A Modern, Engaging Classroom for the Workforce of the Future
- 13th April 2021
- Anthony Bowie
A vital program for the Kent ISD in Grand Rapids, Mich., MySchool@Kent provides an engaging, world-class blended learning environment that supports all students. By combining new ways of learning with the best part of school—the caring relationships—MySchool@Kent takes instruction and coursework online with a laptop/wireless card for learning anywhere.
Plus, students experience just-in-time learning, tutoring, and group discussions in the program’s café-style face-to-face learning labs. Those labs and learning spaces have been developed with a very modern, modular approach that promotes good collaboration and helps prepare students for success in college and/or the workforce.
“Many of the jobs we’re preparing students for didn’t exist just 20 years ago,” said Danielle Hendry, Principal at MySchool@Kent. “That means our classrooms shouldn’t look like they did 20 or 30 years ago. Instead, those spaces need to reflect the innovative styles of learning that we’ve incorporated into our curriculum.”
At MySchool@Kent, students learn in a very non-traditional, comfortable way that’s supported by modular furniture, seating, and desks. This allows them to lean back and get comfortable—something that can’t be accomplished using traditional student desks and chairs. “We give them a flexibility that translates into better learning outcomes,” said Hendry.
“When the students walk into this space,” she continued, “they feel like they’re in an innovative space, and that reflects the type of programming we offer here.” All MySchool@Kent students receive an individualized, personalized education designed to meet their specific needs. “We meet the kids where they are, and we get them what they need,” said Hendry. Students can work at their own pace with a success coach who helps them set goals.
Previously, MySchool@Kent’s physical space was filled with old-fashioned cubicles that were not only bulky and unsightly, but they also allowed students to “hide away” and not be a part of the classroom setting. Key changes included the addition of soft, flexible seating plus a lot of different individualized options. “If a student likes to work standing up or needs to fidget and move a little bit,” said Hendry, “the furniture allows them to do that.”
Working with MiEN, the program replaced that furniture with options that support students’ need for independent work while helping them feel like they’re part of the bigger classroom.
“We had a clear vision and a small budget, and MiEN worked with us to fine-tune that vision and help bring it to life,” explained Hendry, who visited the vendor’s showroom to select finishes. Some of those finishes included the addition of orange and blue fabric (to match the school’s colors), vinyl fabrics that can be cleaned easily (in high-contact areas), and rocking chairs that can be pulled up to participate in quick learning sessions.
MySchool@Kent’s modernized space facilitates learning while giving students a sense of ownership over their learning. “They have that sense of independence, and that’s reflected in the space,” said Hendry, who feels that the space also lends itself to better organic collaboration and connects students with the jobs that they’ll be vying for and excelling in.
“Students are collaborating with teachers and with each other in new ways,” said Hendry. “All of them are working in a way that mirrors how work happens in the real world. We made that part of our design plan and are very happy with the results.”
With MiEN’s help, MySchool@Kent adapted its traditional classroom in a way that students have responded to and they continue to embrace. “Having this type of unique professional environment really changes the mood and the tone of the whole classroom,” said Hendry. “that translates into an elevated sense of the importance of the work they’re doing here.”