Throughout our blogging history, we’ve showcased hundreds of classroom and school spaces, ranging from lunch rooms to media rooms. However, we believe that learning really does take place beyond the school walls. Armed with this belief, today we question — what we can we learn from these informal learning settings? How can we use these spaces to inform how classrooms look and feel?
In today’s blog post, we will dive deeper into community spaces often co-opted for learning purposes. Let’s take a look at how learning happens across each informal environment!
One of the most commonly visited locations for educational purposes is a museum. In a previous blog post on children museums, we learn that deliberate design decisions such as exhibit layout and colorful murals influence the experience for young children. Here, learning is active! Physically moving through the space is a requirement to explore the offerings. Beyond this, most museums that emphasize science — like the Museum of Science in Boston or the New York Hall of Science — include hands-on, interactive activities for children to experiment and play. This begs the question, how can we bring experiment and play into the everyday classroom experience?
We love one of the entries for our #HackYourClassroom contest, which is interactive screen in Mr. Smith’s grade 5 and 6 classroom. Mr. Smith DIY’ed his own “Smartboards” by projecting his iPad slides onto whiteboards, which serve as “tables.” Students can write directly on the “table,” solving work problems or brainstorming new ideas.
Libraries and Book Stores
Bookstores and libraries have long been regarded as centers for learning. Whether it is snuggling in a comfy corner with a good book or typing away for an upcoming assignment, these two spaces can help students travel to new places or focus on the work at hand. The photos below are all taken at the Boston Public Library (BPL). The first image is of the Copley study room, where there are rows upon rows of study desks and books all line up on the sides. This room is a classic example of what many libraries look and and where students would cram before exams.
The next room on display is the BPL childrens room. Contrasted with the study room before, this space is much more vibrant in color and comfy in design. The big sofa chair and flexible seating arrangements on the soft carpet flooring allows children to choose how and where they want to sit all the while brewing up a spell or chasing fire-breathing dragons.
For teenagers who also want to work at BPL, there is the BPL teen central. This space is a happy medium between the children’s room and the study room. Completed with a variety of seating options and a computer lab, the teen central provides a “lounge” like atmosphere for teens to work on group projects or just chill with friends.
Not everyone likes to study in a “library-like” space, so BPL also has a reading room available. This space is casual enough for reading a good book but comfortable enough to get independent work done.
The variety of spaces offered at BPL goes to show the different types of spaces where learning could occur. While every classroom vary in size, you could consider adopting transforming even a corner of the classroom to fit any of these layouts! Check out room2learn.org for more classroom design inspiration!
Who said entertainment isn’t a form of learning? This is one reason why we love theatres, whether it’s watching a documentary or a live performance! Every student has a different learning preference, and naturally some students learn better by watching or listening to content. The theatre is one place to immerse yourself in doing both.
The black box theatre at BU Academy is an example of a theatre space in a school setting. The room is spacious and has lots of natural lighting with the big windows. However, during performances, the black curtains can also be drawn to create a more professional dark setting. Students can work individually or in groups on skits relating to the subject matter learned, and this is a great way to apply and reinforce the knowledge learned in class.
At InnerCity Arts school, they also have a theatre space for students to rehearse and perform in. This theatre is also spacious in size, and has lots of storage space for props and equipment. We love their clothing rack on wheels — what a great way to organize costumes!
Playgrounds & Parks
At room2learn we love the outdoors, so parks and playgrounds are optimal locations to learn in nature. This Brooklyn school yard has a variety of outdoors equipment for students to play with, as well as hoops and track path for physical education classes.
For students studying earth sciences, getting outdoors can be the most relevant and meaningful way to engage with the work! In one New York City classroom, students hiked Inwood Park, exploring earth’s history through the rock layers and scouting signs of glacial erosion.
Outdoor learning has a multitude of benefits: it promotes mindfulness and peer-to-peer learning. For other types of outdoor space learning, check out our previous blog post on incorporating green spaces in learning!
Learning can happen anywhere and sometimes we need to pause to reflect on the ways in which it’s happening. These are just a few examples of public spaces where learning takes place. How do you take advantage of teaching in spaces outside the classroom? We want to hear about it! Share images with fellow edu-innovators on www.room2learn.org and Tweet us at @HackClassrooms!