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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Most educators have little choice about the (usually) over-crowded, (often) unappealing rooms they teach in -- but they intuitively know that the spaces children spend their time in can have an effect on how they learn. I've gathered a collection of videos to explore the questions: How important is environment to learning? And what small changes can you make in seating, organization, lighting, and decor to build your own space into a better place to teach and learn?

Video Playlist: Innovative Learning Spaces

Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. Flexible Learning Environments (04:02)

    Students and teachers at Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas, talk about the district's experiment with creating classrooms of the future to foster 21st-century skills at all grade levels.

  2. Building a Positive School Climate (02:28)

    This excellent video infographic from EdWeek describes a variety of ways that the physical school environment can affect the school climate, and visits a number of innovative learning spaces along the way.

  3. How to Organize Your Classroom, from Instructor Magazine (03:29)

    Scholastic offers several videos on elementary classroom layouts. This one shows how highly organized first grade teacher Lindsay Brooks sets her class up. See a video about traffic flow in another classroom here.

  4. Wooranna Park -- The Third Teacher (06:13)

    I've heard wonderful things about the integrated experiential learning at Wooranna Park Primary School in Victoria, Australia, and this video about the thinking behind their beautiful learning facility does not disappoint.

  5. Classroom Seating Arrangements (02:39)

    Seating plans are one way of quickly transforming your space. Check out these tips on the pros and cons of three ways to arrange student desks. You can find a post from producer Tesol Class with more info here.

  6. Project-Based Learning at High Tech High (02:25)

    In this excerpt from a short documentary about San Diego's High Tech High, founder Larry Rosenstock takes us inside the school building, where walls are glass and halls are designed to exhibit student work.

  7. Classroom Cribs: Sprinkle Teaching Magic Classroom Tour (14:50)

    Search "classroom tour" to find any number of teacher-made videos on YouTube to steal new ideas from. Though it's 15 minutes long (!), I like this one in particular for teacher Sheila Chako's infectious enthusiasm. She wrote a blog about her classroom environment here.

  8. How to Make an Ugly Classroom Beautiful (06:54)

    This adorable time-lapse video shows an English teacher in Korea getting very crafty with a whole lot of construction paper, while making a drab beige room into a colorful movie-themed learning space.

  9. Space to Learn by Bobbi Macdonald (05:42)

    Although a bit hurried, as Ignite talks can be, it's inspirational to hear this educator describe how when her team founded Baltimore's first public charter school, they re-imagined what the physical space could be.

More Resources on Learning Spaces

Ready to roll up your sleeves and re-think your classroom space before the school year starts? Here are a few organizations and resources to help you as you imagine what your ideal learning space would be. And be sure to check out the Remake Your Class video and tips series that we published last summer for more inspiration. I hope that no matter whether you're in an award-winning eco-friendly school building or a boxy portable, you can find some inspiration about how to customize your space!

Comments (9)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

MPena's picture

This is great!!! I really want to revamp my classroom and give it a completely different look this coming year. I am a bit of a control freak and like to have my classroom EXACTLY the way I envision it. BUT I totally LOVE the idea of a more student-centered environment and allowing my students to take charge in my classroom by letting them create it!

THANKS for sharing!

(1)
Heather's picture

Sadly, this does not address those of us in trailers. Learning cottages, mobile learning, etc. Whatever you want to call them. This is a harsh reality for many of us. I teach in the largest school system in the south. I'll have 30+ students, 6 classes a day, in the smallest area possible. What do you do with a space like that. We are shoulder-to-shoulder in an urban school. We cannot walk in my "classroom." There is no space.

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture
Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)
Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia
Staff

Thanks for your comment, Heather! You're absolutely right. In my hunt for videos on the topic, I wanted to find some that applied for folks in portables -- I know there are so many in use. I wasn't able to surface any in my initial search, but I'm always looking for resources, and I'd post them here if I find any.

I did just find a great PBL NewsHour report on a school district that is trying to re-imagine their portables here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7umFveCDFA. It doesn't offer much as far as tips for the individual teacher, but is intriguing nonetheless.

Best of luck finding ways to refresh your tight space!

