Thursday, 21 March 2013

Our Physical Space

The physical space is often a hurdle when setting up the Learning Commons. There are no hard and-fast rules around creating the space... Really it is about the students, the teachers, and the larger community. Here are some informal guidelines we used to set up a dynamic, learner-centered space.

1. Allow Student Voice

Students are the primary consumers of the space and their input is paramount... We began the year with a grade 6 mapping project. After mapping the space, students came up with new ideas and proposals to make it more appealing and functional. We listened - and now we can't keep them out whether it's class time, recess, or lunch!

2. Use The Walls

We pushed everything off to the walls... Opening up a flexible, middle space is extremely important. Students and teachers are able to move shelves, tables, and SMART Boards around as needed. For example, tables can be clumped for large-group work, or separated for small group work, or separated so individuals can work in peace!

3. Use Castors

All of our tables and bookshelves are standing on castors... Having wheels means that the space can completely change for presentations or events. We have Karaoke Club, special presenters, staff meetings, large classes, small classes, and individual students all working at the same or different times throughout the Commons.

4. Consider Learning Styles

Just because the buzz of education right now is group work, collaboration, and cooperation, doesn't mean that intrapersonal students that like to learn independently in a quiet and peaceful place have left the building! We've set up quiet areas with noise-blocking headphones near the windows and we've got a quiet table for guided reading, where visual distractions are a minimum.

5. Think About Tables & Surfaces

The tables below come from Moen Designs in Edmonton Alberta. We received a wonderful grant from Education Matters to purchase any table we would like, and we went with the "Burp" (to the left). Our students, though, affectionately refer to them as the "Ladybug" tables because their "wings" open to expose the underbelly (Another working space!).

The benches (below) were also purchased from Moen Designs. We chose them because they come in a couple different sizes, and they are sturdy enough to stand on... And the perfect height for students to work (draw, read, write, build) on.

6. Open the Windows!

I don't know why this is such a big one... Kids are NOT distracted by the great outdoors, and natural light is extremely helpful. I'm not worried about students being distracted when peering outside, and the natural light is infinitely better than the dim, fluorescent lights flickering at 120 Hertz in our students' eyes.

7. Be Dynamic

Everything needs to change over time. Our SMART Board moves, the tables rolls, the benches are carried, and the chairs all move throughout the course of the day. The space transforms to meet the needs of our students...Our community wouldn't do it any other way!

1 comment:

  1. Nice work on the flexible approach! The photos look awesome!