Avonworth library becomes modern learning hub

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Today's school library is becoming a place where books are part of a complement of resources, not the only resources.

The Avonworth School District applied this concept in the conversion of its middle and high schools' shared library to a 21st Century Collaboration Center, which features more technology and areas to foster student creativity and collaborative work.

“It's looking at education through a different mentality. It's not so cookie cutter. It's really trying to look at things more holistically,” district spokeswoman Dana Hackley said.

The center, which links the middle and high schools, features a video conferencing room, an area for large group instruction, removable white boards and 15 new computers at a refashioned reference desk.

It also features a Maker Lab, in which students will use power tools, sewing machines, a new 3-D printer and other tools and supplies to create projects that will support the district's core curriculum, high school Principal Ken Lockette said.

The lab is similar to the Makeshop of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, which provided input to the district.

The Maker Lab aligns with the students' focus on human-centered design, which is the process of finding solutions to problems by making things, Lockette said.

The goal of the center is to develop a learning commons where students can work together. Book shelves were pushed to the sides of the room, walls were broken down and storage rooms were cleaned out for a cleaner design, he said.

Officials removed some reference books because online databases have become more popular. New furniture and carpeting were added, and walls were painted.

Seventh-graders Karen Siddoway and Maya French, both 13, used laptop computers while working on their World Hall of Fame projects in new, booth-like seating in the center Tuesday.

“I think it's nice. .. it makes it feel like you want to be in here. Before it was you get a book, you leave,” Karen said.

The center was designed with a $170,000 grant from the Grable Foundation, and about $30,000 from the district.

Avonworth consulted with Maya Design Inc., a design consulting firm Downtown, to develop the center.

The firm mostly works with Fortune 500 companies, but it is getting more requests from schools about improving educational spaces to support collaborative learning, said Dutch MacDonald, an architect with the firm.

Maya looked at Avonworth library and identified printed material that might not be as relevant as students learn today, he said.

“Space is a commodity and, sometimes, a limited commodity, and that is one area that is in flux, the amount of printed material that needs to be on site,” he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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