Flexible Learning Spaces
Dawn Reed, Okemos High School English Teacher, 2015
In the spring of 2015, OHS English teacher Dawn Reed received a grant to create “flexible learning spaces” in her classroom. Her room now offers students three workspace options, each accommodating 4 students per group: traditional individual desks, low round tables, and high-top tables which allow students to either sit on a backless stool or stand. Reed notes that giving students a choice in seating encourages both creativity and collaboration, both important components in the writing process. “Some people ask me if students are less focused in groups,” Reed says, “but in my experience and especially this year, they are more focused in the configuration that I have than when in rows.” Reed also notes that “students sit in almost all their classes, all day long.” Allowing students the option to stand is a very welcome change for many.
What do the students think? Reed polled her classes and discovered that 52% prefer the tall tables, with the rest equally split between their preference for the low round tables and the grouping of desks. Students have commented that the tall tables “make it harder to fall asleep in class” and that they “look more professional.” “I like to be able to stand,” says OHS senior Ariana,” since I sit in every other class.” “One student who moves every day to a tall table told me he just really appreciates standing,” says Reed. “I used to have students want to stand in my room, but they felt singled out. Now they have a space where it is welcome and encouraged.”
The grant Reed received from the Okemos Education Foundation funded two wooden high-top tables and 8 stools. But the rest of her now-transformed classroom came together once Reed’s colleagues saw her vision. Okemos Senior Custodian Ken Green uncovered some unused circular low tables and math teacher Russ Pline donated a single-user high computer desk to round out her flexible workspace options. “My room looks amazing! I am so appreciative of the support from the OEF and the High School faculty. The learning spaces are a gift and treasure in my room for my students."