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Maker lab replaced by new faculty work space designed at Summer Institute

The Maker Lab has been repurposed for the 2016-2017 school year to be a work space for any faculty member on campus.

Mr. Haus and Mrs. Dougherty conference in Kindon Lab / N. Li
Mr. Haus and Mrs. Dougherty conference in Kindon Lab / N. Li

The Maker Lab in the Learning Commons has been remodeled for the 2016-2017 school year to become a collaborative space for teachers, faculty, and staff, known as the Kindon Lab.

This idea originated and came to fruition at the 2016 Summer Institute, a professional development program Malvern Prep designs and runs each summer, according to Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot. Talbot said that groups of teachers at the Summer Institute work together to improve anything at Malvern, and one of the groups chose to redesign the Maker Lab.

According to Talbot, the space is named the Kindon Lab because Ryan Toland ’98 made a financial donation to the school and wanted to name a room in honor of English teacher Mr. Leo Kindon.

“I just want to see it being used for its purpose. And then that way, it is a trickle effect. If students can see the productivity in here, it will happen out here as well.”

Mrs. Susan Giordani

The group who worked on this project included Social Studies teacher Mrs. Pamela Whitney, Calculus teacher Mr. Kevin Moore, English teacher Mr. Jason Sammartino, English teacher Mrs. Sue Giordani, and Chemistry teacher Dr. Agnese Abate. Giordani said that the team used design thinking throughout all stages of the process, especially to identify their main area of focus.

“We kept saying we want more connections at all levels,” Giordani said. “We want students to be more connected, we want staff to be more connected, we want people to be together more.”

Giordani said that there has never been a designated collaborative space for just faculty and staff, so they had the idea of transforming the Maker Lab to fit this role.

“We’re working together in teams, so we thought what better way to find a place where we can all work together in teams, where it would be an organized space that would be a very positive environment,” Giordani said. There would be a lot of light, there would be a lot of usage for it, and it would be accessible on campus.”

Talbot and Head of Middle School Mr. Patrick Sillup were the coaches of this team, meaning they gave recommendations and feedback to the group to guide them in this process. Talbot said that the group ran into two main challenges, one of which had to do with the group dynamic.

“One of the main challenges was actually who gets to decide if we move forward with this or not,” Talbot said. “I asked this team, ‘Do you want to be decision makers on this or do you want to be recommenders to me, Mr. Algeo, and Mr. Sillup?’ They said they wanted to be deciders and I would be a recommender.”

The group moved forward with the idea, but ran into another problem. Talbot said that students and classes used the Maker Lab before, so where the displaced students and classes would go was a concern.

For the students, Talbot said that the group identified a number of different underutilized spaces on campus where they could go and work. Those rooms included the first floor Duffy Center lobby, the second floor Duffy Center lobby, the second floor conference room of Duffy, and others. Giordani said that their team is working on finding additional places for students so the Learning Commons does not get too crowded.

Giordani said that the team moved two tables and the corresponding chairs from the Kindon Lab to the main area of the Learning Commons, and that can be a place for classes going to the Learning Commons.

“Teachers can still come out and still partition a section of the like a little mini maker lab, so we didn’t think that would change,” Giordani said.

Talbot said that other changes from the Maker Lab to the Kindon Lab included new leather couches, carpeting, coffee tables, and a blue accent color to highlight the room.

Talbot said he likes to get over to the Kindon Lab at least once a day. He noted that, in his experience, teachers have been responding positively so far to the new Kindon Lab.

“The teachers I have spent time with in that space, I would say the first week or so of school I have probably hung out or connected with 7 or 8 different teachers in there,” Talbot said. “All of them appreciate the opportunity that is bright, visually open, that is visually connected to where the students are.”

Math teacher Mr. Tom Pannulla has enjoyed using this room as well so far.

“It provides a very workable area for us to get out of our usual spaces,” Pannulla said. “A lot of times I usually get caught up with hanging in the math office either by myself or with the same people every day, so this gives me an opportunity to see some different faces.”

Spending more time in the Learning Commons through the Kindon Lab allows Pannulla to connect with his students in new ways. “I’ve had a couple of opportunities to help kids that I probably would not have been had I not been in that space,” he said.

Junior Tim McLaughlin likes this new opportunity to connect with his teachers in the Learning Commons. However, he liked having the old Maker Lab for students.

“It’s harder for some kids to find a place to study together or do group projects,” McLaughlin said. “I also used to like having classes in the maker lab.”

McLaughlin also said that the Learning Commons can now get really crowded during Community Time.

Giordani wants this new area to be frequently used by any and all adults on campus.

“I want to see everyone using it,” Giordani said. “I want to see middle school teachers coming in here. I just want to see it being used for its purpose. And then that way, it is a trickle effect. If students can see the productivity in here, it will happen out here as well.”

 


CORRECTION: The print version of this story originally listed Mr. Paul Simpson as a member of the Summer Institute group of teachers who worked on the Maker Lab redesign project, and omitted Mr. Jason Sammartino. Simpson was not a member of the group. The online version has been corrected to reflect this change.

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