The Journey Begins

IMG_2526This is the space which will become a 21st Century Learning Studio for second graders at Mammoth Heights Elementary in Parker, Colorado.  With a generous donation from the Morgridge Family Foundation, and with the approval from the Douglas County School District, this room will be completely renovated with furniture, technology and materials that will give students flexible opportunities to learn and demonstrate World Class Outcomes.  This will not only be a physical paradigm shift, but one in regard to my teaching craft as well.

I want a model classroom for primary students, that will accommodate the needs of every learner and provide a structure and provide tools which inspire students to develop a community where they own their learning.  With a project based model, I want students to be able to attain the knowledge and skills that the 21st Century demands.

“a collection of systems that accommodate the unique learning needs of every learner and support the positive human relationships needed for effective learning.  Learning environments are the structures, tools and communities that inspire students and educators to attain the knowledge and skills the 21st Century demands of us all”  (source). 

A Plan for Change

My vision is to create a primary model classroom (studio) where students learn through experimentation and exposure to a range of tools, options and opportunities.  Through explorations and reflection, students will be able to use tools of their choice to collaborate and communicate their ideas.

I will create this PRIMARY space, resulting in growth not only for my students, but for myself professionally.  I hope to…

  • sustain an environment for students to practice 21st century skills that can easily be assessed.

  • inspire students to experience discovery through their own creativity and assess their growth through performance based models.

  • expose students to the most current 21st Century applications and tools with an intention of using technology as a tool.

  • help students make learning choices that prepare them for the future, engaging digital natives in their learning journey.

  • ensure that they reach world class outcomes through the GVCs; with a delivery of personalized and differentiated learning.

  • offer spaces and opportunities that meet the unique needs of students using Emergenetics.

  • cultivate a restorative community where students understand that mistakes are the pathway to learning.

I will continue to develop my craft as a teacher, becoming more of a student facilitator, guiding learning in an environment that is innovative and constantly fluid.

I will rename this classroom the  Primary Innovation Studio.

“Today’s learner requires autonomy, mastery, and purpose” (Daniel Pink).  For years, I have developed the art of culture and community within a primary classroom, but in order to attain this 21st Century Primary Model, a new space will be required, one that is not even close to the traditional classroom.  Rushkoff projects, “contemporary “screenagers,” as he calls them, aren’t being warped by new technologies, they’re adapting to them. Their relationship to play, work, spirituality, and politics all reflect the contours of a new world shaped by the liberating logic of digital networks and chaos theory” (source). This space requires fluidity, movement options at a minute’s notice, opportunities for hands-on creativity and tactile options for learners.  The quest is exciting, and could be a learning tool not only for the students within it, but for other 21st Century, ready to shift teachers.

This Innovation Studio will need to be equipped with state of the art technology.  Flexible furniture will be necessary to allow for disruption of the space to accommodate the student activity to include collaborative teamwork, brainstorming, building and creating, filming and publishing, presenting, restorative environments or quiet reflection and reading.

I will integrate the Douglas County School District GVC curriculum and world class outcomes, and 21st century skills within a learning environment which is innovative and unique for today’s learner to accommodate the needs and learning styles of all learners.

How I will share:

These are many of the ways that I will share my learning adventure with other teachers and be a demonstration classroom:

  • Participate on the  district’s DATLL-Digital Age Teaching & Learning Team, or the Mammoth Heights Elementary technology team.

  • Collaborate with teammates and colleagues, to plan and co-teach.

  • Welcome teachers from my building, from other DCSD schools, and outside of Douglas County School District to observe during instructional time and confer with me after.

  • Document my journey of moving out of the paradigm by posting photographs and dialogue to a blog.

  • Share experiences using Twitter with regular tweets.

  • Be a resource at my school in regard to innovation and change.

  • Invite community experts to share in person and virtually through Skype.

  • Reflect on my experience and share my innovations, successes, and challenges  …always finding ways to grow.

  • Share new learning to make the system easier and even more efficient for someone who is ready to do the same.

  • Create a Google site to be maintained by students, detailing their progress and activities in the classroom.  With permission, these will be shared.

