Rethinking the Classroom

What is the ideal learning environment for my high school students in a history class? That is a question that I have been asking myself.  I feel that is important to be detailed in my question.  Students in a high school science class, or 3rd graders probably have a different ideal learning environment.  For my students though, what type of classroom do they need to be in to get the most out of their educational experience while in my class?  I decided to ask them this question as part of a bigger survey.  The survey, found HERE, was an attempt at giving my students a voice in their education.  They are the ones who stand to get the most out of their time in school.  Why not ask them what they think the classroom should look like? I did ask them.  What I learned is kids are uncomfortable, stifled, uninspired, intimidated, and feel institutionalized in many classrooms.  Walls painted white, tile floors, rows of desks…you get the picture.  They made it clear to me that they are much more comfortable learning when they are at home.  At home the walls are painted or covered, there is carpet or rugs, they sit on couches, beds, or beanbags.  They told me that if schools could resemble their bedrooms they would be more excited to go school.

Could something as simple as making a classroom a more inviting, comfortable learning environment lead to more student engagement?  It’s an intriguing thought.  I know some of you reading this may be thinking schools are supposed to be an academic setting preparing kids for college and careers.  Most colleges and careers don’t typically have students or employees sitting in couches while doing their work while their neighbor sits in a beanbag with their shoes off.  That’s true in most cases, but I will point out that increasing numbers of companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook offer work environments similar to the ones I am describing.  In addition, many elementary school classrooms are much more inviting and offer some of the luxuries I have discussed.  It seems that by the time they get to high school the rooms have become void of comfort and rarely offer space for collaboration and creative thought.  Times have changed since the early 1900s, but the classroom hasn’t.  It is still very much a product of the industrial model it was modeled after in the late 1800s.  My reflecting, my research, and my student’s responses to my survey all lead me to believe that the classroom could be much more inviting and inspiring.

A classroom then…
A classroom now…

Funny video about education reform

I have decided to attempt to redesign my classroom to create an ideal learning environment for my high school history students.  After listening to their ideas, researching learning spaces, and thinking about what type of experience I want my students to have in my class, I have a rough idea of what I want to do.  To get on the same page as me, you have to forget everything you know about classrooms.  With a blank slate in your head, think about an environment where students are free to research, collaborate, discuss, and create.   Also, keep in my mind that students are in my room for 104 minutes at a time.  Would you want to sit in an individual metal desk for an hour and forty minutes? I didn’t think so.

 If you want to see a floor plan I made online for what I think the classroom could look like…


click HERE to view larger and in 3D

Now I just need to figure out how to raise $1800, without going too deep into my own pockets, because this IS happening!