At Arbor Park School District 145, in the Chicago suburbs, school staff and teachers brought outdated rooms back to life and created exciting learning spaces with the application of carpeting, paint, and intriguing ceilings made of thermoformed acoustic panels.
The computer lab for first and second graders at Morton Gingerwood Elementary School had old computers and even older layouts and finishes. David Termunde, M.Ed., the district’s chief technology officer, replaced the computers, but felt more was needed to support the learning experience.
On the last day of school, maintenance gutted the room. Next, they created a colorful paint scheme. They bought curvy, interesting tables from a budget-conscious home furnishings store, and three colors of carpet tiles to create a lively pattern on the floor.
After removing the worn-out white mineral fiber ceiling panels, Termunde decided an alternative type of ceiling would help transform the room. He selected thermoformed acoustic panels based on his experience of using them in the offices and server rooms at his former business. The lightweight panels fit conventional 0.6 x 0.6 m (2 x 2 ft) and 0.6 x 1 m (4 ft) suspended ceiling grids and is available in a variety of finishes and dimensional styles.
Termunde selected thermoformed vinyl panels with a ribbed pattern with a contemporary look. He used a frosted, semi-transparent type, which hides the ducts and pipes above the lab’s ceiling but transmits lights from the inexpensive, utilitarian 2-m (8-ft) light-emitting diode (LED) strips installed above the ceiling. The lamps are at zigzag angles, “just for fun, to make it feel like you are at a store at the mall, not so office-y. First and second graders are way down near to the floor, so when they look up, it looks really cool,” he said.
Opaque white panels in another contemporary pattern, Roman Circles, was also installed on the soffit along the room’s orange-painted wall, making the soffit look like a high-tech device.
Termunde has taken this cost-saving approach to Arbor Park Middle School. He felt a traditional computer lab with rows of devices was not conducive to the new curriculum. Termunde transformed the old room with a strong visual theme. With a minuscule remodeling budget, light gray walls replaced beige and one blue wall.
Microsoft logos constructed from colored vinyl sheets decorate the windows, and a logo formed in colored carpet tiles at the center of the room provides a place for kids to lie on the floor or sit on cushions with their devices. From that spot, they can look upward into the clear thermoformed vinyl ceiling panels that form the central section of the ceiling.