The customization of teaching, which we so often seek in our school practice, is closely related to the flexibility of the teaching space. It should be versatile enough to allow conducting diverse lessons with students and stimulate diverse activities during the lesson. It is not necessary to demolish any walls to make the classroom space more flexible. We provide details and solutions, which will make the classroom better adapted to the individual needs of the students.
AREA: PHYSICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Primary School No. 3 in Suchedniów used to be just like all the others: a traditional class layout, desks in neat rows. Potted plants on windowsills. Such a space has obvious advantages: it is perfect for keeping wall ferns…
It would be a cliché to state that classrooms should be adapted to students’ individual needs. Not all the students managed to adapt to the required strict discipline and the results of those unadapted were worse than those of their classmates. It was not just the issue of those students, but also the issue of the way they had been taught. The way in which the classroom space is organised affects the teaching style. A lecturer-teacher standing in the centre of the room, trying to establish discipline – not all students readily accept this style of teaching.
We had wanted to do something with the classroom space for a long time. Usually it would end as it always does: with replacing desks and repainting the walls. That time we decided to approach the issue professionally. Above all, we wanted to differentiate the classroom space in order to make room both for individual and teamwork. The first step was to throw out potted ferns…
We decided that the ‘transformed’ classroom would have two distinct educational zones. The first zone was to be a microcosm created for the students, a space with various nooks and crannies, inspiring to inquire, and allowing for individual learning at any time. The second zone was supposed to be open, calm, stimulate concentration and be easy to freely rearrange (team learning).
A child-sized opening was made in the partition separating the two zones. The second opening between the two zones had proportions suitable for an adult. It is a symbolic connection between the children’s world and the adult world. The smaller room, designated as a students’ zone, seamlessly connects with the larger one. Both zones are constructed from different materials. The smaller was entirely laid with plywood, creating an interior, which gives the sense of security, supporting better concentration. The abundance of the created micro-spaces enabled each student to find their own place for learning. Moreover, holes of varying sizes were drilled in plywood panelling at different heights, adapted to children’s heights. Books were stacked in the recesses of the walls. As a result, students are surrounded with literature and have direct and unlimited access to it.
Plywood partially goes beyond the room, into the corridor. The lighting was replaced with elongated lamps fitted in the ceiling, whose placement ensures uniform lighting for the entire large classroom, which enables to arrange desks in any desired way. In addition, point lights in the form of hanging bulbs were installed in the smaller room, to allow lighting for more closed spaces and create better conditions for reading and learning.
As a result of the renovation, the way of thinking about the school and meeting students’ needs has changed. Students were given space, which until then had been controlled exclusively by teachers. Trust in students has increased.
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Maciej Siuda is architect. He was involved in designing classroom process in Primary School No. 3 in Suchedniów, Poland.