Mission High School Transitional Learning Space

Our Team:
Dan Truong- Ergonomics
Ellyse Jimenez- Furniture
Karen Meier- Computing Technologies
Kimberly Pytel- Lighting/Audio/Visuals


Our team was responsible for creating an informal learning space for a high school in North County San Diego. The major request was for the space to be incorporated into the current architecture of the high school. The school district does not have the funding to build a new building for this space, so we were tasked with finding an open space on the campus to create the new space. Currently the campus is filled with large buildings with open areas and hallways running parallel to the buildings. Students currently use the open areas to congregate between classes, before and after school, and during other assigned breaks such as lunch or morning break.

Mission High School has recently moved to a specialty school with a focus in Problem Based Learning. The school has partnered with Tech4Learning, a group that provides professional development in incorporating technology and the Problem Based Learning Model.[1] With this shift in focus, there is a desire to find a way to get students motivated to learn, collaborate, and discuss everyday problems not just within the classroom, but also outside classroom walls. This shift was the motivating factor for the informal learning space. This space will not only support students outside of classroom hours but also teachers whom might want to use the space for an alternative classroom experience or for their own collaboration needs. Our team has designed this space in a way that different groups of people can use it simultaneously and for different purposes.

Aerial View of Campus
Aerial View of Campus
Ground View of Campus
Ground View of Campus

Needs Assessment

Several stakeholders at Mission had an impact on the creation of this informal learning space. Stakeholders include faculty/staff, students, parents, and administration. We reached each group listed below through different methods including, focus group discussions, surveys, interviews and research of extant data. Findings of the research are bulleted below.

What we did:
  • Teachers gave feedback on a voluntary basis. The design team sent e-mails to all the faculty and staff at school. Email responses were retrieved from 15 faculty members.
    • Participation could only only be voluntary because not all the teachers would use the space and because most of them have limited free time given their teaching responsibilities.
  • The student government provided feedback on behalf of the students. Nine students represent the student government. There were multiple reasons for this.
    • Members of student government are essentially given a free period for their student government “class,” whereas their peers (like teachers) are burdened with lots of obligations in and out of the classroom.
    • The student government is most likely to use this space and organize events and activities in this new space.
    • These nine students are a good representation of the larger student population.
    • Participating in a project like this provides a nice civics lesson about representative democracy.
  • The design team met with administrators, the principal and (two) vice principals, to receive advice on questions regarding costs, feasibility and other issues on a daily basis.
  • (One) Groundskeepers and (two) janitorial staff participated in discussions with the design team as well since they were responsible for maintenance of the space.
  • Eight parents gave feedback during the School Site Council Committee. This committee is designed to hear parents' concerns and to seek advice on future ideas.
    • Members of the School Site Council represent the larger community of parents and were able to give valuable insight on their desires for the space.
What we found:

  • Teachers mentioned that the informal spaces had to be flexible or at least be adaptable to multiple functions.
  • Teachers mentioned that uses for the space included tutoring, solo or group study, reading texts and group classwork. They also mentioned a need for a place to meet, plan, and/or collaborate.
  • The faculty expressed a desire for a space that students could use to meet and work on homework and assignments that wasn’t inside of a classroom (and could encourage students to collaborate).
  • Teachers expressed that having a space outside of their classroom where they could take their class during school hours for a change of scenery that would promote group work amongst their students and create a positive school culture.
  • Students liked the idea of having a place where they could study, meet in groups, or socialize that was not a classroom. For a lot of the students, the classroom “reminds them of lectures, reading and tests.”
  • Students revealed that they were less likely to use an informal learning space if they were not allowed to bring snacks and drinks.
  • Since party sizes tend to vary, some of the seating needs to be mobile so students could take chairs from other tables with little fuss.
  • All the students stressed the need for power outlets to charge their devices. Some joked they would use the space everyday if it meant having a place to charge their gadgets.
  • Parents wanted a space for students to go in off-class hours that can be easily monitored for safety reasons.
    • This means clear sight lines and have the design out in the open. Supervisors and staff should be able to see nearly everything right in front of them.
    • Parents also liked the idea of having a place for students to go before and after school that would keep them out of trouble outside of classroom hours.
  • Administration stated that they did not want to build a new indoor building for the informal learning space due to the cost.
  • Administration wanted a space that was easy on maintenance and that could be well supervised and easily protected.
    • Groundskeepers and janitors stated that in order to efficiently maintain the area there had to be a way to move furniture out of the way either through stacking or wheels.

