Positioned to learn: How Mayfield is creating 21st Century classrooms

Back in Mayfield’s early years, 1940s-era classrooms (and we say this with love) looked rigid and immovable—desks in straight rows, all focus on the teacher up front, chalk and blackboards—a reflection of the best practices of the time.
Walk into a 2018 Mayfield classroom and it looks like a party by comparison.
There is talking, movement, demonstrations and group work. In three classrooms “smart boards” light up with graphics, all rooms are equipped with “Airplay” technology. Of course there are still lectures, raised hands and quiet study time, but learning is dynamic with the use of interactive audio-visual technology.

“We know now that girls learn best by having the opportunity to work together in teams or in pairs. They learn best working collaboratively,” said Head of School Kate Morin. “I want all of our classrooms to be able to easily facilitate that kind of learning because we know that these are the important skills for the 21st Century.”

It’s all about excellence, Mrs. Morin said, in launching an initiative this week seeking dedicated funding to update more Mayfield classrooms with state-of-the art furnishings and interactive AV technology that enable engaged teaching.

In a special “paddle raise” at the benefit on Saturday, Mayfield supporters will be asked to help fund the critical mission of giving our girls the best environment for learning. Or donations can be made online.

“The wonderful thing about all of our teachers is that they are always striving for excellence,” Mrs. Morin said. “We need to give them the tools to help them achieve this excellence.”

Already, three of our math classrooms are equipped with interactive AV boards, which are like giant, responsive computer screens that put graphics and media at the fingertip of teachers and students. Teachers’ board notes can be immediately recorded and electronically sent to students for further study and review, among other features.

What faculty members have also found is that board technology is also a powerful tool across all disciplines to engage auditory, visual and interactive learning. Mrs. Morin said her goal to to install them in as many key classrooms as possible.

“It’s an exciting time to be an educator with all the information we know about the human brain and how we learn,” said Melissa Tighe, Director of Community Partnerships and Math Department Chair. “For our students we can now appreciate the difference an interactive classroom makes in retaining information they learn and literally wiring their brain.”

She said the technology allows students to interact with information. For instance in calculus, the mathematics of motion and change, its difficult to visualize movement in a textbook. But with a smart board students can see how their calculations are actually making movements in say, an airplane wing or an axis rotation.

It will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $6,000 to equip a classroom with interactive AV technology, depending on the infrastructure needs of the room.

Mrs. Morin also hopes to literally enable more ease of movement in classrooms with new wheel-mounted swivel desks that feature under chair backpack storage and are easily adjusted for body types. New moveable tables and chairs are also on her innovation list.

“The key to a classroom is flexibility,” Mrs. Morin she said of the new desks that cost $350.00 each.

Julie Sanchez ’11, a freshman English teacher, tested the new desks in her classroom for a week.

“What I marvel at is how quickly we can change the dynamic of the room,” Miss Sanchez said. Her English class typically includes lively discussion, quiet writing and group work. Miss Sanchez said it’s also important for her to move freely among her student to help.

“So now with these desks if we are having a Socratic discussion it only takes five seconds to the girls to form an inner ring and an outer ring,” she said. “For group work it only takes seconds to move their desk, move their chair, move their backpack.”

Here is what a few of our girls had to say, pointing out convenient backpack storage, ease of movement and back-supporting chairs:

“They make me happy in general because they really are classy looking... and when you are in comfortable environment it helps you to be able to focus on the things you want to do,” said Catherine Layton ‘21.

Her classmate Hope Beegle ‘21, added that collaboration is now effortless.

“It’s beneficial to have these desks because we do a lot of group work and discussion with all the books we read and all our papers,” Hope said. “It’s really easy to move around instead of having to move a stationary desk across the room.”

Miss Sanchez said that her “logistical problems are solved” with the new desks and hopes that the furnishings will become a permanent part of a classroom that is anything but a rigid, immovable circa 1948 classroom (and we say this with love and confidence in your support)!
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.