I hate clutter! I have a hard time thinking when I’m in a place that is not organized or appealing. Many elementary classrooms are full of wonderful posters, student artwork, books and a billion educational tools. Yet, I think that all of this educational clutter makes it hard for students to concentrate. I feel that the atmosphere students learn in is very crucial to their well-being, both emotionally and academically.
In room A-105 at South Hill School we’ve been working hard to create a room that resembles a mix of a hip California start-up company meeting a living room all with a National Geographic type twist. The room has a very cozy and welcoming feel to it. Over the course of the year we have made many alterations to the room. So many so that it feels like every week something is new to the room. All of the students seem to like how it feels and state it often. Other teachers, staff and parents also comment on what a conducive learning environment it is. One teacher asked “ Is there any other way you could make this more like a living room?” The next few paragraphs outline just a few of the changes.
Artwork and aesthetics play a critical role in my life. Aesthetics actually means to be aware and alive. Think about it; it’s the opposite of anesthetic, which makes you numb and unaware. My lovely wife Esther and I like to make collages with our old magazines. With so much wall space in the room to cover, collages were the perfect way to add art, culture, science, history and visual literacy to the room without cluttering it. Esther made a number of collages for the room, some even into letters to form words that represent the mood of the room. The artwork is just one of the many features that make this room unique.
When most people describe a classroom, they list off a few key items such as; desks, chairs and chalkboards. This room has none of those elements. Yes, there is one chalkboard but it is more a piece of art than a functional part of the room. Most people find it weird that there are no desks or chairs in our room. Instead we have tables, yoga balls, a few stools, standing tables, and an ENO board (interactive whiteboard). The switch from a conventional classroom to this new hybrid has been fun and enlightening. There is no more clutter from desks. Students have cubbies where they keep all of their learning materials. I’ve made the tables dry erase so that the students can do work directly onto the table and save tons of scrap paper. Yoga balls and stools have dramatically helped the fidgeting issues that generally plague a classroom of ten and eleven year olds. They are able to work while moving at the same time. Guess what, the movement of the balls doesn’t hurt their performance, in fact it benefits their ability to concentrate. Lastly our ENO board is a new addition to the room and has been great. Thanks to Dr. Brown having one of these boards put in every room the board of the past is replaced with one that is interactive, and allows students a new look at the world through images, video, text, and interactive programs.
All in all our room is a great place to learn. The atmosphere is not cluttered and has an appealing aesthetic to it. I feel that students and adults alike love coming into the room to work, learn, teach, inspire, relax, and make lifelong memories.