Professor, Dr. LaShera McElhany, has been awarded the Impact Grant on behalf of SAGU’s Teacher Education Department.
The Impact Grant is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates through the Edcamp Foundation and is awarded to educators aiming to implement new educational strategies in their classrooms. With only 50 Impact grants awarded by the Edcamp Foundation per quarter, the SAGU education department is one of 200 worldwide recipients for 2017.
Dr. McElhany and education students will use the funds from the grant to develop a flexible seating design in the teacher resource room, a place where students collaborate on projects and gather supplies for lesson plans and field experiences. It will also allow the function of the space to expand. The location of the classroom is conveniently located across from the education faculty offices, allowing the learning environment to be “accessible for questions or conversations.”
“We wanted to create a student learning project around the idea of flexible seating. Our students will have the opportunity to build an environment here on our campus that they could use as a flexible and collaborative workspace,” says McElhany.
With 21st-century workplaces becoming more creative in their structure, flexible seating is a current trend in education. McElhany says that the goal of flexible seating is to provide comfortable places for students to learn and work together, outside of the traditional classroom model of chairs and desks. The open-design concept creates a safe learning environment for students with options for personal desk space, as well as breakout areas that are built for collaborative efforts.
“Classroom design should be functional and structured around the learning styles and physical needs of students,” she said. “You give your best real estate to your students.”
Students who participate in the implementation of the project will also able to grow in preparation for their future careers. Dr. McElhany says the project is a practical application for Teacher Education students to create an engaging, functional learning space within the constraints of a budget. “It gives them the opportunity for a real-life experience they can take into their own classrooms as they construct classroom environments for their students,” she says.
As the department begins to develop structural plans for the teacher resource room, McElhany and education students will visit other campuses to gain inspiration and potential ideas for their new space.
To demonstrate how funds are being used for classroom design, the education department will monitor the progress of the project and reveal the final project to the Edcamp Foundation. “I’m excited to see what the end-product is and what students create. My colleagues and I are excited to help students learn through this process,” says McElhany.
“It’s about giving our students the most practical, hands-on application, of what they’re learning in our classes, being able to take that learning out and apply it in the schools,” says McElhany. “I would love to see us grow more…I’m excited to see where God’s going to take us in the next few years.”
The Edcamp Foundation is a growing movement in education that empowers educators to personalize their professional development experience. Since 2010, the Edcamp movement has grown to 1500 professional development opportunities in over 35 countries. Edcamp is participant-driven, free to attend, everyone is considered an expert with something to share, and participants use the rule of two feet to select the best learning opportunity for themselves. If a particular Edcamp session inspires an educator to implement an idea in their own classroom, they may apply for the Impact Grant as a way to fund their idea.
Along with directing the execution of the flexible seating project, Dr. McElhany is looking forward to the third annual Edcamp at SAGU, which will be hosted on January 27th, 2018.