Project Profile: Oak Park Medea Creek Middle School
Time and again we’ve experienced that the best learning environments and therefore the best learning outcomes are created when all stakeholders work together from the outset. Our most recent project, a partnership between Natural Pod, the leadership team at The Oak Park Unified School District (OPUSD) and Shaw Contract, resulted in a stunning space that will have a deep impact on its users for years to come.
With the passing of a local bond in 2016, OPUSD has been diligently working to modernize their facilities and implement initiatives to lower their carbon footprint by focusing on using sustainable, non-toxic and environmentally friendly products in their daily processes.
One specific initiative is to ensure safe and healthy environments for Oak Park students and staff. To this end, the district has been constructing sustainable classrooms through the use of shipping container technology. Shipping containers, if not recycled, are left to collect at The Port of Los Angeles after use. Following the success of implementing these sustainable classrooms on their high school campus, the district plans to build more indoor/outdoor learning studios at each campus district-wide.
To fully meet their environmental and sustainability goals, Oak Park approached Natural Pod and Shaw Contract to outfit the interior of the shipping container classrooms, as they recognized that both organizations share the same values and commitments to sustainability, environmental stewardship and support of creating student-centered learning environments.
Equipped with open access to outdoor seating and table arrangements, shade structures and trees, the indoor/outdoor design enriches the possibilities for project-based learning and discovery. Each of the six learning studios, made from three shipping containers, was constructed with wide sliding doors that open onto a central courtyard so teaching and learning can flow into the outdoors while making use of all the beautiful natural light.
Early conversations with Oak Park leadership and teachers allowed Natural Pod to become familiar with the district’s teaching and learning objectives. It became clear that by designing new furniture pieces, Natural Pod could reinforce those objectives in the physical environment. This dialogue resulted in the creation of the CreateSpace™ Collection, a group of modular, multi-functional, and easily movable furniture pieces that promote progressive teaching and encourage educators to try new things. Because the pieces are so flexible, there are countless arrangements possible when using the same pieces of furniture. Everything can be quickly reconfigured by the students, making for smooth transitions that can evolve with the unit of study, shift by class period, accommodate individual students’ needs, or aid those spontaneous teachable moments. This adaptability also gives students choice of where and how they learn best, really putting them at the center of their own learning.
Shaw Contract specializes in creating inspiring sustainable flooring solutions. They understand that by laying the foundations for learning environments, their products can create welcoming dynamic spaces that optimize student engagement, support teaching and increase positive learning outcomes. They purposefully used a resilient tile in the shipping container classrooms that carries from the other school buildings to create a cohesive look, ensuring students have a similar experience in both spaces. The wood-look tile brings nature indoors and is durable and easy to clean without harsh chemicals.
The photos below show the beautiful result of this successful collaboration, and how, when all parties work together with open communication, great outcomes can be achieved. To learn more about this project and the development and construction of this campus – please see the video created mid-way through the project.
Special thanks to Jay Greenlinger, Ed.D., Director of Curriculum & Instruction; Brendan Callahan, Director of Bond Programs, Sustainability, Maintenance, and Operations; and the educators at Medea Creek Middle School in Oak Park Unified School District; and Michelle Carpenter at Shaw Contract.
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