Some of my favorite feature's in Mr. Mattice's remade classroom couldn't be captured in our video clips, but they are worth the mention. Why? These small meaningful design gestures added up to a classroom that not only functioned more effectively, but helped celebrate a positive class culture and Steve's personality as an educator.
One of our favorite artifacts to capture in a classroom usually is not too far from the front door – a class manifesto, declaration, or constitution. They go by many names, but these co-created covenants share one thing in common –– their importance in cultivating a positive class culture from the first day of school. Steve's classes created their own version centered on respect–each class with a different color marker. In branding the classroom and cleaning up the posters, we paid special attention to transform their manifesto into a poster that could hang proudly in any classroom. This year, we will do the second version of the “Respect” poster, this time with new voices from students.
One of our big challenges was to reduce visual clutter along classroom walls and to highlight only valuable education resources, meaningful messages, and evidence of learning. Needless to say, many handfuls of faded publisher posters were lost in the transformation. In addition to making new and more legible math reference posters, we wanted to share Steve's passion as a world explorer, dedicated coach, and talented photographer. While getting to know Steve, we discovered his incredible photography collection. To inspire students and facilitate worldly conversations, we created a simple and powerful ribbon of images and provocative verbs to give his classroom punch and character.
Schools are increasingly integrating collaborative critical thinking in the classroom. Acronyms have emerged to help ingrain these mindsets in students. For Steve's class, it was SOLVE. We tossed aside the original photocopies and created an installation in the beat up acoustic tiles using pencils. After a few calculations, we sawed through thousands of pencils, lit up a projector, and traced 3-foot tall letters. (This is the only time we've had teacher permission to throw #2's at the wall.) The result? A playful reminder of their problem solving process and a work in progress for students to complete.
Project base camp:
Taking the doors off cabinets was simple, free and transformative. It not only prompted Steve to really evaluate his "stuff," but also created opportunities for color and student engagement. The new bright green shelving acted as a math project based camp: team collaboration supply boxes, math manipulatives, and all you'd need to create great visual presentations.
Backpack parking lot:
36 students means 36 backpacks. This simple equation was revealing. One of the biggest barriers to successful collaboration was student clutter and congestion. As such, we took some newly emptied cabinets and made a backpack "parking lot" to drop your excess material on project days.
Sometimes the silliest interventions hold a special place in our heart. We took Steve's comedic approach to borrowing a pencil (hand over your shoe), and created a tiny trophy shelf out of a shallow cabinet for the forgetful student's sneaker collateral.
It's sometimes the little delightful design interventions that add up to thoughtful transformation. What small "hacks" have you done in your classroom environment to ease your everyday or create a positive environment? Starting small is the first step to change!
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