With a focus on collaboration, students will continually be inspired to work together with  lightweight Puzzle Tables.  With great flexibility and move-ability, these tables can be positioned in a variety of ways, and conducive to students’ tasks on a particular day or a particular lesson.  Students would not “own” a desk space, they would “own” a classroom, not sitting in a fixed place everyday.  Developmentally, students’ freedom to wiggle appropriate and is brain food! Inactive sitting places greater stress on the tissues and systems of developing bodies.  Students forced to remain still in a physically static environment become more uncomfortable, more tired, and less productive.   Students need seating options like these Hokki stools and Panto Swing chairs .  Student would not be sitting in the same sort of chair in this classroom.

Chairs in the 21st Century Classroom need to allow for “flexible movement versus rigid sitting which studies show could hinder learning.”  (VS America, Inc.)  “Make peace with fidgeting”  (The Third Teacher).

Student reflection and quiet reading will be supported with light and movable upholstered stools which fit into a variety of shapes and configurations.  Students can easily find niches for peaceful reflection, thinking and reading, or push units together for a more collaborative approach.  Groupings could be quickly “pulled together” as students with or without teachers could design and use their own learning configuration.

Students…our thinkers, innovators and inventors of tomorrow need areas to learn that are modern, inviting, and inspiring!

“I think classrooms and media centers need to be more like Panera’s or bookstores, where there are several different areas you can sit; from tables, to booths to couches and chairs” (source).

Student reflection and quiet reading will be supported with light and movable imagesupholstered stools which fit into a variety of shapes and configurations.  Students can easily find niches for peaceful reflection, thinking and reading, or push units together for a more collaborative approach.  Groupings could be quickly “pulled together” as students with or without teachers could design and use their own learning configuration.

Student learning will be guided and facilitated when the teacher has a flexible Team verbVerb Table.  The table is designed for group work and collaboration while maintaining a personal workspace.  Students would experience collaborative groups at this table with or without the teacher, with the instant availability of removeable whiteboards–making thinking visible at the drop of a hat!  Imagine a guided reading group working at this table with books, iPads, and a monitor to use for group exploration and discussion.  One moment this desk might be in the center of the room, and a few moments later a group of students might pull it to the other side of the room for some interactive problem solving.

Student creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking will be enhanced with daily access to a  Maker’s Space.  makerThis space will house various supplies to support and encourage creativity, problem solving, and innovation through a collaborative space within the classroom.  Students would be challenged with project based learning challenges, and having a workspace such as this would be a necessity for invention and creativity.

Ample shelving would be needed for this creative space and organization.  It would also be available for kids to access as they pursued various creative learning pursuits.

The child should be an active participant in learning. The Reggio approach “sees a child as a very competent protagonist and initiator, who interacts with their environment,” says Lyon. Andra Young, headteacher of a Reggio inspired school in San Francisco’s Presidio State Park, says that students are allowed to follow their own interests, but that “it’s not willy-nilly. For example, she says, students in her classroom were showing an interest in building, so she brought wood stumps and building materials into the classroom. While exploring how to hammer nails, the children were given the opportunity to reinforce math skills, problem-solving, and emerging literacy –all in relationship to their hands-on project.” 

2. PROJECTION and TECHNOLOGY

Student interactive learning will be experienced with  LightRaise SMART projection system.  This system would project interactive lessons for students to manipulate with a stylus and/or IPADS (25).  Students would experience the benefits of touch interactivity.  It’s the only interactive projector that combines touch with the creative power of SMART Notebook™ collaborative learning software, delivering a rich and engaging learning experience.

Students will share their learning with moveable projecting options.  This Dewey Document Camera would be flexible throughout the classroom for teachers and students. Students would be able to share work, ideas and anything else that inspires them, as they collaborate and communicate.  With ample white board space planned around the room, there would be several projection options for students.

