Step inside the new THINC College & Career Academy in LaGrange, Georgia, and you notice right away that everything seems different from a traditional high school—from the design of the learning spaces to the activities that take place there.
The building itself has the feel of Google HQ—brightly colored carpet tiles, lots of glass walls, and stylish furniture that can be moved around easily to create collaborative workspaces. THINC is located on the campus of West Georgia Technical College, where students can earn dual-enrollment credit. “Most schools have been pushed into this ‘box’ design that can be reproduced easily,” said Ashley Smith, an architectural intern at Smith Design Group of LaGrange, who helped design THINC’s learning spaces. “We wanted to give the space a fun vibe that would be stimulating for teens—something they would be proud of and that would inspire them to be creative.”
The school’s furniture also plays an important role in its design. THINC’s planners wanted tables and chairs that could be moved around easily and arranged in flexible groupings to facilitate student collaboration. They approached a local company, Loy’s Office Supplies, which recommended the EDU 2.0 line of furniture from Bretford.
THINC is a “bring your own technology” environment, and the school offers laptops and Chromebooks for students to use if they don’t have their own mobile device. Throughout its classrooms and common areas, the school contains community docking stations and tables with video monitors where students can plug in their devices and share their screens as they collaborate on projects. There are also many soft, comfortable chairs with built-in power outlets where students can work independently or in small groups.
A NEW KIND OF LEARNING
The school’s innovative design and technology-enabled furniture will facilitate a new kind of learning experience, in which students will be rolling up their sleeves and diving into hands-on, career-based projects.
For instance, in the engineering pathway, students will be working with engineers from construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar to design and build parts for machines used in forestry. Students in the mechatronics pathway will build robotics for use in the auto manufacturing process at Kia. Students in the marketing pathway will operate their own retail store on campus. College and career academies such as THINC allow students “to explore all the different pathways that are available to them,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle during a July 30 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school. “That turns on light bulbs for students and gives them a conduit and a purpose for success.”
Dennis Pierce (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been writing about education and technology for nearly 20 years.