About 5 years ago my school (open since 1996) added a new wing for science teaching. I was curious to see what the design of the classroom would be, since technologically times had changed a bit since the school opened. I found that the plans for the wing were pretty standard and not very flexible. Each lab class would have a room divided with fixed “pods” for experiments and then 32 desks on the other side of the demonstration table for content learning.
Since I moved in I have wanted something different. The main reason is that by keeping kids in traditional desks, we isolate them from each other. They can scoot the desks together, but this becomes crowded and the merged desks are still not optimal for collaboration. The desks face one direction and the purpose it to focus the students on the teacher. The entire physical set up of the room is for the teacher to drive the learning and the environment becomes passive.
In an effort to change his room to become more active, my friend Scott Kent decided to change his physical environment. He teaches English and wanted the physical room to emulate his teaching style and more importantly, stress active learning to kids kids. So he used technology to map out what he needed and then he went to Indiegogo as a way to create his “Revolutionary Classroom“.
Here is his video:
The science classroom has changed as well over the years, from a traditional lecture environment to one of short instruction and student collaborative work. The focus becomes student centered and the teacher acts more of a coach. This does not mean content is allowed to be watered down, what it means is the teacher has to plan specifically so that the content rigor remains, but in a way that kids are doing the investigating and the teacher is not talking at them.
The science classroom physical environment must also change with the pedagogy. Here is a great example about how they did it at the University of Minnesota. Very high tech, savvy and effective.
There is no way I can change my classroom this way. However, there are some simple things that can be done to the physical environment of the classroom that can produce dividends. One of these changes is to get rid of the student desks and replace them with moveable learning tables. The tables in mind also flip down vertically so that they can be pushed out of the way to open up the room, or they can be used as a vertical presentation space. Ideally, they top would be whiteboard material. Eventually, I would like to have a Chromebook for each student table, for research purposes.
The simple change of having kids 4 to a table in working groups allows them to collaborate at will, discuss and share.
My Indiegogo proposal can be found HERE. It is not perfect, but I think that by adding the tables and chairs, my physical environment can better match the active learning environment.
Thanks for reading and taking a look. If you can help out a little by contributing or sharing the campaign, thank you!