Giving Compass' Take:

• Tim Newcomb explains how the Waukee Innovation & Learning Center uses an open floor plan to foster an innovative learning community. 

• Is this type of structural change sufficient to foster better learning? How can a school like this make the most of their unique situation? 

• Read more about open floor-plan schools

Opened last September, the Waukee Innovation & Learning Center (WILC), part of the Waukee Community School District west of Des Moines, Iowa, combines education and business by housing Waukee’s Aspiring Professional Experience program, where students partner with local companies across finance, engineering, technology, health services, biosciences, and added-value agriculture to work alongside businesspeople and solve problems.

The program was born out of growing needs in the business community and space issues at Waukee High School.

Instead of immediately building a second full-size high school as demand for space approached, Waukee started the program and then worked to design a building to match, forcing the WILC, designed by CannonDesign in association with Invision, to devise flexible space as they created a 70,000-square-foot building for a program that was still forming and adapting. But that was OK, as Cindi McDonald, Waukee superintendent, says the curriculum in the program will change annually, requiring the building that houses it to have the ability to morph with the students and the school.

Invision architect Kerry Weig says adaptability serves as the calling card. “It can be deconstructed and reconstructed,” she says, “in many ways as needs develop over time.”

The central focus of the building is a central co-working space for more than 100 students. Its triangular shape provides natural light while classrooms, labs, and student break-out spaces flow around it. The two-story design has alcoves on the upper floor for students overlooking the central area, while down below, classrooms and labs have garage-style doors that often remain open onto the co-working space. The WILC was built to handle 500 students at a given time. With 400 attending classes there over the course of a school day this fall, the space has plenty of room for the program to continue its growth.

Read the full article about WILC by Tim Newcomb The 74.