Design Rationale

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Our design team determined that the ideal space would be best if made as an extension to a current building. Currently there is a large open area behind the science building that could serve as a great fit for an informal learning space. Our proposed design is an “L” shaped space with large open glass doors looking out to an open field that will serve as an indoor/outdoor informal learning space.

There would be a variety of seating options to suit multiple group types for a variety of purposes. Lounge style seating in the back of space could be used to support larger groups whereas the cafe-style seating and sectioned booths could accommodate smaller groups. The booths provide to users a bit of privacy if so desired. Lounge tables, occasional tables and collaborative tables/chairs provide flexibility; they can be moved around to suit the user's needs and are not as rigid in their location or table/chair pairings. The space will have all the technology and provide enough power outlets to support the users’ mobile devices.
The space could be used for a variety of activities like:
  • Individual or group study
  • Socializing
  • Staff/faculty meetings
  • Student organizations and meetings
  • Parties or potlucks
  • Any time video needs to be used (for example, a coach wants to go over tape with his/her team)
Recent studies have shown that collaborative learning[2] and socialization[3] among peers positively correlates with academic performance.The proposed space will be protected from the elements with a roof. It will be enclosed with glass garage doors to allow as much natural sunlight as possible. Studies have shown that natural lighting improves student learning capacity compared to students learning under artificial lighting. [4] Additionally, the glass doors can be pulled up so that the space opens to the outside creating more of an indoor/outdoor feeling in the space.

When designing this space, our design team reviewed the principles of the Learning Space Rating System (LSRS)[5] that was developed to guide the design of learning spaces. While the LSRS is in place to guide formal learning spaces (version 1), our team agreed that the principles can be applied to all learning spaces and would be a strong factor in the design of an effective transitional space. With that said, we will not use the LSRS to evaluate our space due to the fact that our space is not a formal learning space. The following is a list of the first six principles and how our team designed according to each:
  • Principle 1: Design Aligns to the Campus Context
    • Mission High School is focused on Problem Based Learning and this space will allow for students to work collaboratively in groups and will support a variety of technology as well.
  • Principle 2: Planning and Design Process
    • Our team has worked with administration, students, teachers and parents to ensure that all stakeholders have had the chance to contribute to the planning and design process of the space.
  • Principle 3: Support and Operations
    • Mission High School has a full-time IT specialist who will assist with all technology issues. The room booking software will detail the rooms capabilities so that students and staff have knowledge of the potential uses of the space before they sign up.
  • Principle 4: Environmental Quality
    • We designed the space with an indoor/outdoor feature by using glass garage doors along three walls. Studies show that natural light promotes learning and lounge-like areas of the space make it an inviting environment for all users.
  • Principle 5: Layout and Furnishings
    • Much of the furniture is mobile throughout the space allowing for flexibility in group numbers as well as a good amount of space for users to move around the space. Additionally, all furnishings have been placed so that there are clear sight lines to a TV screen in the corner of the room if it is intended for all users to view it.
  • Principle 6: Tools and Technology
    • The space is supported by the school wifi and all members of the staff and student body have access to that network. Ample power outlets and extra charging cables are available for all devices brought into the space by users.

Digital Rendering of the Proposed Space

Note: These renderings are not to scale & use approximations of the furniture listed in this report, but are not exactly the same.
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3D Render 1-2.jpg

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3D Render 3.jpg
3D Render 4.jpg

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Design Concept & Recommendations


The L shape allows faculty and staff to know what is going at all times. If he/she were to stand in the lower left corner outside of the space that supervisor would not have to turn their head very far. In addition, as shown in the rendering above, he/she could have clear sight lines standing on each end of the L due to the glass doors (regardless of whether or not they are raised.)

The furniture placement maximizes flexibility as well. The lounge seating and the booth seating are more intimate spaces to encourage communication. Users sitting there will face the view outside. The collaboration tables and chairs are grouped together so that chairs can be taken from other tables if needed. Those chairs and tables can be arranged to be within viewing distance of the TV. The cafe tables and chairs are taller pieces of furniture that are placed further from the TV as to not obstruct the view of the others. They are also closer to edge of the space to allow users to “pop-in” and “pop-out” for casual use as needed. Users who are not using the TV can use the booths and the lounge.

Studies have shown that natural lighting can have a positive effect on learning. In addition, the glass doors can be pulled back into the ceiling to allow uninterrupted air circulation. This learning space should have lower energy use from lighting and climate control due to the glass garage doors as well.


