Kathryn Wiant

Learning Space
Vision Statement

An ideal learning space should be a pleasure to be in and stimulating to the mind. It should be a flexible, multi-use space that fosters a community of learners actively engaged in purposeful work. It is a safe and secure environment that encourages and supports creative thinking, citizenship and communication within and beyond the physical classroom.

We are all affected by the spaces we occupy. Space not only affects our mood and sense of psychological wellbeing but our ability to work, be creative, think, relax or even eat. Specifically, a learning environment needs to take into account the desired behavior of the students, the desired psychological effect of the space, safety, efficiency, and how conducive the space is for learning. The fact that learning is multi-faceted makes designing the optimal space a challenge. Couple that with the requirements needed for the integration of technology into a space and you have a challenge.
Any educational space must balance four basic requirements: psychological needs, physical needs both of bodies and materials, educational/curricular needs, and technological needs.
There is a huge body of evidence as well as personal experience that supports the importance of an aesthetically pleasing environment to personal wellbeing. The ideal environment would have pleasing, balanced colors that help create quiet spaces as well as more stimulating spaces. It would also provide a variety of seating and work station options including hard and soft seating, tables, desks, adjustable chairs and tables. The goal is to find harmony in the colors and materials used to create an attractive, safe and secure environment.
The space must also address the physical needs of students. The key principles that must be addressed are accessibility and safety. People come in different sizes and that is rarely more obvious than at ages 6-12. In order to accommodate their size differences and ergonomically correct use of technology, it is necessary to have easily adjustable and moveable chairs, tables and desks. The space must be accessible to everyone. Lighting should be both natural and indirect artificial light to reduce eyestrain. The best space would also have sinks for personal, sanitary use, and sinks for clean-up. Ideally bathrooms would be connected to the learning space. Adequate storage would be provided not only for resources and supplies but also for products and student work. For example, it would have large flat drawers in addition to cupboard, bin and file space. Art supplies would be easily accessible in moveable taborets. Ample display space should be available and accessible to the students.
It is important to note that students don’t learn best in a vacuum or isolation especially in our current environment (if they ever did). The ideal learning environment would foster creativity, critical thinking, skill acquisition, literacy, problem solving and acquiring a broad and deep knowledge base. In terms of an elementary school classroom, the ideal space would be a flexible environment that supports group and individual work, has adequate storage for a wide range of materials (books, other media and supplies) and allows for displays of natural phenomena such as aquariums, terrariums, and artifacts.
Present day classrooms must have complete wireless capability to support a variety of technology tools that should be available for student use such as laptop computers, iPads and iPods, cameras and video recording (Flip cameras) and playing devices, presentation tools such as data projectors, Smart boards, document cameras and even overhead projectors. In order for them to be creative and critical thinkers they need to be able to connect with the outside world seamlessly and be able to share their learning through multi-media. Tehnology like SmartBoards and data projectors would allow students to save and share learning not only with classmates but also in their homes and with the world outside their community. Access to the Internet allows them to break down the barriers of space and time to experience a rich curriculum beyond their classroom walls and outside the school day. The use of technology allows for self-differentiated content, process and product.
A well planned space can and should make learning as natural as breathing.