I may want to live at the Blue School. It’s only a slight exaggeration, but let me tell you a bit about what’s so beautiful there, and some ideas you might adapt to your own teaching space.
You may have heard of the Blue Man Group–that cyclone of creativity started in the early nineties. Their mission to inspire creativity in a respectful environment fit perfectly into the realm of education, and in 2006, they set out on their journey with a parent-run playgroup. As I write this, they are looking to expand their program next year through eighth grade. Incredible success in just a decade.
What makes their school so amazing? This is just one small-town Vermont educator’s opinion, but here is what caught my eye. First, their space is amazing. That design I found so beautiful at the Alt School is on steroids at Blue School. The blue/white color scheme shouldn’t be a surprise; it is, after all, the Blue School, and they embrace circular shapes and airiness as a mainstay. Circular windows invite light into classroom doors, circular cubbies house little shoes (and the detritus of parents in this photo), and rolls of colored tape line a section of a maker-space wall. The font they’ve chosen has a circular quality to it. It gave me the feeling of continuity–like they are really going somewhere.
And that’s part of what is so great about this school. Whether the students are 2’s or in middle school, they are respected for exactly what they bring to the table as well as for their potential. It was a strong reminder to remember that every student comes to school with his/her own unique strengths, and what Blue School does well is celebrate them from the start. In fact, black and white portraits line the halls next to each classroom door with students’ names and 4-5 adjectives supplied by parents at the start of the year. What a beautiful way to adorn the halls, introduce students to one another, and set the stage for a place of learning that values everyone’s individuality. The portraits remain
there for the year, I believe, and both teachers and students alike can
observe how those adjectives change and grow as their students do.
Time and again, I saw interesting ways to display student work in teachers’ classrooms. A few ideas for displaying your students’ work in a beautiful, and therefore respectful, manner:
- find yourself a 3-4 foot piece of relatively narrow driftwood (or grab something from out back in the woods), and suspend it from your tile ceiling with fishing wire. Wrap fishing line around the driftwood; tie it to binder clips, and use those clips to display work.
- colored masking tape is an awesome way to frame student work. use the tape to adhere it right to those concrete walls or columns outside your classroom.
- string a line of yarn across a bulletin board and use those binder clips to showcase students’ creations.
I have just a few more things to rave about in terms of the space, and I’ll post again soon about their approach to learning–another equally cool venture steeped in project-based learning. When you enter the Blue School, the small lobby is unpretentious, but two simple pieces of art caught my eye. The first was their name–painted on the wall in those big, white circular letters–big and prominent to greet all who enter. The idea of murals on walls has great appeal for me, but the simplicity of the name of your school, placed dead center as you enter the doors really sets the stage. Thoughts of student art contests to create designs brew in my mind.
Lastly, high up on a wall to the right of the entrance hangs a large poster full of brainstormed scribbles. Upon further inspection, it reveals itself as a poster of values–words written by students and staff about what students do at the Blue School. That’s a nice idea in itself, but they took it up a notch by creating word art out of some of those words–literally bending wire into words and suspending them from the ceiling to hang in front of the brainstorm as highlights. My photo doesn’t capture it all that well, but I hope it provides enough of an idea to inspire your own version.
At just under $40k to attend the Blue School kindergarten through middle school, this beauty comes with a hefty price tag. But there are many takeaways from a design standpoint that can be adapted to just about any public school room. It is clear that the Blue School respects its students not only by providing them with a beautiful space in which to learn, but also by highlighting their learning in creative and beautiful ways.