Group projects in the real world

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From Awful Group Projects at 11D.

The classroom as ‘exploration studio’

The Fifth-Grade Exploration Studio, imagined by Greg Stack and Natalia Nesmeainova of NAC Architecture in Seattle, is the winner in Slate’s contest to reinvent the American classroom.

In their classroom, small student learning teams share a common area. Students can work alone, work together on projects and view web and video content from their stations.

The entire class shares a central project area in their studio that is equipped with a variety of seating and work surface choices.  This area contains a wet area with 2 sinks for science and art projects, as well as adjustable height tables, tables for group projects, and soft seating for informal discussions or private reading.  A large “smart board” computer screen between the sinks along the window wall can be used for student presentations, lectures by the teacher, or to connect to other classes in other parts of the world via Skype or similar programs.

Arranged around the perimeter of the room, the student stations and computer screens can be seen by the teacher at a glance from the center of the room.  Mirrors placed behind the computer screens and tilted up slightly allow teacher and student to make eye contact without the need for the student to turn around.

The trapezoidal shape of the room reduces noise, creates a base location for the teacher and “allows natural light from the windows to penetrate deep into the room.”  The studio is connected to other studios by a shared project/large group area.

Outside, students can use a covered plaza for experiments.

On one side a door and windows connects students to the exterior, while on the other side a roll-up glass garage door can be opened on nice days allowing class activities to spill out to the exterior.  A story telling circle and a garden for growing food nudge into a natural landscape which includes native vegetation and a water course so students can study their environment.

More than 350 entries were submitted, writes Linda Pearlstein.

To what extent can classroom design improve learning? I’d guess it falls fairly low on the priority list.