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Student Co-Authorship of Learning Environments Creates Cultural Change

Garden City Elementary will be different. The school is part of the Cranston Public School District and currently undergoing construction. A pillar of the district’s vision is a strong commitment to designing learning environments that reflect the values and aspirations of all their learners. Together with Fielding International, an educational design firm, and Natural Pod, a sustainable school furniture company, the school district gave the students at Garden City Elementary a unique assignment: design what they would like their classrooms to look like. This project took place to shift educators’ thinking, model the way for students, and encourage the adoption of learning environments to be the catalyst for change.

During the project, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders were confident in their planning seat. Their educators supported them through their role as project managers. Over the course of one semester, each group of students designed their ideal learning space, keeping in mind what inspired their space, the intention of the space, and challenges they encountered along the way. From a giant shark where students could go inside its mouth to study and practice multiplication tables on the shark’s teeth, to a clock made from elements found in nature, student ideas were impressive. These conversations inspired architects and designers in creating the new interior at the school.

The students engaged in space design using project-based learning (PBL). Their project was aligned to teachers’ ELA, Math, and Social Studies standards. Designs were drafted, prototypes built. An ongoing mentorship with designers and architects through Fielding International and Natural Pod created “a sense of ownership and pride in the building, before it even exists, which will translate into connection, investment, and student leadership when we are in the building”, as Principal Brian Byerlee describes the impact of the project.

The way students are engaged at Garden City Elementary is an incredible opportunity to foster the development of well-rounded, self-appropriated, and insightful beings. Let this not be the sole responsibility of a few b
About Natural Pod:
Natural Pod creates high-quality, non-toxic wood furniture for learning spaces with an emphasis on beauty, functionality and environmental awareness. Our commitment to invest in sustainable practices is fundamental to our support of children, community and planet.
About Fielding International:
As an interdisciplinary team of architects and educators, we partner with school organizations to design learning spaces and experiences that promote student agency, enrich well-being, and cultivate authentic learning communities.

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