Collab Labs allow Kempsville to reach for new heights in learning


Destini Harrell, Staff Writer

Kempsville has renovated empty classrooms into Collab Labs. Collab Labs are additional rooms with round tables, whiteboards, and Promethean boards that teachers can use for a more collaborative setting for their students. The Labs started popping up this year around the school. Because of declining enrollment and loss of staff, there were empty rooms remaining. Instead of leaving these rooms unused, a group of AP teachers and other staff decided to use this as an opportunity to create an environment for higher learning to occur that would somewhat mimic a college framework.

“In this day and age, learning is largely collaborative,” Principal Harris said. “Kids who are working together in groups, talking to each other, using the content, trying to make sense of it, questioning it, and messing with it have been shown through research time and time again learn at much higher levels. The Collab Labs provide that environment for teachers who choose to use them. It’s like the old movie Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and we’re happy to see that there is a slowly increasing use of the rooms.”

A lot of thought went into the creation of the Collab Labs. The decorations and the setting had to be planned in order to create this ideal center of collaboration. Gifted Resource teacher Mrs. Farnsworth gave insight into the making of these “intellectual zones.”

“The design and furnishings were decided by a committee of teachers from the Advanced Learning Team that had an overall vision of a collaborative space for students,” Mrs. Farnsworth said. “The idea was that decorations and furnishings would be minimal so the human mind takes center-stage. The Labs are not complete and there is still more to be done, but these spaces are a great fit for the learning styles of these kinds of learners and thinkers.”

Although the Collab Labs are not widely used throughout the school building, teachers who have used them have noted the benefits and increased learning that has come from the students being able to go into the labs sometimes instead of staying in the same four walls.

“The students do enjoy the freedom of getting out of the classroom and working in a different environment without having to put those big clunky desks together,” said AP Human Geography/World History teacher Mrs. Salmon. “It’s still the same instruction, but just in a different place that may facilitate the learning a little bit more.”

Even at its early stages, there is great hope for these labs of learning. Principal Harris is confident that this new model of learning will help Kempsville students achieve at higher levels and help the school meet its strategic goals.

“The Collab Labs are not THE answer to us meeting our goals, but they’re a part of a general teaching philosophy that centers on active student engagement and increasing student learning which translates to higher achievement, better SOL scores, better passing grades, more credits, and kids graduating on time.”