‘Active learning classrooms’ transform Nicarry Hall first-floor
September 18, 2015   //   By:   //   Campus & Community, Campus and Community, Research and Academics

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“I love it more and more every day. We don’t even have all the equipment and I love it,” said Dr. Kristen Waughen, Elizabethtown College visiting assistant professor of computer science, about the high-tech additions to Nicarry Hall.

Waughen has been a part of the recent renovations of the College’s Nicarry Hall this summer and helped design Nicarry Lab 127 and 133. The project was created to make the space into “collaboration classrooms.” The lab that Waughen uses includes six tables for groups of students to work on projects in front of a wall-mounted TV monitor, which displays the output from their laptops or the professor’s main computer. The labs were designed to hold 35 students to accommodate core classes that might wish to utilize the spaces.

It’s a come and learn environment.”

Fit with a light-green painted wall, brightly colored chairs and trendy tables, the room was renovated with the students in mind. Creating an atmosphere that is welcoming, “was important,” said Waughen. “When you walk into a room that’s uncomfortable it’s harder to learn.”

“It’s a come and learn environment,” she said with a smile in a recent interview in the newly updated classroom. “So you don’t come into a lab with a lot of computers, and your guard comes up.”

The first stage of the renovations took place in summer 2014 and have been continuously worked on through this past summer. With the renovation of the ITS Help Desk and office areas completed, the classrooms in the first-floor of Nicarry were the next completed phase of renovations. With the fall semester well under way, eight new learning spaces on the first floor are available for two general education classrooms; a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classroom; and the lab that Waughen uses, which features furniture donated from Steelcase Furniture Company.

Each room has its own flair. The walls of Nicarry 127 are made with whiteboards so students can write ideas or professors can demonstrate lessons. The grouped tables in the room offer a circle-up approach for collaboration, with portable stools and discussion tables that students can write on with dry erase markers. The technology in each renovated classroom received a revamp, as well. The additions of Epson projectors, interactive touchscreen projectors, allow students to get a hands-on way of learning in class discussions.

“I was not told how to do this class; this class came out of need and just I helped design it,” said Waughen. “The environment is more welcoming with more room and thinking space. You can write on all the boards and, at most, I can show seven different screens at the same time, as opposed to one screen where we are all huddled around ….”

Ron Heasley, executive director of Information and Technology Services at E-town, said the new renovations, “was a team effort of Facilities Management, ITS, the Education Department and Campus Services.  Each of us had our roles.”

Heasley’s part of the renovations involved working with the faculty to help interpret their visions to create the new spaces.

“They [professors] can even use their cell phone as a source that can play music through the ceiling speakers or show a picture on one or both projection screens,” said Heasley.

Miranda Sweetman, a junior sociology major and ITS student help desk assistant, said the new Nicarry renovations remind her of the Apple stores.

Sitting in her new work environment at the ITS help desk, Sweetman noted that, “we have more space to work on student’s computers and with things more updated we are able to be hands-on with the students even more.”

Funded by donations from Alden Trust and alumnus, along with furniture donations from Steelcase Furniture Company, the Nicarry renovation is nearing completion. The third and final phase is scheduled to take place in summer 2016, which includes the renovation of the second-floor classrooms, the second-floor offices and replacement of the roof.

“I’m looking forward to see the second-floor next year,” said Sweetman. “It’s my senior year and it’s time for a change.”

About the Author :

Ashley Reeb is a business administration major in the class of 2018. She has experience in journalism since high school, having a role as News section editor for her school’s newspaper. And since becoming a Blue Jay, she has been a Feature and News writer for the College's newspaper, The Etownian.

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