2015 Savvy Spaces

Brad Gustafson

Wayzata Public Schools
2015 Winner for Savvy Spaces Award
About Savvy Spaces Award

Intentionally designs and implements learning spaces to support collaboration and interaction.

Provide an overview of the project, practice or product that your video represents, and how your work encompasses the principles and ideals of the award that you're applying for.

Our elementary school took an unconventional approach to reinventing learning spaces. After months of staff planning and ongoing collaboration we introduced a fleet of Mobile MakerSpaces capable of transforming any classroom or hallway into a collaborative learning space. The result of this intentional process was surprisingly unexpected. The ‘savvy spaces’ we created throughout the building actually transformed our school’s culture. Our implementation plan centered on three core principles: 1. The student learning experience should be marked by high levels of collaboration, creativity, and design-iteration. This collaborative process should also include opportunities for students to fail. 2. Collaboration and student voice should not be reserved for a select few spaces or students. All students deserve the opportunity to truly own their learning in ‘savvy spaces.’ 3. For learning spaces to truly be transformative we must also change our mindset. Intentional implementation required current-best-practice for professional development. A team of educators met on a regular basis to develop a plan to bring immersive learning experiences in 'savvy spaces' to our students. We cast aside titles and talked about our vision to ignite student creativity through collaborative experiences like tinkering, engineering, and passion-based learning. We knew we needed to look deeper than introducing futuristic furniture in a single space where this type of learning would occur. Collaboration and student ownership should not be relegated to a single space. We wanted ‘savvy spaces’ to spring up across our school so that all students could interact with their passions. Professional development to support a successful school-wide implementation was purposeful. Some of the research-based (Duran et al., 2012) components that we included were: (a) A Connection to Student Learning: Student learning was at the forefront of our conversations. When we talked about reinventing learning spaces with Mobile MakerSpaces we emphasized the value of student creativity, collaboration, and critical-thinking. (b) Hands-on Technology Use: Teachers experienced professional development by physically interacting with the different tools and technology. In some cases teachers even modeled exploration by checking out new tools for the first time and learning alongside students. (c) A Variety of Learning Experiences: Our team had access to a wide range of personalized learning experiences including optional PD, teacher-led breakout sessions, student-led PD, discussion, hands-on use, classroom co-teaching, all-staff experiences, cooperative learning, research & article reviews, and more. (d) Curriculum-Specific Applications: The level of innovation in our professional development sessions that was connected to state standards and our district curriculum was staggering. It has been incredibly inspiring to watch teachers reinvent the curriculum with our students. (e) Active Participation of Teachers: Teachers continue to be actively engaged through leading site PD and by progressively enhancing the Mobile MakerSpace experience for students using professional acumen and creativity. Several teachers have also taken additional leadership roles as a result (e.g. speaking at state conferences). (f) Ongoing Process: From pre-planning and implementation to evaluation, the entire process has exemplified continuous improvement. Each successive iteration of the Mobile MakerSpace project has brought us closer to our ultimate goal of transforming the student learning experience. (g) Administrative Support: I have worked alongside the teacher-leaders who helped plan the concept and continue to invest in it. I have also provided classroom coverage, financial support, professional development, co-teaching, and other creative forms of assistance to support our entire school. I remain unswervingly committed to bolstering opportunities for students to collaborate, create, and own their learning. (h) Adequate Resources: There is a commitment to providing the time, resources, training, and support to make this innovative approach as impactful as possible for students and staff. When resources are requested we collaborate to make it happen. I created a line item in the budget to support ongoing investments in innovation. We’ve also tapped into crowd-sourced funding and grant monies to respond to additional requests. We listened to students, surveyed staff, and were responsive to the feedback we received. For example, when students requested the Lego Friends construction sets and additional wheels for engineering vehicles we delivered! When teachers shared that many students were interested in knitting looms we listened, and we continue to evolve to meet the needs of students and staff. Our work exemplifies a perpetual process of intentional design, iteration, risk-taking, and innovation. The result has been the creation of a school-wide ethos of collaboration and creativity. I firmly believe that every hallway…every nook-and-cranny in our school is being transformed into a student-centered 'savvy space' where passion-based learning and collaboration are the norm.

Explain the long-lasting impact of what you've presented in this video, and provide any qualitative or quantitative data that supports this impact.

Reinventing our learning spaces has impacted our school culture and students in profound ways. Teachers are focusing on learner empowerment, creativity, and collaboration even when the MakerSpace carts are in different classrooms. I’ve observed teachers create pop-up MakerSpaces so students have the opportunity to create all year long. Innovation has truly been unleashed and the impact has been incredible! Kindergarteners are interacting with state standards through highly collaborative and creative construction. 1st graders are diving into complex challenges together that require collaboration and critical thinking. Kids are sprinting off the bus because they can’t wait to get to their morning MakerSpace time in 2nd grade. Intermediate students are collaborating on advanced engineering and coding challenges while learning through failure together. The level of student engagement is palpable and the data demonstrate it. We know that many factors go into the student learning experience, so this quantitative data is just one indication of the impact. Data were collected from students who responded to a district administered standardized K12 Insight survey. 93% of our school’s students were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience this school year. This includes 57% who indicated they were “highly satisfied!” The impact goes far beyond the walls of our school. A qualitative example of the impact this practice has had on our students was observed at a recent School Board Meeting. Our students were demonstrating some innovative technology to the School Board and they experienced an issue with the Bluetooth syncing. Our elementary students instinctively huddled together to problem-solve. Their natural inclination to collaborate in front of a large crowd was commended by the School Board. The opportunities and pedagogy we implore in school are truly impacting students in a lasting manner. Parents are praising the work of our teachers and opportunities students are experiencing. Our district needed to make some adjustments to school boundaries to accommodate rapid growth in our school. The impact of our Mobile MakerSpaces was evident when many families expressed a desire for the same types of learning opportunities at other schools if they were going to be displaced from Greenwood Elementary. Parents understand the impact of how we are intentionally creating 'savvy spaces' to support collaboration and student interaction. The ongoing personalized professional development we’re offering is having an impact as well. Data shows that the more PD we provide to different staff the more these innovative carts are accessed. The momentum behind the entire concept has been positively overwhelming. The sustained increases in access provide a poignant reminder of the impact of sustained professional development. We want to ensure that the learning spaces continue to support collaboration and student voice for many years to come. We recently ordered an additional five Mobile MakerSpace carts and will be partnering with another school to create a cross-site Mobile MakerSpace collaborative! The impact will continue to transform the learning spaces for the 870 students at our school AND now it will also reach another 600 students at a nearby elementary. The numbers don't lie...this innovative approach is gaining traction and making a difference! The reinvention of learning spaces to support collaboration and interaction is spreading. I’m excited to see what our kids will continue to create with the innovative tools and collaborative culture we’re investing in.