How breakout spaces in schools can improve learning
Learning can take place anywhere. Even within a school, the classroom is not the only place that students learn. By creating spaces outside of the classroom where students can study quietly or work together in teams, you make the whole school campus one big classroom!
Why create breakout spaces?
Despite the name, breakout spaces aren’t designed just for break times, rather they become an extension of the classroom itself. Informal seating areas allow students to continue class discussions outside the classroom and give them a convenient place to discuss homework or group projects. They can also be used by teachers or support staff to meet with small groups of students. For pupils with a free period or who prefer to stay late after school to tackle homework, they can be a quiet and relaxed place to study, giving them a best-of-both-worlds solution where they feel at home in school.
Every child learns differently. By providing flexible collaborative spaces, you give students more control over their education and support the ways they learn best.
Design tips for a successful breakout area
Any space is suitable
Schools can take advantage of any shared spaces to create breakout areas: common rooms, the library, foyers and even hallways; areas of the school that have previously been functional transitional spaces can be transformed into productive learning spaces.
Try to provide a variety of different collaborative spaces. A small seating cluster in the hallway can be as beneficial as a dedicated breakout room, depending on the students’ needs and preferences.
Lots of easy-to-adjust options
The most successful breakout spaces will offer plenty of flexibility. They should provide several different seating options including plenty of soft seating. The space should also allow students to work in different positions (standing, leaning or sitting) and give the choice of working at a table or not. Provide furniture that is easy for students to move around so that they can reconfigure the space to suit their purpose. Booths are a popular choice, offering comfortable seating combined with privacy and a large workspace. The breakout area should be a casual multi-purpose space with furniture that gives good support but also adjusts to different workstyles, postures and tasks.
To make the space suitable for group projects, think about what equipment students would find useful, such as portable whiteboards for brainstorming, and a projector and screen for sharing digital content.
Don’t underestimate the importance of technology. Wi-Fi is, of course, essential. A good breakout area will also have plenty of accessible power outlets so students can use laptops, iPads and other mobile devices to support their work. Outlets should be available near seating areas as well as at desks, without the need for students to move their workstation nearer to the wall. If the space will not support a lot of power sockets, USB sockets are smart alternative.
Colour and décor
Breakout spaces should inspire creativity and collaboration. Choose a stimulating colour scheme with inspiring artwork or quotes. A great way to motivate students is to get them involved in designing the space they want to see. Use their ideas to influence the layout and décor or make them a part of the space itself by displaying their artwork or getting student volunteers to paint a mural.
Collaborative spaces give students the opportunity to learn in a way that suits them and support a variety of different tasks from independent work and one-on-one teaching to educational discussions and group projects. With a well-designed and flexible breakout space, learning has no limits.
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