Thursday, August 15, 2019

Learning Space Design - 3rd Teacher

Owp/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2009). The third teacher: 79 ways you can transform your teaching and learning.I work in an amazing space. Heartside Neighborhood of downtown Grand Rapids, a stones throw from every genre of civic, non-profit, and business partnerships, and 250,000 community and global artifacts under the same roof- the Grand Rapids Public Museum High School opened last year and has a lot going for it.

As a new school in a remodeled historic museum building, our classroom situation brings up a number of design... challenges. For example:

Two classrooms, a commons space, and row of four "Denny's" booths (student moniker and it stuck).
90 students. 3 teachers.

I work on an integrated team with a social studies, and English teacher. We have a three hour block with all the students every morning. We break time and space constraints of a traditional building and schedule on a regular basis.

And yet, we need three "classroom" spaces on a regular basis to operate from. My goal this summer was to redesign the commons area between the two classrooms to be that space.

I had to get creative with a "before" picture, but here is a partial panoramic shot of the commons space during a Facebook Live video shoot with WeAreTeachers. Long story.

It was a commons space. General student work area for break out sessions. Can it be redesigned for a science class to meet a few times a week for updates, direct instruction, workshops, assessment "prove it" areas, small group collaboration, and even a few science demonstrations?


Here's the new layout this summer.

Three sub spaces (happily aligned to the three square light fixtures). Loosely related: campfires, caves, watering holes.

  1. Whole group space in the back left corner. Movable screen, ample (but tight) seating for everyone on soft furniture. Used for meetings at the start of class, sharing updates, and mini lectures.
  2. "Regular" desks and work space. Limited area with a seat, a desk, and almost rows? It's the space between the pillars.
  3. A round table area. Some of the only exterior windows in the whole school. Unfortunately looks out to a brick wall. 
The two walled classroom spaces flank either side of the commons, more individual soft furniture work spaces wrap each pillar, Denny's in down a little hallway, with the teacher "Board Room" opposite. A sink, counter top and storage area make up the last wall. 

Time to analyze with The Third Teacher. (I was gifted this book a long time ago, I wish I remember the context).
9. "Let the sunshine in... increasing daylight in the classroom has be shown to cut down on absenteeism and improve test scores." Well... that's pretty tough in our history building. Most of the windows we do have are glass blocks. The skylights are kind of cool though. I find myself spending most of my prep time in a room that has real windows.
10. "Shuffle the deck. Change up the locations of regular activities so children can explore new surroundings with their bodies and their minds." Check. Even with three "classroom" spaces we regularly break the flow and utilize the Design Lab space and also have regular excursions outside the school building. 
12. "Support great teaching. Free teachers from the traditional desk at the front of the classroom and encourage new settings for teaching and learning." A teacher desk? Nobody in our school has a teaching desk. What is a teacher desk?
15. "Display learning. Posting student work, both current and past, up on the walls tracks progress in a visible way." Needs work. We do a lot of science learning on paper, sticky notes, and chart paper, but ultimately track it digitally on Trello and Google Docs. I want to build in more physical learning artifacts around the space. 
16. "Emulate museums. An environment rich in evocative objects triggers active learning by letting students pick what to engage with." Dude. We work in a museum. We do have curated display cases around the school with artifacts relevant to current project themes, but I have work to do here. 
18. "Unite the disciplines. Art and science need each other. Discoveries happen when the two come together so give students places for cross-disciplinary work and who knows what creative genuis will flourish." Amen. Let's get a beer and swap stories sometime. 
19. "Bring the outside in. Transport the community, landscape, and faraway places in to the classroom with visuals and objects that call them to mind." Good grief. I have to stop here. Whether it's Downtown Grand Rapids Inc, The Rapid, Clothing Matters, City Hall, GR Neighborhood Summit, Grand Rapids Whitewater... this is happening at the Museum School. We say "the community is our classroom." It's already happening and we are growing. 

Owp/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2009). The third teacher: 79 ways you can transform your teaching and learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Summer's End Life Question Quickfire

It is the end of summer. It is the end of a course. Not the bitter end, however.  From the start, this course embraced inquiry, curiosity, a...