Hidden gem

May 8, 2024

Research & Innovation

Every week during the academic year, rising senior and future teacher Carstyn Klosterman brings her latest assignments to the Education Studio.

“The professors do a great job of introducing us to the studio and all the wonderful resources available,” said Klosterman, a sociology major with an elementary education minor.

The space was reimagined during a planned move to Fountain Hall, as Director Angela Leeper considered the role of the studio within the University’s academic mission.

The rebranded Education Studio (formerly the Curriculum Materials Center) provides everything teachers might want to enrich their classroom lessons. That starts with a wide-ranging library of books, from pedagogical texts to books their students might read in English and language arts classes or to deepen learning in science, history, and mathematics.

Then the studio expands into related resources that UR students — from undergraduates striving toward education degrees to graduate students already in practice — can use to bring a lesson to life or deliver the content in different ways. That includes games, art prints, iPads loaded with educational apps, and manipulatives, which are hands-on learning tools. Students can also use the space to try out projects before bringing them into their practice classrooms.

“We have other studios and labs where you create things,” said Leeper, a former librarian with North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction. “I like what the name ‘studio’ implies, as we are moving away from just a place that holds books to an active space where students come in to make things and have big ideas.”

As a book reviewer for professional journals and 2025 selection panelist for the Caldecott Medal, presented annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book, Leeper stays on top of emerging trends in K-12 education and students, allowing her to curate optimal additions. After 15 years at Richmond, she also has strong insights into common course assignments.

“I’m now able to anticipate needs and proactively grow our collections and resources in alignment with what our professors want their students to explore during their coursework,” Leeper said.

“The Education Studio is a hidden gem on campus,” said Halle Zweibel, a rising senior and studio associate who plans to teach in elementary school. “I can apply what I’ve learned in my literacy classes to the children’s books within the library,” she said.

Creating targeted areas for various activities and student interactions was essential to Leeper in planning the studio space, open to the entire campus community. She introduced huddle rooms, a lounging area, and workstations. A dedicated maker space features expansive die-cutting tools for creating lesson materials or decorating classrooms.

In a single day, students can pull from every collection to develop inventive lesson plans — creating manipulatives in the maker space or culling art prints — that go beyond reading and discussing a piece of literature. “It’s exciting to see all the ways that students approach these assignments and how they use their creativity,” Leeper said.

“The best thing I’ve learned is how a classroom can operate,” Klosterman said. “I’m so lucky to have talked with past, present, and future educators, who come in and share their experiences. They give me advice for my future, tips for which books to read, and are genuinely invested in my teaching passions.”