Riverside ES Transforms Media Center Into Learning Commons

Over the summer the teachers at Riverside Elementary School began the transformation of their traditional Media Center into a bright, colorful, interactive Learning Commons.  

“The transformation came from an article that I had read about rejuvenizing your library into the 21st century,” said Tammy Matz, Principal at Riverside Elementary School.  “I sent the article out to some of the teachers that follow me on Twitter and we began talking about how we needed to update our library and make it more collaborative, more colorful, and exciting.” 

The teachers that were interested in helping to transform the library were invited to pin items to a Pinterest board that was set up to collect ideas that could later be incorporated into the new learning commons.   As the Pinterest page grew, a committee was formed. 

“The committee started to meet and we put together a three year plan,” said Matz.  “We changed the goals and mission statement for our library with the help of our Media Specialist, Patty Davis.  Once we did that, we talked about a three year time line.  What did we want to roll out first?  The easiest thing to roll out we felt was the paint – just changing the color scheme of the actual library.”

Laura King, a fourth grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School, organized the teacher volunteers over the summer and was part of the committee who set the vision for the new learning community. 

“It was a great team building experience for our staff this summer to get together on this,” said King.  “We had eight official days we got together.”

The teachers completely repainted the entire media center from the rainbow border at the top of the wall to the black base boards. 

“It was a great experience for us all to work together from different grade levels,” said King.

Since student collaboration is an important element in the new learning commons, the committee added an active table, presentation platform, and reading corner featuring a tree of knowledge in this first stage of implementation.  Tables have also been arranged to encourage large and small group work.

“The presentation platform allows students to sit around it and listen as someone or a group of people does a reader’s theater or reads poem they wrote,” said Angelica Espeseth, Riverside’s technology specialist.  Shoal River Middle School’s Construction Technology classes under the direction of Dale Chavers built the presentation platform.

“The active table is also a collaborative piece,” said Espeseth.  “We can have up to six students with work areas on the table and they can work on various things together as a group.”

There are also plans to bring in a Lego Stories Starter table.  Purchased through a grant, it is a Lego set intended to help students write.

“We are working with some of our reluctant writers in small groups to give them something extra to help them write better,” said Espeseth.

“Instead of being a library, we are going to be more interactive,” said Patty Davis, Media Specialist.  “We are trying to get students to learn more real life situations like collaboration, how to work with teams, and communication skills.  Those are the types of things we are focusing on in the listening and speaking portions of the standards.”

The Learning Commons also features a Teacher Collaboration area.  “We want the kids to see the teachers being involved in the same kinds of things,” said Davis.  “Hopefully, the teachers will sit over here and read, or will talk in small groups.  That way they are modeling for the students the things we want the students to accomplish as well.”

Davis went on to say the new Learning Commons is going to be a busy place which is going to require a little bit of adjustment. 

“Everything that has been done so far has been a labor of love by our teachers,” said Matz.  “This is what our teachers did this summer – they were here in this room creating this masterpiece.”

The Learning Commons transformation project is being funded with money generated by Riverside Elementary School’s daycare program.

To see a complete photo gallery of the Learning Commons, please visit the OCSD Facebook page.

To see Riverside Elementary School’s Learning Commons Vision and Mission statement, click here.