With its quiet atmosphere and stacks of source materials, the bottom floor of the Greenlease Library at Rockhurst University is a great place to study or do research. But it doesn’t necessarily strike one as a state-of-the-art design thinking and learning lab — yet.
Starting this summer, that section of the university’s library will be redesigned and outfitted with new furniture and technology like 3D printers as part of its transformation into a STEAM Studio pop-up.
An initiative launched in 2015 by Mandi Sonnenberg, associate professor of education at Rockhurst, along with architecture firm Gould Evans, STEAM Studio promotes design thinking and other innovation-centered learning skills in K-12 students through activities in science, technology, engineering, arts, math and science. Since that launch, Gould Evans has played host to STEAM Studio in its Westport offices.
The pop-up is an extension of the work already happening at the original space, not a replacement. It will be a shared workspace that can open a new range of possibilities and directions for STEAM Studio, including new educational partners close to campus, said Jennifer Friend, dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Rockhurst University who made the announcement Wednesday at the program’s annual luncheon.
“You will have the same kinds of STEAM Studio activities that will continue to happen at Gould Evans, but we will be right on Troost and have the opportunity to expand to even more students,” she said.
Sonnenberg said she is excited about the opportunity introduce even more flexibility into the STEAM Studio model and to expand the program’s impact to the community around campus.
“To me this feels like coming home,” she said. “This was always our vision to have a space here, so I’m really excited to have a second location at Rockhurst.”
Sonnenberg said they’re not waiting to start using it. Modular furniture — designed to foster collaboration — is already being moved in. Further equipment and construction is scheduled for the summer. Sonnenberg said she anticipates all of the redesign work completed by the end of the calendar year. In the meantime, a two-day design thinking institute is scheduled for July, giving educators a chance to learn the techniques that power STEAM Studio activities and how they might be able to implement them in their own classrooms.
Tim Linn is a public relations specialist for Rockhurst University.