School culture through design: Vittra Samset in Jönköping

I was able to really dig into my interest in classroom design and furniture today. The principal of the charter school Vittra Samset was very lovely and took the time to show me around the school today. Vittra Samset is one of the several Vittra schools in Sweden. All the schools focus quite a bit on the school environment and creating active learning spaces. This is done on several levels: the building itself, the colors and other design features, and the furniture.

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Instead of putting all my pictures here, I’ve created a shared album. (Google Photos is great, by the way.) You can check out the album here.

Vittra’s school and classroom design is based around each room/area of school having several different aspects. These design ideas come from the book The Language of School Design by Prakash Nair. The main types of spaces that each classroom and school area should have are the following:

  • Cave: a place that is quiet and calm
  • Campfire: a place that the class can come together to meet
  • Watering Hole: an informal place where a large group can gather and interact
  • Performing place: not necessarily a stage, but somewhere that someone can stand and others can listen to what they do

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In the collage above you can see two examples of “caves”: the top left is a cave created with a couch and a storage system whereas the bottom left is with a table and two moveable walls. The bottom right picture is a waterhole area. This is just a small part of the area outside the middle school classrooms. You can see that everything is easily moveable including the large pillows, the stools, and even the couches and tables. The middle right picture is the front of a classroom where the rug creates the campfire area. (This is a grade school room, so the rug is pretty large.) The top right picture is an 8th grade classroom. You can see that the tables and chairs are very easily moved around. The rug/campfire area is still there as well. You can also see the cave area with the chair in the corner. (Those chairs are also very easily moved, so you can push them against the wall for even more privacy.) You can also see the performing area with the small moveable cart.

Besides being able to make a connection with an English teacher for a shared project with our classes this next year, I got so many ideas for ways to change the furniture and design of my classroom based off of these main learning areas. I have several ideas that I will be able to implement immediately when I get back to school including:

  • Putting fabric on my bulletin boards so that it not only looks prettier, but is also easier to put up and take down student work, etc.
  • Creating a “cave” area with bookshelves from my library and perhaps the most comfortable chair I can find in the school that no one else wants. (Anyone have a chair they don’t want?)
  • Moving my classroom library to the back of the room to make it into an even quieter place. It already had a somewhat “cave” feel last year, but it was at the front of the room.
  • Getting rid (do I dare from the first day of school?) of seating arrangements from day one. Once I get to know my classes, I do let them sit where they want, but I’m thinking of making it even more flexible with students being able to change depending on what they are doing for the day and how they are feeling.
  • Seeing if I can find some more small tables and chairs instead of the few desk groups that I currently have. I already have some tables and rolling chairs, but still have some regular desks. I would like to get rid of those if possible.
  • Creating some sort of “campfire” area perhaps with a rug at the front of the room.

Make sure to check out all the pictures in the album. I’ll make sure to update my blog with what I accomplish in my classroom once I get back!

 

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Author: karinhogen

I teach middle school language arts and run an Edtech company, DocentEDU, on the side. Every day is an adventure in my classroom with technology!

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