Nov 12, 2019

THRIVE Classroom Design

An Interview with Sylvia Kowalk, Legat Principal/Director of Interior Design and Robin Randall, Legat Principal I Director of PreK-12 Education

Vendor partners: DIRTT, Tandus Centiva, a Tarkett Company, TURF, VS America

What was your concept in designing this classroom?
Thrive — How the environment supports students and teachers thrive and use their full potential. Educational design is about understanding the function of the space and developing environments to support the well-being of the occupants. We experience our surroundings with our senses. How we develop spaces, the use of light, color, sound management, textures, patterns, personal comfort, body movement and the use of sustainable materials shapes students and teachers’ performance and well-being.

What role does technology play in the space?
Technology is the teachers and students third arm. Such a great tool that has improve teaching, learning, playing, communicating, studying, exploring in a short sense…living! We implemented a surrounding technology approach to our classrooms for easy access, so it could reach everybody in the room. Is not juts what kind of technology devices the teachers and students will bring to the classroom, is having the capability and the flexibility to incorporate all options within the learning environments. Note that I did not say within the classroom, learning environments happen everywhere. Our task as designers is to identify the opportunities.

How does the design and technology plan encourage attendee interaction?
We believe it was because of the easy access to technology, being literally surrounded by the presentation, there was not a bad spot to sit at. Attendees could view the presentation for 4 different monitors so everyone could see and participate. 

How does the choice of furniture impact the space?
Another important aspect was the implementation of choices. Personalize choices of furniture pieces, everybody felt comfortable and relaxed. Is not until the human body is comfortable and relax, that learning starts.  We also implemented movement within our space. Visual movement by using different shapes, heights and types of furniture pieces that visually energizes the space and makes the room inviting and appealing. We encouraged movement and well-being practices by adding colorful inspiring banners. We believe people sense we care about their well-being. Creating and Inviting, caring and performing space for people to thrive, that was our goal.

What do the flooring choices say about your classroom?
In our thriving and well-being concept, one of the most important aspects is sound and comfort, carpet brings that sense of comfort to the space and it definitely impacts sound. Our intent was to have a monochrome color flooring approach in order to highlight the bright and fun pieces of furniture while maintaining visual balance within the space. In a learning environment the flooring is not usually the focal point of the space, we wanted the students to be drawn to a fun flexible environment and by using brighter colors in the furniture we bring their attention to the pieces that they can work with, touch and play with, is about connecting.

What reactions did you hear from attendees in this classroom?
We heard attendees say it was their ‘favorite” venue, lots of positive comments about the furniture and the leaves.  People actually came by between sessions — just to hang out.  Here are some comments we noted:
  • “I like the leaves — it adds a biophilic touch.” 
  • “The leaves match the furniture and I like the crunching sound”. 
  • The bird sounds and low lighting were “therapeutic”.  
  • The couch with feet up was a favorite position — as well as the blue comfortable chairs. “Thumbs up on the flexible furniture.”

How will this space work for presenters?
We heard presenters commenting that they liked the set-up of the classroom – that they could walk all round the room to engage the audience and also have a large screen presentation. They asked if they could switch and present in this classroom. “This feels good – I like the Thrive! vibe” “We like this set up – good collaboration and team presentation -other classrooms forced us to the middle of the room to present and it was hard because then there’s always someone behind you.”

What do you see as the largest benefit of being chosen as a design team winner?

To be able to present in the THRIVE! classroom. Also to be able to share our design with the attendees and presenters and listen to their comments.  It was also rewarding to bring clients and potential clients to the space and tour them through. We sincerely appreciate this opportunity and would be interested in doing it again when the venue is nearby.  

Opening the Door to School Safety: Lock Don’t Block

By Sheri L. Singer

There were 94 acts of school gun violence in the United States in 2018, which is 59% higher than the previous record of 59 in 2006, according to a U.S. Naval Postgraduate study. Emotionally charged and complex issues surround the challenge of stopping or preventing school shootings. But we all agree we need to keep our students, teachers and administrators safe at school.

To this end, school boards and other authorities are desperately seeking quick, inexpensive fixes to keep kids, teachers and administrators secure in schools. But installing barricade devices can create unintended consequences and, in most cases, are not code compliant.

