Space: The Final Frontier of Education

How Bennett Day School’s TinkerLabs are peeling back the walls of the traditional classroom  

What does your child’s classroom do to improve the learning experience?

What comes to mind when you picture a classroom? If you went to a traditional American school, you’re likely picturing a space that contains neat rows of desks, a chalkboard filled with a teacher’s handwriting, perhaps a display of student artwork – variations on a theme from an assigned project. There are probably books, of course; display boards, too. Maybe even some musical instruments or art supplies.

But what if we asked you to remove all of the trappings mentioned above? Is the classroom you pictured – the four walls you erected in your imagination – still a learning environment? What about this space makes it conducive to exploring new concepts and ideas? If you’re having trouble answering, we’re not surprised.

Classrooms like the one described above are all too common in schools today. Like so many tools designed to serve a multitude of purposes, these spaces often fail to adequately address specialized or individual needs.

But at Bennett Day School, we know that the best place to learn is one in which space is utilized to its fullest; where four opaque walls give way to individualized areas of exploration; where multiple intelligences are explored in open spaces, intimate nooks, and areas for messy investigation; where ordinary objects take on an extraordinary power as a part of a grand learning mosaic.

We are extremely sensitive to the role environment plays in our students’ experience, and it is for this reason that we’ve invented the Bennett Day School TinkerLab.

The BDS TinkerLab, the centerpiece of our progressive learning space, is being developed not simply to contain the trappings of education, but to maximize the impact of every interaction, every connection, and every discovery that takes place within our walls. The TinkerLab is a space where students work collectively and independently to unveil the inner workings of and relationships between materials and their uses. It is a place of invention, experimentation, observation, and documentation; a place where children are free to construct and deconstruct; to act and interact; and to amaze themselves and others with their wonderings and realizations.

As we continue to plan and to build this extraordinary learning environment, we’ll update you, our community, about our progress. In our next post, we will explore the anatomy of the TinkerLab and how we’re working to grow the classroom out of our students’ lessons (not the other way around).