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Spotlight on Spaces: The Education building’s creative arts lab offers new opportunities for teaching and learning

This post was written by Erin McDonagh and Kira Smith.

A highlight of the upgrade to the first floor of the Education Building, the Creative Arts Laboratory (room 115) is one of the most innovative and experimental spaces on the McGill campus. Designed for use by creative arts education students, the lab features state-of-the-art technologies, distinctive movable furniture, and a variety of musical instruments for experiential student learning. To learn more about how the lab came to life, we spoke to Dr. Mindy Carter, Associate Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education about her involvement in the design and renovation process.

Filling a Need in the Faculty of Education

For a peek behind the curtain, Dr. Mindy Carter explained how she alongside Dr. Alain Breuleux, then Associate Dean of Infrastructure, explored local spaces when they begin to envision the lab. Dr. Carter emphasized the value of visiting the Society of Arts and Technology Centre: “Specifically, exploring the SAT was an incredible experience that helped us all to envision previously unimagined ways of thinking about what might be possible for the [Creative Arts Lab].” Recognizing a lack of facilities to support this type of learning at McGill, Dr. Carter and Dr. Breuleux, in conjunction with their Faculty of Education colleagues Sara Hashem and Dr. Elizabeth Wood, submitted a request for this project to the University Teaching Labs Working Group in 2014. The ultimate design of the space was a result of an iterative process involving professionals from many disciplines, including Teaching and Learning Services, IT Services, and Facilities Management and Ancillary Services.

A large room

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Providing a Space for Experiential Learning in the Creative Arts

The lab holds such significance for the Faculty of Education because, as Dr. Carter described: “Prior to the creation of the CAL there was not a permanent classroom for classes such as music education, drama education, applied theatre and movement. These performative based disciplines require embodied learning to understand and then teach these subject areas. The creation of this lab has allowed for these kinds of teaching activities to take place!”

The space allows Education students the chance to engage in experiential learning through microteaching activities. Moreover, users of the lab are spoiled for choice in the space: the technologies, furniture, and equipment are suitable for a number of disciplines and learning activities.

For theatre and drama education, highlights in the teaching lab include a lighting grid similar to the installations in professional theaters, and a projector that displays images from the floor to ceiling in the manner of a theatre backdrop. The high-end audio system complements the projection surface, as sound and picture combine to create an immersive experience.

A picture containing indoor, ceiling, wall

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Music education is supported by the plethora of musical instruments available including an upright piano, a marimba, a double bass, Boomwhackers (tuned percussion tubes used for pre-school and elementary education), hand drums and other instruments. Extra attention was paid during the design and construction of the lab to incorporate proper acoustical treatments that facilitate multiple simultaneous activities.

A room filled with furniture and a tv

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Figure 1: In this picture, you can see the Boomwhackers, piano, percussive instruments, and double bass. Additionally, the panels behind the piano have acoustic treatment.

To stimulate collaborative and generative learning in all disciplines, the room features all writable walls. Additionally, the limitations of typical classroom chairs are reduced by the variety of seating options: the foam cube seating can be stacked, grouped, moved, and used as props.

Are you interested in visiting the lab? Contact Teaching and Learning Services to make your request. Eager to get started? Check out TLS’s diverse list of active learning strategy video bites to see how you can incorporate active learning into your teaching.

For more information on ALCs, contact TLS.

With files from Erin McDonagh.

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Student Engagement Officer, Office of Science Education

Student Engagement Officer, Office of Science Education

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