Remake Your Class: Building a Collaborative Learning Environment (Video Playlist)

Watch a determined middle school teacher transform his crowded classroom space to enable deeper learning and effective teamwork -- with help from his students, community volunteers, and a few experts.

Watch a determined middle school teacher transform his crowded classroom space to enable deeper learning and effective teamwork -- with help from his students, community volunteers, and a few experts.

Release Date: 8/6/13

More Info

Remake Logo

Remake Your Class

This series of three videos shows how designers and community volunteers helped a teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in San Francisco transform his crowded classroom into a space that fosters collaboration, creativity, and active student learning.

Special Thanks

The Remake Your Class project would not have been possible without the generous support and participation of the following organizations and volunteers. Most importantly, the entire staff and community of Roosevelt Middle School in San Francisco were very supportive of this film. In addition to teacher Steve Mattice and principal Michael Reimer, special thanks to assistant principal Mimi Kasner; custodians Sue Tran and Bob Mullen, P.E. teacher Whitney Marsh, and school secretary Sherri Miller. Finally, big ups to the RMS seventh (now eighth!) graders who pitched in by painting, building, setting up and cleaning up Mr. Mattice's new classroom.

see more see less

Get Video

Embed Video

Cut and paste the text below to embed this video on your website:

<iframe width="480" height="270" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Visit our embeddable player instructions page for more information about embedding Edutopia videos.

Download from iTunes U

This video is available as a free download from iTunes U.

If you do not have iTunes on your computer, download iTunes here.

See all Edutopia videos available on iTunes.

Videos from iTunes U are optimized for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and are most appropriate for personal or small group viewing. If you would like to request a high-quality video file for presentation purposes, please contact


Remake Your Class Part 1: Before (Transcript)

Steve: My name is Steve Mattice, I'm a math and science teacher here at Roosevelt Middle School. I have been teaching for about seven years now.

Narrator: Steve had a problem. His classroom was too small for the 36 students who poured in and out every period. And too cramped to accommodate the student-to-student collaboration he knew encouraged deeper learning.

Steve: They're extending this knowledge when they're working together, they're happier and more positive and more likely to participate. I've got a lot of kids and a lot of desks. Things pile up very quickly, kids can sort of pile up quickly in here. And the maneuverability of this room is not always fantastic.

Narrator: Then he met the folks at the "Third Teacher Plus," whose job it is to help educators re-imagine their learning spaces. See how they all took on the challenge of remaking Steve's classroom to be a home for exploration, creativity and better communication.

Christian: Teachers around the country will totally identify with this classroom, an incredible number of kids and limited space. So one of the things we're going to be looking at is how does Steve move around the classroom.

I'm Christian Long, and I was a high school English teacher for about 15 years. As a member of the "Third Teacher Plus," our job is to create spaces that allow the people to be remarkable students, remarkable educators.

Melanie: When people think design a lot of times, they think veneer, they think decorating. Yeah, we want it to look better, but unless we can change and facilitate a really productive classroom, then we're not really making a difference.

I'm Melanie Kale, and I'm a Design and Learning Strategist at the "Third Teacher Plus." We're going into a classroom identifying things that work, and things that could work better. Taking a thousand dollars, a designer's eye, a lot of community resources. We try to match the physical classroom environment to teaching and learning goals. In one weekend, we hopefully realize them.

Christian: So, Steve, tell us a little about this classroom, how it works, how it's laid out.

Steve: There's very little room to sort of move through the middle, so I kind of stay on the outskirts when I do have to move around. I've got 36 kids, plus backpacks, books, jackets. There's so much stuff just within the aisles. Just trying to get through is almost like trying to get through rush hour.

Melanie: In your world here, what is crucial that you have up here to be successful in class?

Steve: I use the ELMO or the overhead a lot. Just for more direct teaching. The ELMO is a document camera that connects to a projector and projects anything that I'm writing up onto the screen. It's not a big workspace. Like obviously, I've got a stool here to sort of make-do. I do "McGuiver" this stuff.

Christian: What we're hoping to do here with Steven's class is to really support this idea of collaboration. He's got to focus on teams, so you see these groupings of four. But at the same time, there's very little room from grouping to grouping.

Melanie: So the workshop we ran on Monday, the goal is to get a pulse on the students. See how they collaborate with one another, see how they interact with other adults. A lot of times words don't encapsulate what we're thinking. So we created a gallery wall for them to facilitate visual listening. The visual listening wall has hundreds of photos. It can be any size, and we give them dots to vote with. It allows us to quickly take the pulse of what their eye is drawn to, place they want to learn in, a place they want to hang out in, a place that just looks cool.

Let's hear about it.

Student: We'd be like learning from each other, or as like not just learning based on one thing like from a book.

