Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Classroom Imagination

By Anthony Michael

Man does it feel good to be back in the swing of school and beginning work on my thesis.  I will get back into the topic of that in a future blog, but for now I want to present to you a continuation of my previous blog article posts.  The most recent article that I have read and studied came from Therese Jilek and is entitled For Back to School, Reimagine Classroom Design. This article covers the classroom design changes that the Hartland-Lakeside school District in Hartland, Wisconsin.  These teachers have created innovative, state-of-the-art learning spaces that allow the children the flexibility to move around, collaborate with each other, and express themselves in creative ways. 
                  This massive change in the learning environments was facilitated by the teachers themselves, and how they realized that different teaching methods and learning expectations for students required environments that were radically different than rows and groupings of desks.  They knew that in order to best help students they needed to start over with the classrooms.  Not only in how the classrooms are laid out but also how they teach the curriculum to the students.  They found out that students do better if they can talk to each other about various problems inside the “classroom”. This facilitated the need for clusters of small groups, individual learning spaces, and spaces that allow for the opportunity of information to be shared to the whole class.  In order for this type of learning to be done, flexible reconfigurable furniture and technology is needed.
                  A look at the real world is a great way to gain an insight on how these type of spaces can be configured.  Starbucks for example provides a great model on how social spaces foster groups and individual collaboration.  Spaces like these allow for a comfortable environment that can be simply and easily reconfigured depending on the size of the group and the nature of the work that is being discussed.  These types of places also delve into a multitude of sensory engagements, from sound, color, temperature, and special surroundings.    
Various tools and methods can help these types of spaces.  Having desks that can interconnect very easily into pairs, trios, or a large table of four or more can give students the opportunity to change nature of the collaboration within a very short time frame.  High stools that allow students to move around the classroom or spin about from group to group or project to project.  A mix of low or high tables allowing students to pick how they want to sit and work on their projects.  Various pops of bright color in the furniture and on the walls create a visually interesting environment for the students. 
These classrooms are now reflecting how they believe students learn best, and how they have a positive effect on both the teaching and learning of the students and the teachers. 

Jilek, T. (2012). For Back to School, Reimagine Classroom Design. MindShift. Retrieved January 15, 2015, from

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