Monday, May 15, 2017

Couches, Bouncing Balls, and Standing Desks? This Classroom Doesn't Look Like My Old Classroom!

Many of the Beach Middle School Blog have probably seen some of our tweets and Instagram pictures of some very unique classrooms. Check out some examples below:

So, this begs the question: why are classrooms changing the way they look? The answer is both complicated and simple. We'll start with the simple answer.

Most people would agree that they work better when they feel happy, comfortable, and relaxed. Why would we not want our students to feel this way in the classroom? Many teachers are helping students feel relaxed and comfortable by offering different styles of seating. Some students even prefer to stand and work! Not only does it make students happier, it also mitigates a lot of classroom behavior issues. For example, a student that is active and has hard time sitting still may enjoy sitting on an exercise ball in order to stay active, but engage in the lesson. That same student may prefer to stand while they work in order to burn that energy.

Of course there are traditional seats available, because we've learned that students have varied preferences, and some have no preference at all, but the availability and choice of seating gives students more ownership, however small, over their education. This is a crucial theme within 21st century learning.

Now for the more complicated answer. Teachers at Beach are looking at their spaces and asking, "does my classroom set-up make sense for what we know about learning today, or just from what we knew about learning in the past?" By asking this question, teachers are taking student input, academic research, and good ol' fashioned trial-and-error to find the best configuration for what students in Chelsea need. Helen Hirsh Spence, Educational Consultant, says, "Most of today's classrooms are designed with the teacher at the center. But if the classroom is focused on the learner instead, then learning becomes paramount."

Unfortunately, many people confuse "flashy and new" with "educationally sound". Our focus at Beach was been to put the pedagogical ideals (21st century learning, student choice/agency, flexibility) before the glitz and glamour of brand new furniture. Beach teachers, in particular, want to see the evidence and rationale behind these changes before they enact them; this is what also makes Beach teachers such exceptional educators. For now, baby steps are required as we navigate through new waters and try new things.

Keep your eyes open for more changes coming to Beach that will support 21st century learning, and feel free to reach out to your team of teachers if you have furniture that you may want to donate!

Go Bulldogs!