Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rethink Spaces for Deeper Learning

Marble mazes are everywhere in my classroom.

If you were to visit the room, it would look like someone's recycled materials room as the mazes are simple machines made from cardboard, plastic bottles, old mimeo sheets, and more.

I'm ready to have my classroom back because all that room we could spread out to has become full of mazes, so there's less room to work which means more time at desks in the traditional style. Plus we're taking the tests which means lots of traditional quiet-at-your-desk-independent work.

It's not ideal, yet students don't want to part with their creations so I've been leaving them up a bit more. Thursday will be the last day because we can't continue with such limitations on collaborative space to study and work.

What's ideal?

If we're going to invest in STEAM and deeper learning efforts, we're going to have to re-think time and space.  Big, deep, creative projects do take time and space. For deep learning, students have to have the time to revisit, revise, and share, and that means there needs to be the space for display and craft.

There also needs to be spaces for quiet work, group work, and presentation.  How can we maximize our school space and structures to make time and place for this kind of work.

This week, at school, we'll just have to go with it and live with the disruption of STEAM and testing in one room.  In the future, I want to do the following:
  • Work with my team to discuss space and focus. Who will teach what, and how will space affect those decisions?
  • How will we chart the year? For example, PARCC testing and our own system-wide-testing created a difficult schedule for teaching. Next year, we need to look at the expectations up front and plan so that testing doesn't take us away from needed continuity and routines for good learning and project work.
Rethinking spaces in school is a big jump from traditional classroom set-ups and structure. But if we really want to match our work with research and need, we'll have to make time for that discussion.