Thursday, November 04, 2010

One More Word About Decor/Atmosphere: What Are the Best Conditions for Learning?

In the posts after this one, I will be going on a slightly different path than decor, so I thought I would say a few more things about before I change topic for a while.  I wanted to mention what a few other teachers are doing and how the experimentation with atmosphere is not confined to me in my school district. 

My friend K got really excited by the whole idea.  She ran out and bought The Third Teacher and really took the ideas to heart.  K has always been about choices and empowering students, so creating an atmosphere that reflects these tenets is an extension of her philosophy, as opposed to being an add-on or a stretch or disconnect.  K worked hard to bring in a variety of seating choices for her students.  She has easels so kids can stand, portable band risers, exercise balls, a loft, a couch, tables with and without chairs, and a few desks.  She rotates students through different seating places.  The great by-product of this practice is that her students can work with anyone because they have been exposed to all students in the class.  She feels that this flexibility and variety has really brought the group together as a team.  K is a wonderful teacher and the students really love her class.  Below are a few snaps from her class.  It's a really fun and inviting place.

loft and computer desk
easels and collapsible risers
comfy couch and inviting stuff in baskets

Another teacher who is passionate about bringing the world to her students (and vice versa) is Tamara.  [Her exquisite blog can be found at ].  Tamara believes in project based learning and real life experiences.  In her kindergarten classroom, she sets up these themed trays where students get to develop their fine motor control by experiencing beautiful real life objects.  Last year, she even took a radical step in real world learning: for an entire month, she took her class outside every day, all day.  The students spent their days with true hands-on learning in the sand, dirt, grass and forest.

Same Idea, Different Approaches
I find it interesting how the three of us have taken a different approach to a similar theme.  I like how we differ because it shows the personal nature of our spontaneous inquiry (as far as I know none of the three of us are doing this because it is attached to any organized research or group).  The question is probably, "What are the best conditions for learning?"  I'm sure the three of us would agree that it is not your traditional classroom. 

What do yo think?

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