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Rethinking the Learning Space

Posted by on in What If?
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green dragon

Over the years I have read and discussed learning environments with a wide variety of educators. Teachers bringing in flexible seating, balls, couches, and standing tables all to create an atmosphere in which kids can be comfortable and enjoy the learning process. Then something happened ... my Principal, Mr Sears (@JSAPrincipal), went to see Ron Clark and came back talking about his school and how the classrooms are themed ... different ... take on a life of their own.

This got me thinking.

At the time I was teaching 6th grade Ancient World History so I decided to create something to do with world history. I was chatting with some students and the idea arose ... a high top table with some Roman arches. Not only will it create a new place to sit, but it will also be a teaching prop.

Here the students are sitting at the Ancient Roman inspired high-top seating area. The stools the kids are sitting on are converted desks. A local upholstery shop made some nice padded covers for the desks and the kids LOVE them.

The level of excitement the kids had was contagious. This high-top seating area changed the vibe of the class. I already had a nice sectional that was donated, but this piece I built was transforming my room. No longer was it just a classroom ... the classroom was becoming a part of history. As the end of the year was coming I began planning my Summer building activities to further transform my room. Then teaching assignments for the upcoming school year came out and I found out I was no longer teaching 6th grade Ancient World History, I was being moved to 8th grade US History from 1st Contact to the Civil War. It was all good, but I knew my plans had to be changed and more than likely my Roman arches would have to go.

The change in content was not going to deter me from my goal of transforming my learning environment. I just had to change direction. As Summer began I started doing some research. The initial plan was to create and Italian coffee shop, but so I was looking for something that would have the same type of feel. A place where people would meet and converse. My research led me to Colonial Taverns as they served as a place where people of all social classes could go to find out the news of the day and discuss events happening around them. One place in particular was the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston A place where revolutionaries met ... now this was my type of attitude I wanted to have in my class. I adopted the name Green Dragon Classroom and even came up with a logo.

Yes, I am patterning my classroom after a Revolutionary War meeting place. The Roman columns have been dismantled, recut and made into the Green Dragon Sound cart, which will hide my 21st century technology ... and my 15 inch subwoofers.

The top part will serve as a place to set the laptop, printer, and other tech supplies. Material will also be placed over the speakers to further hide them from view. The whole point of this is change the ambiance of the classroom from the mundane to something historical where the room becomes part of the teaching. In the works are two tables, one high top with built-in book shelf, and a broad display case. I am building all of these items using scrap plywood from a local business so the only real cost is my time and eventually the stain needed to give this furniture some color.

Will my room be as spectacular as the Ron Clark Academy? Probably not because they have a bit more money and donations than I do. I am just one teacher working on a budget of ZERO dollars, but you will be amazed what can happen when you set your mind to doing something.

Stay tuned for more posts on my Green Dragon Classroom adventure.

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Dennis Dill is a Social Studies and Instructional Television teacher at Jewett School of the Arts, a STEAM PreK - 8th grade school, in Winter Haven, Florida. Dennis earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences from the University of South Florida and an MS in Education Media Design and Technology from FullSail University. Dennis has been teaching for 14 years.

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Guest Sunday, 23 October 2016