I work in a school that was cutting-edge when it opened. Greenwood Elementary, dedicated in 1970, was constructed using an “open concept” in school design—very 70’s. The idea was to create a school without walls, divided only by office dividers and shelves.
Greenwood Elementary is divided into two halves—a group-use half and a classroom half. The group-use half contains the only doors inside the school. It features the music room, the office, the art room, the gym/cafeteria and the kindergarten rooms.
The classroom half is arranged in a large semicircle, with a library in the middle resembling a courtyard, and grades 1-5, surrounding it, divided by a combination of shelves, partitions and cabinets.
Working in this kind of school building has pros and cons. For example, I cannot close the door when watching a movie that would disturb my neighbors. However, I can put a group into the courtyard/library to work knowing that if they are up to something I can just peer over the divider and see them.
In many ways, what we lack in privacy we gain in community. A teacher who needs help simply asks the neighbor over the divider. Sending a kid to the lab or to the next class is never intrusive. During a rainy spell in summer school, we removed some of the dividers and played T-ball inside.
Greenwood is a place where kids learn about the outside world and get a chance to compete. For some it’s a chance to take in a football or basketball game or to participate in one. For others, it’s a chance to socialize and have fun, to go skiing or rollerblading during gym class, or go fishing during the after-school program. For many small towns, the school is seen as something that defines them as a community and Greenwood seems no different.