World Builder, Classroom Edition (or, "How I spent my summer vacation," by Mr. Jarrett)

World Builder, Classroom Edition (or, "How I spent my summer vacation," by Mr. Jarrett)


Bruce Branit

's brilliant, powerful short film,

World Builder

, has been a favorite of mine for years. We have used the first four minutes, thirty seconds of it in class to inspire students with possibility (click


, scroll down to the entry for 4th grade). If you haven't seen it, here's your chance. It's fantastic. This film popped into my head repeatedly over the summer as I worked in my new room. At times, I felt a lot like the character in this movie. Seriously. This was my holodeck:

With guidance from amazing people like

Christian Long


Chris Lehmann


Mary Beth Hertz


Kristen Swanson


Gregg Festa

, and many others, I immersed myself in the task of creating a truly student-centered collaborative learning environment. Christian began by suggesting I read

Make Space

, the acclaimed learning space design tome by the

Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University

("the") . He also provided me two fantastic texts on modern school architecture,

The Language of School Design


The Third Teacher

(by his own firm,

Cannon Design

. They literally "wrote the book.") These resources were invaluable to me as I mentally constructed the master plan for the space. Then, with a little sweat and the support of my administration and school community (our amazing Parent-Teacher Organization and Education Foundation), the magic started to happen. Working within the constraints presented by immovable walls and permanently-mounted furniture / technology, I started to imagine what the room could look like:

Then, it was like ... bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt ... there's a foam cube,

just like they talk about in Make Space


Then, bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt ... a



Again, bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt ... a giant whiteboard wall:

... and it didn't stop there.

Colorful mats appeared in front of the SMART Board

. An

old DVD player was repurposed into an electronic signage system

. Donated

supplies from colleagues

arrived. Even some wonderful, serendipitous things appeared, like

inspirational quotes painted on the walls

by a Monica De La Torre, an active member of our fantastic parent community. There are so many more examples. And I am so, so grateful. We're not done. Furniture is still enroute. Some technology still needs to be put in place. And, our whimsical "

newsroom clocks

" aren't here yet, even though the project was funded by several generous donors weeks ago. (Some things aren't as easy as they appear in the video.)

No, it's not perfect, but it is excellent

. And it's Version 1.0 - a design sure to be improved, informed by interaction with its most important occupants - our students. What happens now? We're at my favorite part in

World Builder

, precisely four minutes and twenty-nine seconds in, the moment just before it all becomes real. Thanks go out to everyone who made this amazing learning space possible, from our school leaders to parents to colleagues near and far, to the


who donated materials, goods and services. All I did was dream it up. In the process, I learned so much. Soon, it'll be the kids' turn to dream ... and, to learn. -kj-