During a nearly two hour meeting, members of the Sun Prairie School Board on July 8 received their first public glimpse at an updated Ashley Field — a stadium with at least 4,200 seats, a walk-around seating bowl and LED lighting to allow one high school home team or the other to have its colors on display.

Matt Wolfert from Bray Architects walked the board through a 3D projection of what the field will look like both during the day and at night. Wolfert told the board that because of LED lighting, a simple change of lighting color will enable the entrance to have one home team’s colors (the example used green and gold — pretty safe colors for Wisconsin, Wolfert joked) or the other.

Fans will walk into the seating bowl through the main ticket gate, although Wolfert admitted most of what will take place there will be scanning because tickets will be purchased in advance.

Roughly 2,200 seats will be located on the home side, with about the same number on the visitor’s side, but it could be as few as 2,000 depending on the final renderings.

The 3D model did not show any sponsor signs or banners which would also be possible inside the stadium, or the scoreboard. Wolfert said the renderings were recently presented to Findorff for pricing, so he did not have any cost figures available.

Wolfert also said the stadium would have standing-room areas for fans on the home side, below one of the press box areas. He said the visitors side of the stadium would also have press areas.

Another aspect of the new stadium will be flexibility. When youth or other events are held at Ashley Field with smaller numbers, areas of the grandstands and bleachers as well as their corresponding restrooms may be closed off.

Concession areas will also be different. Larger concession stands will offer more prepared foods while smaller stands will have a smaller menu of core items, according to Wolfert.

One feature of the stadium allows fans to walk all the way around the stadium inside the seating bowl.

The district has said previously that the competition field will be shared between the two high schools for football and perhaps other events, but that it would also host community events, concerts and more.

Another portion of Monday night’s presentation dealt with the design of the new school.

Keleen Kaye and Andy Vosters discussed the new west side high school’s design, which is based on visits to other high schools with similar concepts.

Superintendent Brad Saron explained the concept will retain the pod design, with student services including food service and guidance counseling being available in each pod. While most classes will be taught within the pod, some will require students to move through the school to get to their classes.

Saron also said that technical education and art classrooms will be moved from the far ends of the school. Hallways will not be narrow, but instead large learning areas where instruction could also take place.

The new facility will also have two gyms — a main gym and an auxiliary gym — as well as a pool and shared gymnastics facility, according to the floorpans reviewed by Vosters and Kaye.

Staying with the trends

Sun Prairie’s design concepts are in keeping with a national trend towards re-thinking instructional delivery.

“Innovators no longer speak of ‘classrooms,’” said Bob Pearlman, a Tucson, Arizona-based education consultant. “Students now work in learning studios, plazas and home bases. They shift into varied extended learning areas and collaboration zones that include project-planning rooms, workrooms, focused labs, group learning spaces, individual pods.”

He mentions Albemarle County’s public school system, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The district invited teams from all its schools to conceptualize learning spaces that would inspire kids to tackle complex ideas and work on creative building projects. Now, the elementary grades have swapped out traditional desks for stools, soft seating, mobile chairs and connectable tables.

Another new reality changing the dynamic: connectivity.

“Classrooms, libraries, and labs used to be the only spaces where students spent their school hours. Wireless, laptops and project learning have changed that,” Pearlman said. “This has transformed all school spaces into potential extended learning areas, even the corridors and alcoves.”

Sun Prairie’s design features a media center with maker spaces. While there are some books, the emphasis is on instructional interaction, according to Saron, Kaye and Vosters.

Natural light and views, reduced background noise and good air quality are all considerations in classroom design, said Aaron Jobson of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects in Santa Rosa, California. “More and more evidence connects the physical environment to learning outcomes,” he said.

New designs — such as those that can be found in the Sun Prairie Area School District’s two newest elementary schools Meadow View and Token Springs — include internal glass walls and doors that increase connectedness among students and provide good sightlines for teachers.

The concept of dynamic, explorative learning spaces was championed by futurist David Thornburg in his 2013 book “From the Campfire to the Holodeck.” He said schools should provide spaces based on how humans learn, with a balance of campfire (lecture space), watering hole (conversation space), cave (reflection space) and life (experiential space).

That could mean one room is used in different ways at different times, or in different ways at the same time, and it could also mean outside-the-box thinking when it comes to classroom furnishings.

Although no specific furniture was discussed during Monday night’s school board meeting, trending educational furniture design tends to the flexible and comfortable, instead of the hard wooden or plastic chairs welded to metal desks.

Marianne Box, a design specialist at school-furniture maker Hertz Furniture, in Ramsey, New Jersey, says ergonomic seating and mobile, flexible pieces are big sellers. The focus is on managing kids’ energy levels, and giving them places to concentrate.

Classroom bean bags give younger students a place to read. “They mold to fit each student, giving them support and a sense of comfort,” she said.

Self-contained study booths have tablet surfaces, power supplies, footrests and armrests.

A molded plastic wobble stool comes in various sizes and colors; Box said it also promotes torso and leg movement.

“This stool gives students an outlet for their energy, allowing them to focus and balance while in a classroom,” Box said. “The best part is that the movement isn’t distracting to others, and can be used by students and teachers.”

Humanscale, maker of workplace furnishings, also has a mobility stool they call Ballo, which looks like an apple core, with colorful, air-filled dimpled domes on both ends of a central spool.

More updates are expected during future Sun Prairie School Board meetings.

—The Associated Press’s Kim Cook contributed to this story

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