“After a school shooting incident, parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials believe that they must do something — anything — so they often turn to quick fixes such as barricade devices that they mistakenly think are better than nothing,” says Jerry S. Heppes Sr., CAE, CEO of DHI and DSSF. “One of our goals is to educate stakeholders about the issues surrounding barricade devices.”

Barricade devices may produce unintended consequences. This is particularly true in circumstances where students are locked in a classroom with the shooter, or when first responders are unable to get into a classroom to evacuate students during a shooting or fire. Likewise, a barricade device may keep a student trapped in a room with a bully, or result in a sexual assault scenario in which the victim cannot escape, or lead to additional unintended consequences. (For statistics, go to

For these reasons, the Door Security & Safety Foundation (DSSF) launched the “Opening the Door to School Safety” campaign in 2016. The campaign explains the dangers and unintended consequences of using barricade devices as a means of keeping students, teachers and administrators safe during a shooting incident. 

In fact, sometimes the door needs to be open for school safety, and sometimes it needs to be closed for security. Additionally, it’s important to understand that code-compliant hardware exists, which can address concerns for both life safety and security, as well as budget, for our classrooms. The campaign’s tagline — Lock Don’t Block — is used for the website (, social media hashtag (#lockdontblock) and referenced in the campaign materials.


The centerpiece of the initial 2016 campaign was a new website and a video that included quotes from two experts outside of the industry, a state fire marshal and a school security expert, who explained the unintended consequences of classroom door barricade devices.

“Through the campaign, DSSF has been able to create collaborations with like-minded organizations,” says Sharon Newport, CAE, executive director of DSSF and vice president of operations for DHI. “Among these organizations are Safe and Sound Schools, National Fire Protection Association, National Association of State Fire Marshals, Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, AASA – The School Superintendents Association and the Secure Schools Alliance. We look forward to expanding our efforts in the future.” In addition to these collaborative efforts, DHI/DSSF was instrumental in the NFPA 3000 Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) program.

What’s Next

While the Opening the Door to School Safety campaign remains focused on explaining the dangers of barricade devices to decision makers and stakeholders, the sudden explosion of policy changes permitting barricade devices to be installed in school classrooms requires DSSF to be even more proactive.

“These policy changes set a dangerous precedent — one that DSSF and our partners are attempting to stop,” Newport says. “This is why we need more local and regional efforts, and that’s where our members and stakeholders can help.” To respond to this plethora of policy changes, the campaign is monitoring federal, state and local legislation.

“It’s challenging because many of these legislative attempts are buried in seemingly irrelevant bills,” Heppes says. “Lawmakers are attempting to circumvent current building codes and use a back-door approach that allows schools to install classroom barricade devices. We need more boots on the ground to help us find these hidden agendas, as well as monitor and track this legislation.” Heppes continues: “It’s so critical to mobilize our grassroots efforts across the United States to help us win this crucial war. At stake are the innocent lives of teachers, students and other school officials. Frankly, it’s a battle we cannot afford to lose.”

DSSF Ambassador Program

The good news is that the majority of DSSF supporters and DHI members are in a position to help. Many are equipped to serve as local experts who can educate elected officials, school administrators and related professionals about the dangers of barricade devices.

To this end, the DSSF’s Opening the Door to School Safety campaign is introducing a new effort: the DSSF Ambassadors Program. This program is a tiered effort comprised of DHI members and DSSF supporters who are conducting specific activities on behalf of the Opening the Door to School Safety campaign. These activities will be aimed at furthering the campaign’s goals and advocating against the use of barricade devices in school classrooms across North America. DSSF Ambassadors could deliver presentations to related state and local organizations, identify and monitor state and local legislation, testify before state or local regulatory bodies, conduct local outreach to national partners and collaborators, and more.

A Call to Action

Unfortunately, no school is ever fully “safe,” but if all sides of the table agree to keep safety in mind, everyone will be better off. Architects are key ambassadors in this initiative, as the design of a school can help to address issue of life safety and security. A holistic approach to school design and an understanding of what makes a classroom or building safe and secure — by including door security and safety professionals at the beginning — is a crucial step forward.

As architects, we need your voice at the table. “This issue requires all of us to take a stand,” says Jay Manzo, CPA, president, DSSF Board of Trustees, and president-CEO, H&G/Schultz Door.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, please contact Sharon Newport, executive director, DSSF, at

This article was written by Sheri L. Singer, president of Singer Communications, a consultant to the Opening the Door to School Safety campaign. It was originally published in Door Security + Safety magazine and edited for this publication.