3.  WALLS and FLOOR

Student engagement in peer – to – peer communication will be visible with the use of a multitude of dry erase board surfaces for writing with dry erase marker, and other water based markers and bright erasable paint pens.  Students need novel and accessible spaces to show their thinking.  To cut costs, I have researched the use of plexiglass and would like to place  three  to four “floor to kid height” areas in the classroom.  These would also be flexible projection areas for small groups.plexi

“Making learning visible. The teacher observes and documents the daily life of the school to make learning visible–teachers use a variety of ways”  (source).

Student love for literacy and reading will be enhanced with a complete slatwall dedicated to showcasing forward facing books so young readers could be inspired to grab a book and read!  Thousands of books piled into baskets are not conducive to today’s primary students’ need for a more instant gratification.  Baskets of piled books also create wasted space.  These displays would be rotated and changed due to student interest and current spontaneous inquiry in the classroom.  Bookcases and browsing baskets would still be in the classroom, but in a more streamlined and organized fashion.

Student ingenuity will be enhanced and inspired by curricular inspired legos in the Maker’s Space.

Imagine a student who is not a typical learner, showing his teachers and peers an idea by building a display with LEGOS.  Something like this could be a springboard to more engaged pursuits by this student. The purchase would include Lego education kits in the areas of STEM, simple machines, robotics and language arts.

  • Restorative Practices for students and community will be sustained with a 8 foot circular carpet to serve as one of the many gathering places for collaborative and community building activities.  This classroom will be restorative, using the techniques of Restorative Practices as the backbone of the working culture.  The oval shape would, once again, support the flexible notion of the classroom.  Students will form smaller circles and groups within and around the shape, not being boxed in by the rigidity of other shapes.

    Student presentations will be shared with an elevated on a carpeted stage, enhancing communication as students have frequent opportunities to share their thinking and learning. This stage would be moveable, adhering to the mission of flexible space.  Students would be blazing their own paths in different directions throughout the year, and a special place to share findings, pose questions, and lead discussions would be conducive to a 21st Century model of the 4 Cs in action.

    Maker’s Space flooring should allow for creative play.  This particular room lacks of any tiled or un-carpeted space, and the removal of some of the carpet would be most efficient for activities which involve paint/glue, etc.  After the carpet was removed, using the underlying concrete would suffice.  Shelving tracks and shelves would also need to be added for students’ quick access to materials.

    Addendum:  After consulting with professionals from the district and reviewing student needs with my collaborative team, it has been determined that this $3000 can be saved and put toward a charging cart for the IPADS and durable cases.

    “What has also become apparent is the need for space that supports interaction. It is this interaction that creates collaboration. When technology is at work in a collaborative setting, data shows that the learning experienceof the student is greatly enhanced (source).”

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6 thoughts on “The Journey Begins

  1. Wow! Looks like a great adventure in teaching. My girls attended a Reggio approach type school and thrived in that environment. It will be fun watching your journey.

    1. Thank you, Darene! The more I read about Reggio, the more I like it and look forward to incorporating it into my craft. Thanks for supporting me through this!

  2. Hi Mrs. Harper, My son was in your class two years ago (Aidan Williams) and my daughter is going into 2nd grade this year. I am curious about this new classroom and how the students were picked for your classroom.
    Thanks,
    Kate Williams

    1. Hi Kate! Of course, I will never forget Aidan! There was NO selection process for this classroom. The students were assigned equally amongst ALL of the wonderful 2nd Grade classrooms at MHE.

      This is a project that is funded by the Morgridge Family Foundations. They are huge proponents of 21st Century Education. I am lucky to have written a grant, with my vision of what a space would LOOK like for today’s learner, and it was accepted! However, everyone must know these things: (1) The most important part of a learning environment is the teacher and his/her vision and skill and (2) In order to make change in old paradigms, there have to be opportunities for people to try new things, study and reflect with others. That is what I am doing.

      This will be a place for us to explore, reflect and hopefully inspire other teachers.

  3. congratulations on your new adventure Mary Lisa! I have read and believed in the Reggio method for quite sometime and what a better teacher to dive into this experience! Best to you and your crew!

  4. Wow! I feel so blessed to have my son experience your studio this year! We are looking forward to a great year:)

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