Keynote / Sessions

Creating an Educational Community   April 24-26, 2019
Creating an Educational Community
Omaha Magnolia Hotel
Omaha, Nebraska

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | 5:15 – 6:15 pm
Keynote/Opening Session – Dr. Tom Osborne
Tom Osborne Tom and Nancy Osborne founded the TeamMates Mentoring Program in 1991 to provide support and encouragement to youth. The goal of the program is for mentors to identify the strengths of their mentees and to see them graduate pursue post-secondary education. There are over 8,000 youth being served across 148 chapters in Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, Kansas and South Dakota.

Beyond his involvement TeamMates, Tom Osborne has been active in the political arena, as he served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Nebraska’s Third Congressional District from 2000 to 2006. Tom is probably most widely known for is his 25-year coaching career at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, which earned him a spot in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Tom served as Athletic Director for the University of Nebraska Lincoln for five years and is now retired.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Building Genius: Creating New Thinking Spaces for Students
Location: Columbine

Samuel Johnson, AIA, REFP, LEED AP Principal, Director of PK12 Group, BLDD Architects
Paul Fregeau, Superintendent, Decatur Public School District #61
Rachel Emmons, Software Solutions Developer, BLDD Architects

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What are the attributes of student centered learning environments, and why is it important? Review Exemplar case studies, listen to educators with experience, and learn about the surprising findings showing how learning environments can set the stage for improved student achievement

Learning Objectives:
  • Describe the attributes of student centered learning environments.
  • Review recent research identifying the correlation between learning environment condition and student outcomes.
  • Understand how a "hacking process" can transform a learning environment from teacher centered to student centered.
  • Learn via case study the process to develop new thinking spaces.

Creating and Sustaining Outdoor Classrooms: Evidence-Based Practices
Location: Blue Bonnet

Jill Primak, PLA, LEED AP, Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom Designer, Nature Explore/Dimensions Education Research Foundation

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Well-designed, nature-based outdoor classrooms present layered opportunities for whole-child development while supporting educational staff and families. Through understanding evidence-based strategies that foster children’s creativity and resiliency, we’ll identify child-centric, open-ended approaches to utilizing space, time and materials outdoors. Throughout this presentation we will explore real-world scenarios and case-studies as we discover these elements and apply them to the design of outdoor spaces for children, while incorporating the long-term sustainability of these outdoor learning environments.

Learning Objectives:
  • Describe how the incorporation of well-designed, nature-based outdoor classrooms into educational programs can support resiliency, creativity and whole-child development.
  • Identify components of a child-centric approach to designing outdoor learning environments for children.
  • Evaluate degree of open-endedness in the design of outdoor spaces for children including the selection of furnishings and materials.
  • Explain to educational stakeholders the critical role of staff development and family engagement in the long-term sustainability of outdoor spaces.

The Great Space Debate: How Does the Learning Environment Affect Teaching and Learning Outcomes?
Location: Lotus

Julie Williams, Colbi Technologies

The great space debate: Does the space where teaching and learning intersect have a direct or indirect impact of a student’s learning outcomes?  How does the learning environment matter related to the delivering and reception of information being shared and accepted?  Is the success of a student’s educational journey completely predicated by a teacher’s ability to impart facts and experiences?  How does the educational environment aid or obstruct in delivery a positive educational experience?  Could both be resources for success? This session’s focus is centered around the debate of whether space matters and what make a great teacher.  Students and Administrators from a local High School will engage in this lively debate where the audience will serve as the debate judges.

Learning Objectives:
  • Audience and debate participants will learn the characteristics and profile of great teachers
  • Audience and debate participants will learn elements, spaces, and emotions in developing and maintaining great learning environments
  • Gain a deeper understanding from the mindset of the debaters on teaching and learning requirements and desires
  • Audience will have a chance to provide foundation for research in developing great learning environments that address both teaching and learning

Thursday, April 25, 2019 | 8:45 – 9:45 am
The Creation of Communities Within A Community
Location: Columbine

Jason Lembke Principal, DLR Group
Marcus Lewton, PhD Principal, Dickinson Middle School

From the beginnings of their visioning process and the development of their core beliefs to the day-to-day decisions made 18 months after the project was complete, the Dickinson Middle holistically strives to create a meaningful sense of community for all students and staff. Those efforts endeavor to create a sense of belonging for each and every student through various activities varying in scope and focus from whole school gatherings to intimate round table discussions. The adaptable design embodies the characteristics of this western North Dakota community and provides an agile environment that seamlessly supports the various pedagogies used to create thoughtful and inquisitive learners.

Learning Objectives:
  • Attendees will understand the parameters of the design process that was developed for the planning and implementation of the new Dickinson Middle School.
  • Attendees will learn the various academic program shifts that occur to support the enhancement of community.
  • Attendees will learn how Dickinson Middle School carefully paired spatial flexibility and appropriate acoustics.
  • Attendees will understand the current use of the facility and how the design is positioned to support future evolutions.

