Redesigning a Classroom into a Biology Lab
Reimagine the design of a 21st century Biology Classroom that can make your Science Lab a model for learning today and beyond.
It is no secret that we all learn differently. And we also learn in different ways than our parents or grandparents did. What kind of physical space is needed to encourage new ways of thinking, synthesizing information, working amongst peers, and engaging with a world beyond the classroom's four walls? How does a classroom make it possible for students and teachers to embrace this new reality? How does our use of technology shape the design of this space?
Your challenge is to redesign your classroom and rethink how it should, or could, function as technology advances and our notion of study and sharing changes accordingly. What does a classroom look like that is designed around a new approach to the world? Our guess is that your design won't feature rows of desks and teacher lecturing from a podium or a chalkboard!
You may redesign the interior of your existing classroom(s), expand on the existing space, or design a completely new addition on to your school building.
Your design should contain all the spaces and functions required for your general classroom needs – you could consider new ways of sitting (or even standing to work), as well as book and media storage (books are still cool to have around), space for the teacher (or maybe the teacher moves and the students stay).
You may also want to include access to a cafe, activity or information kiosk, or a workshop/maker space. You should also consider sustainability issues and the environmental impact of your design. (Example: Does your classroom of the future include a garden or energy lab?)
Gather as much information as possible about your existing classroom and about your school.
Speak with the students and staff who will use it as well as other students, teachers, administration types, and people who help keep the school running. You can't propose new solutions until you figure out and document the existing problems!
The photos you take and the simple diagrams you sketch here will help you understand how the existing classroom location and design will compare with your new ideas.
- Walk around the interior of your classroom and school building and take photos or a short video if you like to be a movie maker. You can upload those photos or short videos in this step. Be sure to write a detailed description for every image. (If your school grants access to YouTube, check out this short video that some students in Chicago made about the design of their school building.)
- Take interior photos of the hallways and entrances that lead into your classroom.
- Interview several students, teachers, and other staff about what they think of their classrooms. What changes would they make to spaces if they had a choice?
- Make a list of those features that you really like about how your classroom looks / functions.
- Make separate list of all the ways that your current classroom is not so well designed (uncomfortable chairs, the light is poor, smells like feet, etc.)
- Take measurements of the overall dimensions of your existing classroom.
- Draw a floorplan of your existing classroom and include it in this step.
- Walk around the exterior of your school building and take photos of possible locations for your new classroom (Can each classroom have natural light? If so, they will all need access to an exterior wall.)
- You may also want to upload a site plan of your school, showing where the classroom fits into the school. Knowing your context (the space around your design site) is important.
- Use Google Maps to view and print out an aerial photo of your school. Cool, huh?
- On a piece of tracing paper placed over the aerial photo of your school, sketch a diagram showing a large arc around the building to show the path of the sun throughout the day. This drawing is called a site analysis diagram. (Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.)
- Draw other lines on this diagram to indicate the best views around the building.
- How many students are in your classroom during the day?
- What types of furniture is used now? Does it need to be movable? Why or why not?
- What is the artificial and natural light in the classroom like?
- What materials are currently used on the floors, walls, and ceiling?
- What are the different types of classrooms in your school? Are there any that are better or worse than yours?
- Spend some time looking at the aerial photo of your school. What types of other buildings surround your school? Homes, businesses, parks, parking lots, or an empty field? How will these other buildings impact the design of your new classroom?
- What types of streets surround your school? Are they busy or quiet?
- Based on the site analysis diagram you've sketched, where is the sun located throughout the school day?
- What kind of atmosphere supports creativity and innovation? How will you create these conditions in your lab? Find images on Flickr.com that represent how you want the space to feel.
- Classrooms aren't the only places where learning takes place. Can you find other good examples on Flickr.com of how they accommodate student and teacher needs?
- What kind of furniture and equipment will be in your new lab? Search on Flickr.com for cool furniture, equipment, or technology that might work in your new clasroom.
- Save copies of the images you find, and post them in the slides for your project. Include a hyperlink to the Flickr photo in the caption, to credit the photographer.
- Post images of buildings, colors, designs, textures, or other things that inspire you in this step. Make sure you give credit to your source!
- Have you seen any other classrooms that you liked or did not like. Why?
- Does your new classroom need to look like the same typical classroom? What other classroom spaces around the world are inspiring and interesting?
- Will this classroom replace your existing classroom or become an addition to a different part of the building? Will it be built in an empty lot or space? Will it be underground or built on the roof? You decide.
In this step, your rough ideas come together with drawings or models that can show others your solutions for a new classroom.
Important! Since DiscoverDesign is about investigating the design process, the other people viewing your project - other students around the country, your teachers, friends and family, and design mentors - want to see how your ideas have changed over time.
This means that while you're working on your digital project, you’ll want to be sure to keep resaving any files or models with a new file name every few days as you work through the steps. Maybe add a date to the file name.
- Draw a sketch or use software such as Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit to illustrate your ideas. You can upload photos (JPG files) from your SketchUp model, video fly throughs (FLV files) of your SketchUp model, or drawings (DWF files) from AutoCAD.
- Consider including the following types of spaces and furnishings:
- indoor seating and working area (tables, seating)
- outdoor seating area, if you decide to have one (tables, seating)
- book storage (shelves)
- media storage
- audio / visual lab corner or space
- integration of technology
- meeting / collaboration spaces
- home station for the teacher
- messy or wet area for building and crafts (just a thought)
- bins for recycling
The final step of the design process is to create more finished drawings that illustrate your ideas to others. Remember, your explanation text, and the types of drawings, images, and models you share need to tell the whole story of your project to someone who may or may not have ever visited your school.
Good piece of advice: Your drawings and models should have enough information so that someone you've never met can see your project and understand what you are trying to say and how your design works. Pretty simple!
- What color or colors will be in your classroom? What colors have inspired you? What kinds of floor, wall, and ceiling finishes would you like to use, and why?
- Include some human figures in your final models and drawings, so we can see how big your space really is.
- Upload additional images of your finished classroom design for your project portfolio Write short captions explaining your ideas.
- Congratulations on solving this design challenge! Check out other classroom and school-based design projects in the Student Gallery and leave a feedback comment for another design colleague.