Districtwide Modernization Project Transforms Media Centers into Activity Hubs
- 28th September 2020
- Anthony Bowie
Like many school districts, Midland Public Schools in Michigan had to come to terms with the fact that its aging, traditional media centers no longer met the needs of their students and teachers. With origins as libraries whose shelves were filled with books, these stalwarts of the K-12 school campus needed a complete makeover that would help them become more functional, modern, and inviting.
“I was a high school teacher for 13 years, and I’m pretty sure that the same shelving and tables were in place before I even got there; some of it may have been original,” says Melissa Toner, the district’s Technology and Media Curriculum Specialist. “The furniture was sturdy, but it was nearly impossible to move around because it was so heavy.”
With students as a focal point, Midland Public Schools set out to make its media centers where both students and teachers wanted to come to experience both an extension of the classroom and an activity hub for all 10 of its schools.
“Our decision to make media centers the ‘hub’ of the school building drove our decisions around design and furnishings,” says Toner. Midlands two high schools, for example, feature large media centers that can accommodate 3-4 different student groups (and their teachers) at once. Smaller, collaborative spaces feature surfboard tables with wobble stools. Students can connect their Chromebooks into flat-panel displays and work on team projects in the new media center spaces.
The middle school media centers are similarly designed and can accommodate multiple groups at once (i.e., a small group of students in one area, and a teacher giving instruction to a group in another).
Working with MiEN Company, the district selected different types of shelving, including fixed and mobile shelving. Toner says the mobile shelving is extremely helpful when bookshelves need to be rearranged to make room for larger groups or different activities. “The wheeled shelving is great,” she explains, “because we can spread things out and open up the entire space if we want to.”
The elementary school media centers feature different setups that include stadium seating arranged to help youngsters learn the best practices of how to utilize a media center, find books, and conduct research. At the beginning of each school year, the elementary students gather in the stadium seating area to receive those instructions and learning.
As the school year progresses, students regroup in that area to find out about the day’s agenda, and then they break out into groups. “Some teachers use that space for read-alouds that align with our Primary Years Program for International Baccalaureate,” says Toner.
Using display panels, media paraprofessionals run “book of the month” or “topic of the month” activities that are meant to help the students learn how to use self-checkout stations. The district also plans to integrate a makerspace activity area into its media centers in future modernization projects.
“The variety of seating choices has been a really fun thing for the students because some may just want to be off in a little corner reading quietly by themselves, while others want to read together,” says Toner. “It’s been really enjoyable to watch what they select, depending on the teacher’s plan for them that day.”
Toner expects the district’s media centers to continue serving as activity hubs for their respective campuses. “It’s great to see how excited the students get when they come into that space. They love it,” she concludes. “The bright colors and the soft furniture are very inviting, and the centers have become a true extension of our classrooms—which is exactly our goal.”