The Innovation Campus: Student-Driven Learning for the NEXT Century
Location: Blue Bonnet

Scott Krenner, Project Designer/Architect, Associate Principal, Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc.

High school students in Casper, Wyoming, are directing their education and discovering opportunities for their future – whether it’s college or the workforce.

Pathways Innovation Center came out of years of planning and concern by the community that graduates weren’t adequately prepared for life after graduation. Career exploration is at the core of Pathways, and each of the four academies feature an innovation lab with state-of-the-art industrial equipment and technology, giving students hands-on real world experience in career fields and allowing them to virtually connect with industry experts around the world.

Pathways resides on a 38-acre campus that is shared with Roosevelt High School, the district’s alternative school, which follows a “healthy mind, healthy body” curriculum which combines exercise with focused classroom instruction to improve student achievement.

For many students in Natrona County, the opportunities available at Pathways and Roosevelt have provided them with not only real-world experience and skills, but also optimism for their future. According to the principal: “This has become a place of happiness for many kids who have struggled.”

Learning Objectives:


Superintendents' Panel Discussion: Success Stories and Lessons Learned from School Construction Projects
Location: Lotus

Emily Bannick, Sales Executive, Boyd Jones
Tom Messinger, Superintendent, Red Oak Community School District
Melissa Poloncic, Superintendent, Douglas County West Community Schools

Dr. Don Johnson, Fort Calhoun Community Schools Dr. Melissa Poloncic, DC West Community Schools Dr. Tom Messinger, Red Oak Community School District Moderator: Emily Bannick, Boyd Jones Each of our panelists leads a school district that has done significant renovations and additions in the last 3 years. Through a question & answer session, the audience will hear about their experiences – what worked well, what didn't, and what they would do differently next time. Each superintendent will share "keys to success" that are relevant to any construction project. Topics will include: selecting a construction delivery method, selecting a team of consultants/experts to guide your project, community engagement and voter analytics, and the positive impact of improved learning environments.ts.

Learning Objectives:
  • At the end of the program, participants will understand how to select an appropriate construction delivery method for their project.
  • At the end of the program, participants will be able to use best practices to select a team of experts to guide a design/construction project.
  • At the end of the program, participants will understand strategies for engaging their community and taxpayers in the project planning process.
  • At the end of the program, participants will understand positive impacts of improved school facilities on students, faculty, and staff.

Thursday, April 25, 2019 | 10:00 – 11:00 am
Memes, Myths, and Motivation: Are We Focused on What Really Matters in School Planning and Design?
Location: Columbine

Gregory Monberg, ALEP, AIA, MBA Director of Architecture, Wightman

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Question: What do the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Learning Pyramid have in common? Answer: None of them are backed by scientific evidence. Join Greg Monberg, director of architecture for Wightman, as he explores the memes and myths that lurk at the blurry edges of school planning and design. Be prepared to take apart the Learning Pyramid brick-by-brick, deconstruct the Right Brain / Left Brain fallacy, and put to bed the Mozart Effect. But this presentation isn’t just about debunking commonly-held beliefs. For every myth busted, we will identify research and data that points to factors that truly impact student performance in Next Generation learning environments. You are invited to join our Mythbusters team! Come enjoy a dispirited discussion and be prepared to provide your own thoughts on what is right, wrong, and just plain strange in the world of educational facilities planning and design. The research found in this presentation addresses building system and design issues that directly impact security of students and teachers, student performance, and educational outcomes.

Learning Objectives:
  • Participants will be able to identify educational design and planning trends intended to improve student performance which are not supported with scientific evidence.
  • Participants will be able to identify the optimal environmental conditions for student learning such as understanding the impact of daylighting on student performance.
  • Participants will be able to identify how agile learning spaces can impact student well-being and emotional health.
  • Participants will understand criteria by which learning environmental may be evaluated for meeting the needs of students with unique physical and cognitive needs.

Engaging Students in the Design Process
Location: Blue Bonnet

Vanessa Schutte, AIA, ALEP, K-12 Education Leader | Principal, DLR Group
Dawn Nizzi, CAPS Program Director, Westside Community Schools
Lee Kallstrom, Ph.D., CAPS Program Director, Westside Community Schools

Engaging students in the building design process ignites learning that can shape their future. When school districts have the opportunity to build or renovate, there are several possibilities to engage students and let them directly impact or experience the design of one of the most important buildings in their community.

The Performing Arts Addition at Westside High School in Omaha, Neb., is a perfect case study. Faced with the constraints of a very tight site and functional relationships, the design team had to resolve the issue of having a mechanical room adjacent to the main entrance. DLR Group presented this challenge to the owner and stakeholders as an opportunity for student involvement. The firm proposed the idea that students could design and sculpt a brick mural on the wall that covers the mechanical equipment to integrate visual arts in the performing arts addition.

