I grew up in an Italian family. That meant a lot of our family gatherings were centered around food. Lots and lots of food. And since most food preparation happens in the kitchen, it came to be that a lot of family gathering and conversations happened around the kitchen as well.
Apparently this same phenomena has happened in many families because we are now seeing open-concept kitchens as a selling point for homes. Understanding that the kitchen is not just about cooking, but also about communicating, designers are rethinking the traditional kitchen to incorporate this additional user need.
When spaces are designed, they are designed for a purpose. A home has many spaces, and each has its purposes. It would seem bizarre to place your bed in the kitchen. Even though we know that our day consists of both cooking and sleeping, those activities require separate spaces. Likewise, most of us forego the kitchen sink and use a separate sink space to brush our teeth and apply makeup.
And yet, when looking at classroom spaces, I see spaces that are trying to be an all-in-one environment. It’s like having the bed, sink, patio furniture, and front lawn all crammed in the kitchen. (Granted, there are some super tiny apartments in NYC that attempt to do just that, but they are the exception!)
What do you want students to do in the space?
This is the question Rebecca Louise Hare, Design Specialist/Science Teacher/Learning Space Designer and overall awesome person challenged us with at CUE BOLD. A space, she explained, can’t be everything to everyone all the time. Prioritizing the function of the space is key.
Is it meant for collaborating? Physical Making? Digital Making? Reflecting? Showcasing? Working independently? Presenting? Receiving? Other? And no, you can’t just say yes. Think of how much time does it serve those purposes… and is there another space that could serve that purpose better?
Can we showcase student learning in the hallways? In the library? On a website or IG account? This frees our classroom walls for the process of learning instead of a museum for the product of learning.
Can students work independently outside of their assigned seat? Does it work on the floor? Under a desk? In the quad? On a bean bag chair?
When you prioritize the purpose of your space, the space can then support the purpose. If the kitchen is for cooking and socializing, then the inclusion of the island with bar stools and a large stove supports that purpose. The bed, the lawn, the makeup… the rest becomes clutter, distraction, barriers.
As we head into summer break, challenge yourself by asking: What do you want students to do in the space? What do students want to do in the space? And then design it to reflect that purpose.
The Space: A Guide for Educators by Rebecca Louise Hare & Dr. Robert Dillon
Parts, Purpose, Complexities Thinking Routine