I attended a recent public tour of the OPRF High School Project 1 facility renovations. Dr. Julie Frey, division head of Mathematics, shared upgrades to the mathematics classrooms. This part of Project 1 is a microcosm of outcomes we will experience from all phases of the community-involved Imagine Project, which established the timeline and scope for OPRF facility renovations.

Dr. Frey expressed gratitude for how the evolution of the math wing — renovations based on research regarding the most effective approach to teaching and learning math — has directly impacted academic results.

The renovated rooms are bigger, allowing students to sit in groups. Research consistently demonstrates the effectiveness of students being in groups to talk about math, sharing questions and insights. 

The teacher is the facilitator, walking from group to group, asking deeper questions, answering student queries, and addressing misconceptions.

Picture a 6-foot-tall senior with their body shoved in a desk, with a chair connected to it, trying to learn Calculus. Now picture that same student in a detached rolling chair and separate desk, both adjustable, in a triad with peers muddling through complex equations together. Better yet, envision students writing on their desks, which double as whiteboards, allowing sharing of work among peers and enabling teachers to easily monitor and clarify.

The walls are almost covered by whiteboards. Research shows students are better thinkers when on their feet working on vertical surfaces. Collaborative spaces with whiteboards in the wide hallways expand this “vertical small group” learning approach.

Brighter, more inviting rooms contribute to students’ ability to feel safe, how likely they are to engage, and how cooperative the behavior will be. When entering a new classroom, it becomes clear the teachers, architects, and other collaborators created welcoming spaces supporting safety, choice, engagement, collaboration, and risk-taking by students.

These upgrades are far more than “interior design” projects. When you look below the surface of these aesthetically-improved spaces, you find upgrades rooted in maximizing the potential of our youth and improving educational outcomes.

Renovating OPRF High School is not an optional project. These physical infrastructure improvements are, indeed, a requirement to equitably enhance learning for all students.

Alison Welch
Oak Park

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