How can we #cultivate effective learning spaces to start the new school year?
After my first attempt one year ago at using a theme to guide my classroom design (see previous post Dare to Ditch Desks) I decided to build on my previous learning and incorporate a more purposeful design approach based on ideas from the book From Campfire to the Holodeck. In this book the author David Thornburg describes three main features that boost student engagement, encourage student-led learning and enhances the use of technology in the classroom:
CAVES: This is a space where students can reflect independently, journal or read. It allows students to process what they’ve learned and allows students private quiet time.
WATERING HOLES: This is the social space where students collaborate, share thinking and can work in small groups. Watering holes foster relationships in the classroom and encourage students to expand their friendship circles through mixed grouping opportunities.
CAMPFIRES: This space is used for whole class gatherings for morning meetings, storytelling, celebrations and presentations by experts. It stands as a ritual for bringing the entire classroom community together in one friendly space.
I’m hoping that the open space will allow for more dynamic and kinesthetic learning opportunities for students. An excerpt I read from Kim Hurdhorst’s post reminded me of the importance of movement and play when forming neural connections in new learning:
Chan & Petrie (1998) also believed that the brain learns better in well designed school environments. They believed that an artistic environment is vital for learning. This is based on the premise that optimal learning happens when brains are challenged. One way to do this in a non threatening way is to learn and practice using the visual and performing arts. This way of learning helps learners build expression and memory. This allows the brain to rewire itself to make the connections necessary to secure deeper learning and understanding. Combined with modern day architectural design and visually pleasing aspects, it will challenge the brain and help develop brain growth. They also believed that creating spaces for activity will help in the growth of mental functions. When a learner is given the opportunities to spin, crawl, roll, rock turn, jump or swing for example, it is engaging and strengthens the brain because it brings more oxygen to the brain resulting in better functioning brain transmitters. [khurdhorst]
Her post about Brain Based Learning Architecture further details the research behind alternative classroom designs, and focuses on Thornburg’s approach to these three spaces.
My Learning Space Explained:
Below I will detail some reasons why my space has been organised in this specific way to start the year:
Class Library & Reading ‘Cave’:
Window Desks for Independent Reflection
Ditching Desks & Blue Chairs
There are 23 students in my class but only 16 blue school chairs and 8 desks. I purposely removed two desks this year to allow more flow and brought in a circular ‘cafe style’ table where up to 3 students can sit. There will be no assigned seating for now as I would like to foster a sense that each space is shared and available to everyone depending on their preferred learning styles. I also know that removing the 1 desk & chair per child will encourage me to adapt and broaden my teaching practice to move beyond ‘desk work’ activities. For example, some of the tasks may include using the soft seating social areas for collaboration and discussion or use of iPads rather than independent writing/laptop tasks at desks.
Updated Makerspace & Whiteboard Tables
Shared copy of Google Doc plant quotes & welcome message available here.
UPDATE: September 5 2017
Here are the collaborative posters made by the students in the first week of school to shape our learning for the year; students crafted the posters and presented their understanding of the quotes to the class.