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Gordon Parks Elementary School in Kansas City, MO Transformed Into Inclusive, Agile Learning Space That Helps All Learners Succeed

Highlights

By Molly Roudebush

Published June 19, 2019

Educators, researchers, administrators and even students know that classrooms across our country are in dire need of an evolution, and in many cases, a revolution.  Gordon Parks Elementary School, the oldest public charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, is one such school. They recently partnered with NorvaNivel™, US-based designers and manufacturers of educational furniture and future forward-learning spaces, and a local architectural firm, Gould Evans, to reinvent the 105-year old building that would cater to students’ individual learning styles, challenges, preferences and needs. 

  

Both organizations wanted to deepen the urban school’s commitment to providing children an individualized education that is balanced to develop character, intellect, creativity and physical well-being. The space had to be an environment where children would feel safe, as those who attend Gordon Parks have experienced some sort of trauma already in their short lives. Virtually all (98%) have experienced death, incarceration, violence or drugs within their family, with 70% experiencing more than four of these types of incidences. It was imperative that their school be welcoming, comfortable and safe, which are hallmarks of NorvaNivel learning spaces. Once at school, students could engage and learn, while feeling secure in ways they may not in their home or community environment. 

 

To “reinvent” Gordon Parks, NorvaNivel and Gould Evans asked for input from the school’s educators and administrators. With that, they created a flexible and easy-to-use environment for students, educators, and administrators. This meant rethinking individual classrooms for second through fourth graders, as well as making the most of the large corridor space, which up to then was underutilized, and creating an environment that they dubbed the HIVE.  

 

The HIVE, which includes such NorvaNivel products as INCUPOD Nooks, COLLABANA Frames, CRASHPOD Cushions and GRASSYOTT Ottomans, each designed to engage and improve specific learning outcomes, allows students to work how they want, either individually or collaboratively in small groups. This gives students ownership and empowers them to work comfortably and productively, while building pride, which is critical to this student population. Many of the NorvaNivel components in the HIVE are vital for reflection and retreat, which are fundamentals for equitable and accessible learning spaces.  

 

“We can’t stress enough the impact of giving our students private spaces and getaway zones, which makes in-depth individual learning or small group study possible,” said Sean Klippel, a third-grade teacher at Gordon Parks. “What our partners have created is literally changing these students’ lives, giving them a safe space to learn and fostering a sense of accomplishment and pride. What’s notable is that our students have also taken ownership of the new space and hold each other accountable to protect and respect the HIVE.” 

 

About NorvaNivel 

Started in Australia, where it dominates the educational learning space market, and with U.S. headquarters in Dallas, TX, NorvaNivel designs and manufactures innovative educational furniture and learning spaces. The company was founded on the belief that every student deserves a learning environment that caters to their individual needs, which fosters engagement, collaboration and ownership. NorvaNivel’s extensive range of soft seating and surfaces, which are in learning spaces across the U.S., are manufactured domestically.  For more information, visit https://norvanivel.com/. 

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