Making a School Media Center a Collaborative and Fun Learning Space
- September 26, 2022
- Anthony Bowie
With about 275 students in grades pre-K through 8, St. Stephen Catholic School in Riverview, Fla., is well aware of the tectonic shifts that have taken place in the educational sector over the last two decades. And while the 21-year-old school is considered “young” for the region where it’s located, that doesn’t stop its leaders from innovating and coming up with ways to modernize and update the school’s facilities.
“We’ve been going through the school over the past five years and updating things, changing the look of the school and even repainting walls,” said Linda Umoh, Principal. The school also purchased new, collaborative-style desks for its middle school, upgraded its science lab and created a maker space complete with 3D printers and millions of Legos.
“Our goal is to modernize our school and make it look like a place that we all really want it to be,” said Umoh, who then set her sights on the school’s existing media center. A large room that housed St. Stephen’s library and computer lab, the media center was aging, short on space and in need of an overhaul.
Around the same time that St. Stephen’s was considering what to do with its media center, a local library was closing and looking for a good place to unload its large shelving units. St. Stephen’s was the happy recipient of that furniture, which it used to organize its media center books into a more compact space.
“That freed up a lot of space on our media center floor,” said Yesenia Hernandez-Dieringer, Media Center Specialist. The school also replaced its aging carpeting with luxury vinyl tile. Then it called on MiEN for help replacing its existing “clunker” computer tables with more modern, comfortable options for students and teachers to use in a collaborative and fun learning space.
After sharing their ideas with MiEN and listening to its suggestions, the school came up with an affordable approach that included streamlined computer tables that would accommodate desktop computers—but not necessarily take up the entire room. It also installed soft seating and collaborative tables throughout the room, knowing that its young students would really enjoy those collaborative and fun learning space options.
The project was funded by several individual donors via the school’s annual gala fundraiser. MiEN served as both a guiding light and sounding board throughout the entire process. “MiEN was really great at listening to what we really wanted,” said Umoh, “and helping us reshape our media center into something that we really wanted, and within our budget.”
Enlisting its art teacher’s help, St. Stephen picked a beautiful color pallet that made the collaborative learning space even more inviting and engaging for students. That was the final touch on a project that the entire school and the parent community are both excited about.
The new multipurpose media center was completed this past summer and officially opened for business for the 2022-23 school year. It now has a collaborative and fun learning space where students can come to use the computers, access technology, learn in groups or just sit quietly and read.
Older students use the room for St. Stephen’s after-school program. “It’s a great place for them to relax, do their homework, or hang out with their friends,” said Umoh. “When we hold our faculty meetings in there, it’s just such a comfortable and inviting space.”
Hernandez-Dieringer has been taking students into the center for a tour and to talk to them about the procedures and expectations related to computer utilization and the right way to use and treat the furnishings. “They were all blown away by the contemporary media lounge area,” she said, “and right away just wanted to get in there and get cozy.”
Both Umoh and Hernandez-Dieringer are equally as enamored with their school’s new media center and are planning to make good use of it throughout the school year. “After putting the collaborative and modern learning lounge space on paper, being able to come in and see it all being designed and put together was amazing,” said Umoh.
“When I saw it on paper, I couldn’t imagine that it would look as beautiful as it does when you’re actually sitting in it,” she added. “It’s very welcoming and parents, teachers and students are all excited about our new media center. We’re very happy with it.”