Polk State College recently unveiled its Steelcase Education Active Learning Classroom on the Lakeland Campus, giving students, faculty, staff, and representatives from other educational institutions a look at the transformed makerspace that enhances the College’s ability to produce highly-skilled teachers through design and technology that engages Education baccalaureate students.
Polk State is one of only 16 institutions in North America to receive a Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant in 2018 to create an active learning classroom. The 360-degree design retrofitted with swiveling chairs, easy-to-move tables, and surrounding technology allows students and faculty to utilize all areas of the room creatively and interactively, familiarizing teacher candidates with the tools and equipment they may use as teachers in Polk County Public Schools.
“The mobility allows you to explore all of the possibilities of a classroom and experience an environment that fosters collaboration and engagement,” said Corinna Ahlberg, a first-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education Program. “This classroom has taught me how to be an administrator of my classroom with heavy exposure to the standards and data and the decisions that teachers have to make each day.”
Ahlberg and three of her peers led demonstrations around the classroom, allowing visitors to experience firsthand the different functionalities of the classroom as well as the capability of multiple presentations to take place simultaneously. Focused on Earth and Life sciences, the students presented lessons on bats, red tide, the digestive system, and rocks and minerals, utilizing the variety of white boards, tablets, a SMART Board, and more.
The Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant is a two-year partnership between Steelcase Education and Polk State, who are working together to conduct assessments and research on the impact of the space, which received approximately $67,000 in upgrades.
“We’re a furniture company that saw the opportunity to work with education, designing forward-thinking, active-learning environments that encompass the 21st-century teaching methodology,” said Frank Vastola, Steelcase Education Regional Education Manager.
Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti and Director of the Education baccalaureate program Patty Linder agreed that the positive impact of the grant and partnership goes well beyond the furniture.
“It’s not just about the wonderful, new furniture – it’s truly about the innovation happening in this classroom that the furniture sets the stage for,” Linder explained. “Here at Polk State, we were already implementing best practices and active-learning concepts, and Steelcase Education allows us to expand and enhance that.”
Vastola noted that Polk State’s grant application was particularly compelling. The grant recognizes that the Education baccalaureate program fosters exploration, critical thinking, and scientific, quantitative reasoning from which to build upon. The College was chosen out of more than 1,000 applications for its unique approach to active learning.
Polk State launched its Education baccalaureate program in August 2016 in response to the community’s need for access to local, affordable Education degree options after the University of South Florida exited Polk County. The College’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education were developed in collaboration with Polk County Public Schools, putting in place built-in measurements for state-mandated standards.
“Educators have the gift of transforming lives one student at a time,” Falconetti said. “We transform lives at Polk State every day, but we would not be able to without partnerships with companies like Steelcase Education.”
Falconetti thanked Steelcase Education; Polk State’s Education, Institutional Technology, Audio Visual, Facilities, and grant-writing teams; the Polk State College Foundation; Polk County Public Schools; and Duke Energy, which has awarded the Education baccalaureate program $70,000 to purchase tools and technologies that provide students with hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiences through LEGO robotics kits, a SMART Board, and a variety of innovative items housed in the Steelcase Education Active Learning Classroom.
“This Steelcase Education Active Learning Classroom will further enhance the College’s ability to produce highly-skilled teachers for our local classrooms,” Falconetti said. “It is partnerships like this that allow us to stay on the cutting edge of education and workforce training, allowing Polk State College to fill the local need for quality teachers who will be innovative, passionate, and prepared to lead Polk County’s classrooms.”