Melanie: And what we noticed with them is they like sitting in their groups of four, but they want to feel like they're a part of a whole. So in this class, we're considering the perimeter, we're considering how we can add more mobility. While we might not have a plan right this moment, we know our priorities. To help make teachers better designers, we ask teachers to invite critical friends into their room. That might mean another teacher in the same department, another teacher in a different department, or their architect friend from down the street. We do this thing called a solution session to create really concrete areas that we can prioritize and make happen. This session is really about putting some specifics on what we think can really make a difference for your everyday life. And on Monday morning, you have to have a classroom to teach in. We set up a big board. It kind of becomes our shared brain. It's a place where we can visualize all the things that we're thinking. We identified a handful of key areas that we were going to focus on: Display; Storage; Furniture; Teaching Zone; Personality. And we picked those spatial areas so that we can create concrete solutions around them. We asked Steven to help us identify things that he thinks are going to make a big impact.

Student: First things that kind of caught my eye were the teacher desk as a DJ Dashboard. The positioning of the desks, I think, could be re-imagined. Pull the doors off the cabinets. Activate the back wall. The things that the designers are going to do in this class have sort of opened my eyes. The insights that they've shared have made me think about things I wouldn't ever have thought about.

Remake Your Class Part 2: Transformation (Transcript)

Melanie: So today was really about doing a wash-down of the room. We got everything out, so now we washed it. We then went back with Steve and had him reevaluate some of the storage. So looks like these are your cabinets and storage unit out on the ground.

Steve: That is, it looks like my classroom threw up.

Melanie: It does look like a little indigestion.

Steve: A little bit.

Melanie: So we're playing a little game I like to call "Toss or Keep." And we'll look at, you know, first use. Have you used it in the last year, and was it useful for you? If you haven't used it in the last year, I'd toss it.

Scott: We've got like the ELMO station right here. My name is Scott Dorley, I'm the Creative Director at the Stanford D School. And I do a lot of different things, but one thing I work on quite a bit is how to create environments that open people up, enhance creative collaboration, and help people share learning experiences so they can teach each other. We're doing a few different things in Steven's classroom to enhance peer-to-peer learning. One is to create these studio situations in the corners, so that students have whiteboard space that they can work on and they can move over to the corner of the classroom and start working as a team. One other thing we're trying to do in the classroom is create a situation where Steve can move throughout the classroom much more easily, so we're trying to create avenues for Steve to navigate the classroom, and inject into student projects and student learning.

Melanie: Carly and I went out on the road and got some paint. We ran into a painter who said, "I love helping schools. I live just down the street." And so we just drove here to get drop cloths, paint rollers, everything. That's perfect!

Melanie: You can do it!

Carly: Yay!

Scott: You got colors.

Melanie: We got colors. First coat of base paint is up. Trim is being painted. And hopefully that will all be dried and set for tomorrow for us to do additional detail work.

Christian: We've come incredible distances. Last night we closed up here really at midnight. We kind of left pretty heavy, and came in this morning, the light was here, everybody started showing up. These bright cans of paint started to open. This room got full of color, got full of life. And we've got kids that have been painting. We've got incredible volunteers been coming up. We've got this unbelievable construction crew that's just taken over and taken all of our early drawings, and they're bringing them to life. Everything's come together. We're incredibly close to done. This is the first time it feels absolutely that it's going to be done. I know when we'll be cleaning. And I know we'll be locking the door. This is for real.

Melanie: It's 11:37, which means we have 23 minutes and the doors will lock. I'm feeling pretty amazed at how much we got accomplished in such a short, short period of time. There are a few projects that will be something that the kids and Mr. Matise will have to do once school gets back.

Remake Your Class Part 3: After (Transcript)

Steve: Guys, you ready?


All right, here we go!

Wow, oh, my goodness, whoa!

Steve: The first thing that hit me when we walked in the room this morning was just how much light, how much space, and how alive the room felt.

What do you think, guys?

Whoo! [clapping and cheering]

Melanie: Very bright!

Michael: I was just going to say, it looks brighter already! I can see the light coming in. Wow! That's fantastic! Looks like you've reset up these tables.

Melanie: Yeah, well, you'll notice that there's a lot more room to walk around. And so one of the reasons we set up the tables this way is just that flow was a big thing missing from the classroom, and it's one of the most important things for collaboration and group work.

Student: I like the way that like everything looks kind of like more organized, and there's a lot more space in the room, so it's easier for us to like walk around the room.

Christian: Are you saying your teacher wasn't as organized before? [laughter]

Student: No, I mean, well, maybe.

Michael: That is a fantastic whiteboard he's got.

Melanie: We noticed that when he went to go set-up his work that he was losing a lot of efficiency, and it was causing some classroom management issues. So by making something that is always ready, he's going to be so much more efficient and commanding of his class.

Student: We'll be able to see things better, because the projector's really big, and then we still have a whiteboard right there.

Michael: The teaching station, it feels like it's been moved back a bit.

