Crestwood Middle School’s new Collaboration Center looks more like a modern professional meeting room than a place seventh-graders complete school work.
Tables are situated for group work; a huge projector screen stands next to walls that serve as whiteboards. An artistic panel serves as a partition for a living-room style area. Small white boards called huddle boards connect to tables for students to scrawl notes. Six TV screens hang on the walls to display what’s projected on the big screen. Everything is outfitted for technology.
“This will have the best up-to-date technology a district can have,” said Superintendent Mike Zoerhoff. “We are trying to give our kids space to be innovative and not be held back by the constraints of a room.”
Crestwood’s Collaboration Center opened a year and a half ago, serving as a pilot for centers in schools district-wide. East Kentwood High School and the Freshman Campus will have centers as well as Pinewood and Valleywood middle schools. Elementary schools, beginning with Bowen, Brookwood, Southwood and Townline, will have redesigned media centers that blend features of a traditional library with the Collaboration Center concept. Centers are modeled after spaces at Steelcase University Learning Center in Grand Rapids.
The projects are funded through the $64.8 million bond passed last November. The plan for technology is ongoing to keep up with district needsand ever-evolving tech innovations over the next 10 years, Zoerhoff said.
Seventh-grade student Madison Catching, while working in the Collaboration Center with her class, glanced at the TV screen above the table where she worked on on a laptop. On the TV was an example of a writing prompt related to her language-arts assignment. “If we are back here and we can’t see (the large screen) we can look up here to see,” Madison said.
Teacher Erika Vann books the room regularly for her class because she loves the learning environment.
“I like how large it is,” Vann said. “The kids can move around. I don’t have to say ‘Shhh.’ They can talk.”
They also are savvy with the technology, and working on it while working together comes naturally, Vann said. “I tell them, ‘You are going to be doing this all your life. Collaboration is a part of everything.'”
Principal Don Dahlquist said the center is perfect for cross-curricular learning and projects that take on a new level of innovation. Even physical education teachers use it. “It really allows the teaching staff to be creative,” he said.
Funding for Safety, Security and Technology
Since the bond issue’s approval the district has purchased eight new buses, eliminating double runs and adding video camera for increased safety and security. Twenty-eight buses will be replaced over 10 years.
Parking lots were resurfaced at Endeavor and Townline elementary schools and exterior lighting was replaced.
More than 750 laptop computers were purchased district-wide. The plan is to purchase more than 5,000 Chromebooks over 10 years.
Artificial turfs were replaced at Falcon Stadium and Pat Patterson Athletic Field.
Projects planned for summer 2017 include a site plan renovation at East Kentwood High School to improve traffic flow and entrances.