Divergent Thinking Spaces are a Study in how Education Practices Have Evolved

Divergent Thinking Spaces are a Study in how Education Practices Have Evolved 960 540 DMR Architects

DMR’s four current new school construction projects could be used as a lesson on how much education has changed from the student desks lined in rows facing the teacher of yore to current requests for flexible spaces and furniture, materials and spaces that can be incorporated into the lesson plan, and ever-advancing technologies.

DMR has worked in nearly a quarter of all public school buildings in New Jersey since its inception in 1991—responsible for some of the state’s most advanced learning institutions and spaces—with a current roster that includes the new Junior High School in Carteret that when completed will provide 24 classrooms for traditional subjects with dedicated spaces for enhanced art and music education, a think tank, and a STEM lab for the municipalities 600 seventh and eighth graders.  It is the first new school plans to be approved in that municipality in over 40 years.

“Educators have seen that the design elements supporting the more collaborative learning environments are effective in high schools and are now asking us to apply them to spaces for younger students as well,” said Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA.  “Additionally, where STEAM and STEM learning was once considered an opt-in club for kids with a knack for tinkering and creative thinking, it is now being incorporated into the everyday curriculums with classrooms intentionally designed to support them.

The collaborative spirit that happens in these divergent thinking environments and the use of technology that started in the science and math classrooms is now being applied to English and history classrooms as well.”

DMR also recently designed new schools for the New Jersey School Development Authority—a Middle School in Paterson and an Elementary School Plainfield—that are currently under construction to provide advanced learning options to these growing communities starting in September of 2021 and 2022 respectively.  The design of a new school in New Brunswick is also underway.

“We’re addressing technology needs throughout buildings now instead of just in a dedicated part of the library or a small media room,” continues Mr. Rosenberg.  “This trend will both continue and expand as pens and paper are more widely replaced by Chrome Books, Google Docs and promethean boards, and school administrators explore new ways to effectively implement remote learning options.”

DMR’s work includes Hudson County Schools of Technology-Frank J. Gargiulo Campus in Secaucus which has been open to students since 2018 designed so that all aspects of the physical facility are incorporated into the learning experience through the use of hydroponics, photometrics and locally sourced materials.

“As periodic upgrades to aging school buildings to support larger student populations come up, we will see more requests for alternative learning options,” continued Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA.  “Right now is an ideal time for institutional upgrades because of the low interest rates.”

DMR has supported the education sector for its entire history, with major design and construction projects through the years also including preK-12 projects C.V. Starr Intermediate School, Sparta Middle School, St. Joseph’s School for the Blind and La Scuola d’Italia, as well as higher education projects at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Ocean County College and Middlesex College.