How Transforming A Workspace Transforms Student Learning
Parveen Loodu

Design thinking is an important element in education because it fosters many critical aspects of learning, including empathy to identify problems/issues, as well as creativity in coming up with innovative solutions.

Over this past summer, Southridge’s Junior School Design Lab underwent some significant renovations transforming the space into a more vibrant learning environment. New furniture including sturdy butcher block-top portable tables, along with comfortable mini stools have replaced the old rows of what was a static computer lab.

In addition to the large projector screen, there are also white boards where students can now work to brainstorm ideas for their potential design projects. Students can take pictures of their notes from the whiteboards to include in the research component of their projects.

The old dark carpets were replaced with new, bright flooring, as well as improved mobility for changing ‘classroom’ configurations. Cleaning up has also become far more efficient with the ability to easily move furniture and sweep messes off the floor, which allows for more learning time.

The newly renovated space has overhead cupboards and areas for storage to reduce clutter and maintain an open and clean learning environment. New corner table shelves have also been added which are great for students to store/display their projects, as well as transport them throughout the room or the school. By being able to move the new furniture easily, teachers can transform the learning space so that it creates greater opportunities for the children to learn and to engage in ways they couldn’t before!

All of the changes were well-planned and executed to develop an environment that can be manipulated and utilized for multiple subject areas. A lot of construction took place over the summer and the upgrades were possible because of money raised at last year’s Country Fair. 

“The Junior School Design Lab upgrades happened thanks to the strong support of our Southridge community – whether it be donating items or volunteering their time, we had students, families, alumni, alumni families, staff, and faculty all contribute to make the Country Fair a great success raising an amazing $60,000,” says Christiane Hodson, Director of Advancement. 

Since the changes have been made, MYP Technology Coordinator and Educational Technology Leader Steve Anderson says he has noticed that kids are now coming into the design lab with purpose and the space has a better energy that enables students to have the mindset of being open and excited to learn.

“It’s amazing to witness how transforming the workspace has led to a transformation in the overall energy and mindset of the kids,” says Anderson. “The room is brighter and less cluttered and it’s obvious that these changes have made a huge difference in our students’ learning.”


School of design thinking 

Most of the learning that takes place in the design lab is technology-based. The computers in the lab are used for research and design thinking, and the technology is utilized further to come up with ideas and solutions-based projects.

An upcoming Grade 7 project tasks students with a design-build structure project that will have them develop a 50 cm spanned bridge with the use of only spaghetti and a glue gun. The bridges will need to be able to withstand a set amount of weight, so students will be making connections with geometry, math, and engineering principles.

Last year, students participated in a robotics unit that saw them create projects that can help individuals with disabilities. Firstly, students were asked to identify a disability by interviewing someone who could identify an issue they struggle with. One group of students created a robot that could help with sweeping the floor for elderly grandparents who could no longer do it themselves. Another group created a handheld device that would help colour-blind individuals identify different colours through utilizing sensor technology.

“It’s wonderful that we have garnered so much excitement in participating in these design thinking projects,” says Anderson. “And who knows, perhaps one of our Southridge kids will come up with preliminary work on life-changing technology in our design lab!”