Students Use Design Skills to Create Welcoming Spaces at High School

Photo courtesy Duncanville ISD

The students in Michelle Sowers’ interior design class at Duncanville High School are getting a rare opportunity. They are using the skills they’ve learned in their program to create gathering spaces at the high school for students and staff. The idea is to use seating, tables and artwork to make the high school more welcoming.

“To be able to teach them how to do this kind of work was a dream come true,” Ms. Sowers said. “That’s what we’re here for – to teach them what it’s like in the field and to understand how the process works.”

students standing around sketches
Ms. Sowers works with students at the Duncanville ISD Interior Design class. Photo courtesy Duncanville ISD

The project is part of Duncanville High School Principal Michael McDonald’s plan to reimagine and transform certain spaces in the high school. During the summer, the library received a facelift to create a Google lounge-type of experience for staff and students. To build on the concept, Mr. McDonald asked Ms. Sowers and her students to redesign some of the high school’s open spaces.

“The goal is to create open and flexible student collaboration areas throughout the main hallway of our campus,” Mr. McDonald said. “The emphasis is on creating a collaborative culture campus wide.”

The students are using industry-standard programs, like AutoCad and Floor Planner, to design several spaces in the lobby, outside the cafeteria and near the Collegiate Academy. A professional designer will produce the final plans, but the students’ ideas are being incorporated including picking finishes and fabrics for the furniture.

The real-world experience is exactly what senior Alexis Solis was looking for when she transferred to Duncanville High School for her freshman year. She made the decision based on the strength of the district’s Career and Technical Education programs.

“That was one of the main reasons I came to Duncanville because they provided what I wanted,” Alexis said. “I wanted architecture. I wanted interior design. I knew that was a field I wanted, so that’s why I chose to come to Duncanville.”
Tyrone McGee has been Alexis’ classmate in architecture classes for the past three years. He sees the design project as a way to leave his mark at his alma mater, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to work with professionals in the interior design industry.

“I think we have an advantage over other schools,” Tyrone said. “We get more materials and more opportunities because it’s a bigger school.”

The design students have been an integral part of the process from the beginning. They’ve researched, measured the spaces, and also chosen colors, furniture and helped design the layout.

notebook with design
Photo courtesy Duncanville ISD

The students are currently in the process of creating a presentation for Mr. McDonald with hopes to complete the project during this school year.