Two of the many sessions at Edutech 2013 that made me think about my own teaching environment were Stephen Heppell’s session “What’s the rage for the next year?” and Stephen Harris’ session “The School of The Future: Change Management Lessons from a Pioneering School”. Both of these speakers talked about creating learning spaces that students wanted to be in. Spaces that are creative, collaborative and personalised. Spaces that kids love coming into and feel a part of.
I have struggled with this idea for a number of years. I have felt that although my class space is a positive, learning environment it is not all that creative. It is personalised for our class but do the students in my room actually feel like it has been personalised by them.
Hamish McMillan, owner of outdoor design company Vision for Living, and I were discussing my feeling and ideas and the fact that I would like to do something with my classroom but I was not sure were to start. Hamish is one of those people who can think outside the square and offered to come and work with me and my class to build some ideas about what we could do.
Hamish gave the kids one paper clip and had them list all the things they could make with one paper clip. He then asked them “What if you had 300?” “What if it was made of anything you want?” Once the kids let their imaginations go and realised that there was no right or wrong answer they came up with an amazing list.
This started the kids thinking about what we could do and what could be possible if we think outside the square.
The next step was to ge the kids to think about what they would like to have in their classroom. What would they change? How would they like to work? We collated all of these ideas onto one sheet. From these ideas we grouped the ideas into large categories and voted. Hamish organised a voting system based on one blue stick dot for the best ideas, two orange for the next best and three green of the third best idea. Once the kids had voted we collated all their votes (blue = 6 points, orange – 2 and green = 1). The top five ideas are the ones that we are going to try to create in our space.
1. Basketball ring for rubbish – how easy is this one and reflects the large numbers of boys I have. Not sure what the cleaner will think about this but maybe more bin being put in the bin.
2. Different chairs – I am planning to turn this into a technology unit. They will need to research chair designs and then design and make a model of their ideal chairs. We will then look into can we make these chairs or fundraise to get them made.
3. Arena seating – this was an interesting one. The class really liked the idea of having tiered seating (a bit like a lecture room). We discussed that our room isn’t very big and we would want to be able to work in groups, individually and as a whole class. We will keep discussing this idea – might be resolved in the seating design activities.
4. A ‘Chill Out’ space- the kids really like the idea of having a space in the classroom where they can sit on comfy chairs and just chill out/work quietly. I am sure that this will be possible with some creative ‘paper clip’ thinking. Will just need to look at the size and space and arrangement of room.
5. Panels over glass windows that can be removed – our classroom has glass windows that look out into a shared learning space with a water trough under the windows. These windows are always dirty due to water being splashed on them. The kids also mentioned that it can be distracting when people are out there. I am sure that we could come up with something that will help with this.
So, now the fun (and the hard) bit happens. We are now in the process of working out how to make these wishes reality – I will keep you posted with how we go!