As architects gathered community input on the design of the new Gardiner Middle School, some of the most in-depth ideas came from students at Gardiner and Ogden middle schools.

Thirty sixth graders in the bilingual program at Gardiner are part of a national school design contest called SchoolsNEXT. They have been working every day in class to design their ideal school.

The process involved brainstorming ideas, gathering input from professional architects, touring newly-built schools, and surveying teachers on education needs. After developing an initial design on paper, they spent several days doing the math required to build a scale model out of foam core.

“We based our design on a healthy lifestyle theme because good mental health and active bodies help us learn better,” said student Ava Hsieh. “Our plan includes a view of Mt. Hood, outdoor learning spaces, lots of windows, and roll up garage doors so we can connect with the natural world.”

“We want a school where we can learn outside with farm and gardening classes,” said student Keely Merter. “We want to include solar energy panels and recycling stations, plus a way to reduce food waste by ordering meals in advance.”

“This is the best project I’ve ever done in my teaching career,” said teacher Keely Rock. “I am amazed at the engagement, thoughtfulness, and focus my sixth graders have brought to this project. They are working to plan a space where all kids feel safe, connected, and inspired to learn.”

Across town at Ogden Middle School, a group of seventh and eighth graders from the student council are also learning the art of design thinking, gathering user input to create a vision for design of the new middle school.

These students worked in small teams across multiple classes, working to solve a variety of issues in the school building, from locker design and building security to reducing student stress. They participated in a day-long design showcase for classmates, staff, district officials and architects to share their ideas.

Six of the SchoolsNEXT students and six students from Ogden Middle School are also part of the school district’s middle school design team, where they work alongside architects, teachers, and administrators to provide input on the new building that will replace the original Gardiner Middle School, built in 1954.

The project is one of many funded by a bond issue approved by Oregon City voters in the November 2018 election.

While not every idea proposed by students will be part of the new Gardiner School, Bond Program Manager Wes Rogers expects the new building will include several items students prioritized. This may include clear story windows to let in natural light and learning stairs, a versatile space that can be used for presentations, concerts, study, or socializing.

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