Friday, February 15, 2013

Reimagining "School" for all learners

I'm reading about a new way to think about "school", here are some of my takeaways: 

Key question:
If we don't "Teach" it to the students how will they know they learned it?  And how will we know?

  • Any change, such as this brings "excitement and momentum, mixed with discomfort and disequilibrium."
  • Moving away from classrooms that function in isolation, and toward collective intentionality and a team committed to thinking and learning collaboratively within a shared framework.
What does it mean to developing intentionality:
  • Type, condition and placement of furniture
  • Values, roles, organization of materials
  • Use of wall space
  • Way aesthetics invite learning
  • Ways we can share ownership
All furniture is evaluated based on condition, purpose and placement

Materials were questioned as to age and condition.  Looked at for potential for formal instruction and open-ended learning.

Careful selection of materials and placement of furniture supported creation of spaces within the classroom for:
  • Publishing areas with writing utensils, book making supplies
  • construction areas with block, moldings, ramps, pulleys, etc
  • mini-ateliers with wire, clay, paint, sewing
  • dramatic play areas full of costumes

Teachers and students work together to develop environments responding to interests, desires, expectations and possibilities.

Entryways to spaces are purposeful and reflect the students and teachers in the room.

Replacing of pre-made items with student generated materials.

Physical shifts are easy, conversations must be had to transition spaces from teacher-centered to child-centered, teaching to learning, every choice reflecting our values and our identity.

Shifts in time must also reflect these values:
  • Minimize large group lessons and replace them with small group, collaborative and individual work.
  • Differentiate for children
  • Create time and space to analyze the BIG questions
  • Balance formal instruction with inquiry
  • Reinforce collaboration
  • Develop strategies to encourage on-going projects
  • Analyze standards in borader more informed ways
  • Nurture interests and intrinsic motivation toward relevant meaningful work
Professional development must reflect these values.

Change is not always pervasive or linear.  Each teacher has the right to have space and encouragement to construct their own shift.

HOW we learn far outweighs WHAT we learn.

What we learn has to stretch far beyond memorization and google-able results.

A space where our learning Includes:
  • Critical thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Research
  • Innovation

As children seek to answer their questions their autonomy, ownership, collaboration, and engagement increases.  Excitement momentum and accomplishment also grows.

Inquiry and projects are not separate from rigor or releveance but interwoven.

Challenge:  making this learning visible and making the process transparent

Does this sound amazing!?  

Exactly where I would want to work and what I want for every one of my students.  I think I work EXTREMELY HARD to make this space real for my students.  I teach middle school.  Did I mention that all the above descriptors were for a pre-school.  That makes it even more amazing.

Our school is investigating what is called the Reggio Emilia model for primary school students.  With all the latests and greatest research surrounding our earliest learners we are investigating what works best. (more research here:

This investigation got me to thinking about the personalization we give every student in their learning.  Why can this model not only make for a great preschool, but for a great ANY school.

Here's an interview from a school right here in St. Louis: Maplewood

Background info:

Here's what we're reading: Article

Here's where we are going to visit:

What if a High School modeled itself after this model?  What about a corporation?

Modern companies are working hard to make DESIGN be an essential part of the learning and collaboration of 21st century workplace.

Design with Intent:

Influence behavior through design:

Office Designs:

Collaborative Work spaces:

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