Rooms as Learning Experiences

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(Pictures of the new MVPS playground on the Founders Campus)

Today I was doing an interview for our current ID design challenge about recycling with our head of school along side of some awesome 5th graders who proved to be very valuable to the conversation. I loved the fact that we made connections across divisions to come together on one common problem/challenge/opportunity.

During this interview we actually ended up on a topic I never would have expected to come up while talking about recycling and sustainability: our new preschool re-designed playground. It’s so cool (my partner and I later explored around the perimeter of the playground since it isn’t open quite yet), and interestingly enough, it’s quite sustainable as well since it was made by trees found on campus and is all about having fun in nature.

What interested me the most was the concept of how it is an always changing playground. Most playgrounds you go to our “static playgrounds” as our head of school said; their may be slides, tunnels, and  pipes, but they never change where they are or how they work, so often times kids get bored with them over time. With our new playground, kids are encouraged to make it their own and constantly change the way it looks. For example, one area I got really interested in was the area where there are tee-pee like things in the ground from a wooden pole and a few tree branches. The idea behind this aspect to the playground, is that students can take fallen tree branches and add to the structure to make new places to play in.

I wonder what school would be like if all classrooms were designed with this same concept in mind of being able to constantly change. What if classrooms were always being added to, arranged with new aspects to fit different classes and different projects? What if students had the ability to add and change the classroom environment? What if all rooms were specialized to fit what type of learning goes on in that classroom (I know we actually have a high school English class working on this idea with creating and english lab)? What if there was a school with a constantly rearranging layout? What if new “hideaway” spots were constantly being created and explored? What if classrooms themselves were a stand alone learning experience where there was always something new to learn simply by exploring in the room?

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