OK… So, for those of you who tune into my space, you’re probably wondering why I’ve basically dropped off of the blogosphere grid for the majority of this summer… Well, since being hired for a new tech position in my District, I’ve had the awesome opportunity to work on three super cool projects that will change the face of teaching and learning in our schools: A 1:1 iPad initiative in Grades K-12; the transformation of our traditional MS/HS library into a modern-day media center; and the development of an elementary makerspace.
As you can imagine, implementing projects of this magnitude required a great deal of time; therefore, I was unable to be as devoted to writing as I have been in the past. Although that aspect has been a bummer, playing a role in moving our district forward in these areas has been an amazing experience!
In any event, our new media center venture—which I have named Project Reimagine—was recently featured in the Daily Herald, one of our local newspapers so I thought I’d share the article… Check it out!
B-A to open media center for middle, high school
By Adeena Harbst, Editor
This school year will mark a small moment in history at Bellwood-Antis School District as a vibrant new media center is opened in the library.
“It has bold colors and barn wood. It stuns you,” said Jamie Forshey, BASD director of instruction, technology and media, who had the vision for a media center for years. “When I talked about it, it was hard for others to envision.”
The media center was modeled to offer a Barnes and Noble/Panera Bread/Starbucks modern-industrial feel, and administrators and staff think it will give students a small taste of college life and its popular studying atmospheres.
High school students can enter the nook in the mornings, during study halls or other down times to study and do work, and also get a snack; middle school students will have more supervised access. All students will have access to iPads through a district initiative and will be permitted to use smart phones via a revised policy.
“It’s a huge motivation and a privilege,” said Forshey, who has worked at the district for 30 years. “It’s just not something that’s typical. It’s kind of breaking the mold.”
With that privilege, said Forshey, comes responsibility. And she forsees students learning about media, technology, time management and more. With decreased use of the library over the years, this is a way to motivate students to step into the library, and even into school.
“We have to tap into students’ interests. If pretzels and drinks help, so be it,” said Forshey. “When you can get kids to school and excited to be at school and have positive attitudes, that’s when the learning can take place.”
Forshey, along with district Superintendent Dr. Tom McInroy and others, visited Elizabeth Forward School District earlier in the year to check out its iPad initiative and discovered the high school had a similar media center.
“To see that in action and see it is successful was exciting,” said Forshey. “When you have that vision and actually go to schools that implement it and see it in action, it becomes a no-brainer. My original idea was small and it snowballed into a larger-scale project.”
At Elizabeth Forward, school attendance reportedly increased, drop out rates decreased, and the number of library books signed out increased by 30 percent. Also, the number of students attending cyber/charter school decreased and those students returned to the district.
“They had over 80 kids in cyber and charter school and now there are under 10 because of the things they’re doing,” pointed out Dr. McInroy. For B-A, he said, “It’s a work in progress, it won’t happen overnight. But it’s a really good start and it’s fun. I haven’t been this excited about education in a decade.”
The Nutrition Group will staff and stock the center’s kitchenette which used to be an office. Special education students will help run the café. They’ll learn real-life working skills through taking orders, running register, and serving food and drinks. Administration and staff expect it will be an opportunity for other students to join in as well.
Student visitors can use their school breakfast/lunch accounts at the café, but even without food and drinks, the space is still inviting.
The center took many hours over the summer to complete, and there are still a few finishing touches to be made. But it has come much further along than Forshey dreamed.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a number of years now…I’ve been researching for years,” she said. “The students asked about it at the end of last year, and all I told them was something would be different. I thought maybe it would be only painted walls.”
The project got support; donors, community members and businesses stepped up. Shelves were moved, books were shifted and older ones were placed into storage. Old projectors, typewriters, and card catalogs went and space was made.
Now, a third of the library is vivd green and orange, with a striped awning above an open order window to the kitchenette with a fancy fridge. A denim-looking couch, loveseat and chair and industrial-style stools and high top tables are in place. There is barn wood, new flooring, a chalk board for specials, and a colored light-up Café sign.
“The whole community has really jumped in. This has cost the taxpayers nothing,” said McInroy, standing proudly in the new space.
Crystal Himes, president of B-A Foundation and her husband Dan’s business, Himes Construction, donated many hours of work and at least $3,500 towards the project.
“They have been extremely supportive and encouraging. It’s been pretty awesome to work with them to create this vision,” said Forshey, who attended B-A with Himes. “This has been our major project to give back to the school and the community for what we received from both.”
“I just think it’s a great project for the kids,” said Himes. “It’s fantastic. I’m all about the kids here at the school, so anything we can do to improve education, improve life skills…it’s just a great accomplishment.”
Though a few students have been a part of making the project happen, many have only caught glimpses of the work on social media.
“They cannot wait to come back to school,” said Forshey. “It’s really interesting and cool to see that a change like this could be a catalyst to get some of them to come to school.”
Student Kermit Foor who has helped with the project, said, “I’m very excited for it. I can’t wait to see it up and running and see the students interact with it.”
High School Principal Rick Shreier, Assistant Principal Cathy Adams, and Middle School Principal Don Wagner all shared positive comments and excitement for the new media center. Teachers will be able to take classes to the space, which is expected to seat at least 25-30 people at a time, and enjoy their planning periods there. There is also an office for a student help desk where students will help teachers and peers with technology.
Forshey said it will be a space for communication, collaboration, and relationship building; a place with a positive energy and vibe.
Adeena Harbst can be reached at email@example.com.
Check out the visual timeline of the project to see how the space came to life:
For the past 20+ years…
The transformation begins in early July…
Mid July: All books from one section of the library were relocated to other areas; Old carpet removed…
Mid July: Bold colors are added to the space; Old ceiling tiles are removed so new ones can be installed…
Late July: Additional colors are incorporated; An office is converted into a Tech Support/Help Desk area for students and teachers…
Early August: Some Tech Club students get their first glimpse of the new space…
Early August: Other Tech Club students check out the new space for the first time; New flooring finished; Concrete countertops and serving window installed…
Mid August: The finishing touches were made to Phase 1 of the project—new flooring, barn wood trim, a chalkboard to advertise cafe specials and some cool decor…
Week of August 22: Although we’re waiting for a few pieces of furniture to arrive, breakfast was served to our faculty and support staff during a back to school in-service program…
A shout out to Adeena for wrting such an awesome article about our project! ♥
Stay tuned for more updates as well as student reaction to their new learning hub…