ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Extreme Homeroom Makeover

Post submitted by SmartBrief education editor Amy Dominello

Little things mean a lot when it comes to designing school spaces that can enhance student learning.

There are lots of little touches that can be done at little cost to improve learning environments, said Beth Hebert, the now-retired principal of Crow Island School in Winnetka, Ill. But it's also about making sure that classroom spaces are designed for little people, she said.

Hebert, who served as principal of the elementary school for 21 years, led an ASCD Annual Conference session on how school and classroom design can energize, support, and inspire learning. Architects frequently visited her school—a National Historic Landmark built in 1940—because of its unique design, which incorporated work rooms and access to outdoor spaces in the classrooms.

The interest in the school piqued her interest in the connections between the use of space and how well-designed spaces can improve learning for children. She stressed that doing so doesn't always cost money or require major renovations, citing the calming effect of softer lighting as one example.

Before embarking on a makeover, Hebert recommends understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your current space and getting multiple perspectives, including those of students and parents.

She also advocates that educators think about classroom design from the student's perspective: painting doors different colors so young students who can't read yet know where to go; making sure seats are the right size for the youngest students; and having wide hallways so students aren't bumping into one another.

Hebert also urged educators to look at the wide variety of resources available to make a case for change, including DesignShare, the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, and the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.


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