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NMS Earns Grant To Transform Its Library Media Center



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Newtown Middle School was recently awarded a grant that is expected to, eventually, reconfigure the school’s library media center (LMC).

The grant for an active learning classroom through the American Learning Center program is an initiative offered by Steelcase Education, according to a June 10 release.

“We’re really excited and honored,” NMS Principal Tom Einhorn said in a recent phone interview about the news.

Newtown Public Schools Grant Specialist Kristin Larson, Einhorn, and NMS Library Media Specialist Andrew San Angelo originally worked together to apply for the grant last year. After the school did not get the grant that year, Einhorn said, “We felt, let’s try again.”

Both Einhorn and San Angelo credited Larson for her work in applying for the grant.

“She was very instrumental in making this happen for us,” San Angelo said, adding that it was Larson who learned of the grant. “... Her influence has been extremely important.”

According to the release from Steelcase Education, its “grant program supports both educators and students by creating an environment that encourages engagement, collaboration, and creativity. Traditional classrooms are outdated. Immovable desks and chairs aligned neatly in rows lend themselves to rote memorization, not the variety of teaching strategies most educators use today. With the installation of a classroom valued at $82,000, as well as professional learning and transformation services valued at $50,000, this project will positively impact teaching and support pedagogies for Newtown Middle School students eager to return to classes.”

Installation of the Steelcase learning environment is expected to begin in the spring of 2021, and it is expected to be completed by that fall. According to the release, Red Thread will install the learning environment.

“Inspired by design thinking practices, the new ‘Flex Flip’ classroom setting is made to help students engage in creative problem solving,” the release reads. “Tools and furnishings provide responsive support as students challenge assumptions and imagine alternatives together. Newtown Middle School is committed to transforming the LMC into a center for active learning in the school. They applied for the Steelcase ALC grant to help fulfill the vision of the LMC as a flexible learning commons with a collection of digital and print resources, literature, and technology to support learning and a physical space that fosters a positive school climate and social and emotional growth for middle schoolers.”

“Newtown Middle School was chosen because of a demonstrated commitment to active learning,” said Jami Moyer of Steelcase Education in the release. “Research shows that space impacts behavior, and these classrooms will help a new group of teachers and students explore the learning possibilities an interactive space can bring.”

The release also explained that in addition to receiving a new classroom design, Newtown Middle School will receive training from Steelcase on how to use the new spaces and will have the opportunity to share insights and best practices with all awarded schools. Over the two-year program, Steelcase Education and NMS will partner together to conduct assessments and research on the impact of the newly designed space.

NMS was one of four schools chosen this year for the grant, according to the release.

San Angelo said the grant is a great opportunity for NMS. The library, he said, needs an update.

“It needs a change,” said San Angelo. “It needs to become more of a learning environment where students want to be, where teachers want to be, and that students look forward to [visiting].”

Einhorn said the new design for the space will allow flexibility that will influence learning. He hopes the design will increase the level of collaboration and cooperation between students.

Einhorn, San Angelo, and Larson were surprised in a phone call with the news about the grant. A representative from Steelcase Education arranged an follow-up call about the grant. Einhorn said they were prepared with paperwork to talk through their application, but, instead, they learned NMS earned the grant.

“It was a very welcome announcement,” Larson said in a recent phone interview.

“I think it is really bringing together the work we are doing on social/emotional learning and the commitments we have made there,” Larson said about the grant’s purpose. Later she said, “It’s going to be a beautiful new space.”

For more information about Steelcase Education see its website, steelcase.com.

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