January 4, 2008

Vaulting Ceilings and Education

The responses to my posts The Third Teacher and Good Design, Wrong Agenda helps me see there are a lot of folks who question the established learning environments for children.

I wonder about cathedrals and a sense of eternal perspective and how that perhaps promotes spirituality... So I ask, is there a relationship between the vaulted ceilings of a cathedral and an expanding view and spiritual sense?

And here's a corollary: What about the flights of emotion and passion and even feelings of deep reverence evoked by mountains and forests and grand blue skies or ominous gathering storm clouds? Or the vastness and depth and pertual motion of the ocean? Or the brilliance, beauty, and diversity flora and fauna?

Physical spaces inspire and promote thought and creativity. John Muir spoke of standing a top mountains an vistas in the Yosemite area of California Sierra Mountains and, though he was alone, uttering mighty "Yulps!" as the seemingly best visceral expression for what he experienced with his five physical senses and his other emotional, intellectual, spiritual and creative faculties.

A learning space for children ought to be calculated to not be so calculating; to not reward only the ever eager, hand-raising, I-got-the-answer type of student, but to elicit more of a Socratic approach of presenting questions for analysis and discussion -- I think space can promote dialectic approaches to guiding even young learners to self-propelled discovery.

Check out these summaries of studies about the effect of ceiling height on learning: A Schools for Children blog post and a PDF document The Influence of Ceiling Height.

Working in groups, teams, committees, subcommittees, on projects, assignments.... in contexts of division of labor and returning and reporting/synthesizing. Thus, why not eliminate classroom desks and instead have conference tables, open chairs for circular and other arrangements, etc.? A friend of mine likes the idea of having yurts available -- yes, even indoor yurts, for certain activities.

Dr. Todd Petersen has some well-defined ideas about classroom furniture and learning environments, and has developed a growing education philosophy (not the typical blah, blah, blah) supporting his ideas.