Life in the Learning Pods

  • The elimination of the center part of the building on the MBJH campus took with it 10 classrooms, therefore, creating a need for alternative learning spaces this school year. 

  • August 19, 2021 -- A common phrase used at Mountain Brook Schools is that ‘learning is not confined to the four walls of the classroom.’ That’s especially true this year as some classrooms and learning environments have a different look and feel.

    “Learning pods” is a new term around Mountain Brook Junior High. They are four mobile units that have been customized to create eight temporary classrooms for students during this school year due to the construction on campus.

    “We have trust that any of our teachers could have been relocated to one of these temporary classrooms and still would have been able to create a positive learning environment for each one of our students,” Mountain Brook Junior High Principal Donald Clayton said.

    The elimination of the center part of the building on campus in May took with it 10 classrooms plus a computer lab mainly used by foreign language classes. This created a need for alternative learning spaces this school year. 

    Brasfield and Gorrie, Mountain Brook Schools’ construction manager for the Moving Mountain Brook Forward construction campaign, installed the four trailers over the summer to be used as temporary classrooms. It was either the “learning pods” or having teachers float from room to room all year.

    Seventh-grade English teacher, Trip Hubbard, occupies one of the “learning pods” and has a special connection with his students in this specific learning environment.

    “When I was in fourth grade, we had to learn in a trailer due to some construction,” Hubbard said. “They were not these kinds of trailers. They were nothing like this. Also nowadays, there are so many ways that kids learn. Our students learn online, they learn outside and in various environments. We’re here to help them in that way”

    Each room is around 670 square feet and has all the capabilities of the classrooms inside the building at MBJH. Projectors, document cameras, whiteboards, plenty of storage space and so much more allow the students to learn in a modern (temporary) classroom environment. Some even have a sound system. Hubbard added that sound in the “learning pods” isn’t an issue and he can never hear the adjoining classroom. 

    A concrete walkway and covered porches create a “village feel” that sometimes makes teachers and students forget that they are in a mobile classroom unit.

    “I like to refer to this area of our campus as ‘Overbrook Village’,” Julie Garrett said. Garrett teaches seventh-grade Advanced English. She didn’t know she was going to be in a “learning pod” until two weeks before school started but the adjustment has been an easy one.

    “Overbrook Village” is home to three English classrooms, four foreign language classrooms, and one intervention classroom. (There are two additional temporary classrooms in the renovated multi-purpose facility that used to be the auditorium. That is home to two art classrooms this year and will be used as a multipurpose space in the future.)

    As far as logistics go, the biggest hindrance to the “learning pods” is that occupants cannot hear the bell so teachers let students out a minute or two before class is scheduled to end. They can still hear announcements through the phone and communicate inside the building.

    After a year of ‘life in the learning pods,’ students, teachers and staff will enjoy a newly constructed, state-of-the-art, three-story middle portion of the school building.

    “As teachers, we’re excited to have a brand new classroom,” Garrett said. “And for our students, they will get to learn in a new environment and have everything they need to succeed.”