America’s Schoolhouse Council, UNLV, and VS America Bring “High School Classroom 2021” to Music City
[Nashville, TN] – When Dr. David Ufnar’s Engineering 1 students went to the Gaylord Operyland Resort & Convention Center, they discovered a portal to tomorrow’s high school classroom. Class was held in a conference room converted into “High School Classroom 2021.”
The layout, technologies, and furnishings of the inquiry-based learning setting encouraged students to collaborate, experiment, and explore everything from guitar-making as part of Nashville’s musical heritage to the social and environmental issues related to the kelp forests of Monterey Bay.
America’s Schoolhouse Council (ASC), the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and VS America, Inc. joined forces to create a classroom for the Council of Educational Facility Planners International’s (CEFPI) “Classroom of 2021” competition. “High School Classroom 2021” was one of three submissions selected for display at CEFPI’s 88th Annual World Conference and Expo.
The class that test-drove the mock-up classroom hails from the Stratford STEM Magnet High School in east Nashville. The recipient of a “Race to the Top” grant, Stratford has emerged as a hub for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in Tennessee.
When Academia Meets Industry
Kevin Kemner, Assistant Professor and Education Facilities Research & Design Studies Coordinator at the UNLV School of Architecture, says, “‘High School Classroom 2021’ exemplifies the advancement that occurs when academia and industry join forces.”
Working with Knoxville-based Michael Brady, Inc., the partners presented the “High School Classroom 2021” concept to Vicki Metzgar, director of STEM initiatives for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Michael Steele, principal of Stratford. Leaders determined to make the most of the mock-up classroom by holding class in it during the conference.
The layout featured five zones that supported curricular collaboration and inquiry-based learning. Retractable walls, mobile labs, and flexible furniture allowed students to group, ungroup, and regroup at a moment’s notice.
Other leading school contributing organizations that donated services and materials to the classroom include Cisco Systems, Sheldon Laboratory Systems, and Tandus Flooring.
If These Walls Could Talk
“Tomorrow’s high school classroom is a transparent, technology-rich environment that promotes flexibility and encourages student collaboration,” says PBK’s Irene Nigaglioni, who coordinated the effort for ASC. “‘High School Classroom 2021’ incorporates the added benefit of linking students with local and global communities.”
UNLV’s School of Architecture and College of Education played a pivotal role in achieving those connections through the conceptualization, material development, and construction of the classroom. For instance, students and faculty imagined glass walls embedded with technology. Eight-foot-high walls surrounding the space represented multi-media touch screens that doubled as windows with views to nature.
Content on the walls represented the connections at the core of the future classroom:
• Local heritage: A section on guitar making and guitar culture encouraged students to explore Nashville’s musical roots.
• Community partnerships: A section on anatomy supported a partnership with Vanderbilt University, whose students teach at Stratford STEM Magnet High School.
• National social/environmental issues: A section on the kelp forests of Monterey Bay merged biology, environmental concerns, and even kelp art.
• Technology and planetology: A section that discussed NASA’s Juno spacecraft and its exploration of Jupiter.
A Concept Rooted in Research
The CEFPI ‘Classroom of 2021’ competition proved to be fertile ground to bring together UNLV’s ongoing research, ASC’s Flip This Classroom student performance research program, and lessons learned from Legat Architects’ award-winning STEM labs at Niles North and West High Schools.”
“Tomorrow’s high school learning setting is a studio built on and devoted to research,” says Jason Lembke, ASC member and director of K-12 Education at Legat Architects. “It bridges technologies, curricula, and communities, and supports exploration through group activity, peer review, and real-time mentoring from business and higher education partnerships.”