This morning St. Martin’s celebrated the grand opening of The Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design – a new 4,900 square foot facility that will serve as the centerpiece of the school’s Innovation + Design program
“We know that learning isn’t a passive activity; it’s engaged and engaging. Often times, it’s messy and loud and fun—really fun. Teachers not only ask students 'What did you learn?' and 'Why does this matter?' but even more importantly 'What are you going to do about it?' said Garrett Mason, Director of St. Martin’s Innovation + Design program. "This shift-- that is happening in small pockets around the globe, that is on the cusp of happening across the U.S., that is already happening in forward-thinking schools like St. Martin’s--is not just a change in architecture, it is a change in the culture of learning. It is a shift towards giving students’ agency. Towards creating authentic experiences that make learning real and deep and meaningful. Towards not only placing students at the center of learning, but empowering them with the skills that they will need to direct it."
The center’s grand opening ceremony featured a brief prayer service. It was followed by a blessing of the building on the lawn in front of the center with remarks from Head of School Merry Sorrells, benefactor Larry Gibbs, and Jefferson Parish Councilman Paul D. Johnston. A unique ribbon cutting ceremony capped off the festivities as the doors to the center opened up for attendees to tour the new space.
“St. Martin’s is known for being at the forefront of transforming education for 70 years and we look forward to carrying on that tradition for 70 more years and beyond,” said Merry Sorrells, Head of School at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. “The Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design is a tangible symbol of St. Martin’s ongoing dedication and commitment to carrying on this high level of quality and dedication to investing in the next generation. Furthermore, the range, safety and sophistication of the center’s equipment makes it the most comprehensive school-based makerspace in the region.”
The Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design features a modern design with white exterior walls sharply contrasted by the bright red trimming on its asymmetrical roofline and houses seven unique spaces – an idea lab, digital lab, woodshop, build shop and two flexible classroom space and community partnership workspaces. State-of-the-art equipment featured in the Center includes: RED SCARLET-X camera with an MX sensor, Grizzly Industrial Variable-Speed Wood Lathe, Shapeoko CNC Benchtop 3D Milling Machine and Behringer X32 Producer Audio Mixing Board.
As the centerpiece of St. Martin’s Innovation + Design program, the center will be accessible to all grade levels and classes, further underscoring the school’s commitment to integrating Innovation + Design across its curriculum. Each of the spaces within the center represent a different component of the Innovation + Design process, helping students connect lessons from the classroom to real-life situations by working together.
Select students and faculty were on hand during the grand opening to lead demonstrations ranging from student-led mini coding lessons in the digital lab, green screen editing in the production studio to a where “wood” you go map activity in the woodshop to showcase the Center’s various capabilities with visitors.
The main walls of the center, which are coated with IdeaPaint from the floor to seven feet high double as giant whiteboards, further promote collaboration within the modern space. In honor of the grand opening, St. Martin’s commissioned local artist Ashlee Arceneaux Jones of Smallchalk
to adorn the walls with a colorful depiction of the school’s Innovation + Design program’s development along with key components of the design process.
Open-ended questions were strategically incorporated into the overall design so that students, faculty, and grand opening guests could participate in gathering information – the first step of the design process – first hand by writing their own answers on the center’s walls using dry erase markers.
In the afternoon, St. Martin’s families and alumni were invited to tour the space at their leisure. Parents, students, and alumni participated in I+D activities and demonstrations.
The building was named in honor of Marian and Larry Gibbs in recognition of their ongoing commitment to St. Martin’s School for more than 26 years. Notably, the Gibbs’ five children and one grandchild all attended St. Martin’s and both Marian and Larry have served the school in a variety of roles, including serving on the Board of Trustees, the Booster Club, along with the Mothers and Dads’ clubs.
“St. Martin’s is known for its long-standing responsibility for focusing its resources on preparing our students for life beyond college and its Innovation + Design program is no exception. We feel that St. Martin’s is truly transforming education and my family and I are proud to support its ongoing initiatives,” said Larry Gibbs.
Located on the Haring Street side of the school’s Metairie campus, the new facility was a $1.2 million project funded entirely through individual and foundation donations to the school. The project was designed and constructed by local architect firm Blitch Knevel, which broke ground in August 2015.