Fit for STEM: Three Simple Methods for Adjusting Learning Spaces
DLR Group’s recent Applied Learning Virtual Symposium provided great insight into the current state of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. It seems only fitting to expand upon that discussion and explore how our K-12 clients can begin incorporating STEM spaces into their existing buildings.
Education in the U.S. has steadily been shifting towards a concentration on STEM. Many of the districts we’re fortunate to work with see the value of these disciplines, but also find themselves faced with the unique challenge of finding or creating the right spaces for this type of education within existing buildings.
The spaces in which educators teach have not always kept pace with what and how they are teaching. Creating a space that’s conducive to STEM education, however, doesn’t have to be an expensive and complicated process. Below are three simple approaches you can take to adapt existing learning spaces for STEM education:
- Make Sure Your Furniture is Flexible. Simply providing the right types of furniture can transform the use of the space. Reconfigurable furniture offers layout flexibility, promotes a mix of learning settings (individual vs. group work), and allows for a variety of activities. It’s also important to create mobile storage solutions that accommodate ongoing work and support experimentation.
- Remember: Location, Location, Location. Positioning STEM-centered spaces so they are highly visible will promote engagement and foster a culture of learning. For example, a space adjacent to a collaborative or commons area will be much better suited for display than something at the end of a long corridor. Leveraging the location of a STEM space may require some crafty reconfiguration, but it will ultimately push this type of learning and encourage students to participate.
- Start Small, Scale Up. Start with one space. Just one! Then look at that space with a critical eye to see what opportunities you can leverage within the existing environment. Consider how can the space be “zoned” to support various activities. Think about the space’s visibility within the school and to the exterior. Use this one space as an incubator to see what works and what doesn’t, then implement a plan to scale up the solutions.
As our world becomes increasingly more complex, STEM learning will become ever more critical. Creating spaces where students can engage in hands-on, collaborative projects is key to setting them up for future successes, and even the smallest of steps can have a big impact.
What strategies have you undertaken to create STEM spaces in your own district? Share in the comments below!