The summer sun may still be shining, but we’re guessing the staff and students at Marlborough School are getting pretty excited for the new school year to kick-off.

With a grant from EducationMatters, Marlborough spent the past school year planning the transformation of its existing library into a modern learning commons. The new learning space, which will open this fall, will create opportunities for student collaboration, creativity, and exploration.


“The learning commons is a different philosophy than a traditional library,” says Aubrey Fletcher, the principal of Marlborough School.

“It is meant to be a little bit chaotic at times. It’s meant to be a very active learning space with flexible spaces for students, opportunities to work with technology, or to work with another student in another grade […] or to work with different kinds of materials.”

Learning commons create new chances for students to engage with each other and explore course content, so why not apply those same principles to the design and planning of the space?

Staff at Marlborough did just that.

Students were asked to design the different elements they would like to see in their new learning space. Throughout the course of the school year, they worked collaboratively to brainstorm ideas for the space, design prototypes, and receive feedback on their concepts. The new space is incorporating ideas from the students’ work.

“Students have been really engaged and excited about the process,” says Jody Simpson, assistant principal at Marlborough.

learning commons contruction

boy building prototype

Grade two and three students were tasked with building furniture prototypes for the new space.

Using the five steps of design thinking, groups worked together to empathize with stakeholders in the project, define the design problem, develop ideas, construct prototypes, and listen to feedback on their designs.

Speaking to the students, their excitement is obvious.

“My favourite part is when we build,” says a young girl as she pulls her in-progress prototype off the storage shelf.

Another student proudly shows off his group’s chair prototype, which features a docking station for an iPad.

“I’m the guy who came up with the technology chair,” he says.

The prototypes are both impressive and unique. Each group demonstrated their creativity, while the process forced students to carefully evaluate their work to ensure alignment with project goals and the overall design challenge.


learning commons prototype

“This is the heart of our school and the students are the ones that use it the most. Having that voice will give a stronger sense of pride and ownership and I think they will want to use it more because they were involved in the process” says Simpson.

There is plenty of excitement surrounding the new learning commons opening this fall and it will continue to serve as the educational hub of the school for years to come.

When asked why the team at Marlborough decided now was the right time to go ahead with learning commons transition, Aubrey Fletcher has a simple answer.

“It’s just never the wrong time to do the right thing for kids.”