Monica Snellings and DK Holland
What does the 21st century 5th grade classroom look like? Is it achievable in a Title 1 inner city school? Inquiring Minds decided to find out. So we called on 50 experts: 4th graders about to be promoted to 5th grade, at PS 20 in Brooklyn.
We were interested in how the students thought about space, how they feel in different environments, and what kind of elements would promote learning and allow each of them to be their best.
We began by asking the kids for one word to describe how they felt in different spaces: how they felt on the playground, in the library, their room at home, and in the classroom. These different experiences helped them understand. But next time we won’t include the ‘room at home’ because some kids didn’t have one. They had a couch.
We then asked them to think about the different activities that take place in the classroom. Then they individually (or collaboratively if that was their choice) made a list of ideas on how to improve the space. Then we moved to drawing classrooms. All 48 students gave us their ideas and drawings explaining how they imagined the space would work. They came up with some ingenious notions and really surprised us. Many of them will be included in our re-conception of the classroom although, we doubt the ice cream machine will make the cut.
After everyone was done we asked the students what they learned from the exercise. One boy volunteered that,
"I learned how to use one word to capture my thoughts."
Several children were impressed that from a list of words and ideas they could generate a visual plan.
Moving from words to images was a powerful insight for the students.
We collected all their work so we could create a new classroom by the time they come back for the new year.
We have been thinking about the classroom as a learning ecosystem where the physical space is one important element that effects outcomes. And if we tie the agency we want to encourage in students it seems logical to us that we ought to know how they feel. Consider donating to our efforts to help transform classrooms into environments that nurture teaching and learning for all kids.
Want more? Just search for the key words – room 220.
For more information and help on how to transform a classroom, email us at Lab[at]inquiringmindsusa.com