Scholarship entry from:

Owen Forberg

Richards High School

School District 218

White painted cinder blocks meet at the intersection of two hallways—they form the outer walls of a classroom. On one wall, the perfectly tessellated blocks are interrupted by an alcove which has neatly arrayed windows surrounding a heavy wooden door. This little nook is magical! When you tuck inside and open the door, you feel like you’re entering a hidden area of the school, like Alice discovering the portal to Wonderland. Except, there is nothing mystical about this room; actually, it is purely scientific: it is Richards’s newest renovation to the science wing.

To fully appreciate the design of this classroom I should be orderly in my description of features and their benefits. But first, an initial impression: The room is bright, one wall is stark white and the opposite houses windows that stretch the full length of the classroom. Seemingly insignificant are the light switches. This feature wouldn’t usually merit mention but here its functionality is noteworthy. As a student adverse to bright fluorescent lighting, I appreciate the dimmable lights because it improves my focus and that contributes to my learning. The adjacent wall is a floor to ceiling and wall to wall whiteboard. The oversize whiteboard allows for my instructor to draw large diagrams and write extensive notes on the day’s topics. Group work is displayed on the whiteboard for the class to observe and study. The wall is an area of shared ideas that enriches learning. The new lab encourages interactive learning more than most other classrooms do. When the lights are off the whiteboard doubles as a projector screen.

Lining the back wall are storage shelves. They hold neatly organized scientific instruments making it easy for students to conduct experiments. Little educational time is wasted; in fact, within a moment I gathered five tools I needed to test and identify different rocks during our geology unit. The room design cut down time consuming search for materials and tools.

The classroom’s windows allow golden sunlight to envelop the classroom; it is revitalizing. The outdoor scenes framed by the windows include beautiful trees and lingering clouds. The size of windows breaks down the barriers between the inside and outside worlds, an organic feel, a perfect setting for an environmental science class. The smart design of the classroom is evident in the inclusion of black out blinds, making the room dark enough for us to observe color spectrums or attempt to measure the speed of light.

Skipping the last wall that only has more storage we can finally explore the tables where the majority of classwork is completed. Suspended outlets can be pulled down to power microscopes or other electronic tools we employ. The tables are spacious and provide plenty of room for everyone to work on experiments, make notations and discuss our findings. The room is designed for maximum efficiency while blending utilitarian design with organic sensibilities that other lab spaces lack. It is airy and calm, which is conducive to learning.