Bennett Day School prides itself on developing lifelong learners and leaders across all grade levels. A great example of how we foster these skills is through an adaptive learning program that challenges students academic, social and emotional skills. As we near the end of the school year, the students and teachers decided they needed a fresh and new learning environment to re-energize them as they enter the room each day.
Mr. Thompson in the TESLab took the lead on this project, presenting students with the actual blueprints to the school and the layout to each classroom. To spark a design brainstorm, the students were presented with the question: how can we rearrange our room with empathy and who are we empathizing with?
The children were given time to think about what should be changed. While it is easy to alter the positioning of different items in the classrooms, the students were being challenged to explain the purpose behind their movements. As pieces of furniture were debated, they were prompted with more detailed questions: how do you learn best, sitting or standing? Do you prefer to sit on the ground or at a table? Where would you want the reading corner to go? What do you want the room to look like? The brainstorming stage was a powerful way for students to listen and understand one another’s opinions, as well as how to use their voices to collaborate in creating a cohesive project.
Once the discussion came to an end, the students began to test their ideas. As a team, they began to safely work together to rearrange the classroom according to their collectively created blueprint. This enabled the students to take turns moving furniture, with the support of their teachers. The children soon recognized that not everything could be moving at once, and began to independently create new jobs, such as decorators and cleaners. (This was beneficial for first graders, as they continue to see their peers and teachers as part of their support team to achieve an end goal.) They also applied their executive planning and visual spacing skills to ensure the furniture pieces made sense, and the new locations were chosen with purpose.
While the project took a lot of time, it was not all fun and games, and their problem-solving skills were put to the test. For example, how could they keep the carpet from getting stuck under the furniture? These problems allowed the students to implement new math skills, such as measuring.
Once the project was complete, students were excited to show teachers and other students in the Bennett Day community their new layout, which gave them time to reflect on their accomplishment. We even organized a visit from the third graders to share the process and ask questions as they prepare for the same task. While the students love their new layout, they understand that it is a work in progress allowing for an open dialogue that allows for change and growth within our space. A space that will allow our students to take ownership of their learning whether choosing to learn from the carpet, a chair or new spaces to engage in organic explorations and conversations. Now the students walk into their classroom feeling empowered that they can create something great and unique as a team.