This School Used to Be a Kmart

In early August, Entrepreneur High School—a state of the art charter school in Highland, California—opened its doors in what was once a Kmart store. Completely renovated, the building now represents the school of the future, designed with spectacular, modern spaces outfitted with the latest in educational furniture. From flexible high-tech furnishings, movable seating and individual study zones, to brightly colored desks and collaborative spaces that integrate technology, our goal was to create multiuse spaces that not only cater to unique learning needs, but also prepare students for real-life environments like college and the business world. The strategy is clearly working. Here are the top five ways our students are benefiting from their new environment:

Boosted creativity

The experts at Hertz Furniture, which provided the design concept and furniture for the entire school, helped our team select tables and chairs that lend themselves to creative learning. After decades of being told to sit still, today’s students are encouraged to move, with new research showing movement stimulates the brain and helps improve learning. Wobbly seating, chairs on casters and rocker stools that allow fidgety students to gently sway back and forth, as well as brightly colored furnishings and walls, are proving to spur creativity and inspire new ideas.

Increased engagement

With an abundance of collaborative spaces—where students sit in groups on mobile chairs that enable them to move around and interact with others—we’re finding that students are naturally becoming better communicators and team players. Contoured, wave-like desks support group work because they easily join together in unlimited ways to suit any need and can separate when individual work is required. The setup lends itself to cooperative learning in a way that a traditional classroom can’t achieve, mimicking a real-life modern work environment.

Improved productivity

Creating an environment that feels more like a cutting edge office facility than a school is proving to increase motivation and productivity. User-friendly furnishings, incorporating technology, charging stations and TV screens, provide students with all they need to get the job done more easily and efficiently. Carefully selected colors—such as greens and blues—are known to promote intellectual thinking and balance, which also help improve output.

Better self-esteem

By recognizing that students have different learning needs and offering them customized workspace options that best meets their requirements, the school is effectively sending a message that “we respect your individuality and want to do everything possible to help you succeed.” For those with concentration difficulties, we offer chairs where they can bounce, sway or move around. For those who want quiet downtime to de-stress or focus away from the interference of others, we offer self-contained study pods complete with padded vinyl seating, a desk and arm and leg rests. For those who work best in a group, we offer multiple collaborative options. When students feel valued, their self-esteem is boosted and they perform better.

Enhanced mood

When you feel good in your surroundings, you feel happier, and studies show that a good mood can positively impact some learning. Beyond the classroom, happier students make for a more positive overall school experience. The upbeat atmosphere extends beyond the students, to the teachers and administrators as well. A one-size-fits-all approach to learning no longer suits today’s classrooms. If we can make school a fun, relaxing place to hang out in a way that caters to everyone’s varied needs, kids will want to spend time there and ultimately they will be better prepared for the future.
Ray Culberson is the Director of Youth Services for San Bernardino Unified School District and the Executive Director of the newly-opened charter school, Entrepreneur High School. He was voted Outstanding Teacher in the State of California and received honors from the National Science Foundation for his teaching techniques.

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