Tag Archives: creativity

Classroom Design: A Different Theory and Approach

Learning Space

Learning Space

Again, during another session of browsing, I came across something interesting and intriguing. Throughout our course, we have been exposed to particular theories of classroom design and what works. I’m sure that everyone doing our course would agree totally (or mostly) that what we have seen and read is very practical and logical and would be something that we would love to have in our own classrooms given the budget to redesign. This article, however, takes us through the classroom of a teacher who has been inspired by the Reggio Emilia theories of classroom design which, while not being radically different from our own learning, opens up some questions for classroom designs of the future.

Reggio Emilia discourages bright colours and replaces them with more neutral, natural tones. Are these colour palettes more, or less inspiring to the minds of children? The design also removes as much plastic as possible from the learning environment, replacing it with natural products wherever this can be done. The above picture is typical of a Reggio Emilia learning space. Many of the features we would identify with being a good learning space are visible. I would love to see more curves in their designs myself, as I believe that more curves would better compliment the organic feel of the learning spaces.

On a personal level, I love the effort to reduce the usage of plastics in the learning environment, as I believe that we can all do with more natural substances around us. However, to my way of thinking, the colour scheme is just too bland to be inspiring. Is this because I have a preconceived notion of what a classroom should be like, or am I just trying to cater to my own personal needs through a subconscious application of the 8 Ways of Learning?

I think that as teachers we must avail ourselves to all relevant theories of learning spaces and pick and choose the elements that work best for our students. I believe it’s not so much about the theories and the names behind them, but rather the students who will develop and be inspired within these spaces now and into the future.

I have to admit that some elements of the classroom design are impressive and a lot of time and effort has gone into their construction and organisation. I like the inclusion of the children’s work in the spaces as well. The usage of natural lighting and refractive crystals is also a nice touch, something that I always like to have in my own classroom.

This is a space for 2 and 3 year olds, not primary age students, so it is intended to be a busy space for children with shorter (and developing) attention spans. The staff have taken an educational design theory and used it to suit the needs of their students, which is what we, as students )and as teachers) have been encouraged (required) to do as well. I’m a bit intrigued by the Fairy Dust Teaching. Do I have an inner Tinkerbell waiting to be released?

The inner Tinkerbell

The inner Tinkerbell

 

I would love to know your thoughts on the Reggio Emilia learning space design. Please leave a comment.

 

References:

http://8ways.wikispaces.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach

http://fairydustteaching.com/

http://imgarcade.com/1/original-tinkerbell-flying/ (image)

http://teaching2and3yearolds.com/preschool-classroom-design-ideas/

http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/05/beautiful-learning-spaces-in-reggio.html (image)

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Filed under Arts and crafts, Course Work, EDFD459, Maths, Phonics, Reading, Technology, Young Learners

100 Years of Public Education – Bonshaw Public School

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Bonshaw Public School, taken 1972.

Over this past weekend I attended my old Primary school’s centenary celebrations. I’ve been lucky, in a way, in that I have managed to maintain some contact with my old school through ongoing relationships due to having family in the village. Once the last of our family left the area though, this changed and I lost contact.
I attended the school from 1972 to 1978 as a student, and then returned as a teacher in 1989. Honestly, within that time frame there had been little change to the school physically, or even culturally. The school was still a multi-cultural school with students from a variety of backgrounds in attendance, just as it had been when I first enrolled. The only difference was that the school had shrunk from a two teacher to a one-teacher school, due to changes in farming and the loss of the lucrative tobacco market.
This, of course, was the Centenary of Public Education at Bonshaw School. Prior to 1914, since 1882 at least, school in one form or another had been available to the local residents. One of those original schools is now the front building, where my father went to school. The second building was added in 1962. It was extended with an extra classroom for classes in 1972.

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Bonshaw Public School taken 2014

On Saturday, I was amazed when I entered the classroom. I had first been to the library, where physically, little had changed. It was rearranged slightly, but no real difference was evident. Entering the classroom was different. When I had started school in 1972, we sat in rows by our grade and no one was allowed to sit elsewhere. There was a chalkboard at the front of the room for the teacher, and small chalkboards at the rear for students, as well as a small wet area for cleaning up after painting. The floor was wooden. An old box type radio hung on the wall and we used it for our weekly session of “Let’s Join In” singing. We had a sand tray table, and the room was marginally decorated with displays, mostly of the teacher’s own work, designed to stimulate. I always loved the painted windows.
Now, there is a huge change. The primary classroom is now a kind of AV room, with an interactive whiteboard, photocopier, sound system and other such items. There is also a range of other equipment, readily on hand for lessons.
The main classroom blew me away. Here was an actual classroom, putting into place almost everything we had been learning about in our classwork for EDLA459. It was as if the teacher had been a student of this course in the past.
Apart from displays in circular patterns, everything was laid out almost straight from the “textbook”!
I was astonishing to see that so much attention to detail had been applied by one person in pursuit of the best possible learning space within a given physical area.
Group learning spaces have been catered to, as have comfort areas for various individual learning styles and activities. There is a bank of computers along one wall as well as there being an Interactive White Board at the front of the room (it was the rear when I was there) with a large conventional white board and a wall mounted tv.
Wall spaces were well organised with lots of informative posters and select pieces of children’s work, but there was no evidence of the children having created any of the displays.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the classroom from when I was a student or teacher there, but I do have an external picture illustrating some change.

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Free Reading

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How many times have I seen parents forcing their children away from reading picture books and intellectually stimulating texts with amazing pictures in favour of reading “the classics”. In one particular Asian country there seems to be a hide-bound tradition of reading old English texts because they are ‘real’ English. Parents there frequently asked me to direct their child away from ‘useless’ picture books in favour of something more worthwhile. From an early age creativity is stifled and the general attitude seems to be that the “square pegs WILL fit the round holes”, an attitude encouraged by an education system that discourages play.
Perhaps if the residents there realised how strange they sound in their usage of quaint and archaic terms in their everyday speech, maybe they would allow or even encourage their children to read more recent texts. There are few 5-9 years old children who would prefer to read Dickens or Bronte over a beautiful picture book.

Children need to be able to choose their own texts, to read at their leisure, that’s where the true enjoyment is.

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Enabling Creativity

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Remember as children how we would make toys and imitation devices out of whatever we had to hand? A great classroom always has a supply of clean items ready for children to use, As a child I remember making teleport control belt boxes in imitation of the characters on a favourite tv show. Allow your children to exercise their creativity.

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