Collaborative spaces cannot be fully utilized without well thought-out furniture for the space; furniture is the key to supporting a highly effective informal learning space since users have to have a variety of furniture to choose from to meet their needs.[6] Knowing that the space our team was creating was going to be used by students, teachers, administrators, and more we had to keep in mind the many uses each group could potentially use the space for. Through our needs assessment we knew that the informal space would be used for discussion, collaboration, planning, brainstorming, and socializing. Furniture for the space was meant to keep in mind the users and the uses. All furniture that was selected below was based on comfort, appeal, and above all flexibility to meet the unique needs of users.

Furniture Image
Square Cafe Tables
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These cafe style tables are ideal for the space because they are extremely flexible in use. The tables allow for small groups to meet and discuss projects and assignments. Also, since the tables are at standing height, they allow for others to come up and add ideas as well since they are at eye level to those that are seated. The square design also allows for larger group discussions when needed since more tables can be pulled together.

Square top: 42" x 42" x 1.25"
Base: 30’’ circular base
Height: 42’’ standing height

More information can be found at:
Adjustable Cafe Stools
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These chairs offer comfort and flexibility. The design of the chair allows for the ability to adjust the height as needed so that users can adapt to the furniture around them. The stools also come on casters to allow for easy mobility from table to table.

More information can be found at:
Lounge style bench seating
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The lounge bench seating is an ideal addition to the space because it provides a large open space to relax in a supremely comfortable manner. The setup will allow for students, faculty, and others to congregate and discuss in groups or to sit and think alone when needed. Groups of the lounge seating will be placed along the back wall of the space for an at-home feel.

More information can be found at:
Occasional table
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The occasional table are a great addition to the lounge space because they allow for a place to discuss and collaborate over. Users can either collaborate around the full elliptical when as a large group, or even pull apart the pieces when working individually or with small groups.

More information can be found at:
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The booths provide a more private meeting area with comfort embedded. These booths allow individuals or groups of 4-5 to meet, hang out, plan, share, discuss, and collaborate without distractions from those around them.

More information can be found at:
Booth Dividers
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Each booth section will be divided off with a privacy screen to prevent distractions. Using booth dividers helps users stay focused and maintains a more private atmosphere.

More information can be found at:
Collaborative Chairs with Casters and lounge table
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Collaborative chairs and tables are necessary for a change of pace setting that allows for just as much comfort and flexibility as other sections in the space. These collaborative chairs help promote movement due to the swivel function of the chairs. They are also comfortable and meant for extended use. Each chair supports multiple postures for users to continually find a posture that is ideal for them.

All collaborative chairs come with casters to support movability. Groups are free to move and rearrange chairs to form a larger group or separate and work apart from a group.

The addition of the matching lounge table is necessary for users to effectively collaborate and discuss topics. The height is set to the collaborative chairs and can provide a space for books, papers, computers, phones, or any other device.

More information can be found at:
Recycling and trash receptacles
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Recycling and trash bins are a key component to a clean and green space. These will be spaced throughout the space to prevent large amounts of mess and a way to separate recycling from waste.

More information can be found at:
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FLEXCO evolving style wood elements will be used to floor the space. This style flooring is ideal for the space because it offers added protection and comfort with components of rubber but has the look of wood for a pristine finish. This flooring is low maintenance but also has a natural resistance to bacteria and fungi in accordance with ASTM G 21. This flooring will better help protect users’ technology from accidents since it has elements of rubber.

Color: Classic Oak

More information can be found at:


Because the space will mostly be lit by natural sunlight, lighting fixtures will be installed to support the space when sunlight is limited or non-existent. Full-spectrum pendant lighting will be installed on the ceiling and will be chunked into zones based on the different areas of seating throughout the space. Additional directed lighting will be placed above whiteboards to illuminate each separately.

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In order to control for the amount of heat and direct sunlight that the space receives, the glass that makes up the garage style walls will be tinted clear glass.[7] The amount of tint that will be required will have to be research more by the design team based on the average amount of sunlight the particular space receives throughout the day. Recessed speakers will be placed evenly throughout the learning space on the ceilings to support a full class in the space. The LED TV will only be manipulated by an instructor who has signed up to use the space for their class. At all other times, the LED TV will display school news.

There will be a control panel at the entrance of the learning space that controls each lighting zone, speaker volume and the LED TV. This control panel will allow for two different light dimming options for each zone as well as on-off switches for each of the whiteboards. Occupancy sensors will be installed to turn off lights when the room is unoccupied.

