S H A R O N            D V O R AGreening the classroom:movement towards a living,learning community                       ...
THE LOREM IPSUMS                                                       SPRING 2012I had a typical public school education....
THE LOREM IPSUMS                                                            SPRING 2012                            unsuspe...
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Greening our Schools

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Greening our Schools

  1. 1. S H A R O N D V O R AGreening the classroom:movement towards a living,learning community What will it take to make a radical shift in the state of public schools in America? I do believe that just about every problem can be addressed and repaired through the healing portal of good design. I’ve been a designer of one sort or another my whole life. When I was young, I held the magical belief that working creatively with a shoebox could inherently shift the universe, as we know it. Combined with my radical belief that anything could be created out of a shoe box {fuzzy slippers, for example}, I also had a hidden internal inkling that the shoe box held a great deal of the mystery of God’s impact on the planet. Were we all, including the earth itself, encapsulated in some kind of shoebox, carried under the armpit of the unknown, all-powerful God?
  2. 2. THE LOREM IPSUMS SPRING 2012I had a typical public school education. These past 2 years, I’ve had theAnd for the most part, so did my opportunity to teach in anchildren. Since I had my 3 environment very differentchildren at a young age, there from the publicwere only about 5 years educational system.between the completion of my I’meducation and the beginning oftheirs. Then about 10 yearslater I went back to school toearn a Master of Arts inTeaching, which sent meright back where I teaching in a preschool for thestarted—into the public arts and my students are threeschool system. to five year old creatives! It’s been a veryI never did like going toschool much. But thistime, I was the teacher. Idesigned my classroomas a creative venture,with the students as my freeingcollaborators and me as experience for me to work in anthe instigator, motivator institution whose mission is toand resource director. nurture and inspire creativity! ITogether we generated a jumped at the opportunity tomemorable art experience release myself from thethat extended our learning anxiety of preparation, goalsbeyond the classroom. and objectives in exchange for an emergent curriculum, one thatLearning experiences is peer-driven and thrives on(ah ha!) are impactful spontaneity and the keen skillfulness—the stuff of of an adaptable & responsivepotential direction learning environment.and transformationin a child’s It has been thisexpanding preschoolworldview. And it’s experiencetowards this end that hasthat I am an opened myadvocate of the eyes and heartessential role of the arts to what liesexperience in our schools. ahead for these 2
  3. 3. THE LOREM IPSUMS SPRING 2012 unsuspecting young people. After their heart-connecting, creative experience in preschool, they’re going to be seated in a public school classroom for 13 years straight! Something else is going on that has piqued my interest. A few of these young students are already showing signs of inattention, hyperactivity, lack of focus and behavioral tendencies deserving of attention. It’s clear that already our learning environment isn’t an ideal fit for every child. I’ve become interested in developmental movement patterns andusing movement strategies in the classroom to help with focus and community building.Intuitively, I tackle emergent concerns with design solutions. We’re creating a movementroom, an organic garden, a recycled materials zone, an earth digging area. Of course, thesearen’t ingenious ideas, but are important strategies for repairing a prevalent design problemwhere most schoolyards are equipped with monumental metal play structures planted in asea of splintery bark chips.Why is Collaborative Design the perfect approach for this particular wicked problem?Interfacing with the issues and collaborating with the stakeholders can happen in a waythat is creative, playful, enlivening and approached from the disarming perspective ofbringing art and design into the equation. A healthy collaboration can involve all of thestakeholders in an engaging and creative process—one that has the potential of stimulatinga wide variety of viewpoints. Working with a visual and kinesthetic exploration of theproblem at hand, while embracing and considering various viewpoints can open the doorfor new solutions to emerge.Who are the stakeholders? Childhood itself is at stake—that whole amazingly magical timeof development that each of us gets to experience just once, but that is being squanderedaway inside unhealthy buildings devoid of green, life-giving, natural connections. Familiesof every configuration and in many states of transition, administrators, teachers and mostimportantly students of all shapes, sizes, inclinations and abilities—these are some of thestakeholders.Through the Collaborative Design process, I would like to generate creative designsolutions with the potential to initiate a paradigm shift at the classroom level andultimately at the school and societal level. I’d like to co-design an ecologically responsibleand aware learning environment—one that engages the arts, inspires creative thinking,collaborative learning and encourages the freedom and empowerment to co-create a livingcommunity whose potential extends beyond itself in time and space. Technology has agreat role to play in making that extension possible—as a key to establishing globalconnections for learning communities at the most active and humanistic level. 3

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