Ed. Note- This program was formerly known as Classroom Cribs and has, since publication of this piece, been re-branded as BOLD Classrooms. This post has been updated to reflect the change.
Environments impact life. The kind of environment an animal evolves in impacts what that animal becomes, what its strengths are, and how it approaches the world around it. Is the environment harsh and inhospitable, barely allowing its inhabitants to eek out an existence? Or is it lush and vibrant, and those who dwell within are free to frolic and grow safely?
Often the educational environment is divorced from the most hospitable learning environment. Sure, we say “learning environment”, but what we mean is “the room the school assigned me where my kids gather every day.” We don’t actually think about it like the environment where they (and we) exist every day, learning to live and thrive. Do we consider the educational impact of what we’re setting up from an evolutionary scale? Are our rooms built to take our kids to the top of the food chain?
BOLD Classrooms, taking place Oct. 17 in Fairfax, CA, wants to get teachers thinking about their rooms and how they, on a teacher’s budget, can move their rooms from the “place where their kids are” to “a vibrant learning environment”. This one day event, which still has openings so get in now, features five presenters who want to help teachers bring their rooms to life.
I spoke to conference lead and CUE Rock Star extraordinaire Jon Corippo about the reasoning behind BOLD Classrooms. “This is to bring together five educators who have all worked on the idea of classrooms as a learning space instead of gravestones with quiet boxes…Schools are in a place to starting truly thinking about how the space affects the learning.” He went on to say that attendees will be given the tools to think about their rooms as “classroom studio environments”, and as a teacher myself, that sounds like an outlook I have been going for myself.
When we think of classroom redesign the first thing that pops up, after all the Ohhhhh I want THAT are dollar signs. Jon knows that, and BOLD Classrooms was intentionally designed to get around that. “I know your have a room full of furniture from the 80s, if you’re lucky. We’re not looking to build fantasy classrooms. We’re bringing teachers usable and replicatable ideas.” The conference won’t break the bank either, with a registration tag of only $99 for a full day of innovative learning. When pressed on what these wonderful and cheap alternatives might be, Corippo mentioned his belief that every classroom should have a green screen, whiteboards on every wall, and a simple, smart power plan for charging any technology you might have. Speaking as a teacher, just hearing him talk about ideas like building a six-inch plywood stage for students to present from had me making a Home Depot shopping list. Alas, I work in Portland, OR and won’t be able to make it to Fairfax on Oct. 17. But if you can, you should.
Think about your students. How comfortable are they? What can we be doing to improve the space where they spend the majority of their year? Beyond pedagogy, is there more we can be doing to help them learn? BOLD Classrooms is your step in the right direction.
Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words). Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.