Stacey Shoecraft's picture

I love these ideas and appreciate you sharing! I do agree with Heather that being in a portable has its limitations. However, you can incorporate active based learning with brain breaks, we call them Brain Blasts, that you can do anywhere.

I wish my classroom could have been on this list because it is my hope for the future of education that we change our current classrooms. Movement is critical and in some cases, an untapped resource...especially for behavior management, ADD/ADHD, and any other child that is a normal kid. My students created a video to show our classroom. Our original goal was to have this classroom, now it has expanded to the rest of the school, the district, and ultimately the nation. Please help me spread the word that we can "Move Minds Through Movement"!
http://bit.ly/LrqDLz

Stephen McNally's picture
Stephen McNally
11th Grade ELA Teacher in New York City

Is there any information on where the products in this video can be purchased?

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture
Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)
Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia
Staff

Stephen -- unfortunately I don't have any info on where products in the videos might be purchased, all the videos are from different YouTube sources, so I guess you'd have to track down contact info for the schools seen in the videos, which would be tough. Is there something specific you saw that intrigued you?

Gwen -- awesome collaborative resource, thanks so much for sharing! ;-)

We've just posted a few more blogs this week about physical learning spaces, check them out here:

"Tips for Creating Wow-Worthy Learning Spaces," by Todd Finley:
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/creating-wow-worthy-learning-spaces-todd-f...

"7 Learning Zones Every Classroom Must Have," by Veronica Lopez:
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/7-learning-zones-classroom-veronica-lopez

"A Place for Learning: The Physical Environment of Classrooms," by Mark Phillips:
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-physical-environment-of-classrooms-mar...

And this classic with some great Edutopia videos in it, "8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom," by David Bill:
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-tips-and-tricks-redesign-your-classroom

Good luck everyone, and happy reimagining (no matter what resources you have)!

Neil Snyder's picture
Neil Snyder
Director of Federal Advocacy for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assoc

Amy, please keep an eye out for videos on noise and acoustics in classrooms. Noise is an unseen barrier to learning that rarely gets attention. https://www.facebook.com/home.php

Thanks.

Neil

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

We recently posted this film fest on Facebook and many had questions about where to get those rolling desks featured in some of the videos. I reached out to some experts at ThirdTeacher+: http://thethirdteacherplus.com (who we worked with for our Remake Your Class series: https://www.edutopia.org/remake-your-class-collaborative-learning-video) and this is a very lengthy answer they sent me via email. Hope it's helpful to many of you considering remaking your space:

*****************
We asked some experts and here's a very lengthy answer: "The best in class options from a commercial product standpoint are probably the Steelcase Node desks (http://www.steelcase.com/.../seating/node/pages/node.aspx) and Verb tables (http://www.steelcase.com/.../tables/overview/pages/verb.aspx)(lots of add ons). However, many of the major furniture players have similar products: izzy+ has nice mobile table/chairs (http://izzyplus.com/.../890440/learning_brochure_060314.pdf); VS (https://shop.vs-furniture.com/.../.do;jsessionid=(DBSAP12...); KI tables (http://www.ki.com/markets/educational-furniture/images/...) and desks (http://www.ki.com/markets/educational-furniture/images/...), etc.

If none of these options work, you can just put heavy-duty locking casters on lab tables. Note: locking is important; you'll have to see what size fits best on your existing table; they raise the height of the table (concern for smaller students).

For past work with Lovett (in Atlanta), we prototyped with cheaper IKEA tables with casters and did whiteboard paint on the surface. An architect wouldn't spec these as they aren't commercial grade, but they are fine for prototyping! And a cheaper (successful!) prototype is one way to make the case to your district. I know when they redid the classrooms at Roosevelt after our hack, they informed a lot of the decisions based on what they liked in the rooms (color, mobility, etc).

MPena's picture

This is great!!! I really want to revamp my classroom and give it a completely different look this coming year. I am a bit of a control freak and like to have my classroom EXACTLY the way I envision it. BUT I totally LOVE the idea of a more student-centered environment and allowing my students to take charge in my classroom by letting them create it!

THANKS for sharing!

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