Imagine your ideal learning space — a place that inspires you to focus, to problem solve, to create, to reflect. What would it look like? This question wandered through my mind last week and I started to play with the idea. I imagined a multi-purpose space designed for both solitude and conversation, collection and analysis, technology-rich and technology-free, struggle and relaxation.
This exercise prompted me to reexamine the spaces where I currently create and wonder how form and function impacts daily learning. As an adult, I have a significant amount of control over the organization of my space, but I was oblivious to how I was using the space to promote my own learning.
As a parent and a former teacher, I never asked my children or my former students to do this design exercise and compare this with their current environment. The following suggestions are ways to take this from a nice conversation to a more significant opportunity to connect and transform our spaces.
- Design a piece of furniture that is connected to the needs of a contemporary learner. Student creates a vision of need(s) and virtually or physically creates a model of the furniture (e.g. huge beanbag with a table and speakers)
- Research different schools and work environments to look for physical spaces that capture the imagination and interest for a student. Interview someone from the school or work environment to see what inspired the creation. Have students present a photo montage as well as interview clips as well as concrete adaptations for their own school and personal spaces.
- Design a survey for the learning needs of the student body, collect data, identify trends, and propose ideas to the school administration based on a significant need that is affordable, functional, and attractive.
- Do a “walk about” of the school to observe how the halls, walls, and furniture communicate what the school values. Write a summary report of how it feels to be a learner in this school.
- Create a layout for a contemporary one-room school house. Research how the 19th century school house met the needs of a multi-age classroom. Identify the needs of a contemporary classroom, design and pitch an architectural vision.