I had the pleasure of touring a K-9 elementary school in Victoria, Australia two weeks ago. The story behind this school coming together is an amazing testament to dealing with construction delays, the enthusiasm of faculty, and dedication to creating an inviting place to learn.
Due to construction delays, the school used portables that had been stored in Australia’s desert. According to others, they arrived bearing a frightful green hue. The staff also had concerns about students having to walk through mud and without shelter during Victoria’s rainy winters.
Therefore, the portables were painted a lovely slate gray hue, a deck was built to connect the buildings and to provide a raised platform for walking. Sailcloth was attached to poles to create shelter. The result is absolutely beautiful. I arrived as students and parents were just getting to school and I watched people – young and old – literally bounce with enthusiasm as they entered the space.
I have long been a fan of Apartment Therapy’s blog, fascinated by the existence of an entire industry that uses know-how, paint, and hardware to transform mundane walls and furniture into gorgeous, one-of-a-kind treasures. (See this Before & After post as an example.)
Which gets me to thinking…what if there were sort of an “Apartment Therapy” for learning environments? What if we took this type of know-how and applied it to run-down school buildings that have seen better days? Or to those mass-produced, uninspiring cinderblock cells that were de rigueur in the 1970s? Provided more natural light and plants? What if we created spaces that were so beautiful and inspiring, people couldn’t wait to walk through our doors?
I hosted my first salon last evening and was thrilled with the good conversation, company, & ideas that came out of the event. Last night’s topic was “Inspiring Learning Environments,” though it certainly meandered into many other topics.
Some big take-aways from the discussion for me were:
- Once something gets too large, it loses the ability to be innovative. Case in point are the many conferences that have gotten so large and so corporate that the important conversations get lost.
- Scale can’t be forced. Scale happens spontaneously because it is the right idea at the right time.
- In spite of my original plans for these salons, a home environment seemed to be just right. It actually kept the concept of “salon” more true to form than, say, had I hosted it in a museum or park.
- What would happen if we took the concept of Apartment Therapy and applied it to learning environments in our schools? (Especially those schools in areas of high poverty?)
I so much want to thank the folks who came out and made the event what it was! I most definitely plan to host more salons in the future. (And hope that others will also consider hosting.)
Finally, I had a few requests for my Pimento Cheese recipe:
- 1 block of Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 3 T shredded Parmesan Cheese
- 5-6 T mayonnaise
- 5-10 green olives
- 2 roasted red bell peppers
- dash of cayenne pepper
Blend together in a blender.
Please join Dr. Ceri Dean and me tomorrow at 1:00 pm CDT as we look at the GOOD things that are happening in classrooms around the world every day: How Mobile Devices, Data Streams, & a Return to Authentic Learning Will Change Education.
We hope to see you there!
I had such a wonderful three days at Educon that I thought it would be difficult to pinpoint any one statement or over-arching idea that most resonated. Indeed, every session I went to was thought-provoking, energizing, and an excellent model of how to NOT lecture, but to teach.
If I had to choose one favorite quote, however, it was given by Dr. William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools and keynote speaker. In other words, it was one of the first things that I heard and it stuck with me throughout the conference. It still resonates with me today and I’m still toying with how to incorporate this into my work:
“Suppose we were evaluated on how smart we make other people in our profession.”
I like this thought because it assumes that our primary job as we learn, no matter what our profession, is to share and to add to the collective understanding and growth of our colleagues. It encourages openness over carefully guarding information, adding to rather than competing against.
Good food for thought.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Just some early thoughts as we get started with Educon…
I kept pondering what the difference was – what was the “secret to the sauce” as I listened to SLA students give their tours yesterday. Here are a couple of differences that I noticed in these students that I don’t often see when I’m touring schools, especially high schools:
- Pride in their school, their work, their teachers, and their community,
- Humility in that their destiny ultimately lies within them, not what a teacher does for them,
- Awareness of a world beyond high school and their excitement in the role they will soon play in that world (or in some cases, are already playing).
- Engagement in their own work. Not once did I see rows of bored teenagers listen to a grown-up lecture.
I kept thinking back to the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd graders I taught in my Montessori classroom and the 6th graders I saw them become. SLA would have been a very natural progression for them. They would have loved the independent study, the focus on community, and the leadership roles they are expected to play.
So good to see. My question – can we replicate this on a large scale?
Next week, I will be attending the Learning Forward conference in Boston and will be presenting on Monday (2:30-4:30) on “How Instructional Strategies Inform the Use of Technology.” This session will highlight McREL’s newest research that informs Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd edition, and will show how an instructional framework helps educators to make intentional use of technologies under the umbrella of research-based strategies.
Many activities during the 2 hours will be hands-on, so participants are encouraged to bring a laptop, netbook, iPad, or other mobile device.
Hope to see you there!