Middle School Students Design a New Classroom, and it Rocks


The DIY Design class redid Ashley Gayanilo’s room over the 2021 spring semester, and students love the new setup. Gayinillo found out she was getting the room only two weeks before school ended last year but enjoys it. “My favorite thing about the room is actually the ambiance of it because it’s a really relaxing space,” says Gayanilo. ”Kids come in, and it builds a sense of connection, calmness, and camaraderie to be in here.” However, some downsides come with the new classroom. Because the classroom’s setup consists of grouped tables, the students tend to be more interested in talking to each other than paying attention. Overall, however, Gayanilo thinks the pros outweigh the cons.

DIY Design, an 8th-grade elective taught by Middle School Language teacher Christopher Mcsweeney and Innovation Lab Director Timothy Shabanowitz, aims to change how students learn in a classroom. McSweeney’s Spanish classroom inspired the class. When he first got to Westminster, he had his own room for the first time in his teaching career, and so he started making small changes by rearranging the chairs and hanging lights. Then he went to the Innovation Lab and worked with Shabanowitz to begin making more considerable changes. Soon, the STEAM council was involved, and the room was redone. After his room was finished, McSweeney and Shabanowitz pitched the DIY design class as a way for students to get hands-on experience in interior design. The goal of changing the rooms is to “change the way teachers teach and students learn,” says Shabanowitz.

Because of the elective’s popularity and workload, only one class section takes place per semester, and the design done by the students is completed in about six weeks. This is an accelerated timetable, considering Mcsweeney’s room has had three years of work to reach its current form. 

Choosing the room to redesign is difficult. Shaboniwitz says teachers across all divisions have come up to ask Mcsweeney and Shabanowitz when their rooms are getting done. “The line has been forming out the door,” he says. The rooms are chosen based on their needs as well as the chance to expand the designs to adjoining spaces. The room designed this year has not been chosen yet, but it will become the third of Westminster’s new rooms done by the DIY Design class.