Haring Center

April 19, 2021

Building Inclusivity

“This is our gym space,” says Chris Matsumoto, Haring Center assistant director and Experimental Education Unit (EEU) principal, standing in front of a pile of mats and trampolines. “And our cafeteria.” He explains how every day at lunchtime, EEU staff push all the gym equipment to the side, set up tables for lunch, and then take down the tables and set it all back up again for afternoon gym.

The lack of space is one of the many reasons the Haring Center building will undergo renovations over the coming few years, made possible by a $30 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation. Matsumoto explains the building is outdated and no longer serves the Haring Center’s desire to create equitable and inclusive educational opportunities for all children.

“The Haring Center was purpose-built for what it was in the 1960’s, but it has gone beyond its useful life.” says Evan Bourquard, associate principal with Mithun, the design firm leading the project.

The renovations will create the space and ability for the Haring Center’s Research and Professional Development & Training teams to work in the same building as the EEU school, fixing one of the Haring Center’s most significant roadblocks, according to Matsumoto. The current design of the Haring Center building prohibits collaboration, he says.

“When the building was built in the 1960s, the state of science was different; research happened in labs and clinics.” says Kathleen Artman Meeker, Haring Center director of research and associate professor at the University of Washington College of Education (CoE). “Now we know science happens in classrooms, communities and homes, and researchers work everywhere.”

“The new space will give us a home base for collaboration, sharing, and learning from one another,” Artman Meeker continues. “It opens up classrooms, so we can all learn from the Haring Center’s teaching teams. It has space for active learning for adults, as well as children.”

Currently observation booths, used for teachers, researchers and parents to watch classrooms without being a part of the environment, double as storage units. Haring Center staff frequently find hallways to hold meetings due to the absence of collaboration space.

“After making our way through this pandemic year, we are reminded of how important it is to think about how space is utilized and how the space itself can play a role in our wellness,” comments Meghan Hanlon, Haring Center program and building coordinator.

The renovations also plan to expand intentional community space indoors and outdoors, connecting two courtyards and opening up offices.

“The Haring Center’s interaction among different staff across units, teams, disciplines and educational standing is one of the characteristics that defines who we are,” says Ilene Schwartz, director of the Haring Center and the CoE special education doctoral program. “This interaction creates a synergy that is part of our DNA. The new community spaces will provide more opportunities for this interaction to take place, and I am excited to think about the new ideas and innovations that will result.”

“The space will transform the way we work,” adds Artman Meeker. “It literally breaks down the walls between our different programs.”

Beyond the space itself, components of the current Haring Center building offer limited access for people with disabilities. Matsumoto explains doorways, hallways, water fountains and more do not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards due to their age. Not all children are able to use the counters, sinks and bathrooms in EEU classrooms with the current design.

“This opportunity will bring us into the present and carry us through the future,” says Hanlon.

Matsumoto emphasizes how time and resources stand in the Haring Center’s way in terms of making true change in the community, and these renovations will provide the Haring Center with both of those things.

“The Haring Center has always attracted researchers, trainers, teachers and families who are deeply passionate about equity and inclusion,” says Matsumoto. “This redesign will allow us to take this passion, dedication, knowledge and skill in this building and share it with the broader community.”

For more information, read the press release here.