Dover High School seeks to create an innovative space

Alyssa Jackson
  • The high school will be renovating its library to include more collaborative and technologically based spaces.
  • The new space will feature a cafe, a maker space and a tech center.
  • Renovations ideally will be finished in the beginning of November.

Students at Dover Area High School soon will have a totally different library with a focus on collaboration, technology and creative thinking. The library will be renovated over the next few weeks and renamed the Innovative Learning Center.

The district is scaling back its nearly 18,000-book collection to make room for new ways of learning. The new center will house a cafe for students, a "maker space" where students can create anything at all and a tech center that will eventually be run by students, as well as 3-D printers, a robotics lab and spaces designed to let students collaborate.

The idea is to get more students into the library. The school's library media specialist, Samantha Patton, said the kids can't do that if the space doesn't work well for them.

Samantha Patton, library media specialist, scans and catalogues some of the 18,000 books from the Dover Area High School library. The physical library will be reduced from about 18,000 books to about 3,000. Friday, September 2, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

"The goal of the new space is to make the library work for the students," Patton said. "Right now it's an old, antiquated space. ... We have to make a space where every student wants to be here."

Focus group: To engage the students, Superintendent Kenneth Cherry and high school principal Jared Wastler developed a focus group of 11th- and 12th-graders who contributed ideas for the new space. For example, junior Eamonn Mailey was a major supporter of a cafe, though he wasn't sure if others would view it as necessary.

"I think it's a good idea because students come in super drowsy and might need that boost," Mailey said. "It also makes the library more appealing to people."

Senior Elliott Petrilla stressed that the Innovative Learning Center needed a comfortable space for students to sit and focus on work or collaborate together. Petrilla and Mailey are active in extracurricular activities after school and typically don't go home until early or late evening. Petrilla joked that the high school was his second home.

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The two typically find other spaces, such as the local Panera or the band room, to hang out with other students and work on projects or individual work. Because of that, Petrilla wanted to get cozier chairs and make a space where students would want to do work or kill time between school activities.

The idea is to have the space mostly run by students. Petrilla said the group is hoping students in business-style classes would take charge of ensuring the cafe is fully stocked and students in life-skills classes would be responsible for running it.

Solutions and creations: Patton said the tech center would have an area where students could become Apple certified to help other students solve problems with their iPads as part of the school's one-to-one policy, which gives each student an iPad for schoolwork.

The "maker space" will provide tools for students to create just about anything they can think of. Patton said students would be able to come in and take things apart to see how they work, build things with Lego bricks or art supplies or just create whatever they felt like.

Dover Area High School is remodeling their under-used library into a more efficient group learning area, coffee shop and student work area. The physical library will be reduced from about 18,000 books to about 3,000. Friday, September 2, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Scaling back books: To make way for the new space, the high school library will scale back its selection of nearly 18,000 books to between 3,000 and 5,000 books. Patton explained that the library will begin expanding its collection again after cleaning house, but many of the existing books are outdated, such as medical textbooks that are 20 to 30 years old.

Teachers first will go through the books leaving the library to create their own departmental libraries. After that, sometime in November, the district will host a book sale to sell the rest. Patton said all proceeds will go to the district's Dollars for Scholars.

Patton stressed that even though the library will become the Innovation Learning Center, it will still function as a library. Students will be able to conduct research and check out books. They just might do so while also learning robotics soldering and enjoying a cup of coffee to keep them alert.

She's hoping the changes will help get students ready for a workforce that has changed drastically in the last few years.

"We are collaborating to create absolutely everything from scratch," Patton said. "We’re going to build this space to be exactly what the students need, and we’re going to do it from the ground up."