A Brand New Room and Space - What if you could start all over?

Last day of old room

"What are we doing to help kids achieve?"

What if you could start all over?  What if you had a clean slate?  Brand new room and equipment?  Furthermore..you have the opportunity to help design it.

The school that I am in was built in the 1970's.  Someone came through Ohio back then convincing everyone that the best new schools should be all open air. They would have one giant building with no walls. The sales pitch worked for awhile. Schools were built as giant spaces. Within a year or two the experiment was over and internal walls were erected. HVAC was a nightmare.

Fast forward to the present day. Our labs have not been touched in years. It was time to remodel. The school board gave the green light for the remodel. The architect provided good news. All of the support walls are on the outside of the building. Internal walls can be torn down within a week. Construction is already under the roof. The architect provided a number of plans. "Tell me what you want. We can reconstruct the walls anywhere. Need a bit more room for testing or make up labs? Want to have common prep space? Would you like flexible seating? Want a fume hood that is shared between rooms? Need extra space for demonstrations?".

I was pleasantly shocked. For years, there have been some rooms and spaces that I have been in that have been less than ideal. Bottom line...I can only control what I can control. I cannot always choose the room or the space but I can choose my attitude to make the best of any situation. Focus on the things I can effect. That has been my mantra. But what if I could make up the dream room? What would I pick and why? I have some ideas...

First and foremost....safety. It does not matter what is happening. The best leson plan gets ruined if a student gets hurt.

Hands on experiences. The best way to learn science is by doing science. Can kids easily enter the classroom and experience science in a safe hands on manner? Does the space allow for that?

Information. Are students able to work together with proper technology to process the information in a timely manner? What if I ditched every poster I had and replaced them for a few LED screens. Students would get timely information about the focus of the day or the lab we were doing on multiple screens as they entered the room. Better yet, they could display their data quickly and effectively for all to see.

Flexibility. Are there safe and reliable ways to transition from labs, to assessments to various types of group work?

It boggles my mind. This was the first time ever that I had an architect seriously ask me the question, "What do you think?"  It has been a crazy couple of weeks with the realization of that question. We have been grading, doing labs, giving exams and working extra hours packing and pitching supplies and chemicals. Did I mentioned that construction started a week before school ended? During my 7th bell class on a Friday I heard some loud pounding. People were in our shared office with sledge hammers. I calmly left my class for a second and approached a guy with a hard hat. "Uhh...can I get a few things off my desk?" He just looked at me. "You better hurry". Students had questions. "Since it is the last day before exams and stuff is getting trashed, can we write on the walls?" It was the last ten minutes of class during 7th bell at the end of the year. "As long as it is school appropriate..." was my response.

Imagine if you could start all over with a brand new classroom! What would you want or do in your dream room? Please let me know. The exhaustion and fog of the end of the year is starting to lift. The new possibilities seem exciting. So what would you do? I would love to hear your ideas....

Join the conversation.

Comments 5

Lauren Stewart's picture
Lauren Stewart | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 09:57

What a cool opportunity! Our sister school was also built open-concept to later have a bunch of walls added in. They have huge common lab spaces which is pretty cool and encourages collaboration among the teachers. At my school, teachers have combined lab/classrooms which is also nice to have our own space. 

I have been thinking a lot about changes I can make to my classroom for next year to make it more safe and more collaborative. My solution is to keep all of my chairs but get rid of my desks. I hoping that will help me be able to move around my classroom more easily (this past year felt very unsafe with 28 students and desks!) and allow flexibility in seating for my students. I will also be turning my huge demo desk at the front of the room into a "help desk." I figure if it is going to take up a bunch of space and collect papers, it might as well be useful! 

In an ideal world, I would have my built in lab stations but with more open classroom space for tables that could be moved or even folded up. I think I would ditch my demo desk for a smaller, mobile lab station. If I was really getting crazy, I would love a glass wall that could open up to send my students into the hallway to work or to collaborate more easily with the class across the hall. 

I love your idea of multiple screens, especially for students to throw their data up on. One for every lab station would be amazing! 

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 10:45

Lauren - Thanks for the comments. I love the idea of a "help desk".  It would be interesting to see how that effects the culture of the classroom.  Trying to imagine a classroom without desks.  I also like the idea of having an area in which I can observe students doing make up tests or labs in other separate areas outside of the room.  I would like to know how you have students work in teams.  Do you have any tricks that work better than others?  Thanks for the ideas.

Doug Ragan's picture
Doug Ragan | Tue, 06/05/2018 - 04:33

Storage! Next fume hood(s). Like the idea of multiple boards including a video projector to either mirror main projector or a 2nd screen for labs. Good luck and enjoy. Are you moving to tables instead of desks?

Deanna Cullen's picture
Deanna Cullen | Wed, 06/06/2018 - 13:16

We gave input 15 years ago and the architect listened to some of our ideas. 

I was dissappointed that the fume hood I ended up with had only on window in the front. The old hood we had used had windows on three sides. I did manage to get one with built in water, gas and electricity. I did not have any of those three things on the old one.

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Thu, 06/07/2018 - 08:04

I am pretty sure we will be getting a shared fume hood and lots of storage.  Desks but not lab benches will be movable.  Sinks will be extra deep against the wall.  The technology is a bit up in the air but I think we are getting a giant LED screen on wheels.  Not sure about students stations and technology.  I will keep you posted...should be interesting.