At the Barrie School, not all learning happens within four walls. In fact, sometimes the walls make way for new teaching methods.
The school, located at 13500 Layhill Road in Silver Spring, is opening two energy-efficient, flexible classroom buildings designed to support inventive teaching practices and optimal learning.
The new facilities will further this mission, said Charlie Abelmann, head of Barrie School, with movable walls and outdoor chalkboards for the maximum flexibility for interactions between the teacher, student and material. Abelmann said he hopes the new facility will host a meaningful conversation around teaching, learning and architecture.
“I think it will really promote collaboration between students and faculty in new ways and deepen project-based learning,” Abelmann said.
The new learning studio is configured in a way that it can be one large classroom or a few smaller rooms where students have the option to work in small groups, work together and work with other classes. The furniture in the room, he said, is versatile and can be situated for any room style.
The buildings are also “respectful of the environment,” Abelmann said, noting that they satisfy Leadership Energy and Environmental Design put in place by the U.S. Green Building Council. A large portion of the building is made from recycled barn-wood siding from 19th century buildings in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, and the countertops have been repurposed from the Olympic Bowling Lanes bowling alley in Rochester, N.Y., according to Abelmann.
The research learning lab contains state-of-the-art technology, which learning specialist Shannon Needham said contains iPads, projectors and laptop connecting capabilities. She said the new technology will anticipate how these students will need the technologies when they leave the school for the next stage of their lives by understanding the balance between the distraction created by technology and the usefulness of it.
“I’m excited to have been a part of it because it really is one of those things that you just walk through it and it just provides a new energy about teaching,” Needham said.
The new buildings were imagined and constructed all within a year, Abelmann said, noting that the two new buildings have the same square footage of the previous buildings.
The 45-acre school is open to students age two through grade 12 and focuses heavily on progressive, hands-on project-based learning in global issues and diplomacy, intervention and discovery, and other interdisciplinary themes, according to the school website. Abelmann said students are constantly doing work outdoors, such as mapping a pond on the grounds, working with the horses and doing water studies of a stream that runs through the property.