Furniture Image

Pendant Lights w/ Full-Spectrum Light bulbs
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The pendant lights provide both direct and indirect light. The design of the light gives a high proportion of indirect light and reduces glare as a result. Some research supports that full-spectrum bulbs result in better physical health.

More information can be found at http:www.thornlighting.com
Whiteboard Lights
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To illuminate each of the whiteboards, lights will be mounted separately above each whiteboard. It is essential to have each board illuminated so that all users can easily read what is on the board.

More information can be found at http://www.archiexpo.com/prod/thorn-europhane/product-57881-1531936.html
Garage Style Doors
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The garage style doors will give the space an indoor-outdoor feel. They can be pulled up when more light is needed as well as to ventilate the space. If the sunlight is too bright the doors can be pulled down to reduce the amount of heat and light entering the area.

More information can be found at http://www.arm-r-lite.com/commercial-garage-doors/

The glass will be tinted to allow a limited of sunlight through which also reduces the amount of heat gain in the space. This will allow for the space to stay cool while the garage doors are down while still letting in enough light to illuminate the space.
Wall Paint Color
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The walls will be painted with a light color paint to reduce the amount of glare caused by the direct sunlight in the room. This paint is made for stucco, which is the material on the outside of the building that will serve as the inside of the space. It is an interior/exterior paint that will withstand the outdoor elements that enter the space as a result of the garage doors being open.

More information can be found at http://www.behr.com/
Control Panel
The control panel will allow individuals to manipulate each lighting zone separately as well as dim the lights based on the amount of natural light available. It is important for each zone to be separate so that different groups can work in the light that is necessary for their work. The control panel will also control the individual whiteboard lights as well. This control panel will also help to save costs on energy due to keeping lights off when zones are not in use.

More information can be found at http://www.extron.com/
Occupancy Sensors (ultrasonic sensor)
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The occupancy sensors will be used to turn off lights after a period where there is no movement in the space. The sensors will use ultrasonic technology that is more sensitive than infra-red sensors to be sure that there are no students in the area when shutting down the lights. This sensor will be used to save energy costs in the case of students leaving the space and not switching off the lights.

More information can be found at http:www.prolighting.com
Recessed Speakers
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Audio isn’t a top concern in this space as the TV won’t be a major part of general use. However, speakers will be evenly spaced throughout the entire learning space so that students in all zones can hear the audio from the TV when it is utilized by a teacher.

More information can be found at http://www.proacousticsusa.com/
All-weather Outdoor LED TV
SunBriteTV produces all-weather LED TV's that produce a bright screen in an outdoor environment. The TV's are rain, UV ray, dirt and extreme temperature resistant. This makes it a perfect option for our indoor/outdoor space.

Only teachers will have the ability to control the flat panel wall screen. The students will not have permission to use this feature of the space without a teacher present to avoid the misuse of the screen. If no teacher is present to use the screen, it will be used to broadcast school news throughout the day.

More information can be found at https://www.sunbritetv.com/support/product-support/our-technology
Blackout roller shades
Blackout roller shades will be used during the day when light needs to be blocked out of the space in order to view the TV screen. These shades can be pulled down over the garage doors themselves or while the garage doors are open. They will extend further than the width of the garage doors to ensure that they keep all light from entering the space.

More information can be found at

Computing Technologies

Hardware Rationale
Since this space is a transitional, open space that is not monitored by a physical presence (teachers/staff) there will be no printer, projector or other devices that may be vulnerable to theft or require management/maintenance. Power outlets were a motivational force when students were queried about their interest in using this space. [8] This was taken into serious consideration with their use of BYOD technology.[9] To book this space, users can access a link to a reservation software system. Since this space is also used by teachers there is a large, wall mounted screen for their meeting use.
Digital Devices
Mission High School is a "BYOD" school. At the start of each school year, students agree to technology rules and standards by way of a release/waiver form for theft, damage, and appropriate use. This form is titled: Authorized Technology Use Form and is a standard.

The space we have planned will improve on student collaboration as they bring their digital devices, all brands and types to work together on projects. The problems presented by teachers using the new school focus of Problem Based Learning will be researched collaboratively in groups, and then discussed amongst students using the technology which will be made available in this new space. All platforms and devices that are standard to the market will be supported by the space and its technology.

For more information on accommodating multiple digital devices:

Outlets, Cables
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Multiple power outlets along the perimeter of the room on the back and side walls will support the users’ mobile devices, laptops and iPads while using space efficiently. There will be power outlets near the lounge seating area. Instead of single port outlets, there will be multiple plug ins as shown here. This will encourage students to utilize the area often.

