Open for Learning

At Booker T. Washington Elementary, operable glass walls provide a flexible solution that reflects the school’s focus on transparency and collaboration.

Challenge: 

A 21st-century learner demands a 21st-century classroom. This was the challenge solved by Cannon Design for Booker T. Washington Elementary School, a 63,000-sq.-ft. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academy located in Champaign, Ill. Serving 225 students, the school is separated into three academies, each further stratified into three learning studios for each grade that share a communal gathering space.

Influence: 

Operable glass walls would enable multiple room configurations and sizes without building additional space. “This flexibility allows teachers to gain access to shared resources and adapt space for small and large groups as well as project-based learning activities,” says Stuart Brodsky, Associate principal, Cannon Design.

Solution: 

The design team specified NanaWall’s SL45 Aluminum Framed Folding System with paired panels. Trung Le, principal at Cannon Design, understands the importance of the glass walls for the 21st-century learner. “The transparency makes [students] feel less antsy about being shut off from the rest of the world, provides a distant gazing point that may focus some student’s listening, and tells them this is what we do here: share knowledge.” These top-hung panels are configured as bi-fold pairs, and one of the panels is outfitted with hardware for operation as a door when the system is closed. Staff, students, administrators or visitors seated on the interior side of the system enjoy minimally obstructed daylight and exterior views from the floor-to-ceiling glass of the classrooms’ exterior wall. When open, the classroom space becomes expansive. The open spaces provide an opportunity for a centralized resource location—bookshelves become project libraries—and can also be a place for all three classrooms to integrate. The NanaWall operable glass walls solve a number of issues that another product or system could not, according to Cannon Design. The SL45 top-hung system ensures no student will trip between the interior and exterior spaces, ideal for handicapped students; the glass and aluminum system is easy to clean; the acoustics are excellent; and the NanaWall system allows natural daylight to filter into each classroom, in a space with few windows.

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