Why Learning Studio?

Posted by Meredith Shafer on 4/15/2016

Collaboration has been an integral part of what we do at North Park for many years, but 3 years ago collaboration truly evolved for our 2ndgrade team. 


In order to meet the needs of our 21st century learners, we began to focus on 21st Century Learning Skills: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.  We felt the best way to meet these needs was by integrating more technology and engineering into our day.  This called for increased collaboration among students, and the teachers worked more closely together as well.  Students began walking to read or work in classrooms that weren't their homerooms.  It was great getting to work with and get to know so many more students and work more closely with each other.  Although we were seeing great things come out of this collaboration, one of the biggest drawbacks we faced was the distance between classrooms and not being able to nurture those relationships.  Two classrooms were already connected with a movable wall, but the third classroom was in another part of the building.  This made it difficult for students to transition smoothly and for conversations among teachers to happen more frequently.


About half way through that year, after a trip to our multi-purpose media center (This large space housed our EL office, a computer lab, the library and a 4th grade classroom), we looked around and wondered, "What if we were all in here together?" This started us on an amazing journey to create the space we now call the 2nd Grade Learning Studio.

During our design sessions with the Cuningham Group, we acknowledged that we were creating something unlike anything we had in our school, or really any other.  Students would be learning in a different way and in a different space. We needed a different name to describe the place we were creating.  As we planned and designed the space, we spent a long time debating names and sharing ideas before arriving at the term Learning Studio.  This new name reflected the change in learning that would take place inside the walls. With our programming evolution and the innovative space it demanded we create, the term classroom no longer fit but Learning Studio was perfect.  


Today, content in our Learning Studio is obtained in a variety of ways.  Students work with teachers in small groups and large groups.  Students also learn on their own through technology or individual projects.  They have also found that they learn so much from each other!  Everyone is a teacher and a learner in our Learning Studio.  We are constantly surprised by how much the students grow and change as they confidently navigate through a day in the Learning Studio.


I could never go back to teaching the way I did in a traditional classroom. I have grown and learned so much during my two years in the Learning Studio that it would be impossible to go back to how I taught before. I value the collaboration with my teammates (who I frequently say I couldn't breathe without!) and enjoy getting to work with so many students in one year. Students grow and learn so much in a short amount of time and that has everything to do with what is going on in our Learning Studio.