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Notre Dame of De Pere

De Pere, WI

Breaking Ground at Notre Dame Changes History

For years, Notre Dame of De Pere elementary and middle schools were split between two buildings. This meant certain grades consistently had to walk several blocks daily for cafeteria and gym use. Students and staff were accustomed to the split but acknowledged the inefficiency and inflexibility.

When the opportunity arose to combine both schools under one roof, principal Molly Mares knew it was an opportunity to upgrade their PK-8 learning spaces for their current needs as well as prepare them for the future.

Ruckus Chair, Ruckus Activity Table and MyPlace Lounge
Ruckus Chair, Ruckus Activity Table and MyPlace Lounge

Mares and her team found the key to combining their two buildings into one facility was designing spaces that were right-sized and could accommodate a range of developmental student age levels. They also sought to design flexible learning spaces, ranging from traditional instruction to interactive collaboration.

Thoughtful Design For Student Growth

Spaces for lower grade levels were designed with bright colors and furniture scaled to fit kindergartners through second graders. Smaller-scale Intellect Wave furniture enables seamless transition for children to move between formal learning around a table and informal learning playing on the floor.

Upper grade levels feature a more sophisticated color palette. Mobile furniture, such as Ruckus activity tables and MyPlace lounge furniture with casters, supports brainstorming and dynamic small-group learning.

“As we began this journey, we considered different student ages and assessed how they move throughout their day," said Mares. "We also knew it was important to think about how students learn right now and how this space will need to adapt for the next 50 years.”

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Intellect Wave Chair and Ruckus Activity Table

Learning Streets and Beyond

The new classrooms at Notre Dame have panoramic exterior views and movable glass storefront entrances, ushering in natural light to support well-being while providing instructors with clear sightlines to students studying in other areas such as their Learning Streets. These functional hallways and third-spaces were intentionally designed throughout the school, giving students natural, comfortable places for independent or group work.

Mares noted: “I love seeing multiple grade levels out there working at the same time but in different ways, from two students working together on a Chromebook to a book club meeting or students playing math games using whiteboard tables, or even just one student stretched out comfy on a couch. They’re just so happy.”

Within the Learning Streets, students are encouraged to create new configurations with MyPlace lounge furniture for open discussion, curl up in a Sway chair with a book, or pull up a C-Table for independent study. These flexible spaces truly expand learning beyond the traditional classroom. The reconfigurable and movable furniture choices enable teachers to lead high-quality instruction in a variety of ways that keep students comfortable and engaged.

“I notice more times than not that the furniture has been rearranged on our Learning Streets because someone was using it differently. And seeing this long-awaited flexibility in action for our students confirms that it’s just what our school needed," Mares said.

Responding To The Unexpected

The insightful forethought of Notre Dame leadership paired with smart furniture selections enables the school to adapt to change without incurring additional cost or modifications.

The products we selected lend themselves really well to be used in numerous ways rather than so many things that only have one use. With such high-quality, multipurpose solutions, we can actually support various teaching styles as well as the range of ages and needs of the students within our learning spaces.

Molly Mares, Principal of Notre Dame of De Pere school

Ruckus mobile lecterns were selected to help teachers keep items at hand within classrooms. In a normal year, students would move from class to class, but during the 2020 global pandemic, students stayed in a single classroom while teachers easily wheeled these lecterns among classes. Teaching via mobile cart was so much easier and more convenient, and Notre Dame instructors loved the integrated features: a storage basket for books or lesson plans; hooks to hang a bucket of markers; a cupholder for essential water or coffee.

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Intellect Wave Task Chair, Ruckus Lectern, Sway Lounge Chair, Sway Occasional Table and Ruckus Activity Table

A Space Worth Sharing

Now students take pride in their new school, gravitating toward their favorite spaces and furniture and sharing stories with their families about how they use each area in the building.

“Our parents and families are very present in our school," said Mares. "It was amazing to see their reactions for the first time as we walked through the learning scenarios that happen in our classrooms and other spaces. There were many discussions about how much the kids just love it here and love using those spaces.”

The overwhelmingly positive response has led to an increase in enrollment and is sure to inspire students for generations to come.

Along this process, we really appreciated the guidance provided by KI. We learned early on that the possibilities were almost endless. Their guidance and expertise in finding solutions that work perfectly for us was invaluable.

Molly Mares, Principal of Notre Dame of De Pere school

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