Melanie: Yes, it has, we wanted him to be immersed in the class. Not only does it allow him to see all of his students, but it allows him to feel like he has control over the room, and kind of mix the materials he needs to instruct on a daily basis. We wanted every tool he needed to be instantly here and not distracted by other clutter, not underneath something. So what we did was we took this reclaimed desk, put it on top of this cart. Painted one side white, so it's always a whiteboard, and took a piece of reclaimed Plexiglas, and screwed it to the top.

Michael: He can do the equations right on here.

Melanie: Yeah, and then just erase like an overhead projector for the 21st Century.

Michael: That's a fantastic idea!

Melanie: This whole wall is whiteboards. So not only do we have teachable space at the front of the room, but we have space that anybody can use to be a teacher, or solve a problem in the back of the room. One thing that we wanted to play with was not only providing them monitors and technology at their height, so that they could touch down, but giving them analog tools as well.

Michael: Actually do some thinking on the wall together. Quickly look something up online, and then head back to their table.

Melanie: Mm-hm. This action not only did it liberate this space, but it created a new opportunity for their collaboration in the room. This is a work in progress. We don't want to give a teacher a classroom. we want to create it with them, so that they continue to create it over time.

Michael: Yeah.

Christian: What we hope we've done over the last week is shift mindsets. Maybe more importantly, what we hope we've done is given Steve the set of tools to be a designer himself, and to literally imagine that this space is a studio that can do anything he needs it to do.

Steve: This entire design project has molded me into a more empowered teacher. It's nice to know as a teacher that we have support coming from other people, and the kids coming in on their day off, and the parents-- and it's nice to know that there are people out there looking out for us, and we don't just feel alone.

Narrator: In a single weekend, one teacher, a few experts, some community volunteers, and a bunch of energetic students, not only transformed their learning space, they reminded themselves of the power of their own imaginations. What can you do to remake your classroom?


  • Director: Zachary Fink
  • Producer: Lora Ma Fukuda
  • Editors: Daniel Jarvis, Alyssa Fedele
  • Associate Producer: Douglas Keely
  • Camera: Mario Furloni, Zachary Fink
  • Additional Post-Production Support and Location Sound: Thomas Gorman
  • Senior Manager of Video: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

© 2013 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (7)

Comment RSS
Community Manager at Edutopia

Hi AGaiter, You should

Was this helpful?

Hi AGaiter,

You should definitely check out David Bill's blog post. It includes tips and resources from the videos:

Third grade teacher

This is awesome! I would

Was this helpful?

This is awesome! I would love to have this kind of opportunity for my classroom! My school is an older building, with my room (and those in the bank) being the oldest! How does one go about asking for this level of help?

Thank you for sharing this video!

7/8th grade Math teacher, San Francisco

Hi Ms. Krauss, Thanks for the

Was this helpful?

Hi Ms. Krauss, Thanks for the positive thoughts. This project was completed last year and the interactions within the class changed significantly. I lost a lot of the small fights for space and bumped elbows and push out chairs/ tripping that was happening in the old room. That seemed to allow kids to be more pleasant with each other. I also think the vibe was lifted a bit throughout my classes after the room was done, they felt a bit special to have this class when none of the other classes had the "facelift."
I used the space as best I could when we were working on group projects and the extra space lent itself to these types of things as did the computer bar and white boards in the back. To be fair, I had good kids last year who were willing to work in groups without much pettiness and the space in the class just brought some more interesting work to the fore. I am able to cruise around the class a bit easier, especially now at the beginning of this new school year when questions are abundant.
Looking back, I think this was a positive and amazing experience, but even if you don't have a design team with you, you can make some of the small changes that bring out the excitement of creativity for both student and teacher. Having the students involved and engaged in the process was huge and the room has felt like theirs, enhancing the respect for the space and making my job a bit easier. Hope this helps!

Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

I look forward to hearing

Was this helpful?

I look forward to hearing back from Steve and his students. With the room changing, have their interactions changed? Are kids learning together, as they had hoped? Is Steve able to cruise the room during lessons now?

This video has given me some

Was this helpful?

This video has given me some great ideas . I wish I would have seen it earlirer. During the 2012-2013 school year, my classroom was oddly shaped with limited space for storage and movement. In addition, the average class size was 28-31 students. These ideas will work with the larger classroom I've been assigned this school year. THANKS!!

Community Manager at Edutopia

Hi Adam, welcome to the

Was this helpful?

Hi Adam, welcome to the Edutopia community. Congratulations on starting your first year teaching. :-)

You may want to check out the blog post that accompanies the video. There are some really handy tips, including a list of additional resources.

5th grade teacher

Wow, what a great video. I am

Was this helpful?

Wow, what a great video. I am teaching for the first time this year, and have been overwhelmed thinking about how I want to set up my room. I know that I do not want my room to be the traditional classroom set up, but I was struggling for concrete ideas. This spurred me on to some practical changes I could make. (I don't think painting or modifying existing furniture would go over well, just yet.)

see more see less