WICHITA, Kan. — L’Ouverture Career Explorations and Technology Magnet School (L’Ouverture) in Wichita recently underwent major classroom renovations as part of a push by the Wichita Public Schools District to create more forward-thinking, flexible and collaborative learning environment for 21st century education.
The district partnered with School Specialty Inc. of Greenville, Wis. — a distributor of supplies, furniture, curriculum and supplemental learning resources — to complete the classroom upgrades. The L’Ouverture and School Specialty teams worked closely over the last year to outfit a total of 18 K-5 classrooms with innovative furniture and media technology solutions, according to a statement by School Specialty.
For the initial 2016 project, School Specialty and its Projects by Design (PbD) group focused on modeling two classrooms at L’Ouverture, installing flexible and mobile seating that could transform the traditional (and typically rigid) environment into a more modern setting, adaptable to different teaching and learning styles. After receiving positive feedback from students and educators, the project was expanded to another 16 K-5 classrooms as well as the library in 2017.
The district also secured a federal grant to help support the development of a “desk-less” environment that promoted more student movement for learning, enabling teachers to use various instructional methods for greater collaboration, communication, creativity and critical-thinking. L’Ouverture officials wanted students to have the option to sit where it was most conducive for their learning and to not be restricted by the stationary desk and chair layout. This could only be achieved with the appropriate furniture and equipment.
The School Specialty team met with Wichita Public Schools administrators to understand the district’s unique needs and assess the classroom renovation process, according to a statement by Heather Whealy, territory sales manager for the company. The team collaborated with school officials including Grant and Curriculum Facilitator Stephanie Doshier and Instructional Coach Janelle Roland on furniture selection for each grade, then created a reference manual that teachers could use to pick specific products for their classrooms.
“We assisted the L’Ouverture team with identifying certain furniture options — type, size, color — that would be most beneficial to [the school’s] goals and consulted directly with teachers to determine what they hoped to accomplish for their students,” said Wade Seeley, School Specialty’s market development manager, furniture and equipment, in a statement. “Chiefly, administrators were seeking flexible and mobile furnishings that would give them the ability to shift instructional methods according to learning needs and on a continuous basis.”
“Since outfitting our classroom with the new furniture, it has been a game changer,” said Candice Ulbrich, fifth grade teacher at L’Ouverture, in a statement. “The kids absolutely love the different seating choices; instead of sitting at their desks for several hours, they’re able to move around more and interact with their classmates to share views and ideas. Already I’ve seen notable changes in behavior and attitudes as students come in very excited and eager to learn every day.”