The process started with conversations between DLR Group’s design team and interested current and former students. The performing arts addition was discussed in detail amongst the team and created a vision for the brick mural. The art department held a design competition and shortlisted the designs to two. The final design was chosen by District administration.

Next, the art department employed an essay and interview process to select a team of brick carvers. These students and instructors spent their open periods and time after school stacking, carving, and disassembling the wet bricks over a course of several weeks. This exercise was the foundation for a semester full of lessons about brick making and brick sculpting for all art students, not just the team of brick carvers.

The brick mural won a Brick in Architecture Silver Award from the Brick Industry Association and gained media attention for the District. Sure, including students in the process takes trust and dedication between the District, teachers, students and designers, but the value can last a lifetime and may inspire a future architect or engineer.

Another example of the benefits and success of engaging students in the design process is the Oakdale Elementary School desk project. The original Oakdale Elementary School, built in 1917, upgraded to a new facility, which opened in January 2018. Throughout the planning process, administrators, alumni, and neighbors of the school made it a priority to preserve the legacy of the previous building. Douglas fir timber, which previously adorned the walls of the music room, was salvaged for potential use in the new facility.

DLR Group’s Vanessa Schutte brainstormed with the school district to determine an adequate solution for the recycled materials. The new Oakdale Elementary School would be home to a multipurpose desk made from the salvaged timber. Firm members organized a competition with the high school architecture, art, and engineering students to design the desk. Seven groups of students submitted proposals for best design, which was reviewed by a committee of Oakdale educators, local architects, and administrators. The committee’s winning design was then presented to the principal and Board of Education to make appropriate adjustments.

An enthusiastic group of students with desk drawings in hand journeyed to the Big Red Sawmill in Palmira, NE, to learn about lumber milling and how to utilize the salvaged timber for the new desk. Students were shown how to use a computerized sawmill to determine how lumber can be made to fit a specific need. After hours spent removing nails, the students programmed the band-saw and cut the timber into its final sizes.

Four high school seniors who submitted entries in the competition expressed interest in constructing the desk. Under the guidance of Schutte and the school district’s STEM facilitator, Lee Kallstrom, the design was finalized, and the creation of the media desk began. The team built and assembled the desk in the construction lab at the high school; finishing it in July 2017. Upon the December 2017 completion of the new Oakdale Elementary School, the former high school seniors, who had become freshmen at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, returned to assist with the final installation.

The desk’s storied background and alluring appearance is admired by all who see it. For students, this unique experience gave them a valuable lesson as they continue on their potential career pathways in architecture, art, and engineering. The opportunity to present this desk to Oakdale Elementary School as a historic, yet modern piece of art restored and created by the very students in the school district will be a priceless gift to all for many years to come as well as a testament to the importance of engaging students in the design process.

Learning Objectives:
  • Learn how design and construction provides unique learning opportunities for students and staff.
  • Learn how to engage a variety of different types of learners with different skill sets in the design and construction process.
  • Learn how the relationship between an architect and a school district can go beyond a building.
  • Learn ways to provide students with the opportunity to impact the design of one of the most important buildings in their community.

Building a Model of Public-Private Partnerships to Develop STEM Career Pathways
Location: Lotus

Julie Sigmon, Director, Omaha STEM Ecosystem
Ken Sigmon, Education Solutions Specialist, SBI Education

Join us for this very interactive presentation on building a model of public-private collaboration. It is our hope that by the completion of the session, you will have tools and ideas to implement a model in your STEM Ecosystem, building deeper community partnerships that can impact sustainability.

By its general nature, STEM Ecosystems comprise of a diverse mix of community or state-wide partnerships. Leveraging those partnerships is key in developing a seamless pathway for students to career and beyond, as life-long learners.

The Omaha STEM Ecosystem believes that the strength of our Ecosystem directly relates to the diverse and fully engaged community of over 700 stakeholders. Building upon the strengths of our post-secondary partners, (the Nebraska University system, Metropolitan Community College), the twelve-school district, science centers (Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium) and business partners, we created an innovative model for STEM education pathways. This collaboration focused on shared grants, professional development for educators, and network events to share best practices, are a few of the tools utilized in this innovative model. The greatest impact came, not from just developing the partnerships, but more importantly building and connecting STEM pathways for students that lead to careers. This model is transforming Omaha into a robust STEM community to grow our talent pipeline.

In this session, we will share what we learned, our challenges and evidence of our success.

Learning Objectives:
  • Understanding the mission, goals, and structure of the Omaha STEM Ecosystem.
  • Review strategies used in creating and sustaining community partnerships and productive collaborations.
  • Review the challenges experienced.
  • Review the evidence of success

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