Page 29 - THE Journal, October 2017
P. 29

The American architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase “form follows function,” and this is true of classrooms as well.
AS A STUDENT, Anthony Johnson hated school. He hated sitting still at one of several cramped desks aligned in precise rows, listening to his teachers talk for hours. It’s why he dropped out of school before ultimately earning a GED, going on to college and becoming a teacher himself.
“My own experience in school was awful,” he said, “and I decided that my classroom wasn’t going to look like that.”
In Johnson’s classroom at H.D. Isenberg Elementary School in Salisbury, NC, students can choose from a variety of seating options. There are tables for students to collaborate in groups of four, as well as bar-style seating
on taller stools and even a few couches where they can sit comfortably while they work or read independently. The school provided the tables, and Johnson supplied the rest of the furniture himself.
To teach his students about citizenship, Johnson operates his classroom like a community. “I call it the Johnsonville Learning Community,” he said.
His fourth- and fifth-grade students can earn currency by coming to
class each day and successfully completing assignments, and they also hold various classroom jobs. “The students who keep the classroom clean are part of our janitorial service,” he explained. “The student who brings things to the office is our delivery service.” Students use part of their currency to pay “rent” each month, and that entitles them to sit where they want.
Johnson’s school system is a 1-to-1 district, and every student is given an iPad to take home. Much of his instruction is project-based, with students working in small groups on tasks using curriculum from sources such as Defined STEM. In one recent project, his students used 3D modeling software on their iPads to create a multi-touch book about the human body systems.
Design Matters
Johnson’s classroom is an example of how changes in both the design of the learning space and the teaching that takes place there have combined to make learning much more engaging and effective for students.
A growing body of research suggests that the design of a learning space can have a significant effect on student success. For instance, a study by researchers at the University of Salford in England found that classroom
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Iconic Bestiary; MIRARTI Illustrations/Shutterstock/THE Journal staff

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