Designing learning spaces: Students leading the way

Designing learning spaces: Students leading the way

Oakridge Expert’s Article by Mansi Chakravarti, Year 2 – PYP Facilitator

It’s common to talk about designing learning spaces to promote thinking and learning. No questions asked, the comfort in the learning environment is directly proportionate to the learning graph. If the learners feel comfortable and connected to their environment, they do not have to think twice about where to go and whom to find for their queries. If they can believe that whatever they wish to inquire is readily available in their surroundings itself, their motivation to explore and learn can increase manifold. As a part of International Baccalaureate, designing a learning space is important for fruitful learning outcomes, and also this is a common process at Oakridge International School Mohali.

Is it truly difficult to design a learning space? Well, not really! All it takes is motivated learners mentored by a committed facilitator.

Let us look at how it happens in my class:

1. Student initiated and Student led: Ownership: I own the ship Unless the children are self-motivated to design a space for themselves, the whole idea is a futile activity. A learning space is only successful as long as the child has initiated working there and accepted the space as her own. Children are automatically drawn towards such space where they are part of the designing process, as they have brought in everything and put in their best efforts to organize it into a complete whole.

I encouraged and motivated my grade 2 PYP students to design their own space. And they started taking the resources available around them and created their best reflections and masterpieces. Collaboration, respecting everyone’s opinion, putting forward ideas and suggestions and backing them with logic – these are the skills that were being developed while we were having fun!

2. Look out for an easily accessible corner: Easy access to the corner/ space is what draws children towards it. Letting the children put everything at their eye level and within the hands reach is all that is required to make the space accessible to them. Sensory experience is so important and there is no point in having resources that are showpieces!

3. Collecting resources: It’s all a matter of being creative and hunting for few display ideas. Clothespins, paper clips, strings, soft board, and thumb pins/ staplers etc. are all the things they needed. And what is more suitable than putting a few things that they relate to…. their favourite soft toys, self-created pen stands, decorations with stickers, favourite readers to name a few. Self-arranged resources are the highest motivators for children to feel connected with the space, at the same time being drawn toward it.

4. Using the space to project the learning: After a comfortable space is designed, all that needs to flow in is the masterpieces of work. And that’s what happened in my class as well. Now and then, I had work-pieces coming up which were related to their topic of interest, what they learnt and explored in the classroom, their homes, or even if that was something they just knew and were excited to share. It was work in progress – a journey rather than a destination: ever evolving and dynamic. As a result, a personalized environment was created which acted as the third teacher.

As a facilitator, my task is to nudge students to stretch themselves and give more and more of such learning opportunities where the students will love to explore and stretch their boundaries further. If I let them rest, their knowledge will get confined in boundaries; which must surely not be the case.

As a parent what can you do to engage them at home and further enhance their organizational and management skills? Here is one such idea – feel free to explore and build on this.

Extension Activity for parents: Do involve children in designing the personal space at home. Encourage them to take ownership and give them the freedom and flexibility. This could be anything from organizing their cupboard space or play/toy area. Be around – motivate them, support them but let it be the child’s idea and effort.