Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Final Space

It FINALLY came!!! We have been waiting...and waiting...and waiting for the final piece of furniture to arrive for our amazing space. It arrived today at 3:30...albeit a month late...we'll take it! Check it out! Isn't it amazing? We cannot wait to surprise the kids tomorrow morning with it!

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Could this horse-shoe piece be ANY cooler?? We are SO excited!
A Little Background...
When Kate and I first began planning this space, our number one priority was the hole in the wall. We knew it would completely change the way we taught and the way the kids viewed our space. It would not longer be my room and Kate's room. That doorway symbolized the transition to our room. Out of everything we asked for in our proposal (and we DID ask for the moon...), that was our number one. Thankfully, we got it!

In addition to the wall and the amazing technology that we use each and every day with our students, we also asked for money to purchase unique and comfortable furniture. We in no way shape or form wanted a "traditional" classroom environment. We wanted cozy. We wanted fun. We wanted choice for our kiddos. We felt that kids being allowed to work where they are most comfortable would significantly help with their engagement and motivation. Unfortunately, we ran into some "bumps" in our wall-tear-down-road. These bumps essentially "bumped" away our furniture budget last summer. Kate and I made due, for sure. We had lots of tables. We found some great, second-hand green hand chairs. We used a fellow teacher's old counter top to turn an old book case into seating. We bought our futon at Walmart. We used some of our grade level budget to buy odds and ends here and there. We spent our own money, for sure. We were even generously gifted another futon and 2 yoga ball chairs by our amazing families. But, we still felt like we could do more
Our awesome second-hand "hand chairs" that sit in our fiction library.
Our fiction library area.
Our nonfiction library area and "quiet zone". This zone is a silent zone at all times. It also houses one of our Wal-Mart futons and a target ottoman.
Our counter top book case that we made with hand-me-down counters.
Don't get me wrong, we were EXTREMELY thankful for all that we were granted last summer. Our year last year was the BEST work of our teaching careers. But we still longed for some fun furniture for our kiddos.

Welcome to Spring 2014. Our truly amazing business manager for our school district came to visit us. I needed to interview him for my then-grad-program. I have always known him to be open minded and a true team player, but I never realized his passion for innovation and unique spaces until that interview. Who ever is fortunate enough to work with a money guy that is totally into school innovation? He truly understands both sides of the educational coin--the financial side, for sure. But he also really thrives on connecting the financial side to best practices. He doesn't believe in spending money if it is not a priority or what is best for kids. For that, and many more reasons, we have immense amounts of respect for him. We are SO incredibly fortunate to have him as part of our administrative team here in Elmbrook! During our interview, he mentioned how he was looking to redesign some under-utilized spaces in some of the elementary school hallways. We chatted casually about the great things he was doing. And he was off. A few weeks later, he approached Kate and I with an amazing proposition. He recognized that we lost our furniture budget the summer before, and he offered to help us obtain some new furniture as part of his redesign project. Who could say no to such an amazing offer! We worked with him and furniture by Staples, and voila! We received some truly amazing pieces that our students absolutely LOVE (and we do, too!). 
We received the blue modular couch and red step modular pieces this summer. It adds a "stadium seating" effect to our space. It is wonderful for whole group mini-lessons, too!

These other red, step pieces are on the opposite side of our space. They are also new this year.
Do you see the fun "minion" chairs at the S-shaped table in the picture? Those are fabric covered yoga ball chairs! They are the most comfortable chairs ever! Also new this fall. The black futon is one of our Wal-Mart beauties from last summer. It held up surprisingly well!

Standing desks with "wiggle" bars at the bottom that we received from our partnership with our OT team! We had these last year, and can't imagine our space without them!
A great "net chair" from Target. And, of course, more "minion chairs" !
We are SO incredibly thankful for our space and the support of our senior leadership. We cannot thank you all enough. Our space is an amazing place to work, but more importantly, it is an amazing place for kids!

What things have you done to rethink your learning space? We'd love to hear the amazing things you have done! 


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