James Denman Middle School 2018-2019 Superintendent's Innovation Fellowship Award

The Design Challenge

How might Denman Middle School 8th grade teachers in each discipline redesign their spaces to engage in deeper learning and facilitate project-based learning?

In 2018, Denman began focusing on integrating Project Based Learning so they were an ideal candidate to participate in the Superintendent’s Innovation Awards where they could focus on strengthening their instructional practices and classroom spaces to best support Project Based Learning. At Denman, each of the classrooms was designed with a different guiding aesthetic so that these model classes represent four varying styles for the students to experience and learn in. The Denman teacher team redesigned four classrooms as part of the 8th grade teaching team including Social Science, English Language Arts, Math/Steam, and Science.

Highlighted Design Features

  • Spacious Classrooms allow students and teachers to comfortably and safely move around the space. Classrooms feeling cramped was one of the biggest complaints teachers heard from their students during the empathy work. 
  • Mobile Whiteboards support students in making their work visible and collaborating with their peers on projects. The teachers additionally use the whiteboards as partitions between groups to create different zones for learning. 
  • Flip up tables allow students and teachers to comfortable move the classroom into many different configurations to facilitate a restorative justice circle, a Socratic seminar, readers/writers workshop, and much more.
  • Collaborative tables facilitate more creative and collaborative work so that students can more easily work on Project Based Learning units.
  • Tall tables with stools create a more “perch” like posture that work well for students who are deeply engaging in creative or maker work.
  • Varied seating options (including stools, couches, soft seating, chairs with some movement) allow students to choose the seating that best suits their style of learning as well as activity. 
  • Fresh Lighting creates more ambiance for classrooms as well as is used as a tool for classroom management and instruction where students get cues to move into different classroom activities or configurations based on the changing of the lights.
  • Updated Wall Paint makes the classrooms look clean and well taken care of. This visual refresh has greatly improved the feel of these classrooms. 
  • Updated Storage where teachers can store the things they don’t need to access regularly and organize the supplies that students need regularly to allow for student agency in accessing tools when they need them.