Sunday, May 3, 2009

Innies notes, May 3

In Sunday's meeting of the Innies, we looked at activities that might take place in a classroom, which then could define the Program of the space, or what activity zones we might need to plan for. The daily activities of kindergarteners are broken down into 10-20 minute intervals, with lots of movement and group activities. At the other end of the spectrum, 5th graders have 30-50 minute activity intervals, spend more time working individually, and are generally more stationary. There are many activities that both groups have in common though, even if the activities look different for different ages. Also, certain groups of activities require certain types of spaces:

Reading - comfy nooks, group story area, individual desks.
Writing and Math - individual desks.
Science - individual or group space, "wet area" where experiments can be conducted.
Art - group and individual project space, requires a floor that can be easily cleaned of paint.
Music and Physical Activities (jumping, stretching, etc.) - open group space.
Unstructured Play - small group areas for games, toys, blocks, etc.
Nap Time - open group space.
Eating - individual or group space. Requires microwave and sink.
Video watching - group or individual space, with visible TV or projector surface.
Computer skills - individual computer stations.

General Program, or zones needed:
Main open area where desks can be used or moved aside, with a floor that can be cleaned easily.
Smaller carpeted/rug area or areas for sitting on the floor to play or read.
Wet area/sink for hand washing and science class.
Restroom (at least for kindergarten and 1st grade)
Teacher's space - desk and cabinet/closet for storage.

Some additional considerations:
-Connection with nature - how can we open up the classroom to the outdoors without it causing distraction?
-Built-in technology (projector, audio, computers) with "future-proofing" (easily upgraded).
-Is it practical or desirable to change the heirarchical layout of the room? (Teacher disseminating information from whiteboard at front of room vs. integrated learning experience)
-Bulletin boards, and how to display new media projects (videos, for example)
-How can the classroom itself become a teaching tool?

This brings us to furniture...
Toy Construction - can pieces of the kids' daily lives be included in the building (i.e. lego blocks used as spacers for louvers or furring strips)
Solar Ovens - could a solar oven be built into the wall, to be used instead of a microwave for heating up lunches? Then even preparing lunch is a learning experience.
The Amazing Desk 2.0! - A really great desk would meet several challenges. It would have wheels and be light enough for kids to move without help. The height could be easily adjusted, maybe with a lever like an office chair. It would have storage for school supplies, and it would be made of sustainable materials.
Chairs Too - ditto.
Bookshelves: built in or built out? - Would the bookshelves be moveable partitions? Would they be built-in, with doors that become display space when closed? Could they be built-out, extruded outward from the walls so as not to take up interior space? Would they simply BE the walls, a foot thick, with books as insulation?
Projector Space - TVs are so last century. A classroom of the future will have a projector, with a cabinet for the VCR/DVD player and a computer hookup. The screen could pull down over a bulletin board, or a lightweight bulletin board could have a screen on the back side and could be turned around when it's time to watch a film.
The Comfy Chair - beanbags? an armchair? a foam block or blob? Should kids have something to curl up on when they want to read during recess?

Finally, we reviewed our guiding design principles:
1. Visibility - inside to outside, and sightlines from teacher's desk to all parts of the room.
2. Mobility/Flexibility - areas that overlap, furniture that can be moved to create space for a different activity, furnishings that serve more than one function.
3. Durability and ease of cleaning.
4. Insulation and sound control.
5. Sustainability.
6. Technology built in.
7. Building as a learning tool.

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