Groundbreaking Classroom Introduced At Emma Havens School

The older kids get to practice their balance skills on the duck walker. L to R: 5th graders Frankie Bevac, Olivia Tesi, Krista Valese, Dean Cassese. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Fourth grader Sean Gilson was building a device out of everyday objects that would create kinetic energy.

“It’s called a rubber band roller, and when you put it on the floor it rolls around,” he explained.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Gilson was working at the Maker Space station in a newly furbished classroom at Emma Havens Young Elementary School that was funded by a $10,000 OceanFirst Model Classroom grant.

The classroom, “Movement of the Mind” is an innovative room where students can think, learn and move at the same time, and mimics the offices at Facebook and Google.


“Whatever you think of, you can build,” Sean said. “This station allows multitasking skills and focusing skills to create kinetic energy.”

Principal Patricia Lorusso said that she and a committee of teachers met more than 100 times over the course of two years to plan the layout of the classroom and to create lesson plans that are integrated into each station.

Principal Patricia Lorusso cutting the ribbon for the classroom. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

For example, at the Lego Education Station where the grant funded some $2,000 in Lego pieces, students could create three-dimensional architectural and engineering projects within teacher guidelines.

“There has been extensive research that shows when kids move, they perform much better,” Lorusso said after a ribbon cutting ceremony for the classroom on May 10.

Teachers would sign up to use the classroom, so every one of the 777 students who attend the K-5 school would benefit, she said.

At the Independent Station there is a U-shaped desk where the teacher could conduct a reading group while some of the students use bike pedal exercisers under their chairs.

The grant also paid for two 21” iMac Pro computers, iPad minis, balance boards, standing desks, balance discs, an elliptical trainer and much more.

Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella came to the ribbon cutting ceremony and watched as the students demonstrated each station.

4th grader Quinn Hensle shows a balloon car she created at the Maker Space Station. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

“This is great – I never saw anything like this, the idea behind it is visionary,” he said. “This will motivate children. I hope it’s the classroom of the future. The physical activity will help with discipline issues because it’s calming and they can think about what they’re doing.”

That’s true, Lorusso said. “I would love each classroom to have at least the movement table for when someone gets antsy,” she said, but noted that the $2,500 price tag made it cost prohibitive.

Fourth grader Quinn Hensle created a vehicle that moved across the floor by blowing air through a straw into a balloon that was attached to the back of the car.

“This is exciting that we have this room now. It’s well thought-out and multi-purpose and it will help to get our energy out,” she said.

5th graders Frankie Bevac and Olivia Tesi sit at the double pedal desk. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Executive director of the OceanFirst Foundation, Kathy Durante, came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Brick branch manager Patricia M. Siciliano.

The OceanFirst Foundation awarded 15 Model Classroom grants – five to elementary schools, five to middle schools, and five to high schools in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Brick High School was also a grant recipient this year. Eighty-six schools applied for the OceanFirst Foundation Model Classroom Grant Program this year.

“The grants are awarded based on the scope of the project, the creativity, how the project engages the kids in the classroom, and we look at the involvement of the educators, and much more,” Durante said.

Lorusso said that students at Emma Havens would enjoy the classroom for years to come.

“We’re thinking about having our faculty meetings in here,” she joked.