The Designer of Learning Environments

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Introduction 

The physical space of the ideal art room is designed with the intention to optimize the potential for learning and to ensure student safety. The environment of the art room is then defined by the culture that is created within the space. I believe that respect is at the core of a safe and open learning environment in which students are involved as collaborators in designing the learning experience. Having completed fifteen weeks of student teaching, and logging numerous observation hours beforehand, I have been exposed to a variety of learning environments and have borrowed some successful strategies as I begin to shape my own practice.

Rules and expectations must be established on the first day of school and consistently monitored and reviewed. At the elementary level there is much to be borrowed from the ideas and practices of classroom teachers in order to establish familiarity and consistency for students. At the high school level it is important to note that respect is something that must be earned from both sides. No matter the grade level or subject, a constant focus on respecting self, respecting others, and respecting environment is an umbrella of categories under which all other rules and expectations fall into place. Violations of those three basic tenants must be addressed clearly and immediately.

The art room poses a particular set of considerations in organization and storage. At the elementary level the art room may be used by 1000 students. everything must be clearly labeled to ensure smooth transitions between classes. At the high school level the same considerations must be taken, with consideration to the proper storage of longer-term projects and more advanced materials. In following facets of a Montessori philosophy I believe in making non-hazardous materials accessible to students so that with guidance they may direct their own experience of using the art room. The physical space of the room should be arranged in a way that allows easy traffic flow when entering and exiting, for the teacher to roam around and monitor students, and for the easy distribution of supplies and work.

The art students should come to feel a sense of ownership in the art room. With that comes the responsibility of its maintenance. The art room should remain an inviting and comfortable space, in which students are motivated and encouraged to create. It should function as a space that can be opened to parents and school community on occasions for celebrating and promoting the arts, while showcasing and reflecting the work that takes place in the space each day. Building a strong arts community at a school begins with shaping the culture within the classroom each day, so that students may be inspired to carry the spirit of the atmosphere beyond the room.

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