School Innovation Spotlight

WHAT IF YOU COULD DESIGN YOUR OWN CLASSROOM? DREAM BIG!

By Jay Cunningham, Science Teacher Visitacion Valley MS

August 18th, 2017

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I joined the Innovation Awards, after taking a look at a classroom at my school that had been funded prior year. I couldn’t believe the impact that the classroom redesign had on student engagement.

I have been teaching Science in the District since early 1990, so much has changed- decreases in direct instruction(teacher talk), increasing group work , student voices and technology increasing in the classroom. But the furniture is the same!

The Innovation Awards message- WHAT IF YOU COULD DESIGN YOUR OWN CLASSROOM? DREAM BIG!

There were a series of structured activities-

  1. visit innovative classrooms- I visited 3 schools and spent time in re-designed classes. The teachers gave me very useful information about the pros and cons of design- avoid desk/tables on rollers and develop a plan for personal items in the room.
  2. ask your students- I had the opportunity to hold my classes in the redesigned classroom. I watched my students interact with the ‘new furniture’ – there were a few surprises. Students like standing up at table and they preferred to have soft seating cubes, away from tables.
  3. ask you parents- my parent meeting was held in the design room, their comments were very helpful about the specific types of furniture they wanted for my room.
  4. engage your peers(other teachers) in discussions about classroom design – the other teachers were very supportive about the design and usefulness of various desk types to support the groupwork.
  5. create some sample designs and solicit feedback
  6. use the feedback to alter and manipulate your design

Take all of the input and create your storyboard.

I had the good fortune of working with a colleague, Principal and another staff member- they served as sounding boards for the information and ideas. The Principal and staff member were responsible for the collection of the student , parent and peer feedback. This was a critical component for my work, as the stakeholders can be very shy with critical feedback, when you are working directly with them. I believe the feedback had much greater value, because they did not give it directly to me. It was also very useful to make sure that the presentations were clear and concise and reviewed by another project member.

When all of the feedback was reviewed and weighed, I developed a model and projected costs. I got a little obsessive with the model, but it became a creative challenge for me.

We developed a cohesive presentation showcasing our work, the two classrooms and described our development process. We made formal presentation ‘pitches’ to some of the Board members, highest levels of district Administrators , representatives from the business community and elected officials.

The furniture was delivered in June, classes begin on Monday!

SPECTACULAR!

Mission Accomplished!