our learners’ well-being doesn’t stop at social distancing.

Schools are scrambling to open their doors. Masks,  floor decals, testing and temperature checks, everchanging protocols, schedules, and more. Who knows, teachers and students may not see each other face-to-unmasked-face until 2021. Yes, we are building this plane as we fly it, and that’s challenging every facet of education in ways we’ve never fathomed for administrators, teachers, parents, and most importantly, the learners who are caught in the crosshairs of it all. 

COVID 19 is teaching us the immeasurable value of the social and emotional context schools provide. It’s giving us a unique opportunity to witness the critical relationship learners have to a school. Not just the physical building, but the “space” where millions of invaluable connections occur that foster a learner’s emotional and social development. What happens within these walls is a key factor of what determines a learner’s life-long relationships– personal and professional. Right now, it’s painfully clear that schools will have and will always provide a sacred space that ZOOM will never replace.

a safe space isn’t enough.

It’s on us. As educational space designers and the educational community at large, we’re faced with a challenge that carries a momentous responsibility to learners. Not just for their safety, but their futures as well. How we collectively choose to navigate this new realm of safety and the social and spatial considerations it demands will undoubtedly impact how we educate today’s learners for years to follow.

If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that a learner’s well-being doesn’t stop at physical distancing.  

We can all agree, this challenge to find the ideal solution to teach our children and keep them as well as our educators safe seems insurmountable, and understandably, a very real temptation to retreat from active, learner-centered spaces and revert back to rows of static desks and a sage back on the stage. Safer yes, but spaces void of agency. I think we can do better. We have to.

Classroom void of agency

Desks in rows rob learners of agency – the ability to create a space of their own.

why is agency such a vital component of a learner’s future? Especially an uncertain one?

Desks in rows rob learners of agency – the ability to create a space of their own.Jennifer Davis Poon defines agency and its importance in her masterfully written article for Education Reimagined, where she is a Fellow. Poon aptly describes agency as “when students take ownership and responsibility for their own actions”.  Agency is how we arm students with a lifelong skill for his or her future, whatever it may hold.  Sadly, it is the lack of agency in so many of our school classrooms that is failing our education system today. Covid is only magnifying the problem, as Poon points out in her views of the success, or more importantly the lack thereof in virtual learning.

we’ve come too far to go back.

We’ve spent the last decade decoding and discovering the value of learner-centered spaces, and pedagogy. We now know that well-designed adaptive, equitable, and active learning environments can actually engage all learners and ignite their senses. In fact, not only can these spaces work to support each and every learners’ emotional and social needs, but they also work to encourage participation and instill a desire for learners to achieve their best. These spaces actually do facilitate agency. The holy grail of learning. 

While learners and their educators absolutely require physical distance, we cannot sacrifice the social and emotional connection they so desperately need. That’s what agile and adaptive spaces like ours were designed to provide. The very foundation of NorvaNivel’s flexible and agile learning spaces is the ability to move, morph, and adapt to the needs of both learners and educator pedagogy – whatever they require. Even in times such as these.

As believers and disciples of agency and equity for each and every learner, we believe now is not the time to retreat into past practices, but a time to tap our collective resources to collaborate, investigate, innovate and excel like never before.

How can you create educational spaces that can sustain agency and equity as well as social distance? Let’s put our heads together and discover how.  Contact one of our Educational Space Specialists today.

– Jolene Levin, NorvaNivel Founder & CEO, Life-long lover of learning, mother of four