Field Research for Classroom Redesign

Zachary RobertsDear families,

Last week I wrote about the six design elements that will underlie the classroom redesign process being piloted in Middle School Spanish and Second Grade via this spring’s Fund-A-Need: flexible, mobile, choice, health, movement, and aesthetics.

An important part of our research process in thinking through the design of our pilot program has included site visits to schools in the region that have gained a reputation for pioneering the process of redesigning the intersection of classroom furniture, instructional practice, and academic program. This is why, in late May, Kristin Bogart, Sherri Helvie, and Jeremy King travelled to Hillbrook School in Los Gatos (where the photos below were taken) to see how that school has begun innovating with classroom furniture and design. Some of the key ideas and takeaways from this visit included:

1) There doesn’t have to be a “front” anymore. Ultra short-throw projectors (such as the ones we already have) can be mounted on high-quality, sturdy whiteboards, which allows a room to flexibly re-orient in any direction.

2) Offer different types of work spaces. These classrooms held a mix of tables and desks of various shapes (rather than a whole-class set of the same exact desk), which supported students working alone, in pairs, in small groups, and as a whole class.

3) Increase the breadth of seating options available to students. Modern chairs are available that allow a child to sit backwards comfortably, that have a wobble mechanism built in, and that effectively slide, glide or roll over the floor or carpet.

4) Unpeg children from a fixed place in the room. When they can flex where they sit, rather than be assigned to a single desk all year long, children have more opportunity to learn to self-regulate their learning experience. This also leads to an increase in students’ sense of shared responsibility in caring for the entire room.

My next blog post will share more key take-aways from our discussions with students, teachers and administrators at other schools. For now, I’ll close by sharing some photos of the 2nd grade and Middle School Spanish room like you’ve never seen them before. Imagine pumpkins being prepared for Halloween carving, where the insides are completely scraped clean — that’s where we are headed at the moment.

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School