My classroom is an afterthought. The single cooking lab that the district had wasn’t enough space they didn’t want to spend money. Instead, they commandeered the classroom next door and “transformed” it by adding three conventional ovens, three refrigerators, and three sinks. There are typically 24 students using the space at a time, working in six cooking groups. Having three stoves and sinks but six baking groups are inconvenient at best.
Appliances, equipment, and ingredients have all been strategically distributed around the room to make traffic flow possible when the class is full. We’ve made it so efficient that we even run a bake shop out of this space once a month.
Our current space has been maximized, but our enrollment is climbing. It is possible that in the future there will be a need for not only an upgraded space but a new high school altogether. This is what was on my mind this week when I started exploring experience design. If you aren’t familiar with it yet, experience design is a design practice focused on human outcomes. It is iterative, collaborative, and measurable (Wood, 2018). What experience designers do is look at people and human needs as their first frame of reference for designing. They might be planning a hospital, a shopping experience, or a classroom.
With the idea of the perfect classroom space in mind, I tried my hand at experience design. A few things that I focused on were: space, traffic flow, communication, and incorporating nature.
As you can see, there is abundant space in the new design. Six team spaces have everything needed for conducting cooking experiments. There is a conventional stove, a sink, a stand mixer, and a small refrigerator. There is a tablet on a stand so the team can access their recipe while they work. Also in each team space is a counter table with four chairs so students can roll out big batches of dough when they are cooking or sit and work on their laptops while completing a lesson. They can even sit at the table to taste their work and talk about the next iteration of the recipe.
Traffic flow should not be an issue in this space. With each team working in their own kitchen there will be less need for moving about. Also, the ingredients are on the rows of shelves in the center of the room where all groups can access them. The two identical spaces in the back corners are production baking spaces. They are well equipped with two Hobart mixers and two double convection ovens. The three teams on each side of the room will share the nearest baking space to make baked goods, in large quantity, for the bakeshop up front.
All of the walls between the team kitchens are 3.5 feet tall. Just high enough to define the space but short enough to encourage communication amongst the teams. If a problem or question arises in one kitchen, they can ask the other students around them for suggestions. This “community spirit” approach is fostered in my current classroom because I won’t always be around so the students should learn how to use the other resources around them when they are in a bind.
The final focus was on incorporating nature into the classroom. I wasn’t surprised to find out that “Increasing daylight in classrooms has been shown to cut down on absenteeism and improve test scores” (O’Donnell et al., 2010). To bring the outside into the classroom, and also give it a purpose there, I added herbs and edible florals. These plants are beautiful on top of the ingredients shelves, and since they are grown hydroponically, they don’t introduce dirt to the kitchen. There is also a massive skylight above the plants and windows in every kitchen.
This has been a fascinating experience, and I’ve learned a lot from purposefully thinking about the use of space. The design still isn’t perfect, but I intend on continuing to make changes as I pursue studying the cooking experience in my classroom. When they are ready to build a new school, I’ll be prepared with my design.
All 3D images were created using FloorPlanner.com
O’Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi and Peterson, Architects Inc., VS Furniture., & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.
Wood, T. (2018, July 18). Experience Design: A Definition. Retrieved from https://www.foolproof.co.uk/journal/experience-design-a-definition/