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Kent ISD STEAM educator event targets connection, collaboration

Active design boosts classroom experience

West Michigan educators visited the Steelcase Innovation and Teaching Lab to see a functioning classroom designed by Steelcase

Kent ISD — As educators learned about classroom design at the the Steelcase Learning and Innovation Center, they saw whiteboards that can be moved to make cubicles, tables designed to allow collaboration and a desk that provides storage for a student’s backpack.

About 40 area educators had the opportunity recently to explore, connect and collaborate as part of the Kent ISD STEAM Network Connect. Along with learning about designing classrooms to meet the needs of today’s learners, the day-long event, included participant-led sessions on topics about STEM education and programs hosted by Kent ISD EdTech, STEM and Career Awareness. Kids Food Basket also showcased its garden and nutrition education resources.

At Steelcase, “Educators got the opportunity to see how a company incorporates design thinking in their products to overall room design,” said Du Bui, Kent ISD STEM consultant. 

“I have learned there is so much more in the initial design and how to arrange an area,” said Karen Baum, Godwin Heights instructional specialist about the focus on classroom space. Baum has been working with North Godwin on its STEM program, thinking about the space and how teachers can best use it.

Brainstorming & Collaborating 

Forest Hills Central Woodlands teacher Patty Tolly presented a program on the West Michigan PBL Network, a group that supports area educators by featuring classroom ideas and resources in design thinking, project-based learning and relevance provided by more than 400 West Michigan educators.

Its website “has a plethora of ideas,” Tolly told educators. “If you are looking for different field trips, or I just look through other people’s projects and discover they have come up with ideas I never even thought of.”

Alexis Weibel, a seventh-grade computer science teacher in Grandville, said presentations such as those gave her the opportunity to talk, brainstorm and collaborate with other educators.

“It was really neat to be here at Steelcase,” Weibel said. “It is nice to be in an alternative environment, as it builds creativity, and it was cool just to have the opportunity to put faces to the names and build some community partners.”

For Steelcase, it was an opportunity to share how active classrooms can impact learning success, creativity, innovation and engagement and then have the teachers experience it first-hand by having their own programs and discussions in the classrooms, said Holly Savage, a Steelcase inside sales specialist and former Wyoming High School teacher.  

Bui said the team plans to continue to host programs at other local business sites in the hopes of connecting educators to more real-world applications. 

Read more from Kent ISD: 
Teachers toss the dice in hero’s quest to help students
Full STEAM ahead at the zoo

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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