The Project NEXT program at Forest Hills Northern (FHN) High School is a project-based collaborative learning program that began as a pilot initiative in the media center in 2018. At the time, a modest investment was made in the pilot program by designing and refreshing the school’s media center with new, flexible furniture more conducive to next-generation, collaborative learning. In Project NEXT, students learn the state-required high school curricula in a series of both individual and group assignments throughout their four years at FHN. Students tackle real-world problems and fuse science, social studies, English, art and design, and math to produce innovative learning and projects.
As the program has grown in its popularity and success, this type of learning requires spaces with inherent flexibility. Students in the program identify and propose solutions to real-world problems, so spaces that fuel collaboration and creativity are a must. Redesigning the school’s west wing to accommodate those musts started with converting a courtyard into a central learning commons, known as the Design Center. Next to that space, there are classroom pods of four classrooms and a breakout space. The pods can be interconnected for collaboration and co-teaching as needed. Classrooms on the southern side house science labs and life skills spaces. On the western edge, a new work shop and art space tie back to the mission of the program and reinforce the importance of project-based, hands-on learning.