Today the architects of my new school are visiting. They hope to capture through interviews and just watching, what we think about the space they designed for us.
The building they created is quite unique. Along with just being brand new, it screams “Come have fun playing here while your learn.” This is loudly shouted when you leave my 2nd floor classroom and walk to the center of the 2nd floor and see THE SLIDE!
When I bring friends to see my school, they ask right away, “When do you use it?” And my reply is, “We just do.” The slide is just another way to get from the 2nd to the 1st floor. My class knows that it does take a little more time to wait your turn to go down. So it is a choice. Those that really want to get outside for recess to play tag, usually take the stairs. Others say it is worth the wait. All understand that the slide is just another fun way to move in our very unique building called our school. I have come to realize that the beauty of having this feature as a permanent part of the building is that it isn’t a reward. It just gets used because it screams, “Come have fun playing here while your learn.”
The building also is designed to allow for tons of natural light in the classrooms and the hallways. I’ve worked in other schools where I’ve had no windows at all in my classroom or just a few. Here the outside is brought in throughout the entire building. I can’t quote the science of why this is important but I can anecdotally share that I feel better in this building. I feel better because the building allows me to see the sky regularly as I have fun learning inside.
Finally, the building is designed with lots of open gathering spaces. I will admit that this is still something I am learning to figure out how to use well. As a teacher, I’m used to planning lessons and teaching them WITHIN the four walls given to me called my classroom. But this school is different. Now my students regularly spill-out into the hallway. Since the wall to the hallway of my classroom is glass, I can see them as they learn outside the four walls of my classroom. Fun chairs and stools dot the hallways, providing fun places to sit and work. Other spaces throughout the building provide spots to gather and collaborate. Many spaces, I will admit, I still need to explore with my students. And I will, as my mindset of what “my classroom” is, broadens. Really, my classroom at Discovery Elementary is THE ENTIRE school building, a building designed in my opinion as a place to PLAY while learning.