Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Any reinforcement?

Before I settled on the riser idea (from the visit to the Museum of Anthropology), I went searching for design ideas on the Internet.  I was really surprised how few websites are devoted to classroom design or even variations in educational furniture.

There was one site that was interesting, but it is based on school design, not classroom design.  http://www.imagineschooldesign.org/
This site is good if I had a big pile of money and wanted to overhaul an entire building, (but I thought I'd start small first), and some of them look like Schools by Ikea.  However, there are a couple of interesting ideas that are school-based.

I guess I still like my design concept because it does not require huge piles of money or a bulldozer, but I was kind of hoping for some confirmation from other websites about my design.  The closest things I have seen so far are some Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia ideas because they are so exploratory and organically-based.

A Montessori-based classroom from http://www.begamontessori.com/

A Waldorf classroom from http://www.mulberryschool.net/about.htm  

A Reggio Emilia-based classroom

But as interesting as these classroom ideas were to me, I still found that they did not fit my requirements.  My biggest priorities for my classroom design were:

  • The design should not reinforce the "industrialization" approach of a classroom.

  • It should reflect an exploratory, hands-on approach.

  • It should provide flexibility and allow for choice for my students. 

  • It should be comfortable, innovative, and stylish, with a bit of whimsy.

  • The design should cost as little money as possible.  (Did I mention that I am footing the bill for all of this?)
My staff went out to visit an alternate school in the city (I'm in the suburbs).  I was really hoping to see something really different in terms of classroom design.  I was impressed with some aspect of their school design (geothermal heating, rain barrels, break out walls), and their programs (no letter grades, multi-age groupings, collaborative teaching), but I was a little disappointed in terms of their classroom design.  It just looked like another new school.

There is this great mentor teacher, Penny, who comes to visit our school.  I asked her if she knew of any classrooms with interesting designs, and described what I was looking for.  She told me of a few options, but she said something interesting: "I know we always want to go and see a model of what we are doing.. but what if there wasn't one out there.. what if you were going to be the model.. would that change things for you?" 


I like to think of myself as an innovator (though it really turns out that I just can't follow directions), so, with no reinforcement and no models to follow, my teaching partner and I forged ahead.  In some ways, it was very liberating because we could make things up as we went along and could allow for flexibility. 


  1. Anonymous2:20 PM


    This is amazing! I have to get over and see it! Is there any way to be a blog follower? I know that on most blogs you can. That way you get an e-mail each time the blog is updated and don't miss out on anything new and exciting!


  2. Kyme-baby,

    If I did this right, you should now receive an email when I update. Now I should think of something witty to write.


  3. Greg, I also would like to follow this blog, love education and I am a Montessori teacher.

    Thannks and abraços!


  4. Hi Greg,

    I loved the look & feel of your classroom when I was there this past Friday. It is as you said a very "zen" place - a soothing place for the mind to be explore new possibilities.

    It was open, not closed; free, not restrained; playful, not prescriptive. It's what all places of learning should be.

    Your students are fortunate that you are not "good" at following the rules :)


  5. Thanks Ben. It is interesting to hear an outside perspective. I like the themes of open, free, and playful and I will strive for those words to describe my classroom (and myself).