Today Niles Rotary was enlightened by the organization of space, furniture and technology to facilitate “Active Learning Centers” areas or “Flexible Learning Centers” in our schools. Dr. Jim Morris, the Superintendent for Fremont Unified School District, and a proud member of Niles Rotary, introduced Paul Andrus, Community Service Chair to Principal David Thornley so Niles Rotary can do a community service project at Cabrillo Elementary this upcoming April. From that David has attended several Niles Rotary meetings and came to present to us today. We also learned that his father was once President of the Hayward Rotary Club. David, you’ll have to bring your dad back to visit us soon!
Principal David Thornley of Cabrillo Elementary along with Thom Birbeck of the Fremont Unified School District came presented what an impact the space students learn in can have on their level of engagement and interest when learning.
What is “Active Learning”?
“Students must do more than just listen: They must read, write, discuss, or be engaged in solving problems Most important, to be actively involved, students must engage in higher order thinking tasks and analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Wishing this context, it is proposed that strategies promoting active learning be defined as instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing” (Bonwell, C. & Eison, J. 1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. AEHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1 Washington, D.C. Jossey-Bass.
They also shared a video with us how U.C. Berkeley is using this concept and how the students not only enjoy it, but prefer it to other classroom settings
Hopkins Junior High was the first school in the Fremont Unified School District to try this concept out and that space has now been dubbed “the Nest”. As all the furniture rolls around into the needed structure for each unique learning situation, the possibilities are endless. Most of the layouts involve students in small groups facing each other and they automatically begin building relationships and working together from this simple approach. Most of these spaces include large screens on the walls where students can work together as a group designing presentations, practicing presentations, researching on the internet versus crowding around one students laptop. In addition, there are Chrome Book Stations installed into the walls where the teacher/facilitator unlocks the Chrome books for students to use and when class is over, they place them back and they are automatically charged in the storage racks before the next group uses them.
An article published in November 2014 in the School Planning & Management magazine has a great article called The Furniture Effect — School Planning & Management.
It looks like Fremont is constantly helping find ways to further engage our students to grow, learn and challenge each other. Thanks for the presentation David Thornley & Thom Birbeck!
Blog Contributed by Paul Andrus, Community Service Chair