You Can Use ESSER Funding to Redesign Learning Spaces. Here’s How.

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The style of a finding out atmosphere can have a massive influence on teaching, finding out, and student results. A properly-developed atmosphere creates the ideal situations for students to flourish—academically, socially, and emotionally. What’s more, college systems can use federal emergency relief help to create and equip their finding out spaces for maximum impact.

We’ve all had moments of isolation more than the course of the pandemic. Can we generate finding out environments that are more inclusive in nature, that inspire students to understand, and that generate protected physical distancing devoid of compromising collaboration and connection?

Yes, we can.

If students are finding out in a space they’re excited to be in just about every day, they’re probably to be more engaged in college. It’s that very simple.

Since March 2020, federal lawmakers have passed 3 COVID-19 stimulus bills that with each other provide more than $190 billion in emergency relief funding for K-12 schools. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has developed the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to distribute this funds to schools.

Spending on finding out environments is allowable below at least 4 certain use circumstances for ESSER funding, as outlined by federal officials:

1. Improving School Facilities to Reduce the Risk of Virus Transmission.

Construction, renovation, and remodeling projects are allowable makes use of of ESSER funding, as lengthy as these expenses are “reasonable and necessary” to meet the program’s objective, which is to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to” COVID-19.

“This might include renovations that would permit [a school system] to clean effectively (e.g., replacing old carpet with tile that could be cleaned more easily) or create a learning environment that could better sustain social distancing,” USDOE says. (See “Frequently Asked Questions: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Programs [and] Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Programs,” May 2021, p. 26.) It also incorporates building and renovation projects to boost indoor air high-quality.

For instance, a college technique could use ESSER funds to…

2. Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs.

Providing assistance for students’ mental and physical well being, as properly as meeting their social and emotional finding out (SEL) wants, is a important location of focus for emergency relief help.

School systems can use ESSER funding “to support students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs … by implementing school-wide strategies … as well as targeted assistance for students who need such supports,” USDOE says. School systems “should also work to ensure that schools are implementing instructional practices that are culturally responsive and that incorporate trauma-informed pedagogy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” (See “Frequently Asked Questions: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Programs [and] Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Programs,” May 2021, pp. 29-30.)

A finding out atmosphere that is warm, collaborative, and versatile in style, with a lot of seating selections, can assistance inclusiveness for all learners and support every person really feel protected and welcome.

For instance, the use of stools that rock back and forth can have a calming impact on students, specially these who are sensory seekers. Students with sensory processing concerns can also react really differently to distinctive kinds of fabrics and textures, and providing them several selections assists them locate seating that will not upset them or distract them from finding out.

Specialized finding out spaces can support students who want more targeted intervention. A calming sensory space delivers a quiet space to regroup, which could support students handle their responses to pressure or anxiousness. A sensorimotor space, or “wiggle room,” delivers possibilities for movement, tactile input, and deep touch stress. Both kinds of environments can support meet students’ SEL needs.

3. Addressing Students’ Loss of Instructional Time During the Pandemic.

At least 20% of ESSER III funding ought to be used to address the academic influence of lost instructional time on students via the use of “evidence-based interventions.” Toward this finish, college systems could use ESSER funding to generate new finding out spaces (or redesign their current classrooms) to assistance proof primarily based approaches to enhancing student achievement more properly.

For instance, study shows that students understand greater with active, collaborative, and hands-on approaches to finding out, rather than just sitting quietly and listening to their teacher lecture. A classroom equipped with furnishings that is versatile and effortlessly movable can be rapidly configured to assistance a selection of student groupings and active finding out tasks, though makerspaces, STEAM labs, and other hands-on finding out environments can accelerate finding out development as properly.

4. Meeting the Unique Needs of Disadvantaged Populations.

Addressing the wants of student populations who have been hit specially difficult by the pandemic is yet another crucial use of emergency funding. These involve students from low-earnings households, racial and ethnic minority groups, English learners, and students with disabilities.

An inclusive finding out atmosphere can support all students understand more properly, which includes these with disabilities. For instance, height-adjustable seating and work surfaces generate a more comfy atmosphere for students of all sizes and body kinds. Environmental aspects such as lighting and acoustics also matter.

To maximize students’ capability to focus and understand, schools need to use all-natural lighting wherever attainable and stay away from working with fluorescent lights, which have been shown to enhance feelings of anxiousness and induce headaches amongst some persons.

Sound amplification systems can support students who are difficult of hearing or who have problems drowning out background noise to focus on what the teacher is saying. Sound-absorbing panels can add colour and style to a finding out space though cutting down on ambient noise.

Plan for the Future

Think of existing and future makes use of when designing your finding out environments. How can you make strategic modifications to meet your existing wants more properly in the course of the pandemic, though also creating lengthy-term improvements that will spend off more than time?

Flexible, agile finding out environments are the answer. When designing versatile finding out environments that can meet each existing and future demands, take into account these six important style components.

Choice: Giving students selections in exactly where to sit and what kind of seating to use—a conventional chair, a beanbag chair, a standing desk, or a rocking stool—empowers them for finding out, so they’re greater in a position to focus and engage.

Comfort: When students really feel protected and comfy in their atmosphere (the initial tier in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), they’re more probably to really feel confident in their finding out.

Versatility: As we’ve discovered more than the final 18 months, spaces want to be versatile to meet several wants. If tables are the only seating solution in a classroom, then it is tougher to generate space involving students. Versatility permits teachers to configure their classroom to finest suit the activities they have in thoughts every day.

Connection: Students understand finest in collaboration with their peers. When they speak about their suggestions with other people, they’re exposed to new theories and perspectives they hadn’t regarded just before. How can you style finding out spaces in a way that safely fosters interaction involving students, their teacher, and their peers?

Stimulation: Learning spaces need to be developed in a way that is stimulating and engaging for students, with a lot of possibilities for pondering and exploration.

Technology: Think of not only the technologies needed to differentiate instruction, personalize finding out, address lost instructional time, and continue remote education as needed—such as laptops or Chromebooks, interactive touchscreens, net cameras, and microphones—but also the IT infrastructure required to assistance students’ finding out wherever they are, which includes WiFi hotspots and charging stations.

A Unique Opportunity

The $190 billion in federal emergency relief help delivers a exceptional chance for schools to redesign their finding out spaces to assistance more helpful teaching and learning—and School Specialty finding out consultants are accessible to support.

Dr. Sue Ann Highland

Sue Ann Highland, Ph.D., is the National Education Strategist for School Specialty. She has more than 25 years of practical experience as an educator, administrator, and consultant with college systems across the United States.

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