Just by chance, and in order to accommodate 3 way conferences a few weeks later I was give an opportunity to work with all of our Year 6 students for the whole afternoon. A supervisory team of teachers included myself, the Drama teacher, the Secondary Librarian, the Digital Literacies Coordinator, and the Head of Primary.
Remembering Heppell's words, I saw this was a prefect opportunity to involve Year 6 in the initial thinking in designing a new learning space for 2014/15. Students watched a slideshow of about 50 photos of different learning spaces around the world, photos of schools, libraries and offices. During the slideshow, there was a buzz of excitement as students were genuinely surprised at all the different designs. I asked the students to share their thinking with each other by following an "I See I Think I Wonder" routine. Students were then reminded of the design brief and were given the space and time to creatively redesign their existing learning space. They could use a variety of media to create: plasticine, Lego, Minecraft, writable surfaces such as table tops and windows, medium-sized whiteboards as well as large sheets of paper and markers. Students could choose where they wanted to work and with whom they wanted to work or they could work alone. Off they went! Chairs were initially stacked up to make room for 90 students but interestingly, after they started I didn't see one child go and collect a chair to sit on. Students worked under book tubs, in little nooks and crannies around the library, stood around circular tables, on beanbags.
The teachers had a job of capturing the process as well as students' thinking. We used iPads to record with photos and video. There was a healthy level of noise in the library with students chatty and excited about their afternoon. They wanted to share their thinking behind their designs so it was easy to record. There were some very creative options: a menu of activities for the day that were activated with a swipe card so that students "would not have to spend days practicing the same thing." A selection of little mini pods where students could work uninterrupted. Colour was also a major theme that came through. Students wanted colour in their lives. They wanted flexible spaces. They didn't necessarily want tables and chairs although many had put them in because they thought they had to. Some sectioned off areas for writing and reading. One student put in additional stairs and extended the classrooms to the outside spaces.
Time flew during the afternoon and there certainly wasn't enough of it. Having said that, there was enough time to allow for creativity. These students could have worked the whole day like this. Students were on task and engaged with an authentic task. The following morning I sent out a quick questionnaire to the students. Five questions were asked so that I could gather some data about the way that they worked that day. You can view their responses here.
You can also listen to a very articulate student share his design below.