Make Space: Practical Applications

One of the newly created nooks in our library
One of the newly created nooks in our library

A few days ago, I posted a review of the book Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration.  But just a simple review does not give you the full story.  While reading through this book, I was constantly jotting down notes and ideas for things I wanted to try in my library.  Quite a few I’ve already implemented, or am in the process of implementing with our Learning Commons grant.  Here’s some of the major lessons and concepts I learned from Make Space:

Make Space Applications

Students using a newly opened up space to collaborate
Students using a newly opened up space to collaborate

Make physical space for creation to happen

“It seems that creativity is adaptive, like anything else.  When a space becomes available, work emerges to fill it” – David Byrne

When I first arrived at my school, my library was stuffed.  Every available wall space had tightly packed shelves.  Floor shelving units dominated.  The computer lab had 30 computers tightly crammed together.  And somehow, they managed to fit ten 60×36 inch tables and 60 chairs in the instruction area.  Students were constantly walking into furniture, bumping into one another, and squeezing by to get to things.  There were no vertical learning surfaces at all, and the shelves were so crowded that it was difficult to find anything worth reading (not surprisingly, the previous librarians NEVER weeded the collection either).

“Resist filling every square foot with furniture or decoration”

I’ve since gradually pared down the collection to books my students actually read, removed half the floor shelving units, and removed sections of wall shelving as well.  I’ve added cozy reading nooks, comfy chairs, and (next year) whiteboards and a LEGO wall for vertical learning surfaces.  I’ve been careful to leave plenty of room to comfortably navigate in the library, and I’ve created little pockets of open space for students to use.  There was never any room to sit on the floor before – now there’s plenty of space for students to spread out and work however they’d like.  There’s a much greater variety of chairs too – I’m planning on adding a computer bar in the Makerspace next year.

A learning mess in our K'nex Maker area
A learning mess in our K’nex Maker area

Leave some learning messes out

“Visible signs of use and activity encourage others to participate”

I wrote about “learning messes” not too long ago and how they help to encourage my students’ creativity.  Make Space helped me to reaffirm this belief.  Leaving out a little mess helps students to jump in.  No one wants to “mess up” a perfectly-organized-color-coded set of materials.  Along with a little mess, keeping examples of student projects out also encourages creativity.  We keep students’ K’nex and LEGO projects on display on top of our floor shelving.  There’s also projects on display in the trophy case in the hallway.

One campfire area in our library
One campfire area in our library

Campfires and caves

“Find ways to get the body moving, such as open space, prescriptive seating, and multiple seating heights”

The campfire is a configuration of chairs that are low to the ground and in a tight circle.  We have two campfire areas in the library, and they are the two hotspots for students.  Generally, they tend to socialize a lot, but I’ve also seen plenty of group collaboration in these areas too.

A pop-up cave during our bookfair
A pop-up cave during our bookfair

Caves are a bit trickier to figure out in schools.  On the one hand, it’s good to have quiet, secluded, cozy places for students who need separation for the noise and activity that goes on in a vibrant learning space.  On the other hand, giving students too much seclusion and privacy could lead to inappropriate behavior and bullying.  I’m still trying to figure out how to create a permanent cave in the library for my introverts.  I’m thinking about a semi-permeable screen or translucent fabric over a PVC pipe frame.  This one is still a work in progress.

Adding casters to an existing table
Adding casters to an existing table

Casters and whiteboards everywhere

“Furniture that allows movement and adjustability is key”

All of the new tables that we’ll be getting will have casters.  Six are flip and nest, and the other four will have whiteboard tops.  I’ve been working on adding casters to existing tables that are staying, and I’m going to paint some of these with Ideapaint too.  I’m also considering painting some walls and poles with Ideapaint to have some unexpected whiteboard spaces.  I’ve also removed shelving in the class instruction area and in the fiction/computer lab area, and we’ll be mounting whiteboards in these spaces over the summer.

Have you read Make Space yet?  What changes are you currently working on in your learning space?

1 thought on “Make Space: Practical Applications”

  1. Thanks for the design ideas! I just published a blog post saying how I wanted to add wheels to my current traditional tables. I have no clue how to do that, though, so it’s cool to see someone else’s designs.

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