The Atlanta Speech School Welcomes the New Martha West Looney Learning Commons

Brownieland is excited for the new Learning Commons at the Atlanta Speech School! Find out more in this guest blog post from Catherine Sabonis, Director of Communications at the Atlanta Speech School. Atlanta Speech School Welcomes the New Martha West Looney Learning Commons

You see it when you walk in. You know something fun is happening there, beyond the obvious brightly colored book illustrations and unflaggingly happy staff.  And then, when you stick around to observe, and dig a little deeper… you also realize this is seriously powerful stuff. 

The Martha West Looney Learning Commons at the Atlanta Speech School is a new addition to the School that embodies the natural evolution of the library and its historic function – especially here in a school that focuses on literacy and “the construction of the deep reading brain.” There are certainly still plenty of books – and there is so much more.

To build the Learning Commons, the old library was reconfigured – walls were moved, new zones were identified and all new furniture was put into place. The rows of bookshelves are gone… but only because the new book shelves are curved.  Large, bright green, bouncy, half-sphere “grass” poofs are all in place for sitting or propping – and inviting touch.

The shelves and seating are great metaphors for what happens here: the work of this evolved library is not linear. The play is not finite. Work and play organically grow into one another and each discovery yields another – it’s a curved-lines kind of place.

The design elements of the space have been thoughtfully considered, designed and placed to help set the stage for deep reading, encourage critical thinking and imagination and expand basic skills needed to pursue knowledge beyond books. It’s a 21st century learning environment: interdisciplinary and technically-enhanced so that children of every age learn to attach tangible meaning to ideas and concepts.  The place encourages stealth learning and school-day exploring. Robotics, biology, math, art, technology and stories coexist in high relief.

The maker space, for elementary students and the Discovery Zone for the smallest do-ers, foster independent thinking and a participatory approach – kids complete projects here together, and learn the value of co-creation. Information is experienced, not passively consumed; theses are applied and experiments are tried.  The media specialists – librarians plus – are story-tellers, engagers and magicians who use the space and its tools to improve reading comprehension, critical thinking and creativity – and help each child expand basic skills into deep knowledge.

This hands-on, intellectual and playful engagement with information, ideas, concepts and materials is, yes, working to build each child’s reading brain.  And along the way, the child is also learning who they are, what they stand for, and what they might do next… well beyond the completion of the immediate task, project or treasure before them.

The Atlanta Speech School effects transformative change in the lives of children and adults through literacy. Learn more HERE.

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