Flexible learning environments

Recently I read a post by Edna, a PYP teacher in Australia, about the new flexible learning space at her school’s junior campus. I was very excited, after all, I used to work in such an environment, and deep down really believe in it.

I talked to my principal about the idea of such flexible, open learning environments and two things we talked about have since been on my mind.

1. The flexible in the already-existing school

Of course we are not going to start knocking down existing buildings, but the question whether this can be done in our school was greeted with a confident nod by my principal. Great, I thought, but how? If you look back at the post, there is talk about reading and discussion areas, computer areas, and that for every grade level. We only have one class per grade level, with two consecutive grades doing the same units of inquiry. As we have traditional classrooms, we are “restricted” in what we can do. But the prompt that I loved the most was, that I would be able to do this in my classroom as it is. And how this challenged my thinking and how quickly my thinking adjusted. Ever since then I have been tempted to redesign my classroom.
As with my school in Berlin, which was one huge learning atelier, I envision a quiet “withdrawal”/reading area, a discussion area, a group area, a “coffee shop” area for discussions between small groups or pairs, or to work alone. A “school” or conference area for bigger groups. This is all possible, I will work further on this, and hopefully this post will get Edna to share some more of their ideas with me as well. I hope to be able to make things happen soon, as I am so curious now.

2. Mixing grades

Again, at my school in Berlin, learners were mixed. They all worked depending on their developmental state, and that allowed us to easily mix year 4, 5 and 6. It was a great experience.
We also talked about that, and that is when my “beginner to intermediate” PYP experience came through, as I questioned how this would work when students are doing different units.
CONCEPTS were, of course, the answer. Through key or related concepts, learners can come together, and then come back to their central ideas. I wonder if any schools do that. What does that mean for teachers?
For the old team in Berlin, this meant collaboration through and through, but we were subject teachers, after all, and our approach inter-disciplinary. The PYP is very different, as a trans-disciplinary programme.

Very exciting thoughts, I am curious as to how I am going to start implementing some of my new ideas. Share yours!

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2 thoughts on “Flexible learning environments

  1. How fantastic that you can have these conversations with an open administration! Not all are so lucky. I hope you will share pictures that you have of the Berlin school with flexible learning spaces as well as your adjustments to your current classroom. I would love to see them!
    @MaggieSwitz might have some good ideas about how to teach multiple age levels within the PYP program, I seem to remember her writing something about the subject.

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