Swain Library: Redesigned FOR students BY students using Google SketchUp

About a month ago, I launched a project with my geometry class to redesign our school library.  In trying to keep this project as authentic as possible, Sarah Ludwig, our school’s Academic Coordinator/ Librarian presented the library’s needs gleaned from a student/ faculty survey and from her own observations. I also asked our school’s Facilities Director, Jim Hunter, come to class to present the original architectural drawings of the building. He was very excited to share those with us. We also were extremely fortunate to have Christiaan Dinkeloo, our school’s consulting architect, meet with the class several times over the course of the project.

Here is the info presented to students:

You are trying to win the architectural bid for the Swain Library redesign  project.  You must use Google Sketchup to meet the requests from the school’s librarian. 

  • Your design must include an accurate, to scale, 3D model of Swain Library. Be sure to include windows, doors, fire exits. 
  • Your library design includes room for 5000 books.
  • Your library design includes a creative, well planned space for quiet, individual study
  • Your library design includes a creative, well planned space for group study/ collaboration.
  • Your library design includes a creative space for class visits (with the potential for technology)
  • Your library design includes a creative space for reading for pleasure. 
  • There is a space for a more prominent and central display of the young adult collection.
  • Your design includes at least 2 of the following wishes.  
  • Wish list:
    • Remove all high shelving and put shelving along the walls and in low shelves (might be used to divide up space)
    • Accommodate technology everywhere – more outlets, etc.
    • A librarian station that is central, visible, and accessible to students, which allows for student/faculty conferencing
    • A second classroom that can also serve as a meeting room or technology lab
  • Your library design is adaptable and can accommodate occasional events without changing the design of the library.
  • Your design was submitted by the deadline agreed upon by the team. 

We began with a day of measuring the dimensions of the library and talking about how the symmetry of the building could make the measuring even easier.   We also calculated the number of  books (on average) that would fit on a shelf. (Our designs needed to fit 5000). We compared our actual measurements to the architectural drawing and learned about scale. What a perfect tie in to a lesson on ratio and proportion!

With only one student having prior experience with SketchUp (and with having little experience myself), we all watched videos together, helped each other and worked through all of our issues as they arose. There were many days I couldn’t get students out of the classroom at the end of the period… they were INTO it!

Mr. Dinkeloo came to class weekly to answer questions, to help students with design challenges and to show us what a presentation to potential clients actually looked like. What an amazing resource he was to our class. You added a dimension to the project that could not have otherwise been achieved. Thanks Mr. Dinkeloo! 🙂

I have to be honest, I was a little scared when we started this… was this project going to be too much for us to handle? With having little “expertise” in the room with SketchUp, would we be able to figure it all out? How much time was this all going to take? So many questions… I’m a planner, so this was a little uncomfortable for me.  I decided to just let it ride and see what happened.

Last Friday, the class presented their amazing library redesign models to me, Ms. Ludwig and Mr. Dinkeloo.

Here are some photos of their presentations:


The student’s designs were creative, thoughtful, accurate and solved many of the problems articulated in our original discussion. Mr. Dinkeloo, Ms. Ludwig and I all gave feedback to the students and the students had a chance to ask and answer questions of each other. It was a truly authentic experience  and the icing on the cake was that I got to announce today that the school has received a major gift to fund the actual redesign! Mr. Dinkeloo will begin work very soon on the project. Our class looks forward to hearing about his progress and to seeing if he uses any of our ideas!

Additional Resources:

Here’s the rubric for the project.

Click here for article in Hamden Hall Happenings

Ms. Ludwig’s notes from presentation about the Middle/ Upper School Library

Beauty and the Book: Libraries in the digital age raise the question about the place of books

School Library Redesign from the National Institute of Building Science

Google SketchUp video tutorials

My Fake Wall/ Diigo v. 2

While I do like to try new projects each year, one of the best things about repeating one is that you get to make it even better. Last year, I had students research mathematicians (and use Diigo to manage their research and share resources with each other) and then create a Fake Facebook Wall for that mathematician. Here’s my original blog post.

This year, we started out on the same path. On the first day, we set up our Diigo accounts, joined our class group, and talked about good research techniques. We also talked a bit about  tagging and about the types of sites that would be useful to share with our class group. Learning from last year’s experience, (see blog post here), I reiterated that the students would not be able to “google” Blaise Pascal’s friends and come up with a list. I really focused on HOW to figure out their friends and what their mathematician might say on his/ her wall. I definitely was more pro-active with this!

The students were off and running with their research. Diigo was working great. They worked at home and in school (on any computer) seamlessly. Many students remarked that they wished they had this tool earlier in the year! Others brought in their iPads or laptops the next day and showed me how they downloaded the diigo app or installed the diigo toolbar. YAY!

While the rubric for the final project was very similar to last year, I decided to add a planning sheet, with a writing / reasoning component. I wanted students to complete this sheet BEFORE they went to MyFakeWall to start entering information. I did this for a few reasons:

1) Students last year did not organize their information before they jumped into the MyFakeWall site. They were all over the place and they had a hard time figuring out if they met all the requirements.

2) Students created their wall posts “on the fly” and it was difficult for them to explain why they chose to “say” what they did. This planning sheet had them list the posts, and the research that supported it. In meeting with each student and reviewing their planning sheet with them, I was able to question students and force them to go back to their research and improve their work BEFORE it was due.

NOTE: While this “planning sheet” process added about 2 days to the project’s timeline, I felt that it made a huge difference with the quality of the final products.

3) Throughout this research stage, I kept checking MyFakeWall, and I realized it was no more stable than it was last year. I was a little stressed about it. By having students bookmark all websites in Diigo, upload all images and fill out the planning sheet, it forced students to be completely ready, if (and when) myfakewall.com decided to cooperate. In the meantime, I started looking for a different option.

“D-day” came, and everyone was ready to start entering information into MyFakeWall. Lo and behold, the site was completely down, which was extremely frustrating, especially since the rubric was created based upon the features of that specific website. I, thankfully, found two other options for the students. I left it up to the students to explore both tools and see what they wanted to use. I adapted the rubric to match the site they chose. It’s all about flexibility!

Here were the additional choices:

1) Fakebook – This worked pretty well for students who chose it. The glitch with it was that students needed to enter a fair amount of information before it would allow them to save it. Two students didn’t get far enough on the first day when class ended and they lost their work. It was also very difficult to edit information once it was posted using this site. Be sure to select “manual upload” for pictures. The auto-find function did not work as it should have for many students. Having the planning sheets really helped because they had it to work from. I also didn’t love the ads. They were distracting.

2) Facebook GoogleDoc Template– This option worked well and allowed students who had not used googledocs before to explore an additional tool. Students really liked the stability of it. The drawback was that it required that you delete the JFK info as you go. It was also based on an older version of Facebook. The kids seemed to think that it was totally fine.

The last thing I changed in this project was the format of the “sharing day”. Instead of each student getting in the front of the room to, basically, read their facebook wall, I had them peer-share as I walked around the room. Here’s the peer- share form they had to fill out with their partner.  It was awesome to hear them explaining their walls to each other. I then had students switch and share their wall with a different student. For the final share, I had each student go around the room and tell one interesting fact they learned about someone else’s mathematician. It was a GREAT class!

Overall, even with the frustration of myfakewall not working again, this year’s students also said they LOVED this project. I am hoping that someone updates a template or creates a website to mimic the new Facebook timeline format. If anyone knows of one, please share it! That will be fun to use next year!