Though renovations to Rooms 303 and 304 in the Visual Arts Center (VAC) have only recently concluded, professors and students have already praised the rooms as superior learning spaces to many of the College’s aging classrooms. Classes in departments as varied as environmental studies, English, sociology and Latin will be taught in the new classrooms, which are designed to accommodate 36 and 40 students, respectively.
Once studio spaces, the classrooms were freed up after the opening of the Robert H. and Blythe Bickel Edwards Center for Art and Dance.
Professors teaching classes in the refurbished rooms praised the renovations, noting the easily moveable desks with which both rooms are equipped. Professor Tess Chakkalakal of the English and Africana studies departments said that the layout of Room 304 was especially well-suited to the needs of the class she co-teaches with Professor of English Peter Coviello, The Afterlives of Uncle Tom.
“It’s the first time either of us have been involved in a team-teaching effort, so the room is particularly suitable to our teaching needs,” she said. Chakkalakal noted that the classroom’s mobility allows it to easily accomodate two teachers.
Chakkalakal also praised the design of the classroom for the way in which it facilitates discussion and allows students to see one another.
Professor Shaun Golding of the department of sociology, who teaches Applied Demography for Planning and Policy Analysis in Room 303, also felt that the room worked well for his class.
“I think it’s perfect for how I’ve designed the course, because we want computers to be accessible but we don’t need them 100 percent of the time,” he said.
Golding also praised the classroom’s moveable desks, stating that they help to “foster an environment that’s collaborative.”
The room’s lighting was also popular with both professors and students. Both rooms feature long banks of windows and multiple skylights, left over from their previous uses as drawing and painting studios.
“I really like the row of windows in the back of class. They let in a lot of natural light, which gives the room a nice atmosphere,” said James Jelin ’16, a student in Chakkalakal and Coviello’s class. “The only classroom I’d say I’ve liked more was the room on the sixteenth floor of Coles Tower, but that’s hard to compete with.”
Chakkalakal and Golding said they think Bowdoin should implement similar design elements in other classrooms. Chakkalakal noted the stark contrast between the new VAC classrooms and other teaching spaces she has used, such as the Peucinian Room in the basement of Sills Hall, which lacks full-size windows and is covered in wood paneling.
“I think there’s a classroom problem at Bowdoin,” she said.
However, she acknowledged the difficulty of renovating classrooms, since every class has different needs.