Where we study is important. When we deeply understand the reality of emergency distance learning, this truth explodes.
As a profession, we are honorably committed to meeting the needs of students, but all of us have experienced the weakness of our strategy. We have seen that students lack opportunities to use technology and Wi-Fi. We have been watching students with other challenges, including those with physical or learning disabilities, gradually disappearing from technology-rich learning, and we even see our most driven students in daily video conferences and online completion of work. Exhausted.
All these make us eager to return to the same physical space as the students as soon as possible. Nothing can replace a sense of closeness when it comes to building relationships and establishing trustworthy connections with students.
The reality of COVID-19 spreading in the community without a vaccine or cattle immunization means that it will take a few months to return to regular school without restrictions. We are likely to see students returning to campus and turning to classrooms specifically designed to protect students and teachers. The cafeteria, gymnasium and library may not be open. The practices that our former manager took for granted, such as community supply stores, group learning and soft sitting, may be temporarily shelved. All of this will expand our ability to redesign the space so that students can explore, discover and connect in meaningful ways.
As the number of uncontrollable things grows (table spacing, movement between classes and between classes, schedules), we can still control many space design considerations, which can keep our students from where they are A place that really benefits from learning. When we need to balance the health and humanity of the space, please consider the following five ways to create a classroom at your unique moment.
It will be a stressful event to return to the school building for the first time since we were all abandoned by emergency learning. Since March, many teachers and students have not gathered together, so returning to school this time will cause all kinds of emotions in everyone. In order to meet the emotional needs of students, it is very important to set the correct tone of voice using signs that fill our space.
From the front door of the school to the corridors to the classrooms, do we have a sign that cares for everyone or causes fear? Are we asking people to be part of a responsible community, or are we filling them with negative information that lacks empathy for the emotional stress of moving to school? It is absolutely necessary for everyone to understand the community health rules of the space, such as frequent hand washing and wearing a mask, but this need not be our main message. Let all spaces recognize reality, but emphasize the sense of belonging, community and the joy of being together again.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department of Health can control how we design the floor plan of the classroom (ie, six feet of space between tables, directional walking, coordinated movement between spaces), educators can control our design The periphery of the classroom.
Fill in the walls only with items needed for learning. In urgent distance learning, we realized that students can study without anchoring pictures and inspiring posters on the wall. We should not design a sterile space, but should design fresh eyes and ask these questions. Will placing this object on the wall increase visual clutter or support daily learning? Can I move more learning resources away from the front end of the learning space to calm students and focus on presentations and content? In what ways can I consider the colors of the palette when designing to keep the space coherent? Answering these questions and focusing on the space you can control will make the classroom a normal place when the rest of the school feels different.
This is always a good idea, but due to mandatory space constraints, we need to double the items that have no practical use and can fill up the space. First look at the space in the room that is only available to teachers. If you don’t know what space is available only to teachers, ask students to stand in a space that they think is hidden and inaccessible. This will let you know which spaces have been removed from student use. If we are constrained by the rule that only 10-15 people can fit in a space, then every square foot is important. Consider how to add 20-30 square feet of space for students. This subtraction and addition will provide students with some breathing space.
The intentional space design is based on maximizing body movement and providing students with a choice of learning locations. This has led to flexible, agile, and active classroom efforts, which had incredible momentum before COVID-19 lost all directions in learning.
The science of learning continues to show us that exercise and choice are the keys to optimal learning. However, in this life, these best design elements must be shelved to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Even so, we cannot completely eliminate these elements. Let the students stand behind the desk for 3-5 minutes to listen to the teacher's lecture, which can oxygenate the brain and prepare for learning. Allowing students to stand on the side or back of the room, and even the opportunity to sit on top of their desks, can facilitate choice and provide change for the furnished and disinfected room. In some places, you can choose to move the study to an outdoor space, and when there is a space, you can provide the required exercise to enhance the participation and fun of the study.
Space and time are interrelated. When we talk about the spatial aspects that we can control in these difficult times, we should also talk about deliberately designing time with students. Face-to-face time shouldn't be sudden with the teacher's voice, because most of the time can happen in virtual learning. Instead, use this time to connect and listen. Use time in class to promote dialogue and community. Use it to calm and reduce stress. In the next few months, our time with students may not remain stable every day. Therefore, it is vital to design time in our physical space to support the entire child. This is also the time to anchor learning in a relevant and meaningful environment. Synchronize time design and space design to support the academic and emotional needs of all students.
This will be a very non-linear return to our teaching building. In some places, students will come to school on a new schedule. Due to infectious diseases or public health issues, their face-to-face learning may be suspended and then return to the physical space again. In the upcoming school year, this cycle may happen many times. For other students and families, due to their unique needs or their success in the virtual learning environment, they will stay in the virtual space.
All these variables will require flexible design by educators to allow students to move smoothly between physical and virtual learning spaces. Consider this reality when designing. Ensure that our digital learning space has easy access to resources and learning tasks. Minimize the digital confusion in these spaces. Simulate the power of learning under natural light, and introduce fresh air into the mix as much as possible so that students can bring it into their home study space.
Where we study is important, and when considering the start of the new school year, it takes time to listen to students, pay attention to their needs, and incorporate uncontrollable content into design elements that we can control. Through these efforts, we can heal, stay healthy, and continue to bring a deep humanistic awareness to our work to guide our students to learn, they are eager to reconnect with the learning community.
Robert Dillon (
) In the past 20 years, he has served as the education director of many public schools in the St. Louis area, and has served as a teacher, principal and innovation director. He is the author of several classroom design books, including "
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