Fourth Grade Furniture Project
Designers and decision makers
Olivia, Evie, Bianca walk from the front left corner of the classroom to the edge of the large touchscreen, counting out the floor tiles, and again to the other side of the screen.
The group gathers around an oversized piece of graph paper that represents their classroom. Counting squares, they draw the touchscreen in the exact right spot.
No furniture in front of the screen, they agree. “Let’s put couch ten feet away.”
Meadow Pond Elementary’s fourth graders are engrossed in a big, exciting project. Working in groups of three and four, they are redesigning their classroom to include comfy spaces for reading, worktables they can write on, and standing desks they can gather around. The project involves research, creativity, collaboration and a lot of math.
Teams tackle big, exciting project
Considering furniture's form and function
Teachers Consult Experts to Fold in as Much Learning as Possible
Fourth grade teachers Amy Hoaglund and Meaghan Knapp designed the learning unit with the help of Dr. Bob Dillon, an expert in experiential learning design. "It was helpful to collaborate with Dr. Dillon and have him share his insights and answer all of our questions," said Knapp.
The classroom teachers also worked with the school's Math Interventionist Amy Signore to incorporate conversions, multi-digit numerals and geometry.
"The students worked with the 9 inch square floor tiles as their unit of measurement,” said Signore. “The furniture catalogs give specifications for the length and width. In order to represent specific furniture on their classroom blueprint, the students needed to divide every measurement by 9 inches. They could then determine what furniture would fit in their design.”
Checking out the furniture Across the Hall
The students were excited even before they started working on the project because Jason Briggs and Mark Grossmann’s fifth grade classes across the hall already had flexible furniture. Walking by, the fourth graders would see students working on high tables, reading on bean bag chairs and collaborating on couches.
Was it as good as it looked?
Phase One: Research
The fourth grade teams began by interviewing three fifth graders and a teacher about what they liked and what they didn’t like about the flexible furniture. They used a Furniture Project Workbook to note what they learned.
They also sat on all of the furniture.
“We need a lot of desks,” said one student. “Mr. Briggs said we don’t want to be sitting at couches during science; you don’t want to work with your iPad on your lap.”
Does Mr. Briggs Class Like the Low Table?
Collaborating Means Learning to Let Go
Phase two: developing a plan
Each group of students used an oversize grid of their classroom to plot what couldn’t move, including the touchscreen and sink. They selected tables, bean bag chairs and couches from a real catalog, mindful of their budget. Using each piece’s specifications, they measured and cut out accurately sized circles, rectangles and trapezoids they could try on their floor plan. Design decisions were made as a team, considering wants, needs and costs.
“What do you need to plot this bookshelf on your floor plan?” Signore asked a group of boys, as she checked in with students. “Width and depth,” they remembered, and grabbed the measuring tape.
“I like your ideas!” Hoaglund said to another group. “Will there be a place for all 22 of us to sit?”
Phase three: the reveal!
On a Thursday afternoon before a long weekend, the fourth graders gathered in the common space to share their design ideas.
Each group highlighted key features of their floor plan.
Olivia said she is excited to choose where to sit every day. Other students are excited about white board desks and comfy couches. “We chose a Half Moon table because one student can sit in the cutout and teach other students,” said one group.
Best of all, the students know, this isn’t a “project.” It’s real work.
“I’m turning these designs in to Principal Ashlyn Field today,” said Hoaglund. “Our classrooms are being redesigned this year and Principal Field is going to use your work to make her decisions.”