Archives for posts with tag: School Environment

Well, Happy New School Year!  We thought we better update the story of The Big Move at City Neighbors Charter School.  Lets start with the teacher who decided to try getting rid of all her traditional desks and chairs and create what she likes to call, “Giovanni’s Cafe” for teaching Language Arts in middle school.  If you recall back in #1 of this series we introduced the ideas of Ms. Sajida Davis:

First, Ms. Davis talked about her teaching.  She would need space for the classroom library, small meeting spaces, and a spot for her desk (could it be near a window?). Next she imagined a big whiteboard – a whole wall – from floor to ceiling so groups of students could be coming up with ideas together at the same time. She mentioned quiet spaces (and we looked out in the hallway and decided it was great and she would feel comfortable sending kids out there too). And when we began to talk about her tables and chairs that were being moved up here she said, “What I really wish is that I didn’t have to have tables and chairs.” Cool! What would you have? “You know, I want my classroom to be like a big coffee shop, with couches and comfy chairs, coffee tables, and some kind of stage area.”

 After a long summer of first relocating the library, then insulating the attic, then searching for and finding used furniture from hotel liquidators in the area, we spent $900 to create an entirely new classroom.  Here are some of the pictures from her space on the first day of school (some with students!):

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And now the most important question must be posed.  Will the physical environment impact the practice of the teacher?  How about the work of the students?  What does this new space create that works?  How about what doesn’t work?  These questions and more will be considered as we continue to check in with Ms. Davis this year in her new space.

Well, we made it.  Today is day 3 of a new school year.  More pictures and thoughts on the physical environment coming soon.

Just a few more pictures of the new space in use with our students:

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Today we made great strides in The Big Move. We shuffled furniture between floors and between our three schools. We filled a dumpster with broken and old items, and we touched up paint and began in the basement with some deep cleaning.

Amazing! Suddenly, there is a feeling of space – new space – the very same rooms that felt small – feel bigger. Is it the flooring? The paint? The fact that everything is piled in the middle of the room and in boxes? This summer we are renewing our spaces – and we can already feel something has changed. After 11 school years of teaching and learning and growing – it feels good to be starting anew.

Now, you may remember that Ms. Davis has a vision for a classroom without desks and chairs – so today there was a furniture stampede on her behalf.  Thanks to our CNHS helpers: Ace, Rayshaun, and Shaheim for all the help!  I think they got a little bit exhausted today in the heat – and that prompted a trip to Mastellones on Harford Road where I made each of them try some apricot nectar (they liked it!) and bought them some lunch.  Here are a few pictures of where we stand here at the end of week two in “The Big Move.”

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Today I worked with a few of our awesome City Neighbors High School students over at our founding school. This summer they are helping us with The Big Move. I admit, today I wasn’t sure what to name it – The Big Mess seemed like an understatement.  Somehow we pushed through and cleared the hallways.

So, now that we have new flooring in two of our classrooms complete, we are putting things back in the rooms. And, just like a home, once you get one thing new (like a new floor), then you realize – now we need some touch up painting! Well, at least we have most everything in the right space where it goes.

There are so many inspirational schools that care about the physical environment!  One of the websites to check out is the Fielding Nair International website.  Randall Fielding and Praknash Nair are educators and architects  – working together to improve learning.  Take a look at some of their projects.

Next steps at CNCS – we will be adding some painted on white boards, moving bulletin boards, doing maintenance and fixing of furniture.  This week we will bring over some furniture for the the newly inspired middle school classroom for Ms. Davis – more about that later in the week.  All of this work is getting ready for the last step- the careful arranging and unpacking with the teachers. Here are a few pictures from our work today:










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