Lincoln Middle School
Schiller Park, IL
In a class all its own.
From dynamic, light-filled student “learning studios” to reading terraces and a rooftop garden, Lincoln Middle School (LMS) is changing the learning landscape inside and outside the classroom in Schiller Park, Illinois.
The school’s design arose out of close collaboration between BrainSpaces, Inc. of Chicago, the project’s educational planning consultant, and the LMS administration, teachers, students, staff, and community.
Through a series of focus groups, LMS Principal Constance Stavrou and Amy Yurko, President of BrainSpaces, encouraged the different constituencies to imagine the school of their dreams.
The administrators wanted a safe, secure and supportive environment, a welcoming atmosphere for parents and community members, and an efficient, durable and maintainable building.
The community wanted a school that would prepare their children for success in life, a neighborhood facility they could use and be proud of, and the best use of their tax dollars.
The resulting school achieves all of these things. It is a model for team teaching and activity-based learning. It provides rich connections to the world at large through plentiful windows and reading plazas. It also addresses the students’ physical need to move and the teachers’ instructional need to break students into flexible groups.
“We knew from prior experience that the adaptable nature of VS furniture was essential to meeting the various needs of the school’s fluid new space,” says Ms. Yurko. “We also knew that we needed to convince LMS that it was the right choice, so we set up a demonstration classroom that gave students and teachers a chance to experience a VS-enabled environment. The furniture essentially sold itself.”
PantoSwing-LuPo and PantoMove-LuPo chairs are used throughout the school. The chairs adjust up and down, swivel and roll, letting students change position throughout the day, which is critical to academic success. Research shows a significant relationship between movement and mental fitness.
To maximize the amount of space for learning activities, Ms. Yurko specified a variety of VS movable tables and storage units throughout the school to provide mobile support for teachers to work with students and each other.
In the primary learning and study spaces, the teachers wanted furniture that was easy to rearrange and spacious enough for laptops, textbooks and project materials. Ms. Yurko chose LiteTables, EuroLine and RondoLift tables, and Series 600 storage cupboards.
The LiteTables are extraordinarily strong and durable, but so lightweight students can quickly move them together for small group learning activities or stack them up and out of the way for large group events.
The EuroLine tables, with their castered bases and diverse shapes, are also easy to rearrange for different class needs and group projects.
FlipTables allow the health classroom to double as an aerobics/yoga studio. The tables have roomy and easy-to-clean six-foot tops. When floor space is needed for exercise, the tops tilt up via a quick-release mechanism for compact, nested storage.
Duo-Media computer tables address the special requirements of the school’s digital music lab. Technology capable, they have a lockable sliding mechanism for easy access to the cable channel and a cable outlet that runs the full width of the table between top and side panel.
To get the best use of every part of the building, even the hallways were designed as learning environments.
“VS mobile furniture, particularly the Interactive Center, has been instrumental to extending learning activities beyond the classroom’s four walls to nearly anywhere inside and outside the school,” notes Ms. Yurko.
LMS has been up and running for a full year and the feedback is universally positive.
Principal Stavrou loves how student-centered everything is.
“This school addresses the needs of the students and the different types of learning they need to succeed,” she explains. “It really puts the students first. It shows them that the community, their parents and their teachers care about them and care about their future.”
The students can’t get enough of it. They describe it as a home away from home, saying things like:
“I feel special here.”
“It’s not boring furniture. It’s fun and different which makes it really cool.”
And, “It’s like a big learning playhouse.”
Adds Principal Stavrou, “The community really helped in designing the school. When we first opened the doors, they saw the different elements that they suggested and that gave them a profound sense of ownership.”
Also of note, LMS was awarded a Citation of Excellence 2011 from Learning by Design, a bi-annual publication for education design and innovation excellence.