Kindergarten classrooms are setup in such a way that just screams collaboration and student centered learning! You will be hard pressed to find rows of desks or a hands off environment. So why is it that first grade classrooms look a little different and by second grade the rows of desks start realigning and by third grade things are looking more like a high school classroom than the inviting kindergarten classroom that seems to foster creativity and exploration? I am being a bit extreme of course, but the vibe of the kindergarten classroom is definitely missing as our students move through the K-12 system and just maybe the idea of how we setup a classroom can go a long way in creating a student centered environment.
I was recently speaking with a principal of a 9-12, 1:1 program, and asked them what they expect their classrooms to look like. Their answer was, "a kindergarten classroom," of course you won't find an ABC train across the front wall, but the open and inviting learning atmosphere where evidence of small group instruction and multiple styles of learning are taking place is what they look for.
So where does one start in building a learning environment that resembles a kindergarten classroom? Maybe a traditional computer lab, with those 20th century rows, would make a good room for a makeover. The computer lab has been morphing into a more collaborative space since the days of the Apple IIe and with space being an issue at many schools, these rooms are often overlooked as being a solution in building a non-threatening place to promote a modern learning environment. For an example of a lab transformation, take a look at what they have done at Verrado Middle School in Litchfield, AZ.