As Oregon City school district leaders work with architects to design the new Gardiner Middle School and renovate Ogden Middle School, they are considering not only the buildings, but also new middle school education strategies.

The Middle School Design Team includes teachers and students from Gardiner and Ogden Middle Schools who will work with staff from BRIC architecture, experts in northwest school design.

Committee members discovered design ideas by touring recently built schools, such as Parkrose Middle School, the Karl Miller Center at Portland State University, and Arlington Elementary in Tacoma. The group has also been inspired by schools like High Tech High in San Diego and Prestwick STEM Academy, a K-8 school in Texas.

“I am inspired by schools with a lighter, brighter feeling that makes people feel happier just being there,” said School Board member Nicole White. “It will be important to provide professional development for teachers so we make the best educational use of the space we create.”

“We envision a building that makes students want to be in school and encourages them to gather,” said Gardiner Principal Michael Sweeten. “We want a design that connects our community and encourages students and teachers to interact outside class.”

“Students are hoping the new building will have lots of natural light and a connection to nature,” said eighth grader Brayden Welch. “We want windows that open, and seating in public areas where students can hang out and socialize before and after school.”

The teachers and students on the design committee will gather input from a diversity of students and staff members by using empathetic interviews. Assistant Superintendent Kyle Laier explained, “This is part of the design thinking process— understanding user perspectives so we can design a better experience for them.”

“We want to design the kind of school that draws students in,” said Laier. “We want every student to feel engaged, safe, and inspired to collaborate with others in their learning.”

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