Thinking outside of the desk

When you walk into Donna Becker’s 2nd grade classroom at Mark Twain Elementary, you find a unique learning environment. Instead of desks and chairs lined in neat little rows, you see a canoe, a bunk bed, floor rugs, inflatable exercise balls and milk crates with cushions. The students are hard at work in small groups and some are reading independently, and a stack of chairs sits in the corner unused.

“I find if you give kids an option to sit where they want, they don’t choose to sit in chairs,” said Becker. “I’ve also noticed that when students have more choices, they make positive behavior changes.”

Becker, who says she had trouble sitting at desk when she was in elementary school, has been teaching for nine years and started creating alternative learning spaces about four years ago.

“It helps you settle down sometimes when you have a calm place to be, rest and read,” said Jaiidyn Jones, grade 2, from a spot in the canoe where she was reading.

According to Becker, the kids often become more productive and focused when they can settle in and study comfortably.

“Having this freedom also helps them learn how to control and maintain energy and how to monitor themselves,” said Becker.

“I don’t like sitting,” said Luke Deherrera, grade 2, who worked on an ipad from the inside of a milk crate.