Is it possible to transform a normal classroom into an integrated learning environment while not breaking the bank? We gave it a shot at Fain Elementary in Wichita Falls, TX.
Fain is a Project Based Learning campus filled with passionate educators willing to innovate. As part of this push, they built a maker space that's used daily by students. After seeing the positive impact the makerspace has had, Clarisa Richie (principal at Fain), had a vision for expanding the space.
The makerspace shares a wall with an unused traditional classroom. Most schools are made up of isolated classrooms like the one you see here. What if our classrooms weren't isolated islands? What if we connected classrooms and teachers became coaches that worked together? What if we connected classrooms?
Turns out this idea has been explored by none other than Sal Khan of Khan Academy...
"And it actually won't even be an isolated profession anymore. Right now, in a traditional classroom, because it's lecture-based, you have a classroom of 20, 25, 30 students, another classroom of 20, 25, 30 students, another classroom of 20, 25, 30 students. And in each of them, you'll have a teacher, often at the front of the classroom, running class, lecturing in some way. Because every student is now working at their own pace at their own time and the teachers are now spending most of their time interacting with students, I could imagine a world where, why have these walls between classrooms? Why not just have one larger classroom? Now it's 70, 75, 90 students. And all three teachers work together. And so the teachers aren't isolated in their rooms. They're all able to tag team and play to each other's strengths." - Sal Khan
With these ideas in mind, we created a design for the space. Notice the new walkthrough connecting the space directly to the maker space. We planned to create custom adjustable height tables, bring in giant bean bags, an internet connected smart flat screen, artificial turf and power it with Dexter curriculum. With this plan, we projected a total budget of $10,000 and got to work!
In addition to the physical space, we're providing the facilitators with Dexter curriculum to power the space. Exciting times at Fain Elementary!
The project ended up costing a total of $6,360 ($3,640 under budget) and will serve as a helpful example for local educators as they modernize school facilities. The architectural and structural design of a school creates implicit values - perhaps we can move away from isolation towards a more connected classroom. Interested in bringing a connected classroom to your school? Reach out to email@example.com!
Special thanks to Fain PTA, SW Rotary, Dr. Blaine Purcell and WFISD Maintenance and Operations Department.
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