"In brief, the environment consists of those conditions that promote or hinder, stimulate or inhibit, the characteristic activities of a living being." ~ John DeweyI have always valued the creation learning spaces that best suit the needs of students and a community of learners. I remember when I first began teaching, sitting in my empty classroom in August and imagining what the room might become. In those early days, these decisions were usually made by me, but as I became more experienced, student voice became a critical piece of the design process for our classroom. I came to realise, however, that our conversations were still chained by the traditional reality of our space. Our classroom was still a single room filled with the stuff of schools - student desks, chairs, boards, bookshelves and so on. While much can be done within such a space - I know my students certainly felt good about the rooms we had created for learning and we all accomplished a great deal - I can't help but feel a bit stuck. How can we re-invent schools without changing (drastically) the structure of the building itself? How can we leave classrooms as they were 50 years ago and think that this arrangement still meets the needs of learners today?
Seeking ways to redesign my current learning space, I began to investigate possibilities. I am most impressed by the Maker Movement (a blog post for another day!) and believe that such an approach best supports inquiry-based learning.
Exploring how we might create this type of learning environment for our Primary students led me to the book, The Third Teacher: 79 Ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. The opening quote spoke to me:
The child starting kindergarten this fall will graduate in the third decade of the 21st century. All we can know about the world she will step into is that it will have challenges and opportunities beyond what we can imagine today, problems and possibilities that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion. Whether this year's kindergarten student will merely survive or positively thrive in the decades to come depends in large measure in the experiences she has in school. Those experiences will be shaped by adults, by peers, and ultimately by places, by the physical environments where she does her learning. United in the conviction that environment is our children's third teacher, we can begin anew a vital mission: designing today's schools for tomorrow's world.
After reading this book I am firmly committed to making a change to the space I have some control over - the primary computer room. I am setting out on a journey to transform this room; to build a safe place that will promote student innovation, allow for tinkering and time for reflective design thinking. As I enlist the support of colleagues, I will be sharing the ideas from The Third Teacher and The Maker Movement Manifesto.