Floor outlets provide electricity for device when the moveable tables are needed as work stations throughout the room. The floor outlets recede and do not block the movement of the chairs and tables.

Non-removable cables to plug into power outlets with a security device will be available to students if they do not bring their own.

For more information:


3 passwords will allow users access to the Internet with a prompt: a student password, a guest/visitor password and a faculty password. Areas of the Internet will be accessible and limited according to the user and password. Each student has a secure log in to the school's wireless network.

Lynksys WRT1200AC Dual-Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router. 1.3 Ghz Dual-Core CPU. The 2 antennas (adjustable and removable) strengthen the wireless range. The beam forming feature ensures that wireless devices receive optimum wi-fi signals.

For more information:

For more information:


Software Rationale

The software needed to run the space effectively and to justify the space to all stakeholders would be a multi-function room reservation and tracking software. Using this type of software is a huge time saver. Data could be shown to support the rooms use and possibly advocate for more spaces like this.
Problem Based Learning and Collaborative Learning are supported by this space, especially for the students with a free period. They can be tasked with logging on to the teacher page and choosing from many tools to perform research for the problems given, work in teams and use the vast array of online tools to create a final deliverable to the teacher all the while sharing their work with each other.
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Tools that allow users to schedule time in a learning space make the use of the space more effective. Brands include but are not limited to YaRoom, Get a Room, and Skedda. This type of software saves time allowing users to make the most use of their meeting and collaborative work hours. The software allows flexibility since everyone can use it, from students to teachers, and it has granular permissions. Another plus is that data can be collected to evaluate and provide evidence supporting the effectiveness of this space. The use of the space can be altered to make improvements according to the data collected. The software will be secure and will easily sync to calendars such as Microsoft Outlook and iCal.

For more information and resources:



Collaborative work will be done using Google Drive resources such as Docs, Slides, Forms and Sheets. The files will be autosaved and stored in Google's Cloud based storage. Google for Education accounts and gmail is provided to students and each student is able to log in to their account. Links to other tools to support Problem Based Learning will are provided by teachers off of the school's main website. These include such tools as: Google Earth, Flickr, Fakebook, Storify, PB Works, Creaza, Popplet, Search Team, Bounce, Dweeber, Wridea and more. These tools will allow students to work on fake profiles, how to guides, geography lessons, reporting of current events and news, building websites, multimedia presentations, and web research and inquiry.[10] For information on collaborative online learning resources: https://www.google.com/edu/ http://searchteam.com/ http://www.docurated.com/101-free-free-try-online-collaborative-learning-tools-teachers-educators

For information on problem based learning resources:


Assessment Plan

Question 1: How many people sit down and use this space at any given time in the day?
Question 2: Do users use this space for its intended purpose?
Question 3: Are teachers and students using the sign up as intended for the space?
We want to make sure people are actually using the space we created. We would monitor or have supervising staff, who are monitoring the space, count the number of people (students and staff) using it throughout the day. Data collection would occur continuously throughout the school year. Information would be entered in spreadsheets that could be put into charts to assess the space’s usage. These charts would be shared with the principal and vice-principals as well as the design team. Such information could be used if and when they decide to increase or decrease the scale of the informal learning space. This could mean increasing or decreasing the available seating or even expanding the entire space.

Upon completion the design team would survey students and faculty alike regarding the space. This would be done through informal interviews on site.
We would ask them:
  • What they like and do not like about the space
  • Whether or not the seating is comfortable and flexible enough for their needs
  • What types of activities they participate in throughout the space
  • If the sign-up software is easy to use and if they used it or not
We would also send out an online survey to collect feedback from people who did not use the space to ask them why. This might be the best way to solicit constructive criticism.


Providing a multi-purpose, alternative, transitional space that allows for flexibility was our teams goal. A space in which students and teachers can collaborate and utilize the new practices of Problem Based Learning is a primary focus. Extending from a current building, our team worked diligently to solve the challenges presented (lighting, power, and supervision among a few) for this indoor/outdoor space. Research into social/collaborative learning and natural light lent to the implementations made in designing the space. Learning Space Rating System (LSRS) principals were considered and adapted in the design process. This space will serve Mission High School well in its newly adapted Problem Based Learning atmosphere, and it will function in a highly motivating and engaging way for all stakeholders.

Link to accompanying presentation: Transitional Learning Space, Mission High School

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