The COVID-19 scare has led millions of people across the globe – whether infected or not – to practice social distancing.
By social distancing, we mean, staying at home as long as possible and step out only if there’s any important work. Whilst some might be used to staying at home for long periods of time, some may be frustrated; but for how long can they stay back? What about students and their education? How will it affect their studies? There are endless questions regarding this not-so-normal scenario. And, tying students for a longer time, who, use to attend classes, participate in extracurricular activities and hangout with peers, can be hard, and most importantly, this may become a real motivation-killer.
But education leaders are looking for every possible way to set-up a classroom and adhere to the social distancing norm, in the real-time. They’re planning to build a classroom that would maintain social distance and help student get back to the school soon without a fear of getting affected by the virus.
Of course! A return to full schools without restrictions is simply out of reach for many months, at least for the present year. We may see students returning to school in shifts to classrooms specifically designed to protect students and teachers. Cafeterias, gymnasiums, and libraries may remain close. Learning in groups, soft seating, collaborative works may be off limit. You may consider all of these to redesign learning spaces in a way that students can explore, discover, and connect in meaningful ways.
In fact, besides, spacing of desks, movement in and between classes, scheduling, there are still a number of things to keep in mind when redesigning a classroom with an special emphasis on maintaining a balance between the health and humanity of learning spaces.
Here we’ve compiled a list of traits that should be considered while building a classroom during social distancing period: Let’s check them out!
Support Students On Their First Impressions
Undoubtedly, returning to school for the first time after lockdown is going to be a stressful event. Since March 2020, teachers and students haven’t had a single moment together in large groups, so the returning will surely elicit a variety of emotions from everyone. And to support students’ emotional needs, it will be important to set the right tone with the required signages to fills those spaces.
At present, there is definitely a need for everyone to understand the community health rules of a space, such as frequent hand washing and donning masks. Institutions need to abide by these rules and make students practice the same.
Optimize the Set Perimeter
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments may have control over how we design the floor plan in our classrooms i.e., six feet of space between desks, directional walking patterns, coordinated movement between spaces, educators have control over how we design the perimeter of classrooms. You may
fill the walls with only essential items for learning, like charts and inspirational posters on the wall. You shouldn’t design a sterile space, but instead design with fresh eyes and get answer for the following: Does having a certain poster on wall add to the visual clutter or support daily learning? Should you remove extra learning resources away from the front of the learning space to calm and focus students on presentations and content? How can you design with a color palette in mind that brings coherence to the space? Answer to these questions will help bring a normalcy to the classroom.
Minimize Teacher Space
Minimizing the extra space has always been a good idea. As of now, specifically, we need to double cut down items that fill up space with no real purpose. You may start by looking at the teacher-only space in the classroom—and if you don’t know what spaces are teacher-only, ask your students to stand in areas where they feel are implicitly off limits. This will give you a clear outlook of what spaces have been removed from student use; also will help you find spaces loaded with stuffs that are of no use. Abiding by the set rule that only allows 10-15 people in an area and add 20-30 square feet back to the space available for students, then, this addition by subtraction will help give students some breathing room.
Allow Apt Movement and Choice
When it’s about intentional space design, it’s about the concepts of maximizing physical movement and providing students with choice over where they learn. This has resulted in the flexible, agile and active classroom efforts that in actuality had incredible momentum before COVID-19 disorientated all aspects of learning.
The freedom of movements and choices are key to optimal learning. But, as of now, these optimal design elements must be put on hold to alleviate the risks of spreading the virus. However, you may not be able to eliminate these elements in totality. You can have your students stand for 3-5 minutes behind their desks to listen to your talk, it can be beneficial in keeping the brain oxygenated and primed for learning. In addition, giving students permission to stand along the sides or in the back of the room or even the chance to sit on the tops of their desks will promote choice and supply variation to a room that has been sterilized by its arrangement.
Understand the Connection Between Space and Time
Space and time are connected internally, and when we talk about the aspects of space that we can control in these tiresome times, we should talk about intentionally designing the time that we have with students too. The set face-to-face time shouldn’t lookalike a scripted content-based conversation filled with the voice of the teacher, as most of this happens in virtual learning; rather, use this time to connect and listen to them. You should use in-class time to promote conversation and community; use it to calm and lower down the stress. However, there are possibilities of not having enough time with students on a daily basis in the coming months, so it will be essential to design the time in our physical spaces to support the learners. It will also be a time to frame learning in relevant, meaningful contexts and synchronize time and space design supporting both the academic and emotional needs of all students.
Even though, schools take all precautions and adhere to the set rules, this will be a very non-linear return to school buildings. In some locations, some students may come to school while some may not. Their in-person learning may either pause or postpone because of contamination or public health concern and then return to the physical space again. Needless to say, it is truly going to be a whole different experience but the pointers provided in this article may help you identify the needs of new classroom and help you maintain social distancing in school, in the best possible way.