Clinton High School students will have a chance no other high school students in Iowa will have next year.
The high school will begin using an innovation classroom that encourages students to collaborate, ultimately giving them skills many employers and colleges desperately seek.
“We want our kids to have every advantage they can,” Clinton High School Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said. “I’m elated.”
Tharaldson Jones has been saving funds from the CHS budget and obtaining grants to pay for the classroom for nearly two years. The Clinton School Board approved the plans for the innovative classroom during board meetings this summer.
The classroom will be set up differently than the typical classroom. Rather than having a teacher standing at the front of the room, addressing students, the students will be the ones leading the work, Wes Golden, chairman of the CHS science department, explained.
There will be tables set up throughout a room that is nearly as big as two classrooms with six to nine students working at each table. Students will be split up at the tables into smaller groups and each group will use computers to work on a piece of a problem or challenge. Students will need to collaborate among their groups as well as groups throughout the classroom to solve the problem completely. Teachers will use a projector to share ideas from different groups and facilitate learning.
“It’s a very 21st-Century, skill-based classroom,” Tharaldson Jones said.
Students also will be able to share their research or work with other innovative classrooms across the world, including the ones operated by the University of Iowa, where CHS faculty and staff first visited to learn about innovative classrooms.
Beth Ingram, associate provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the University College at the University of Iowa, welcomed Golden and other faculty to the university when they wanted to learn more about the edge an innovative classroom would afford students.
“The way the room is set up facilitates that collaboration in ways we didn’t expect,” Ingram said.
Ingram said the room breaks down the barriers a normal classroom sets up, allowing students to collaborate and exercise critical-thinking in ways the traditional classroom might have hindered.
The University of Iowa calls its innovative classrooms spaces to transform, interact, learn and engage, or TILE. What started as one TILE space has now expanded to seven. According to Ingram, most of the innovative classrooms across the country are in colleges. She was not aware of any other high school in Iowa with this technology. As CHS students start to use the facility, teachers from CHS and the university will be partnering in order to learn from one another.
“We’re excited about that connection,” Ingram said. “I’m really excited for the high school.”
The work on the innovative classroom in CHS will begin soon and is anticipated to be complete near the end of the year. Teachers will start training to use the new, technology-rich facility in order to bring classes in by spring. While the science facility is expected to begin using the innovative classroom, it will eventually be used by most disciplines across the curriculum.
“This is revolutionary. This is groundbreaking. This will put Clinton High School kids at an extreme advantage when they leave, in my opinion,” Golden said.