To develop the school's project, staff worked together to develop responses to the following guiding questions.
We will focus on developing varied and innovative learning environments at Fireside based on Thornburg’s research on the need for cave, campfire, life and watering hole spaces within classrooms. Our innovation grant will be used to purchase innovative furniture. If budget allows, we will also look at updating furniture in our school library. Currently, the majority of our classrooms have older chairs, tables and a few rooms have desks. These traditional classroom setups can create barriers for teachers who are hoping to create a more student-centered learning environment. Some of our classrooms have started experimenting with innovative furniture and spaces. Our hope is that we provide consistency throughout the school in terms of our understanding of how the process of learning matches the learning spaces and furniture within them and desired learning outcomes.
We’ve engaged stakeholders in a variety of ways including staff, our school accountability committee, and frequent updates with our Design Advisory Team (DAT). We also had a team of teachers attend the International Tech conference, ISTE summer of 2016, whereby varied collaborative learning environments were displayed and teachers started experimenting with their own student workspaces in classrooms. As a staff, we’ve also had discussions utilizing our BVSD innovation guiding principles and how these influence and shape our student’s learning experiences. Additionally, the staff has attended different tech conferences, viewed innovative furniture displays, and visited various schools to inform what would be best for our students at Fireside. Our innovation team, which is comprised of six teachers and the principal, narrowed the scope of our innovation project to five different project proposals and presented these options to staff. Through discussion, frequent reports to our DAT, and a shared decision-making process with staff, we jointly decided to pursue creating innovative learning spaces through the purchase of adaptive classroom furniture.
The Boulder Valley mission is “to create challenging, meaningful and engaging learning opportunities so that all children thrive and are prepared for successfully engaged lives.” We believe that meeting student’s personalized learning needs requires attention to the learning space as well as the individual’s social-emotional and academic needs. By creating varied learning spaces through the function of adaptive furniture, coupled with technology, teacher training on varied modes of instructional delivery, and student-centered approaches, we can best meet the needs of every child.
Our project will align with learning is a social process and learning is personalized and learner led. Already in classrooms, students use varied collaborative structures to support working in groups or pairs. By having mobile tables and chairs, students will be able to more readily form smaller or larger groups in order to differentiate varied learner needs. Flexibility with seating will also allow for a more personalized approach, offering time for independent reflection, a more dynamic social process, learning from experts or even self-regulation for students with sensory needs.
As a result of the innovation, students will engage in authentic, meaningful, engaging tasks within a flexible, collaborative environment where students’ learning styles, preferences, backgrounds, needs, processes, and strengths will be met. With this personalized approach to learning, students will show mastery of learning in multiple ways and will have a variety of opportunities for choice and self-selection of learning spaces that best meet their personal ideal learning style needs (campfire, watering hole, cave, life). As a staff we defined student and teacher behaviors we would expect to see in these learning spaces here.
Fireside will use several assessment tools to determine the overall effectiveness of purchasing innovative furniture. Our plan is to assemble a student advisory focus group including students in grades 3-5 in order to gather input on the impact of innovative spaces 3 times over the course of the school year. We will also administer a teacher and parent survey (Our driving question: As a result of the personalized learning approach how has this benefitted student’s learning experience?)
Teachers at Fireside will begin to engage in different texts and studies in order to deepen their understanding of varied learning spaces prior to fall, 2018. Furniture companies will also provide tutorials and professional development on ways to maximize effectiveness with the new furniture. During the 2018-2019 school year, an Innovation Cohort will meet four times over the course of the year in order to monitor the progress of the plan, support ongoing professional development for staff aligned with our guiding principles, and support the implementation process.