Here is an example of my current classroom. It is not a rectangle but is shaped more like a wedge of pie. It has a collapsable wall that connects with a fifth grade classroom next door. This classroom is set up for what we knew about learning in the past. It does not reflect where we are headed for the 21st century! Although, I do my best to allow students to work together, the room arrangement and space does not adequately promote this. My classroom does open up into a centrum or “pod” which students can work collaboratively out there (it has a large table with chairs and lots of floor space in which to gather). Unfortunately, my classroom window faces another brick wall of the building. We had a Large Group Instruction Room (or LGI) built about two years ago. Although this room is great to have, it blocks a lot of natural light from my classroom and we are also located in an alcove so our view, and our natural lighting are somewhat limited.
This is a screenshot of the classroom that I would reconstruct. It would be a very open floorplan with large round tables conducive to group work. The entire classroom would be walls of windows to the outdoors in an effort to connect students with the outside world and to let in as much natural light as possible. There would be a large group meeting area where students could share and see presentations. Off to the right would be arc-shaped cushioned group areas for work, reflecting and sharing. Outside the windows would be natural green gardens again to connect students with the outside world but also to have a learning lab of growing plants right outside the window.
This image speaks the individuality of making a space “your own”. I think it is very important in our classroom to have children feel like it is a place that belongs to them. As a part of the “Conscious Discipline” structure in my classroom, one bulletin board is devoted to “Family & Friends” which holds pictures of our loved ones. It comes from the same concept of having a picture of your family on your desk. When we are away from our loved ones, seeing a picture or happy memory can invoke feelings of serenity and thus make us more productive workers. Kids like to bring pictures of their families and their pets and the learning community enjoys getting to know them as well. I think this and putting kids work up as displays like in a museum exhibit speak to the idea of human centered-ness, personality and behavior which was evident in the TED videos that we watched this week.
This is the list of ways in which to redesign a classroom. Many of these ideas really resonate with me and the concept of making children central, putting the stakeholders personalities into the space to create ownership and investment and setting up the classroom to promote collegiality and collaboration. The furniture that I drew in Sketch-up is brightly colored, cushioned fabric to ensure the safety of the students. In the “Conscious Discipline” program that I use everything revolves around the safety of the children and that is priority one since the brain cannot learn optimally if it feels stressed or endangered. I would have lots of sunlight flooding the room and green plants all around to give a calm and serene tone to the environment. I like the organization of being able to move around freely and unencumbered. Our ability as a class to group in small groups or large groups is a design feature that I feel strongly about. Having things to care about such as plants in and outside of the classroom also reinforces the “Caretaker” attitude which again, reinforces investment in one’s own environment.
Finally, what all of this has to do with is developing engagement and investment of the stakeholders with which you work. According to the Journal of School Health,
“Regardless of the definition, research links higher levels of engagement in school with improved performance. Researchers have found student engagement a robust predictor of student achievement and behavior in schools regardless of socio-economic status.” (Klem and Connell, p. 262)
The cost of this project would be great to my existing classroom because ,as it stands right now, my classroom has one window. It would entail cutting windows out of the brick wall or cutting windows in the ceiling for skylights. The room could be expanded if we opened up the collapsable wall but that would displace the classroom next-door. New furniture would have to be purchased as now I have large, cumbersome desks that take up an enormous amount of space. In addition to all of this, there would be great cost in constructing the student gardens that would run the perimeter of the classroom. This is a “visionary” blog so I would equate that with a “wish list” of things that could be.
Bailey, R. A. (2001). Conscious discipline: 7 basic skills for brain smart classroom management. Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance.
Klem, A., & Connell, J. (2004). Relationships Matter: Linking Teacher Support To Student Engagement and Achievement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 262.
O’Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi and Peterson, Architects Inc., B. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.
- Re-Design the Classroom (abbysiegel.wordpress.com)