826 = WOW!

The Third Teacher is a buzz book in our school board right now.  The book consists of 79 ways that we can rethink learning spaces.

I loved the book.

One of my favourite sections was an interview with Ninive Caligari.  In her interview she talks about 826 National, an organization that she founded with a man named Dave Eggers.  826 is a tutoring service that focuses on creative writing.  Their tutoring/learning spaces are amazing because they use store fronts to bring in new students and inspire writing.  Each 826 storefront is different but equally amazing.  In San Francisco the storefront is a pirate store; in Chicago it’s a spy store; in Brooklyn it’s a superhero store.

Each 826 space makes you want to be there.  Each space engages you and excites you into learning.

Recently I took a trip to Los Angeles to  visit an old friend, so I stopped into 826 LA in Echo Park to take a look around.  It blew me away. 

The Los Angeles space is a time travel store.  When I walked in I was greeted by a man at the cash that explained some of the things that the store had to offer.  He stayed in character and pointed out some choice items: parts to repair/build a time machine, mammoth chunks, ray guns… the place was amazing.  When he broke character we talked about all of the great work that the students at 826 LA did.  Their work was all driven and motivated by the space in which they worked.  The wonder and the fun that the space created lead the students to produce amazing pieces of work.

Instead of thinking about what kind of desks or round tables or rows or chairs or whatever makes up our classrooms, maybe we need to care more about our learning spaces creating a sense of wonder.  Some might worry about the distraction that a space like this would create in a classroom… but is it really a distraction if you’re motivating students to think and to daydream about their thinking?  Or is that good teaching?

Something to consider as we arrange our desks and gather supplies for the first day of school.


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