Revitalizing and expanding Penn GSE’s space for modern learning

The current Graduate School of Education building was completed in 1965, with one remodel in 2001. Since then, the size and scope of the school’s program and research has expanded. With growth, the program requires not only more space, but a new approach to building design to accommodate new technologies and spaces for collaboration.

The entrance to 3700 Walnut St. will include a new lobby that leads to a four-story student pavilion. Rendering courtesy of Atkin Olshin Schade Architects.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Penn GSE to design educational spaces from the ground up, based upon cutting-edge knowledge of how to support active learning,” says GSE dean Pam Grossman.

The planned building expansion for the Graduate School of Education is designed not only to increase space, but to accommodate the kinds of innovative, state-of-the-art facilities the school utilizes for research and practice. The plans include a new entrance to 3700 Walnut St. with a four-story glass pavilion, as well as merging—with a two-story addition—the school’s central building with Stiteler Hall. By merging the buildings and adding floors, the school will be able to consolidate its five sites on campus into one central location. With the majority of the school’s programs centralized, students and staff will be able to access teaching, counseling, and learning technology easily. The building will create a dynamic interdisciplinary setting for all GSE students, from future early childhood and K–12 educators, higher education leaders, researchers, and policymakers. 

Penn GSE’s teacher education program will work in the new space to develop, test, and adapt new teaching and learning models by simulating a K-12 classroom, equipped with movable walls and seating, multimedia capabilities, touch-screen technology, and optimized sound and lighting. The additional two stories at Stiteler Hall will house an innovation laboratory called Catalyst, a “makerspace” with materials and equipment for creative work. New curriculums that are created at Penn GSE incorporate hands-on “maker” instruction with electronics, textiles, and synthetic biology.

“Buildings have to become more flexible. They have to allow instructors to reconfigure spaces for the learners who are in them,” says Sarah Schneider Kavanagh, a research assistant professor. “We know from research that learning happens through activity—speaking with classmates, moving through space, and making things.”

Read more at Penn GSE Newsroom.