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Creative Gatherings, Shared Space

Katrina Lehman, Secondary Teacher-Librarian, Dhahran Learning Commons, International Schools Group, Saudi Arabia


Dhahran High School students finish a puzzle
started by the Dhahran Elementary Middle School students.

It all began with the Dhahran Elementary Middle School students.  They cracked open the puzzle box and formed the geometric outline. Later, when Dhahran British Grammar School students came in during their break, they added their own contribution. By the next morning, the Dhahran High School students had added even more pieces to the puzzle, forming the central image: a blue-jay.

Three schools. Dozens of students. One simple, fun artifact evolving over time.

These types of shared activities are the product of an initiative several years in the making here at the Dhahran Campus at International Schools Group. Four years ago our library, which serves three distinct schools with over 2,100 students and staff, was primarily used as a space to house books and computer labs. Each school had a specific area for students to sit and if anyone was talking above a whisper, they were quickly “shushed.” 


Dhahran British Grammar School students
work on a collaborative table-top coloring sheet.

Together, with input from campus principals, students, and teachers, we formed a new statement of purpose that “celebrates creativity through flexible physical and virtual space.”  With district support, we converted the copier space into a Tech Hub, offering mobile device checkout for laptops and tablets. The reference section that used to house dusty tomes and sets of outdated encyclopedias became a lounge area with comfortable sofas for student seating. A meeting room with video conferencing capabilities replaced the old PC computer lab. We filled shelves with boardgames and puzzles and decided there would be no more shushing.

The Learning Commons is now a shared learning space that allows for collaboration, creativity, and yes: talking.


Our space is often raucous, energetic, and full of laughter. Students have a chance to relax, socialize, and take a break from the academic rigor of school life. Together, as stated in our Learning Commons Statement of Purpose, “we value communication and collaboration to connect with each other and with the world.” Students of all ages gather before and after school, during breaks, or during lunchtime to study together, participate in creative game-playing, color in giant coloring books, or perhaps add  the final piece to a blue-jay puzzle.

Our library, once silent and a bit dusty, is now the hub of our campus, often noisy and rarely empty.

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