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Students give positive feedback to Del Mar school board on new modern learning studios pilot program

A Carmel Del Mar modern learning studio.
Photo by Karen Billing
A Carmel Del Mar modern learning studio. Photo by Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) regularly receives reports and updates on district issues and programs but the board was most impressed by the one they received on the new modern learning studios pilot program on Dec. 16, given by a bright bunch of fourth and fifth graders.

“This is by far my favorite presentation I’ve seen,” remarked board member Darren Gretler.

Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Shelley Petersen and Director of Technology Chris Delehanty were tasked with giving the report but as Delehanty said, the best way to give an update was to bring the people that are in the classrooms every day.

“The kids can say it better than I can,” Delehanty said.

Sycamore Ridge fourth graders Zephyr Burmund, Connor Chung and Sneha Varma talked about the “greatness of the modern learning studios.”

The students said that they learn better in the classrooms, especially because of the cozy, furniture: “In the older traditional classrooms we did not focus because we were not comfortable,” Connor said.

They talked about the different ways they can configure the furniture to allow them to collaborate.

“The furniture is flexible and has wheels on it,” Sneha said, noting they push tables and chairs together for things like math talks. The large flat-screen TV in class can also turn and rotate so they can always see what’s going on in class.

Zephyr said a moveable cart has all of their supplies and they save trees without using paper and instead using their white board tables.

“Being efficient gives us more time to learn and share our knowledge,” Zephyr said.

Carmel Del Mar fifth graders also talked about the efficiency of the white board tables to solve math problems without wasting paper, rolling chairs that allow them to see in all directions and bean bag chairs which are “good because we can be in our own space to read and write.”

They also talked about the studios’ Chromecast capabilities that allow them to stream their work directly to the class flat screen TV from their devices in a very clear picture.

“There’s no front of the classroom,” the kids said. “There are places for groups to work as a team, places to work alone with a teacher and multiple uses for almost everything.”

Petersen said in December the district underwent a professional learning day for the six pilot classrooms and talked about the successes of the space, the challenges and potential next steps.

“It was an incredible day of learning for all of us and gave us a terrific road map for how to move forward,” Petersen said.

Petersen said that the San Diego County Office of Education is also working with the district on how to bring together some quantitative and qualitative data on the modern learning studios so they can see how they are truly impacting teaching and learning.

The district aims to bring modern learning studios to all campuses and Delehanty said they will continue to evaluate the program, including its social and emotional impacts, in spring 2016.