Currently, I live the life of the teaching vagabond. I have many classrooms and no classroom all at the same time. I am thrust into many different teaching environments and have to adapt and make the best to create my own classroom culture within a classroom culture via my teaching style. Although the forced adaptability has given me much confidence in my teaching ability, there are always relatively permanent roadblocks encountered that could be prevented through being able to create my own classroom culture supported by “the third teacher”.
Since I have no one space to re-imagine, I have chosen, like a kid in a candy store, to use the rather blank canvas classroom image from our original assignment. This space leaves much to be desired. Rows don’t facilitate collaboration very easily and the way the classroom is arranged barely leaves room for anyone to get from place to place. It almost becomes a production in this type of classroom set-up for a student just to get up and go to the front of the room or sharpen a pencil. Traditionally, there is a big teacher desk at the front in the room as well.
Taking a deeper look at experience design and noting things that I thought were great ideas, I began to reflect on my experience working as a teacher assistant at a Reggio Emilia based childcare center (Aquinas College Child Development Center & Child Discovery Center) as an undergraduate student. I feel like through that experience I internalized, perhaps without truly understanding the value of, the theory of the environment as the third teacher. “A Reggio Emilia approach advocates that teachers pay close attention to the myriad of ways that space can be made to “speak” and invite interaction…” when so often we pay little attention to the environment we are creating or choose to over stimulate with bulletin boards galore (Strong-Willson & Ellis, 2007, p. 41).
Before I dive into my re-design, I want to preface by saying that not every aspect that I discuss in my re-design is visible in my Google SketchUp design. This being the first time I have ever used SketchUp and given my absolutely horrible spatial reasoning, this picture is the result of some frustration and very hard work but alas needs tweaking to accurately reflect the following description.
I love that Reggio Emilia combines the learning theories of constructivism of Dewey, discovery learning of Piaget & Bruner and the scaffolding and zone of proximal development of Vygotsky. In my classroom environment re-design, I would put some of these principles to work. I would work on bringing the outside in by having lots of natural light, nature and plant life throughout the classroom. I would group students in tables so they can easily work collaboratively. I would make sure the tables have plenty of space between and allow for movement all around the room as students actively construct their knowledge and for myself to be active facilitator. I also like that with just materials placed on the tables, they can be transformed into inquiry spaces. There would be a tablet or laptop cart and art supply cart on wheels so they are easy accessible. There are whiteboards on most walls with the purpose of allowing to place ideas visually on the board for all to see. I would include a spot to document my students learning and process of inquiry with a dedicated area on one of the walls and extend out into the hallway if possible. I have included a comfortable reading nook with multiple flexible seating options and multiple flexible storage options. I would make my classroom as sustainable as possible with students taking active roles in recycling and repurposing.
For me to be able to achieve this dream classroom, it would be a far-reaching goal since I would settle for a classroom period. To implement my goal, which believe me I have tried, I would have to find a suitable space where we could add on to our building. Due to the many restrictions, I would probably need all stakeholders on board: administration, parish staff, school board, teachers. I think the cost and logistical problems (where can we actually add on?) have deterred the idea so far.
O’Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi and Peterson, Architects Inc., B. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.
Strong-Wilson, T., & Ellis, J. (2007). Children and Place: Reggio Emilia’s Environment As Third Teacher. Theory Into Practice, 46(1), 40-47. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4601_6