Saturday, October 23, 2010

Everywhere I Look: Tiers

Get the Picture?
I was looking at my blog and I realized that it looked a bit dull.  Even when I go to read it in the future, I will like to see more pictures to remind myself of what the heck I was talking about.  It's funny; I describe what I am doing or trying to do to people, and I refer people to this blog, but no one really gets it until they step foot in my classroom.  Sometimes, not even then.

If you've read the first few blog posts, you'll remember that I took the design idea of the risers from a trip to the Museum of Anthropology.
video viewing area at MOA

risers in my classroom last year

I liked how the bench idea enclosed the space so that it provided a good arena for discussion.  I liked the multi-tiered idea because we don't think of work space in classrooms as dimensional, but planar.

But now, as I tend to walk around, I'm aware that my multi-tiered idea is not so unique.  I remember that universities have multi-tiered auditoriums.  And the Roman Senate and Colosseum had a multi-tiered arrangements.

In fact, I was walking around the library in my community and there is a new courtyard there.  There's a small grass field, some sculpture that ties it into the surroundings and a stage/concourse area that they use for performances and exhibitions.  What I really noticed, though, was the seating arrangements they had on the perimeter of the field.  Check it out:

These benches I realized are like mine, and people were using them like mine.  Some were facing forward and using them like table tops. During performances (in the wooden stage area in the background in the left picture), people would sit on the table tops to get a better view with people sitting below.  My dreams of a patent and great fortune --- dashed again.

During the summer, I saw another interesting application of benches in an educational setting.  I was in Powell River and there was this great store for kids that did art workshops.  The shop is called Skylight Art.  In the back they have this booth where kids can splatter art all over their papers or canvasses without having to worry about the floor or the walls (yeah, that space looks like Jackson Pollock exploded).  There is another area where laptops are set up, so kids can explore movie making and digital media.  The walls are adorned with large digital prints of kids holding their artwork, and shelves and shelves of their creations.  I really love what they are doing: making kids the centre of artistic experiences. 

The rest of the shop is set up with, you guessed it, large benches.  The tables provide big open spaces for working with glorious mess materials, and the benches give young artists the opportunity to work along side other artists (or not).  Even aesthetically, I loved the long, clean lines the continuous benches and tables provided.  Another interesting point is that almost everything is white: the floor, the ceiling, the tables, the walls, etc.  At first, it didn't make sense to me because it would be such a pain to keep clean, but the message became clear: the space pops into life with the colour that comes from the art and the artists. 

Here are some pictures I took through their windows.
They have better pictures at

Tiers Are Not Enough
So the bench design is nothing new.  But the application of them in a primary classroom might be unique (even if that uniqueness only extends to my experience.  Let me dream, will you?).  I love the communal and open, flexible arrangement that my risers provide, but I guess my main goal in using the risers is to break the factory style of the traditional model of the classroom.  The message of the traditional classroom is: everyone face the teacher at all times because all of your learning is going to come filtered through that teacher (not from other students, not even from your own experience).  And yes, while at times I do stand up in front of my students and tell them what to do, I am trying to build in more authentic experiences and more interaction with other students.   

No comments:

Post a Comment