Making Every Space Matter: How a Filmmaker’s Studio Can Help Us Redesign Our Classrooms

I dig Casey Neistat’s work and so do a lot of other people.  The dude has won a bunch of awards, created a bazillion and six videos, and has a physique for which I would gladly trade six or seven long boxes of comics.  (Any personal trainer/comic book geeks out there looking for a client on the barter system?)

Neistat made this ad for Nike and it inspired a post-AP-test project for my students a couple of years ago.

It yielded both this . . .

And this . . .

And now, Neistat has me thinking again, this time thanks to Wired’s Gadget Lab Myspace feature.  In the July 2013 issue, we get a visual tour of Neistat’s office/studio and it is pretty darn rad.

Casey Neistat lets people see how well he designed his hyper-purposeful and hyper-rad studio in the July 2013 issue of Wired

A few key takeaways:

  • He labels everything.  It looks crude and awesome at the same time.  (Effortless hipness drives me crazy because I am only capable of trying-too-hard hipness.)
  • He uses all of the vertical space available to him and creates more horizontal space by using a false floor. (I want secret compartments and to stand atop my accomplishments.  And stuff.)
  • Everything has a place.  (And it returns there. My dad tried to instill this in me early on in life.  Nothing doing.)
  • High tech solutions are awesome.  Low tech solutions work just as well. (Check out his use of ’70s era label makers.)
  • Speed bag and O-rings. (I’ve got 20 copies of Superman #75 for anyone who can teach me to use these.)

Combine this article with our new school nearing completion (Mt. Blue Campus in scenic Farmington, Maine), my new classroom (F-215), and the cool work I’ve seen happening with Dr. Brett Jacobsen and Atlanta’s Mount Vernon Presbyterian School as they  reshape their spaces around design thinking (shout out to MVP’s Mary Cantwell, Trey Boden and the #dtk12chat folks),  I am wanting to reimagine my 9-12 English language arts space.

What will I do?  I’m not yet sure, but I’ve about three weeks of doodling and sketching ahead of me.  Here are some desired outcomes:

  • Students self-select seating based on their particular needs.  (Looking to do flipped work?  Go sit in that area.  Need one-on-one help in the worst way?  That’s what these seats are here for.)
  • Thinking and creating lab spaces rather than bookcases and storage. I want to get my books off the shelf and into hands — and not for SSR but for inspirations and ideas.  And on a similar note . . .
  • Conceptually organized materials and resources.  Need stuff for pre-thinking and visualizing?  Here you go.  In the editing process?  Hit up that corner.  Collaborating with others and need some space? Here’s a pass to the food court, patio, landing or the library because seriously, take advantage of this new building and get the heck outta this room when you can.
  •  Less of me working from behind laptop and walking people through materials on the screen.  How I dream of wireless projection abilities.  I used to be so much more mobile in the room, but I keep having to return to the command center.
  • Decentralized command center.  I don’t know why I bother having a teacher’s desk, really.  It just becomes a centralized place for my crap.  And while I have a ton of it, it often clutters up the works and makes it harder for me to teach and people to learn.  Defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  I’m nearly paperless, so the laptop and the phone are really all I need at this point.  Well, that and a filing cabinet where I can put the important things that I’ll need to hunt for later, like course reimbursements and certification paperwork.  Minor details.

How many of these ideas will find their way into the new space?  Hard to say. I cannot complain about my circumstances heading into this.  I’ve got a wealth of cork boards and marker boards in the new room.  I’ve got lots of light.  I’ve got a bunch of cabinets.  And I need to be prepared to host 30 students every period 4 until we get our Humanities flow going.  Plus, there’s a classroom and a half of materials I’ve put into storage that I may cast off and an edict from administration: no ugly furniture.

Maybe I’ll start by overhauling my geek lair at home, first.

“But honey, I’ve got to build a prototype before I get to the fall.  I’ll need you to watch the kids while I move the Star Wars toys around and find a different way to display the vinyl that’s more natural and will make me more inclined to use the turntables.”

Man, I love design thinking.  This is going to be fun.

About Dan Ryder

Dan Ryder & Jeff Bailey, co-founders of Wicked Decent Learning, a blog, podcast, Twitter feed and who-knows-what-all-else devoted to teaching and learning in Vacationland and beyond. Teachers, dads, actors, writers, geeks, buds.

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