Every Friday morning, I start my day by reading Doug Peterson‘s This Week In Ontario Edublogs post. This week was no exception, and I really enjoyed reading all of the included blog posts, but one in particular inspired this post of mine. In this post, Kristy Luker, an educator at the Enrichment and Innovation Centre in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, discusses the impact that the physical environment can have on learning. Included in her post is a link to the video (shared below), in which she gives us a guided tour of the Centre and the thinking behind the different components.
Reading Kristy’s words and watching her video leave me with many wonders. My post is definitely more about questions than answers.
- I wonder … what makes this learning environment ideal for students identified as gifted?
- I wonder … are there any students that struggle with this classroom model? What might their challenges be? What strategies have worked to address these challenges?
- I wonder … in this more specialized program, what role does the curriculum play, and does it play the same role in a regular classroom setting? What impact, if any, might this have on the teacher’s ability to be more flexible in classroom design and/or programming?
- I wonder … what impact does the environment have on self-regulation? How do all students in the program respond to this space, and would the response be similar if a regular classroom teacher adopted a similar style? Does the age of the student matter in this regard?
Maybe my ultimate wonder is … if this physical environment and program design have such a positive impact on learning, then what ideas can we take from here to help in our classroom designs and programming? How might this vary from grade-to-grade? What might this mean for all kids? I’m left thinking. What about you?
Hi Aviva . . . I haven’t visited the Centre this year, but I did quite a few times last year. I have to admit, I took some ideas in designing my classroom. The Centre resembles the Makerspace model and I often wondered how that would look in the regular class setting. I asked myself the same questions regarding how it would look. Many of tools they have such as lego, 3D printer and circuits fit in very well. It provides the options that otherwise may not exist.
At the same time, I funded my own advancements in my classroom which wasn’t easy and means there were many ideas that I could not purchase (i.e. 3D Printer!). I think the questions you bring up also aligns with our thoughts on Makerspaces. What makes a makerspace? Do they go in each classroom? Are they in a central location in the school? Although the questions are relevant, I think we should definitely try knowing the benefits outweigh problems.
Finally regarding curriculum, I’m not at the Centre everyday. What I can say, however, is that I have sent many gifted students to the Centre as a LRT. They definitely enrich curriculum for these thinkers. Recently, a grade 6 student was telling me she was investigating journalism. A few months ago, I witnessed students building robots emphasizing gears, movement etc. I can’t speak in much detail about curriculum link since I’m not there everyday, but the topics seem to enrich the curriculum and are really good (i.e. DaVinci Kids – wonderful).
Just my thoughts . . .
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Enzo, and also explaining some of the things that you’ve done. I’ve never been to the Centre before, and after watching the video, I really would like to go. I think there are many components of the Centre that could make its ways into a regular classroom (and to the benefit of kids). Your comment about funds makes me wonder what’s possible at the school level, and if a central Makerspace at a school might allow for sharing of this more expensive equipment. A classroom environment could still include some less-expensive making options though. When I think about inquiry and play-based learning, I can’t help but think about how Makerspaces connect, and all of the different ways that children can “make.”
Thanks for discussing curriculum as well. Please don’t get me wrong. I definitely think that the questions/topics/ideas that are explored at the Centre align with curriculum expectations. You also spoke about “enriching curriculum,” which I think has a lot of value. There’s certainly a lot of thinking and critical literacy happening here, and this benefits all students. What I don’t know is, does the Centre have to meet the same curriculum expectations as we do in a classroom? It’s in addition to a classroom environment, so does this provide more flexibility? I’d think it would, and I just wonder, how might this change if a Centre environment was the entire classroom?
I still think that all of our classrooms could have components of the Centre … really to the benefit of all children.
So many great wonderings! I have way to much to say! First about funding, I think you would be surprised to discover how many things in our Centre are the result of scavenging our basements, donations from family members, friends and students and thrift store shopping! The maker movement is about more than just high tech items. However, after Aviva asked me to ponder what I would take back to a regular class with me in terms of designing a learning space, I did think about cost. Even if I thrift store shop it would still cost me money. Then I realized that I just spent $645 to take a course. That could get me a lot of thrift store furniture! As for curriculum, eveeythibg is curriculum! All lessons meet many curriculum expectations across many subjects and strands. I think the difference is that we don’t just stop there! We continue to link beyond curriculum to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students require education on these goals in order to hopefully one day solve them. My wondering after reading your blog is that am I freed to focus more on learning and teaching as a result of big having to formally assess students?
Thanks Kristy for sharing more about the specifics of the Centre, but also about how you might make this work in a classroom. Thanks for also commenting about curriculum. Please don’t get me wrong. I could totally see the curriculum links (especially to Language), but I wondered if you were responsible for addressing all curriculum areas or if you had a little more flexibility. I know that these students don’t come to you every day, so I’m assuming that other curriculum expectations are being met in their regular classroom. Your last question about assessment actually has me thinking more. How do you assess students? I’m guessing that while you don’t formally evaluate them, assessment would still be a component of the program. Wouldn’t your observations and the conversations that you have with students drive future learning opportunities? One thing that I love about being back in Kindergarten is that we don’t mark students. We document lots of learning, and use this documentation to inform our practises, but we’re not focused on marks. I think there’s value in this. Maybe one day, marks will start to disappear from other grades as well. Wishful thinking perhaps …