Nov 11, 2019

EDmarket Member Spotlight: Lisa Seaman-Crawford

Name:  Lisa Seaman-Crawford

School: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Maryland (AACPS)

Title: Director of Facilities

Years in education: 27 years with AACPS

Years of EDmarket membership: 1 (one of the inaugural institutional members)

Brief description of your district or school: Anne Arundel County has 122 school buildings, 13.8 million square feet and 84,000 students

What was your first job? Playground leader for town at AACPS – Project Manager in the Facilities Planning, Design and Construction Department

What makes your school district unique? Anne Arundel County has 530 miles of shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay. Annapolis, the capital of Maryland is located in Anne Arundel County and the county is located in the Baltimore Washington corridor.

What do you like best about the educational products industry?  The innovation in classroom furniture, surfaces and other facilities products.

What is your typical day like? The Facilities Division is responsible to ensure every school is clean, safe and ready for students and staff every single day. The division responds to work orders for repairs, designs new, renovation and addition projects and provides custodial services.

What do you like to do when you are not at work?  Play tennis, travel, ski and other outdoor activities

How had EDmarket or EDspaces helped you do your job better? By providing information on best practices, new products and shared experiences.

What changes are you witnessing in educational facilities planning? More flexible spaces with easy to move furniture, more pull out spaces or spaces where small groups can work and still be observed. More white board or write on surfaces.

What has made your district successful? Utilizing a third party to provide a facility assessment of all our schools and using it as a road map for prioritizing projects. Our six-year capital improvement plan follows the priority list. By updating the study ten years later, it gave us an opportunity to look at enrollment growth throughout the county and re-prioritize as needed.

What one piece of advice would you give others in your position? Do a facilities assessment, follow the plan, and communicate the plan to the public. 

EDspaces Sets Attendance Records

Attendee registration at EDspaces 2019 in Milwaukee, WI, last month was up 16% over the prior year as school and college decision makers and influencers gathered to collaborate on building the best learning environments. Attendees dove deeply into current challenges as they worked to transform education giving all students the chance to succeed through a variety of educational offerings including plenary sessions, interactive classroom designs, and tours. 

A total of 168 exhibitors in 603 10' x 10' spaces with many of them donating thousands of pounds and a wide variety of classroom items. Donated goods were collected by representatives from the Brown Deer School District and distributed to schools in Milwaukee.

"For 24 years, EDspaces exhibitors have contributed truck-loads of innovative classroom to local communities. This year it will be one of the largest due to major growth in the past four years of the event. We're looking forward to an even greater contribution in 2020, when we take EDspaces to Charlotte, North Carolina," says Jim McGarry, EDmarket President and CEO.

Participating exhibitors donated items to ensure local schools are outfitted with brand new products including furniture, seating, desks, USB embedded furniture, and more, giving the donated product(s) from their booths, interactive classrooms, and displays at the conference’s conclusion.

EDspaces classrooms serve as vehicles for experimentation, with sessions taking place in classrooms designed by top architects, designers, and space planners. This provides attendees first-hand experience of modern pedagogical approaches in planning, design, and products and are a unique extension of learning for participants. It is the only event featuring six innovative classroom designs, inspiring attendees and exemplifying the future of educational facilities. Each is developed to accommodate a wide variety of presentations, demonstrating learning areas for students of various ages, as well as a comfortable space for adult learners.

Other program elements included a pre-conference Learning Lab, STEM Innovation Tour on Tuesday that kicked off the event. The lab explored how school districts of diverse backgrounds promote STEM and STEAM learner-centered education in spaces where students experiment, make, hack, and learn as they transform ideas into products and solutions.

Visionary keynoter Tony Wagner, a globally-recognized voice in education and author of Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era presented at the plenary session. He discussed why innovation is today's most essential real-world skill, and one that can ensure this generation's economic future.

Expeditionary learning occurred on three distinct tours, two focused on the K-12 environment and one showcasing higher education spaces, with educationally-rich site visits featuring sustainability, creative design, and innovative interiors. Local sites included the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences and the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex (KIRC), as well as Brown Deer Middle/High School, Franklin High School, and more. Every tour included an educational component in a variety of learning environments, and each qualifies for AIA LU/HSW credit.

Mark your calendars for EDspaces 2020: November 11-13 in Charlotte, NC.