By Mina Blyly-Strauss
We at the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) started our work at Bruce Vento Elementary School with two projects: redesign a calming room and create a community garden. These efforts have been aimed at making a healthier environment for students. We are now adding to our projects an effort to redesign the school’s staff lounge. The goals is to make it more attractive and better able to meet the needs of the busy teachers, paraprofessionals, and other support staff who spend their days working to meet students’ varied needs.
Having places for staff to congregate for meals and conversations can offer important benefits to both students and staff. For example, Mawhinney (2010) found that such gathering spaces in a K–8 school were used for sharing professional knowledge between veteran and novice teachers and that spontaneous collaborations around student learning took place there. Teachers’ lounges have also been posited as enhancing school climate by strengthening links between different units (such as grade level teams) that may not otherwise interact much, creating stronger professional communities and cohesion that is helpful for school improvement (Ben-Peretz, Schonmann, & Kupermintz, 2005).
|Existing teachers' lounge at Bruce Vento.|
When it comes to the redesign of the staff lounge at Bruce Vento, we believe that it is very important to engage the staff so that the design will match the needs of their specific school context. We have met with some school staff members to talk about their initial thoughts on what would help create a more rejuvenating and productive space. In a face-to-face meeting, staff brought up several ideas, such as including multiple microwaves, getting a long banquet-style table so staff can sit together to share meals, and having a more informal area with a grouping of comfortable chairs and a sofa.
We are now sending an electronic survey to the full staff so that those who were unable to join the face-to-face meeting will still have an opportunity to contribute their perspectives to the project. Once survey results come in, we will begin to prioritize elements for design. In consultation with school administration, we will look into what additional resources may need to be sought to make the space one that will meet staff needs for a healthful place to gather.
Ben-Peretz, M., Schonmann, S., & Kupermintz, H. (2005). The teachers’ lounge and its role in improving learning environments in schools. In Freiberg, H. J. (Ed.), School climate: Measuring, improving, and sustaining health learning environments (148-164). Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press.
Mawhinney, L. (2010). Let’s lunch and learn: Professional knowledge sharing in teachers’ lounges and other congregational spaces. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(6), 972-978.
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.