Third Graders ‘Own’ the Classroom

new_wh_beranek_constructionOn the first day of school at Western Hills Elementary, an orange construction sign stood outside Mike Beranek’s third grade classroom.

The sign was a hint to the activity inside.

Students sat on the carpet in the room with clipboards, floor plans and pencils in hand. Desks and chairs were stacked neatly nearby.

The students were working on their first assignment of the year – to design their room. Each student marked where he or she wanted the desks, a whiteboard, a rocking chair and other items placed. Next, students reported their design idea to the group. Beranek took notes and tallied each student’s suggested design to gather consensus for the room’s setup.

“Though this activity, students take ownership of their classroom,” Beranek explained.

He projected the results on a screen in the front of the room. The 2014-15 class chose to arrange its desks in groups, with the rocking chair at the front of the class and the whiteboard close by.

Then, the hard work began. Students were divided into four groups to make the afternoon snack, get books from the library and design the bulletin boards around the room. One group unstacked chairs and desks and placed them in the agreed upon layout.

When they were finished, third-grader Mitchell surveyed the room and said the layout looked pretty good.

The classroom set-up was all done, but the work to learn and impact their world is just beginning for these third graders.