By Erika Zar
Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp.
When students return to Black Hawk Middle School this fall, the first thing they’ll notice is brand-new furniture throughout the building. In June and early July, the school replaced their heavy, 1960s-era desks with modern tables and chairs to give teachers and students more flexibility for 21st century learning.
The new furniture is designed to move easily and accommodate computers, turning classrooms into collaborative, technology-friendly spaces. “Before, most students sat at desks with attached chairs that were hard to move, had a relatively small workspace and didn’t fit together cleanly (the tops sloped). Students had a hard time when a computer, book and paper were needed at the same time,” said Jamie Sims, interim principal at Black Hawk.
Last school year, students received laptop computers as part of a Madison Metropolitan School District initiative intended to better prepare students for college and career success. But teachers quickly realized the existing furniture in most of the rooms was not conducive to learning with laptops. The classroom updates will enable the school to use their new technology more efficiently.
Sims said teachers are excited about the upgrades because, in addition to larger workspaces, the new furniture offers greater flexibility in lessons and more opportunity for group work. “We are hoping to see an increase in collaboration between small and large groups of kids, as research shows that ‘the person who does the talking does the learning,’” added Sims.
The furniture purchase, approved by the school board in March, was funded by a $62,000 donation from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates. “This was made possible by our employees,” said Amy Kerwin, vice president of community investments at Great Lakes. “It’s a dollar-for-dollar corporate match for money raised by them during our 2016 United Way campaign. We are all thrilled to help the students of Black Hawk as part of our mission to change lives for the better,” said Kerwin.