The popularity of makeover shows is rampant. Whether it’s a room, an entire home, or a person’s physical appearance that is being transformed, viewers just can’t get enough of them. Entire networks have been created to showcase these changes, and the awe and excitement they bring about can be life-changing and contagious. So why not take this life-changing contagion and bring it to the learning environment? Teachers and districts can go full on Extreme Home Makeover style, do a quick wardrobe update, or settle somewhere in between. With budgets and resources big or small, these 3 levels of transformations in learning environments can bring about new levels of engagement for the students that enter them.
Level I- No Budget
Teachers are crafty and resourceful by nature. Even with no money in the budget, their classrooms reflect a personal touch and a student-centered focus. These five teachers spotlighted by We Are Teachers are no exception. Upcycled finds, a can of paint, a fundraising plan, and/or a little sweat equity can go a long way toward an amazing transformation. Transformations can focus on the walls, furnishings, organizers, or just about any aesthetic aspect with the space. There are lots of DIY options that can bring new life to tired furnishings and/or learning resources. By putting the time into fundraising and/or creating a new look, both students and teachers can feel a sense of pride and ownership within the spaces where learning occurs.
Level II- Low Budget
Those with a limited budget can take notes from Wade and Hope King, an education power couple from Georgia. They have built a lot of excitement around lessons by building a repertoire of go-to resources for setting the stage to engage learners. The Kings dial into student interests and transform the learning environment and lessons presented within it. With some discounted Halloween costumes and some ingenuity, students can enter learning spaces modeled after the Power Rangers, Super Mario, Jurassic Park, NASCAR, or whatever their collective interests may gravitate toward. They can complete activities inspired by the transformative theme, yet rooted in the curriculum (e.g., biomes, ecosystems, force and motion, current events, human rights). The Kings focus on building experiences to aid students in remembering the concepts learned as they participate in them.
Level III- Wow Budget
A dream budget can transform entire spaces from floor to ceiling and/or possibly create entirely new ones from the ground up. One community in Kentucky pulled together to raise $6 million to fund the construction of a 30,000 square-foot dream space. The ED Hub that was created filled a 21st- century need in a tired community. Administrators went to students looking for answers on how to ignite the learning spark, and the building designed houses the makerspaces and technological innovations they were seeking. Students can enter the library and borrow the tools needed to make their visions come to life; they have an ability to focus on real-world problems with the resources and know-how to solve them and/or learn in the process. The future of the students and the community have been transformed by the development of a learning space that is contagious in its innovative allure and grounded in a design principle of Surprise and Delight that keeps student and staff morale at the forefront of learning. This small town in Eminence, Kentucky, took a vision and made it an inspiring reality.
When changes and improvements to enhance the learning environment and the activities that occur within it are made, students see that learning is valued. The passion behind the project can have more of an impact than size of the budget needed to fund it. Whether big or small, transformations can get students and teachers excited and engaged in learning.