additional opportunity with text from George Couros’ The Innovator’s Mindset and courses offered through the Innovation office will be beneficial.