In 1965, the same year Bob Dylan’s “The times they are a changing” was released, the educational system in the U.S. was also going through changes. The move from students quietly sitting in rows to a more free and active environment. C.W Cline Elementary, which was built in 1975, was just that – an open concept school. Instead of individual classrooms, there were large areas with few walls so that grade levels could gather as a large group then break up into small groups around that large space. Teachers could group students together as they saw fit and move about a large area working with various groups on various tasks. This theory, however, was not as effective as one had initially thought. Especially in very large elementary schools. Students that are easily distracted now had 80 other classmates and with multiple teachers all doing different things in that same large space. At times the space functioned as intended, but often times it didn’t. Teachers used filing cabinets and other furniture to “create walls” to define their classroom space.
So in 2006, Cline put up walls to form traditional classrooms. This solved one problem but created another problem. Since the school was built with an open concept in mind this meant that now most classes had no windows or natural lighting. The halls were narrow and the central air had to be retro fitted to blow into classrooms which weren’t designed for those smaller spaces.
This coming school year will be our last year in this building. Over the years, this old building has had many additions and changes in order to meet the growing demands of the Friendswood community, but once again “the times – they are a changing”. A change that will allow our students and teachers to have a greater range of spaces for more engaging activities and learning experiences.
The new Cline Elementary will be the best of both worlds. There will be traditional classrooms, but each will have the ability to open up into a larger space when needed. The flexible collaboration spaces adjacent to the classroom will allow for small group learning to take place away from the activity in the classroom thereby creating a quiet space with fewer distractions. However, it is large enough to accommodate several classes at one time to participate in a larger group activity or combine two classes working on the same project. There will be innovation labs that are multi-purpose and can be used as a food lab, traditional science lab, robotics lab etc.
The largest space is the learning commons. Traditionally know as a library, this space will be used for much more. It is large enough to accommodate several classes at a time. There is a dedicated “classroom” space, open space for reading and writing, several “discovery areas” and a large “learning stairs” that can seat a whole grade level at one time to listen to guest speakers or students to give presentations.
This new building will allow our students to have more opportunities to explore, create, and begin to dream about their future. A future that is quickly changing.