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Watch out, Pinterest: a new site is trying to offer classroom inspiration as school comes back in session

Ann Schimke

Wondering what to do with a new classroom space? A new site is helping teachers crowdsource design ideas as the school year gets started.

The site, called room2learn and launching Tuesday, allows teachers and schools to upload pictures of how they are using or transforming classrooms and other spaces in their buildings. The idea was hatched by Brooklyn middle school teacher Grace O’Shea and Harvard Graduate School of Design student Jane Zhang at a hackathon hosted by Harvard’s education school.

Whether the site will take off is unclear. Other sites, especially Pinterest, have developed as places for teachers to swap ideas. And many of room2learn’s first uploads include fancy-looking furniture from schools in Scandinavia that is probably outside most schools’ budgets.

Others are for fairly basic ideas, like labels for bins of books in a classroom library, or are renderings from design companies that have worked in schools.

But other, more practical examples include a hallway television studio from M.S. 442 in Brooklyn:

And layouts like these one, designed so that teachers can monitor students’ computer screens or make group work easier:

While classroom design is partly about aesthetics, research shows that it has broader implications.

The leaders of New York’s four EPIC schools, designed specifically to serve high school students of color, have tried to use new configurations of furniture and classrooms to help students learn. And a June study of more than 200 New York City middle schools found that poorly maintained buildings were correlated with a negative perception of the school’s social climate, which in turn led to higher rates of absenteeism and lower test scores.

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