Gloria Fischer, architect, Jillian Kornsweig designer, DK, and I walked through A Day in the Life of Room 220 with our awesome 5th grade classroom teacher, Opal Brady. In our design world we call this kind of inquiry a 'user journey'. In an architect's world it's called 'programming'.
At any rate we focused on 'what goes where?' in great detail. What are the movements within the room, throughout the day? When, how, and where do kids need access to materials? Where are items currently stored? What is ideal?
Books, books and more books!
In order for Gloria to program the physical requirements of the room, we needed to calculate the linear feet of books that would stay in the classroom. That determined the classroom shelving needs. A lot of the books are stored in many plastic bins in books shelves. Not an ideal situation because the bins take up a lot of space and they damage the spines of many of the books when the book is squashed in the bin. It also makes it hard to determine the amount of space actually needed.
We surveyed and measured each current shelf; hauled out plastic milk crates full of text books; and we pulled down mysterious books that had been stored above on a high inaccessible ledge, possibly for decades.
Essentially, we found a full library in the room. And we realized there are text books that stay in the room and need their own home (we took out many, many antiquated text books). Organized by reading level, we found independent reading books the kids pick out and read from each day. There are general science and social studies books for research and project-based work. There was a tall tower of reference books. There are genre specific books like poetry, favorite author groupings, and biographies. But none of this was organized.
It quickly became clear that our biggest space and organizational challenge will be determining how many books we need to display and how much shelf space we really need.
What the heck is it? And does it belong?
Other programming challenges: listing each piece of technology; determining filing needs, what should be filed in a place accessible to students and what needs to be private; number of chairs and desks; math manipulatives and science supplies accounting for everything, all the way down to how many trash cans and recycle bins are in the room.
For space planning we also knew that we should plan for the maximum number of students that the New York City Department of Education (DoE) will allow in the room (32) and the fact that Ms. Brady is a special ed teacher and potentially will have an adult aid in the room.
As we went through a typical day we asked questions like: Where are musical instruments stored on days when students have music class? What does the teacher need to have ready access to? We asked where do lunches go? What about homework?
Then we asked ourselves does this all make sense? What can we combine? What can we remove? What needs greater accessibility? And always, what can the students do for themselves and for each other.
Want more? Just search for the key words – room 220.