At REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA, if you don't have a library, you build one.
The eighth-grade students studying architecture and design at the middle school saw a need for a new learning facility, drafted their plans, and raised over $78,000 for construction. Now, they're building it from the ground up with their hands and creative vision.
The new addition is part of a program called Project H, and according to its director Emily Pilloton, the project is not only about adding infrastructure to the relatively new school, but opening up a place for exploration and discovery. After surveying students and teachers to discover the needs of the facility, Pilloton and her students concluded a library was their greatest necessity.
"There were some students who said, 'We don't have a library period," Pilloton tells the Good News Blog. "But there were others who said, 'We don't have a place to explore. We don't have a place to relax. We don't have a place of discovery.' Those statements were the most important to us… they were saying, 'We are a school of kids who are curious and young and have crazy stuff going on in our lives and we want a place to explore the things we don't know.'"
Together with her team of burgeoning architects, Pilloton went on field trips to study various libraries, looking at traditional concepts and design, and discussed precedence and the building blocks that give something its form.
"We run our class like an architecture studio," she explains.
Each student was given the task of creating the building block that would eventually shape the library, and it was decided they would use an "x" as their unit. Hence, the project was dubbed "the x-space."
"One student pointed out that they were studying algebra now too, and that the x is the unknown, the thing you don't know," Pilloton notes. "That became the overarching concept."
To seek those answers, the students would soon be able to go to their new library, their own creation, the manifestation of their intrigue and the possibilities of their skills. Once the blueprints were drawn, the students worked with Pilloton to put together a budget, and posted the project up on Kickstarter. They were able to raise $78,843, which was even more than their goal of $75,000.
So far, the kids are a third of the way through construction, and should be finished by the end of the school year. The books will be ordered as the kids head out for summer, and the fully furnished library will be revealed in the fall.
Most importantly, Pilloton believes this taught them about the scope of their work and dreams.
"I also really wanted them to see and understand that the things we do in our classroom, they exist beyond our school walls and there are people beyond our school walls that are supporting our project," the director remarks. "I would tell them, 'Hey guys, this [donor] is from Finland, and I have no idea who he is, but he loves your project!' It's really important for them to know this is an idea beyond our class."
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