A new middle school designed with flexibility in mind.
As part of a $58.6 million bond issue, Sparta Area Schools sought to transform the middle school’s educational model by transitioning from a traditional departmentalized curriculum to an inclusive, interdisciplinary delivery method. The vision for the new middle school was to create collaborative environments that inspire learning and instruction, provide connection to the outdoors through natural light and outdoor learning spaces, and offer a welcoming community atmosphere while ensuring school safety isn’t compromised. GMB designers created a building composed of four quadrants – multi-use flexible learning environments that the school calls “neighborhoods,” each with four classrooms, a STEM room, a special education room, and a maker space. The neighborhoods are connected by a central circulation Learning Stair that puts learning on display for anyone who enters the school. Special education classrooms are located within the neighborhoods so every student is part of the learning activity that occurs there, and the massive hallways are instead extensions of the classroom space, where students can easily break into groups while still being connected to and supervised by teachers.
The Sparta community is a large part of the school, so creating a welcoming place where the school becomes the heart of the community and instills pride is an important pillar of the district’s vision for the new building.
Take a look at a virtual reality tour of the spaces.
Highlights of the design include Learning Stair, Cafeteria, Extended Learning Areas, Learning Commons, Project Rooms, Courtyards, Classrooms, and STEM Classrooms.
Sparta Middle School
The building is composed of four quadrants – multi-use flexible learning environments that the school calls “neighborhoods” – connected by a central circulation Learning Stair that puts learning on display for anyone who enters the school and enables collaboration and learning opportunities in an otherwise utilitarian space.
Washed in natural light with views to the outdoor patio and recreation spaces, the café functions as a flexible third space, able to perform as a lunch space, a presentation space, and even a community space.
Extended Learning Area
Circulation can occupy about 30% of a building, so by utilizing the neighborhood’s hallway spaces for learning, we are able to provide students the opportunity to collaborate in an open flexible environment that extends beyond the classroom.
The ever-evolving nature of the media center / library and its relationship to print and digital media, offers a variety of challenges as we look to the future and what these spaces should look like. The design of this space focused on flexibility and natural light, in a way that connects the two neighborhoods as the central hub of learning and exploration.
Project maker spaces in each neighborhood allow for classrooms and instruction to be flexible and adapt for the educational needs of the next 20 to 30 years, ensuring each student is prepared for future success. Project-based spaces offer maximum flexibility for future learning environments and give students with more maker-focused learning styles opportunities to explore their gifts and talents.
Outdoor learning meets breakout spaces that extend beyond the physical walls of the school. They provide opportunities for students and teachers alike to take learning outside, experience the fresh air and sunshine, and utilize shading from the building to protect from direct sunlight – all important ingredients for overall student wellbeing.
Direct access to extended learning areas, breakout spaces, and the ability to flex between single and double-size spaces are just a few of the design features incorporated into the classrooms. Minimal storage and double doors offer maximum flexibility, and glass partitions give students and teachers the ability to monitor multiple spaces at once. Unique to Sparta Middle School is the inclusive education model incorporated into the design of the building. Special education classrooms are located within the neighborhoods so every student is part of the learning activity that occurs there.
Each neighborhood includes a flexible STEM classroom that can evolve for future curriculum changes. Movable furniture highlights a truly flexible STEM experience, complete with internal breakout and research spaces, a shared prep room, and access to their own extended learning area.
I am most excited for our middle school students to have this space designed to meet their learning needs. We just love the natural light and all the versatile learning spaces. Our staff was already innovative, and they are eager to utilize this special space. This is a solid recipe for dynamic learning.Brad Wood, Principal, Middle School