The old library and media center in Westerville’s Walnut Springs Middle School was all white concrete block, with rows of bookshelves and computer desks. Institutional is how Westerville schools Superintendent John R. Kellogg described it. Not inspirational.
The old library and media center in Westerville’s Walnut Springs Middle School was all white concrete block, with rows of bookshelves and computer desks.
Institutional is how Westerville schools Superintendent John R. Kellogg described it. Not inspirational.
Now, after about $400,000 and a summerlong renovation, it has become the 7,000-square-foot Center for Inspiration. With walls, pillars and faux fireplaces painted red, light green, orange and baby blue, it resembles a neighborhood coffee shop more than a school library. The project was part of a five-year capital-improvements plan for the district, funded by a levy that voters approved in May 2009.
A “flex classroom” for classes and community groups has translucent garage doors that open up into the main room. Microphones nearby await student performers, with places to plug in guitar amps.
“These kids just needed a place to decompress,” said Jean Trimble, who runs the center and helped to brainstorm the renovation. Planners wanted to emphasize STEAM with the design: science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
Walnut Springs students seem enthusiastic about the change. Visits in this school year have typically topped 700 per week, compared with about 335 to the old library in the 2014-15 school year.
Increased foot traffic has meant more checking out of books and materials: 673 items in a recent week, compared with the average last school year of 525.
That doesn’t even include the number of Chromebook computers that students check out to work on assignments during study hall.
Abigail Apouvi, 11, and Alexis Owusu, 10, both sixth-graders, sat together on a recent morning at a piano-shaped table working on two of those Chromebooks, which the kids “use just like they’re No. 2 pencils,” said Walnut Springs Principal Becca Yanni.
A few youngsters studied together in a booth next to a flat-screen HD TV, which was playing the documentary show Big, Bigger, Biggest’s episode about skyscrapers.
“Sometimes I put on virtual vacations,” Trimble said. “If I’m having a bad day, I put Tahiti up.”
Sixth-grader Helena Wilson, 11, was editing video in the center’s TV studio for a news story about the school’s Japanese clubs. It’s for WOLF-TV, the school’s newscast by students for their peers.
“It’s amazing,” Helena said of the space.
The studio comes with a green-screen backdrop like the ones TV meteorologists use to project their weather maps.
The screen and a few other items for the center were paid for through a crowd-funding website that the Westerville Education Foundation has started for teachers’ projects.
But the crowning jewel is a room called the makerspace, which offers fabrication tools such as a 3-D printer and a die-cutting machine, educational games and construction toys.
“Some of my football players came in last period, and I teach them how to play Qwirkle, which is a game of strategy,” Trimble said. “They got kind of angry with each other, actually.”
When the bell rang, six children made a beeline for the signup sheet for the Maker Mondays program in that room. A community volunteer, retired electrician Jack Brown, was scheduled to come in to teach the students to create a metal-and-wire water-strider insect.