Education

Providence Day School rethinks how classrooms are designed

Design experts Christian Long, left, and Trung Le of the firm Wonder, by Design speak with prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers and teacher assistants during a multiday workshop for Providence Day School.
Design experts Christian Long, left, and Trung Le of the firm Wonder, by Design speak with prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers and teacher assistants during a multiday workshop for Providence Day School. PROVIDENCE DAY SCHOOL

Providence Day School is enlisting expert help to rethink how its classrooms are designed.

Projects are underway in prekindergarten, kindergarten, chemistry, humanities and physics classrooms, as well as the library. The goal is to shift the focus away from the front of the room and create a more studiolike environment.

“We have collaborative redesign projects going on in almost every building on campus,” said Marketing and Communications Director Karen Brand.

The private school in south Charlotte brought in two design experts from the firm Wonder, By Design to lead two days of workshops with teachers and administrators. Christian Long, one of firm’s partners, spoke with the Observer and described several best practices in classroom design.

He stressed that he doesn’t describe classrooms as “broken,” but instead encourages educators to brainstorm what is possible. Here are a few of his tips.

▪ Easily movable furniture. Desks and chairs that reconfigure easily can promote group work while also respecting the fact that humans don’t do a great job staying still, Long said. “If I walk into a space where it doesn’t move easily, it’s hard to be agile,” he said.

▪ Whiteboards everywhere. Instead of having one whiteboard manned by the teacher, Long now advises schools to look at making it “where every spare inch can be written on and sketched.”

▪ Forget the overhead projector. With the advent of digital media, Long said overhead projectors can be replaced in two ways: with one central top-of-the-line theater space and with a lower-quality projector in classrooms that can beam images in a lot of different directions.

▪ No more “computer labs.” When many students have computers in their pockets, a dedicated computer lab seems antiquated, Long said. Some schools are turning these into lounge or group work spaces.

▪ Let the light shine in. Traditional classrooms are set up such that when the door is closed, nobody can see in. When a school is building from scratch, Long said more windows and transparency can make collaboration easier.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn

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